White Sox

White Sox newest arrival Austin Jackson ready to catch up


White Sox newest arrival Austin Jackson ready to catch up

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He’s in good shape, but Austin Jackson needs time to achieve baseball shape.

After he reported to camp Monday, the new White Sox outfielder said he continued to workout as he normally would in a longer-than-normal offseason.

But whereas Jackson’s new teammates have already been in camp for 13 days, he just arrived and participated in his first workout Monday. The White Sox said Sunday night that Jackson -- who signed a one-year deal worth $5 million -- could need up to 10 days before he appears in a Cactus League contest.

“I’m accustomed to being in spring training at a certain time, so this is kinda new for me as well,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, I can get a lot of work in here these next couple days, and when I got in there and sit down and talk and see what’s expected of me over these next couple of days, I’ll have a better feel of where I’ll be at.”

A first-time free agent, Jackson had an idea he’d be in for a long offseason with Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton still on the board on Jan. 1.

[MORE: Potential position change doesn't bother Adam Eaton]

Then it got longer. The outfield market moved at a glacial pace this offseason.

So Jackson stayed home in the Dallas-area and kept in shape, waiting for word and an opportunity to play center field. He’ll have that chance with the White Sox, though Jackson said he and manager Robin Ventura hadn’t had a chance to sit down yet to discuss what’s expected.

“You're kind of just waiting your turn,” Jackson said. “There's a pecking order, so you just kind of see what's going on. You’re informed of what’s going on but most likely those guys are going to have to get signed before you do. That's just how it is. Once you get to this point in spring training, teams start to see maybe what else they might need- depth and things like that. I think I kind of fell into that category."

“Other than the free agency part, it was a normal offseason as far as working out and training and all that. I tried to keep doing the same things I always do and keep myself fresh.”

The White Sox are prepared to give Jackson time to catch up.

“He’s going to be a little behind,” general manager Rick Hahn said Sunday.

Achieving baseball shape takes time. No matter how hard a player works in the offseason it’s difficult to replicate working out in spikes, swinging the bat hundreds of times a day and repeatedly running around in the field. Even standing around on the field, teammate Alex Avila said.

“We work as athletes all offseason but it’s a different shape you’ve got to get into,” Avila said. “Usually you’re going through those things in the offseason to make sure you’re staying active and then all of a sudden you’re getting into where you’re going every day opposed to going two to three times a week.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Jackson said he also missed the atmosphere of a major league clubhouse. He bumped into several familiar faces on his first day -- “I walk in there and guys are already giving me crap about stuff I did years ago,” he said. While Jackson doesn’t know everybody he looks forward to catching up in that regard, too.

“It’s awesome,” Jackson said. “You miss the clubhouse, just seeing your teammates each and every day and just bond with them. I’m not sure if I know everybody’s name yet, but I’m working around to it. I can already tell right now it’s a fun clubhouse.

“I’m looking forward to 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: