White Sox

White Sox name Jason Benetti new announcer, extend contracts of Harrelson, Stone

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White Sox name Jason Benetti new announcer, extend contracts of Harrelson, Stone

The White Sox named local product Jason Benetti to their TV broadcast team on Wednesday and extended the contracts of Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone.

Benetti, 32, is set to call 81 games next to Stone in 2016 as Harrelson starts a reduced schedule.

Harrelson, who is beginning his 32nd season in the team’s broadcast booth, will call 81 games, 78 of which come on the road. The longtime play-by-play man is also expected to be in the booth for the home opener and when the Cubs play two games at U.S. Cellular Field in July. Now in his ninth season with the White Sox, Stone’s schedule is expected to remain the same.

[RELATED - Brett Lawrie is one of four White Sox players to file for arbitration]

Benetti, who grew up a White Sox fan, has called college basketball, football, baseball and lacrosse at ESPN since 2011. He also previously served as the radio play-by-play man for the Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

“Jason is one of the top up-and-coming voices in sports television,” vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer said in a release. “He is a homegrown talent who will mix a love for the game with a deep knowledge of the White Sox and an informative and entertaining style. We believe Sox fans will immediately connect with his humor, intellect and personality.”

A graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High, Benetti graduated in 2005 from Syracuse University, where he earned a bachelor degree in broadcast journalism, economics and psychology. He also attended Wake Forest University’s school of law. Prior to joining ESPN, Benetti worked for Fox Sports 1, Westwood One Radio and Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.

“Joining the White Sox television team of Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone — with the chance to work with Steve on home games — is truly a dream come true for a kid who grew up in the south suburbs watching Sox games during the 1990s,” Benetti said. “This is beyond exciting for me.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Benetti was born with cerebral palsy and works with the “Just Say Hi’ campaign launched the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

“The way I look or walk is such a small part of who I am as a person,” Benetti said.  “I like to joke that, fortunately, I chose a profession where all I needed was my voice, not my legs. I have always felt that if I can help one other person, or if I can help change one person’s attitude about how they perceive others, then I have made a positive difference.”

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: