White Sox

White Sox: Gordon Beckham aims to keep earning playing time


White Sox: Gordon Beckham aims to keep earning playing time

For the first time in his seven-year major league career, Gordon Beckham got to play shortstop U.S. Cellular Field.

Beckham, who was drafted eighth overall as a shortstop out of Georgia in 2008, started in place of Alexei Ramirez for the White Sox series finale against Houston on Wednesday night. The 28-year-old started at shortstop last month and previously filled in there as an in-game replacement this April and in 2013, though all those games came on the road.

Beckham said it’s “kinda cool” he’s finally come full circle on playing shortstop with the team that drafted him.

“I definitely feel like it’s my most natural position,” he said. “Not being there for years, when I went over there and took ground balls it felt normal. I feels comfortable doing that yeah, I’m excited to play.”

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Beckham made two starts and one substitute appearance at shortstop with the Angels last year after he was dealt to Southern California in an August waiver-wire trade. Manager Robin Ventura thinks that month-and-a-half sabbatical to Anaheim helped Beckham upon his return to Chicago, where he’s earned playing time beyond his expected utility role through the first third of the season.

He’s tailed off a bit recently at the plate — entering Wednesday, he was hitless in his previous four games, an 0-for-13 stretch — but has played good defense with enough consistency to keep him in the lineup. Beckham earned his 26th start in game No. 57 for the White Sox, far more than fellow utility man Emilio Bonifacio, who started his 12th game for the White Sox on Wednesday.

“I don’t think he’s trying to be the focal point of anything,” Ventura said. “He’s just trying to be a good baseball player. He’s not worrying about where he was drafted, any of the expectations or hype or stuff that goes with it. There is a bit of a ease that he has now that he didn’t have the best couple of year.”

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Coming off the bench and sporadically starting has nonetheless been an adjustment for Beckham, who started 722 games for the White Sox from 2009 through 2014. But he knew what he was getting into when he signed on to return to the White Sox in January and said it’s been so far, so good.

“It’s met and exceeded (my expectations),” Beckham said. “I knew I was going to have to work to get back in there as much as I am now. I earned that, so I’ve just got to go out and keep earning it.”

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


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: