White Sox

White Sox reemphasize importance of base running this spring


White Sox reemphasize importance of base running this spring

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox really want the awful base running that has acted as a life-sucking force for their offense to come to an end.

While they continue to deliver the same message they have for the past few years, the White Sox have doubled down and are working harder to emphasize just how important the practice can be.

New bench coach Rick Renteria said earlier this week that the White Sox — who last season led the majors in outs on the bases — hired him in part to address their base running woes. With a new cast in camp, the White Sox want to stress to players how much running into extra outs can suppress an offense.

“That’s an area we need to tighten up,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We’ve simply given away too many outs on the bases. You want a club that’s going to be aggressive, that’s going to take the extra base when it’s there. And it’s a fine line between doing that and forcing the issue and giving away outs. Unfortunately, for the last couple of years we’ve been more on the side of the ledger of giving away outs as opposed to getting that extra bag.”

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The White Sox gave away outs on the bases in 2015 like the trusting neighbor who leaves a bowl of Halloween candy on the porch. The team’s 74 outs on the bases last season were 19 more than the major league average even though the White Sox had the fifth-worst on-base percentage among 30 teams, according to baseball-reference.com.

Outs on the bases only accounts for plays in which runners were thrown out on tag ups, hits or other miscellaneous plays where they tried to advance a base. Force outs aren’t counted. Plays that result in a caught stealing aren’t either. And pickoffs are also excluded.

The White Sox didn’t gain much of an advantage from their aggressive style. They finished two percent below the league average in Extra Bases Taken, which while imperfect because it doesn’t account for the location of the ball, offers another indication the White Sox need to improve.

“It wasn’t very good,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

It impeded scoring for a team that scored three or fewer runs 82 times.

The White Sox had little power last season and forced the issue on the bases, running themselves out of innings or potential rallies. By simple subtraction of the team’s 74 outs on the bases, the White Sox on-base percentage dropped from .306 to .294. Hence the additional emphasis this spring.

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Renteria was hired in November in part because of his high baseball IQ, Hahn said. But his highly energetic, hands-on approach has also caught the attention of players.

Earlier this week, Renteria stood directly behind White Sox players as they worked on secondary leads off second base. Not only did they practice reading the ball, Renteria talked to and hopped toward third and back toward second with players depending upon how the ball was hit.

Outfielder J.B. Shuck said he can’t remember many coaches who operate the same way. He thinks the style is effective because Renteria repeatedly communicates the message without going over the top.

“He just brings a lot of energy and I think that’s what we needed,” Shuck said. “He knows what he wants to say and gets it across. But in the same sense, it’s in a positive way and you can just feel the good energy from him.”

It’s the same message but the White Sox have addressed things a little different this spring because they have a bunch of new players, Ventura said.

Renteria said he preaches what first base coach Daryl Boston has for years. He just wants to emphasize exactly what is expected of players, something he learned from the front office during their offseason discussions.

“A lot of it had to do more with figuring out where the club was at with the bases,” Renteria said. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. This is something I was taught in terms of going station to station and I just implemented from the way it was shown to me. The most important thing though is that when we’re out there with them, they know they’re supposed to be doing things a certain way. Every now and then they’ll get away with one or two. But you stay on top of them and make sure they understand it’s very important.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries


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?


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.”