White Sox

White Sox: Jeff Samardzija ends rough August on another sour note

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White Sox: Jeff Samardzija ends rough August on another sour note

The White Sox kept Jeff Samardzija at the non-waiver trade deadline to compete for a playoff spot, but instead, he’s been one of the reasons why they’ve remained on the periphery of the American League wild card race.

The 30-year-old right-hander and free agent to be surrendered five runs in 5 2/3 innings as the White Sox lost to the Seattle Mariners, 7-6, in front of 26,011 Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Samardzija’s ERA sits at 4.85, surpassing John Danks (4.82) for the highest mark on the White Sox. And only seven qualified starters have a higher ERA (Kyle Lohse, Jeremy Guthrie, C.C. Sabathia, Matt Garza, Drew Hutchison, Anibal Sanchez and Alfredo Simon) in 2015.

The White Sox were 49-51 when the trade deadline passed the afternoon of July 31, but are 11-17 since. They’ve lost all six of Samardzija’s starts over the course of which he has an 8.82 ERA.

“I feel good,” Samardzija said. “Everything's as is. It feels great, throw all the same. Sometimes there's a couple pitches, you always have a couple games where you don't make 100 percent great pitches. Sometimes they turn to pop outs or roll overs. Just for me recently, they've been coming up to bite me in the butt. So you've got to go out there and have a perfect game and turn the tides on your own.”

[MORE: White Sox pleased with Carlos Rodon workload heading into September] 

Seattle quickly jumped on Samardzija in the first inning Saturday night, with Kyle Seager belting a two-run homer and Seth Smith delivering an RBI on a sacrifice fly to put Samardzija and the White Sox in an early 3-0 hole. The first inning has been a massive problem for Samardzija all year — he’s allowed 23 runs in 27 first innings, good for a 7.67 ERA.

“I don’t know, I don’t really have an answer for that,” Samardzija said. “You can’t really control when you give the runs up. It’s just the same routine I’ve done for years. It’s just a pitch here and a pitch there that we need to improve on and pay attention to and then we go from there.”

Samardzija gave up another run in the third when Smith doubled in Robinson Cano, though he could’ve allowed more in the frame if not for Tyler Flowers’ leaping catch and tag of Seager at home plate on Cano’s double off the wall the previous at-bat. The Mariners added another run in the fourth when Ketel Marte flew out to left to score Brad Miller.

Over his 5 2/3 innings, Samardzija allowed 10 fly balls and line drives and only four ground balls. That’s been another problem — his home run/fly ball rate is basically the same as last year (10.7 percent in 2015, 10.6 percent in 2014), but he’s allowing about 10 percent more fly balls and line drives (59.6 percent of balls in play entering Saturday) and 10 percent fewer ground balls (40.4 percent of balls in play).

The result has been Samardzija allowing 23 home runs this year, which is well on pace to surpass his previous career high of 25 in 2013.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!] 

“Especially in this park, you’ve got to be able to get them to hit it on the ground,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Tonight, especially, I think they got the ball in the air and hard. You’ve got to stay away from that.”

It’s been a confounding season for Samardzija, who has the same velocity he’s always had and has gone through dominant stretches — he had a 2.27 ERA in July and shut out a powerful Blue Jays lineup that month. He has one more month to turn things around and steer the conversation away from if he’d be smart to accept a one-year qualifying offer from the White Sox back to how many years and how many millions of dollars a team will shell out for his services this winter.

“As far as being prepared and competitiveness, all that stuff is as good as it’s going to get,” Ventura said. “You see him prepare not only for tonight’s game but in between starts and all that. He’s a gamer. And he’s willing to go. He’s probably scratching his head too as to how it’s ended up like this.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.