White Sox

White Sox erase four-run deficit, but lose series opener to Mariners in walk-off fashion

White Sox erase four-run deficit, but lose series opener to Mariners in walk-off fashion

SEATTLE -- If there’s a way to lose 10 of 12 games and still not feel as if all hope is lost, the White Sox may have discovered it.

Under manager Rick Renteria’s watch, the White Sox have developed a battle-to-the-final-out mentality that has at the least made their games more interesting.

But after they fell again on Thursday night, a 5-4 walkoff loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, Renteria said he would like to start converting on some of these missed opportunities. Despite homering three times late to rally from four runs down, the White Sox lost their fourth straight contest and fell to 17-22. Guillermo Heredia’s pinch-hit, two-out single off reliever Dan Jennings did the White Sox in as Jarrod Dyson scored the winning run.

“They don't quit,” Renteria said. “The one thing you want to make sure to do when you're having games like this is ultimately try to finish it out. That puts the icing on the cake and I think that when they continue to battle and fight, that speaks to the character of those guys and how they go about their business.

“They've been doing it all year."

The White Sox looked out of it early on yet again.

They had no solution for Mariners rookie starter Sam Gaviglio, who allowed three hits and walked one in five scoreless innings. But once they got into the struggling Seattle bullpen the White Sox offense -- who stranded four in scoring position through six innings -- finally woke up.

Matt Davidson blasted a two-run homer off Seattle’s Casey Lawrence in the seventh inning to get the White Sox within 4-2. An inning later, the White Sox roared back with two outs against reliever Dan Altavilla.

Todd Frazier made it a one-run game with a 382-foot shot to left. Tim Anderson followed Frazier’s drive with an opposite-field homer to tie it at 4. Anderson, who finished 3-for-4 and scored two runs, was fired up as he raced around the bases.

“It’s definitely good for me to tie the game up there and give us a shot at it,” Anderson said. “We’re feeling real good. It’s definitely something we can build off of. The fight is there. We’ve just got to keep battling and competing and giving ourselves a shot to win.”

Ultimately, the White Sox didn’t emerge victorious.

Dyson reached on a fielder’s choice after Taylor Motter’s leadoff single in the ninth. He just beat Frazier’s throw to second on Carlos Ruiz’s groundout, a play that proved critical. With two outs, Jennings intentionally walked Jean Segura. Seattle opted for Heredia over Ben Gamel and he delivered.

Frazier admits it sounds strange to look at the positive side of things when the team has gone from 15-12 to five games under .500. But the White Sox expect if they continue to fight back, eventually they’ll reverse their fortunes.

“Out of those 10 I bet we were in 70 percent of them,” Frazier said. “We came back, what were we down, 4-0? Late innings, a couple of big home runs, and we kept battling. That’s what Rick always talks about. Keep battling and eventually good things are going to happen. It was just unfortunate. Danny threw a good pitch, the guy hit a blooper. In this game, sometimes you don’t need a good swing. You’ve seen that from me. Sometimes it happens, and that’s baseball.

"They came back and beat us.”

Dylan Covey felt like he hurt his own cause with a fifth-inning walk of Ruiz. Renteria said Covey’s outing -- he allowed four earned and five hits in six innings -- was the rookie’s best to date.

But Covey couldn’t escape a trouble spot in the fifth inning. Dyson, who homered in the third inning, singled with two outs and stole two bases in the fifth inning. Covey then walked Ruiz a second time, which set up Segura’s three-run homer to put Seattle up 4-0.

“That was something me and Coop talked about: Didn’t want to walk (Ruiz) to get to Segura,” Covey said. “Tried throwing a fastball 3-2 and spiked it. If I could have an at-bat back, that would be it, just go right after him. But I felt decent overall.”

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

1121_chicago_white_sox.jpg
USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

justin.png
MiLB.com

The youngest coach in baseball manages some of the White Sox top minor leaguers

Most minor league managers have graying sideburns, wrinkled skin and a birth date well before 1980.

They’ve been through the battles of baseball and life, placed in rural dugouts across the country to teach the younger generation how to play the game.

But in a town outside Charlotte, North Carolina, the White Sox are bucking this trend with a fresh-faced millennial who one day could be sitting in a major league manager’s office with his name on it.

Justin Jirschele is the manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox Class-A affiliate.  At 27 years old, he is the youngest manager in all of professional baseball.  

Jirschele (pronounced JIRSH-ah-lee) goes by “Jirsh” to those who know him and who play for him, which last season included top prospects like Jake Burger, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease.

When Jirschele played the game, he was a guy every team would have wanted.

Not for his speed: He never stole more than four bases in a season during his minor league career. Not for his power: He didn't hit a single home run in 622 career at-bats.

But because he treated every game like it could be his last.

“I never took a play off. I never took an at-bat off,” he said.

This was his mindset even in his very last minor league at-bat for the Birmingham Barons in 2015.

“I remember walking up and I said out loud to myself, ‘This is it. Do something.’ I’m getting the chills right now thinking about it.”

Jirschele knew his playing days were over. So did the White Sox. They signed him out of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Nobody else wanted him. Over the next four seasons, he played for five White Sox minor league teams. The results on the field were overwhelmingly average.

Then one day, Nick Capra, then the White Sox Director of Player Development, came to Jirschele with an idea and an offer that would change his life.

“He asked, ‘Are you ready to start coaching yet?’ Jirschele recalled. ‘And I looked at him and went, ‘What do you mean?’”

The White Sox offered Jirschele a job to be the hitting coach for the Grand Falls Voyagers, the team’s rookie league affiliate.

“I was in shock. It was the end of May, the season was still young. I was at three different levels. I started at Winston-Salem, went to Charlotte and came back to Birmingham. It was a whirlwind. When he first said it, my first feeling was excitement. That kind of told me right there that it was the right time to do it.”

So Jirschele took the job.

He was 25 years old.

Then he went out and took that final minor league at-bat for Birmingham, which turned out to be a fitting conclusion to his playing career.  

“I think it was the second pitch, right down the middle and I was tardy, hit it off my fist, a dribbler to the shortstop and I bet you I ran as hard as I had in my entire life. It wasn’t that I was fast, but I was running as hard as I possibly could to first and I don’t think there even was a throw I hit it so soft, perfectly past the pitcher.  I just said to myself, that’s it right there.”

An infield dribbler for a base hit to close his playing career.

Coaching made sense for Jirschele. His father, Mike, is the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Series in 2015. His older brother, Jeremy, is the head baseball coach back at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Pretty soon, the younger Jirschele would be leading a team of his own.  

In 2017, the White Sox gave him the managerial job with Kannapolis. Sure, some of his players would be around the same age, but the White Sox looked past the birth date on his driver’s license and recognized a person who was wise beyond his years.

“It was identified early on that he has the leadership qualities we look for in a manager regardless of his age,” said Chris Getz, White Sox Director of Player Development. “He has good baseball knowledge, good communication skills, a willingness to learn and adapt, and carries out a consistent message. We feel lucky to have him and think he has a bright future ahead.”

Although the ages of the Intimidators players ranged from 19 to 25 years old, it didn’t matter that their manager was slighty older than them.

“Never once had an issue with the age thing,” Jirschele said about his players. “I think from Day 1 when I showed them the respect like I’m not going to be the guy that’s two years older than you hammering things down your throat, I’m going to have that respect and you’re going to show it back.”  

While the White Sox prospects spent the season developing their playing skills, Jirschele was honing his managing skills, which go beyond what happens on the field. A big part of the job is handling issues that arise off of it.  

“It’s a long grind season and there are so many things that are going to come up non-baseball related to where you might be in that clubhouse and you might feel alone,” Jirschele explained. “You might feel like you’re on an island all by yourself even if you’ve got three best friends that are going to stand up in your wedding one day, you might not feel comfortable talking to those guys about that.  Come on in, we’ll talk about it at 12:30 in the afternoon or 7:30 at night or midnight. I tell the guys you’ve got my phone number.  Call or text no matter what time if you need to talk.”

Following his thirst for managing knowledge, Jirschele often reaches out to his dad for late-night phone calls, rehashing the game that night. He’ll even text an opposing manager, like Patrick Anderson, a friend who has managed the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals Class-A affiliate for the last four seasons.

“He’s a guy I could pick his brain about things," he said. "Once the series was over I’d send him a text and ask, ‘Why did you do this?’ At the end of the day we’re all in it together and first and foremost it’s all for these players and making them better each and every day and doing whatever we can to get them to the top. But at the same time we’re developing ourselves as well along the way.

“I’m sure I annoy a lot of people of asking questions but that’s how you learn. I was brought up that way.”

Jirschele’s impressions of some White Sox top prospects he managed last season:

Alec Hansen: “When he takes the ball, you feel like you have one of the best chances in the country to get a win that night in minor league baseball.  His stuff is just off the charts.”

Dane Dunning: “It would be the 8th inning, he wanted that complete game and he wouldn’t be too pleased with me coming out there to take him out, but you want that.  You want that out of a competitor on the mound every 5 days. He’s definitely a guy you want in the foxhole with you, no doubt.”

Micker Adolfo: “He has a special, special arm.  I don’t know if there’s a better one right now.”

Jake Burger: “Looking forward, the ceiling is unbelievably high for him. 100 percent no doubt in my mind, someday he will be a captain in the big leagues.”

Like many of his players, Jirschele left an impression with the White Sox in his first season as manager. He helped lead the Intimidators to their first playoff berth since 2009 and their first trip to the South Atlantic League championship since 2005.

Earlier this month, the White Sox named him their Minor League Coach of the Year.

“First and foremost, it means we had good players this year. It’s those guys between the lines,” he said. “As coaches, we can’t go out there and pitch. We were fortunate to have a great group of guys. We came up a little short (winning the championship), but we got there and it was fun.”

Once upon a time, Jirschele’s dream was to make it to the majors. That dream still exists.  Just now instead of having his own baseball card, he wants to get to the big leagues holding a lineup card.

“I think I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a goal, but at the same time I don’t worry about it. I know I’m 27 years old," he said. "I’m just fortunate to have the job I do right now with the White Sox. I go out and do my job every single day and the rest will just take care of itself.”