White Sox

White Sox bullpen struggles to shut down Plouffe, Twins in loss

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White Sox bullpen struggles to shut down Plouffe, Twins in loss

Trevor Plouffe got the scoring started and finished it off as well on Friday night as he hit two home runs and drove in three runs in the Twins 6-2 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 15,641 fans. 

Erik Johnson’s command issues arose as he walked five over five innings of work. While his only run of his outing was a solo home run to Plouffe in the fourth, Johnson, who made his second start of the season on Friday, was pulling escape acts seemingly every inning. The right-hander battled his way out of jams thanks to key strikeouts and clutch defensive plays.

In the first, Avisail Garcia made a leaping grab against the wall to rob Eddie Rosario of an extra-base hit with the bases loaded to end the inning. Johnson then stranded runners in scoring position in the third, fourth and fifth innings. The 25-year old threw 113 pitches on the evening but only 62 went for strikes. 

“He battled,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They got him up to a high pitch count pretty quick. They were pretty patient with him. He got a bit erratic but he worked himself out of some situations. So he looked good. I think for as much traffic as was out there he did well. He responded and got to a point where he turned over the bullpen.”

Johnson, who gave up three solo home runs in his first outing with the White Sox in 2015, said he doesn’t mind giving up the those shots here and there and was more focused on working his way out of jams and keeping the Twins from having big innings.

[MORE: White Sox to skip Carlos Rodon’s next start in upcoming series]

“The first inning was a tough one,” Johnson said. “But just to build off each inning, getting out of there, just grinding one out and throwing up zeros on the board is the most important thing.”

The Sox got on the board when Adam Eaton put a charge into an Ervin Santana offering in the fifth inning, blasting one to dead center field for a two-run home run, his 13th of the season, to give the South Siders a 2-1 lead. 

Just before the game, Ventura said Eaton was finding his stroke at the plate in the second half of the season because he wasn’t trying as hard to knock it out of the park every at-bat. 

“He’s cut down his swing,” Ventura said. “He’s more contact. He was using the other side of the field. Early on, I felt like he was getting a little big, trying to either hit homers but his swing was a little bigger. It’s been more of a shortened down, contact swing, and I think he’s gotten more out of it.” 

Santana, however, silenced the White Sox bats for the rest of the night. The right-hander finished the evening with six strikeouts over seven innings of work, only giving up six hits and two walks. 

“We have to score more than two runs,” Eaton said. “Santana pitched well tonight but at the same time, you have to put some pressure on him and we didn’t. When we got guys in scoring position, we didn’t drive them in. We have to get a big hit and keep an inning going. Story of the year when we struggle. That’s baseball but it sucks when it doesn’t go your way.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!] 

After Daniel Webb gave up an RBI double to Torii Hunter to tie the game in the sixth, Nate Jones fell victim to Plouffe’s second solo shot of the night in the eighth, which gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. 

The Twins added to their advantage in the ninth when Eduardo Escobar hit a solo home run off Zach Putnam, who was just reinstated from the disabled list, to make it 4-2, Twins. Later that frame, a wild pitch from Putnam brought in another runner and Plouffe added an RBI single to make it 6-2. 

Eaton now is second on the White Sox in home runs and while that may be a good personal achievement, Ventura and his center-fielder know that there are other sluggers on the team who should be ahead of the leadoff man in that category. 

“No offense to those guys, but I don’t hit too many of them,” Eaton said. “At the same time, this has been kind of a rough season for a lot of guys. It has been the story of the season, inconsistency here and there.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”