White Sox

White Sox: Ramirez struggles with Saturday's defensive woes

alexei-ramirez-sox-insider-0614.png

White Sox: Ramirez struggles with Saturday's defensive woes

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alexei Ramirez admits that his poor performance on Saturday evening hasn’t been easy for him to handle.

In baseball terms, the White Sox shortstop “wore it” after he failed to make plays twice late in Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Ramirez surrendered a run when he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove on a routine grounder and his eighth-inning error allowed the winning run to score. On Sunday, the veteran said Saturday’s effort was the most difficult in what has been a rough 2015 campaign so far.

“Last game was one of the tougher games for me this season,” Ramirez said. “I couldn’t sleep because I just was thinking on those two plays.

[RELATED: Bullpen, defensive miscues prove costly for White Sox against Rays]

“For me it’s tough to try to leave that game behind. It’s something that you have in your mind every time. I was watching the video a million times last night because I have to make that play. I couldn’t leave that behind me. I just try to do a better job today, but it’s tough to try to forget that.”

Effort isn’t a question with Ramirez. The 2014 Silver Slugger is known for his ability to show up every day no matter what maladies he’s dealing with. Over the past five seasons, Ramirez has played in all but 22 games.

But this season hasn’t been kind to Ramirez, a Gold Glove finalist in 2014. Of the 27 qualified shortstops in the majors, Ramirez ranks 22nd with minus-4 Defensive Runs Saved. The White Sox are hopeful Ramirez finds one of the hot streaks that has defined his career.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“He’s had days likes that and he’s had streaks like that,” bench coach Mark Parent said. “He’s also had streaks where he makes unbelievable plays. Sometimes you get a little careless or lack of concentration or whatever and it bites you in the butt. I like to see a guy who cares and it really bothers him because it bothers everybody. You have to let it go, think about it, figure out what you did wrong and try and fix it.”

Ramirez also hopes to run into some good fortune. Of the seventh-inning grounder with the infield in, a ball he initially couldn’t get out of his glove, Ramirez said “no luck for me, for us.” He also took ownership of a poor flip in the eighth inning that allowed the winning run to score --- “that hurt us … it’s frustrating,” he said.

“Sometimes you can’t control all the things that happen in the field, but I don’t know,” Ramirez said. “I’m just trying to keep the focus on the work everyday and try to be the best player possible. We need to win some games. We need to play better defense.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

kopech.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Michael Kopech tells all about his past, present and future

The White Sox top pitching prospect sits down with Chuck Garfien for a revealing interview at spring training. Kopech says he almost quit the game after he got into a fight with a Red Sox minor league teammate in 2016. He goes in-depth about his desire to be great, why meditating makes him a better pitcher, his failed PED test in 2015, comparisons to Justin Verlander, possibly becoming the future ace of the White Sox and much more.

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

Why Michael Kopech almost quit baseball: Revelations from the future White Sox star

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A failed PED test. A 50-game suspension. A fight with a former teammate. A broken pitching hand.

It all blew up like that for Michael Kopech in one calendar year.

And it was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.

“There have been points where I wanted to quit baseball. There have been points where I wanted to stop trying,” Kopech said Thursday in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

This was the breaking point that almost ended Kopech’s career before it truly began but would eventually change his life for the better once the storms passed.

“Everything felt like it was on me at once, and it was tough because I had just gotten through the suspension, worked my butt off all offseason, came back to spring training in the best shape I had ever been in, and then broke my hand the first day of spring,” Kopech explained. “More than anything, I was frustrated and knew I wasn’t making anything better for myself and I was ready to get out of there.”

How long was he in this mode of possibly quitting baseball?

“Probably a couple weeks.”

The PED suspension in 2015 was for the stimulant Oxilofrine, which has been found in supplements which Kopech says he didn’t knowingly take.

“We do have certifications that we’re supposed to follow. We’re supposed to make sure that everything we take or put in our bodies is certified, and I probably wasn’t as safe as I should have been on that. I do take responsibility on that, and I regret it. But it’s part of the past and I did learn from it, so I can’t be too upset about it now and dwell on the past.”

The fight wasn’t only with Kopech’s teammate. It was also with his roommate.  

“It was a good friend of mine I was trying to help out. Things went south and he took a couple swings at me and I took one swing back. It just happened to not be a very good punch,” Kopech said. “I’ve accepted that I messed up. He accepted it as well. I’m open about it because it’s in the past and I’ve learned from it. But I’m not too proud to say I made a mistake. Fortunately, he’s still with the Red Sox and doing well over there. I think it didn’t alter our careers negatively, but maybe we both matured quite a bit from it and somehow, someway altered it positively. He’s still one of my good buddies.”

To say that Kopech’s dream is to make the major leagues would be limiting. He has a strong desire not only to be great but to be one of the all-time greats.

You can’t always pinpoint where a person’s ambition comes from. Kopech thinks it was from his torturous year as a nomad, out of baseball with a broken hand and a broken soul.

“Everybody talks about that itch to get back to spring training. When you have that for 12 straight months, it just grows and grows and grows,” Kopech said. “There’s going to be adversity coming your way in baseball. Learning from the adversity off the field is one of the tougher things I’ve ever had to do. Having all that come at once forced me to learn from it. I probably was a little stubborn and hard-headed at first, but taking a year off baseball, all you have time to do is think, anyway. I put myself in much better positions, became a lot more mindful about the game, and I feel like it has a lot to do with who I am today.”

Partly what changed him, and frankly might have saved him, was learning how to meditate. It’s a practice he learned from Red Sox mental performance coach Justin Su’a soon after the fateful fight with his teammate.

“It put me in a mental state that I never experienced. It’s almost like a flow state when I pitch but a lot calmer, so I got hooked on meditating and it took me away from the negativity of all that,” Kopech said. “I realized that my mind is my most powerful tool. I got addicted to this feeling that came from me being a more mindful athlete rather than just a powerful athlete or an athlete that throws 100 miles per hour. It took me away from being this guy that’s one dimensional to the outside public and made me have a lot more self value than Michael Kopech the baseball player.”

Kopech meditates before every start. Where exactly?

“For the most part, I’ll go find a closet or empty room somewhere in the stadium where I can zone out,” he said. “But even if it’s close to the clubhouse and I hear a little chatter that’s fine because the type of meditating I do focuses a little on background noise and helps my mind get to the place where I need it to get.”

It’s become such a powerful tool, he believes it gives him a distinct advantage over the hitter when he's on the mound.

“It’s tapping into this part of your mind that most people can’t dive into, and what’s funny is pitching is like cheating to me. When I pitch, the first batter I see with the stadium full of people, I’m in that state. Most people have to work their whole lives to feel that type of dopamine rush. Whatever it is actually, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know the feeling and I get it instantly when I take the mound. For me, that’s why I love the game because it makes me feel alive.”

It's a purpose and passion that has been reborn. Living proof that Kopech's mind is maybe all that matters.