White Sox

White Sox bullpen blinks first in loss to Rangers

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White Sox bullpen blinks first in loss to Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas — David Robertson could only watch as Shin-Soo Choo poked a walk-off single into left field in the 11th inning.

Choo’s game-winner off left-hander Dan Jennings dealt the White Sox a 2-1 loss Thursday night against Texas at Globe Life Park. Jennings, whose ERA rose to 7.84, was the fourth reliever used by White Sox manager Robin Ventura after Carlos Rodon allowed one run with 10 strikeouts over six innings.

Ventura said he wanted to save Robertson, who signed a four-year, $46 million deal in December, for a save opportunity if the White Sox were to take the lead in extra innings.

[RELATED: Rodon lets his pitching do the talking in 10-K performance]

“We were short tonight, with Robby if you put him in there you know you’re only going to get him for that inning,” Ventura said. “If he ends up scoring you’re going with somebody else so you’re saving him, especially with this road trip’s been with him. Held that back and hopefully we score a run.”

Robertson appeared in three games on the White Sox 11-game road trip, blowing two saves in Toronto and nailing down a save May 29 in Houston, his last appearance. The White Sox bullpen was shorter on Thursday, too, with right-hander Zach Putnam unavailable due to an issue with his thumb.

After Daniel Webb shut out Texas for 2 2/3 innings — Carlos Sanchez’s fantastic turn of a double play in the eighth with the bases loaded kept the Rangers off the board — Ventura turned to Jennings against a lefty-heavy lineup.

Leonys Martin led off the 11th with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Delino DeShields was intentionally walked to get to a trio of left-handers — Choo, Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland — with one out. Choo, though, made quick work of Jennings by flipping a curveball past Alexei Ramirez for a game-ending hit.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“He’s been getting hit around a little bit,” Ventura said of Jennings, “a little too much in the middle of the zone for us.”

After plating nine runs against Texas Wednesday night, the White Sox were unable to do much against Yovani Gallardo (6 IP, 1 ER) and five Rangers relievers. The White Sox emerged from this 11-game road trip with a 5-6 record, which wasn’t what they hoped for but was good enough to keep them from getting buried.

Ventura said despite the sub-.500 record, he was pleased with the way his team battled through a grueling trip that took them from Toronto to Baltimore to Houston to Arlington.

“We wish we would have gotten this one tonight,” Ventura said. “It would have put us over the edge of being able to survive, but you survive. We’re still going to battle, but it’s a tough trip. We saw it coming up, especially when the doubleheader (in Baltimore) was put in there. But they battled. I’ll give them that. “ 

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: