White Sox

White Sox opponents no longer holding a 'track meet'

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White Sox opponents no longer holding a 'track meet'

Opposing teams no longer embarrass the White Sox on the basepaths.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski expressed a similar sentiment to bench coach Mark Parent on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the White Sox completed a series victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

Even though the Angels had 45 opportunities in three games, Mike Trout and Co. -- who rank second in the American League with 90 steals -- only tried to swipe one bag against the White Sox, a team notorious for poor past performance in its limitation of base runners.

With more stress on the minute details, in this case pitchers paying closer attention to base runners, the White Sox have improved their run defense.

Though they always want to improve their thrown-out rate and have thus far, the emphasis in this case is for pitchers to do what they can to help limit what the opposition thinks it can do.

Now, a team that allowed the fourth-most stolen bases in the AL from 2005-2011 has only yielded 66 steals this season, which ranks fifth among the ALs 14 teams for fewest allowed.

(Pierzynski) mentioned to me after the series: That used to be a track meet for them, Parent said. Its not how many guys we throw out. Its how many attempts we keep them down to.

Over their last six games, opponents have tried to run against the White Sox four times. Those figures are more impressive because the Angels and Kansas City Royals rank second and fourth in the AL, respectively, with 173 combined steals this season.

Last season, the Angels attempted 10 steals and were successful eight times in their final five meetings with the White Sox. Pierzynski recalls how easily a leadoff walk or single would turn into a double or a triple sometimes as the opposition ran at will.

Last season, the White Sox allowed 135 stolen bases. If they maintain their current pace, the White Sox will allow only 97 thefts this season.

The last couple of years had gotten pretty embarrassing in how many bases we gave up and how easy it was for other teams to steal bases, Pierzynski said. I think weve significantly shut down the attempts and significantly shut down the percentages.

How they have done so began with a concerted effort in Glendale, Ariz. this spring, pitcher Philip Humber recalled.

The organization simply stressed the need for pitchers to pay more attention. Coaches asked pitchers to work on their slide steps, throws to first base at certain times and to vary their routines with runners on base all in order to give those base runners less certainty they can run whenever they please. This season, opponents have averaged .85 steal attempts per game after they attempted 1.06 thefts per game in 2011.

There seemed to be a lot more of an emphasis, Humber said.

It became a priority, Pierzynski said. When its a priority to the people higher up, it becomes more of a priority to the players and thats a good thing.

Another good aspect is the pitchers mindfulness gives their catchers a better chance to catch runners who steal. Pierzynski -- who threw out 24.1 percent of all steal attempts before this season -- has thrown out 25.7 percent (17 of 66) in 2012. Tyler Flowers has thrown out 11 of 38 (39.2 percent) attempts this season.

Their success is in part because the emphasis by White Sox pitchers hasnt disappeared, Parent said. Parent noted how pitching coach Don Cooper raved earlier this week about how effective newly acquired pitcher Francisco Liriano is using a slide step to the plate.

Its just trying to stay more committed to detail, little things that can help you win each game, Parent said. We came in with the whole thing that, Were going to do this and youve gotta get better at it, and the guys accepted it and they understand why. If youre going to bring something in, and you can tell them why and how its going to help them, theres a chance theyll work at it.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”