White Sox

White Sox: Robin Ventura says Alexei Ramirez is in real good spot

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White Sox: Robin Ventura says Alexei Ramirez is in real good spot

CLEVELAND -- No details were divulged but Robin Ventura did allow that Alexei Ramirez’s lengthy slump to start the season was about more than baseball.

The White Sox manager said Saturday afternoon that Ramirez has returned to form in the weeks since the shortstop met with Ventura and his coaches. Following Friday’s victory, one in which he had three hits, stole two bases and made three nice defensive plays, Ramirez thanked the coaching staff for their support and credited his resurgence to a “friendly meeting” in Detroit last month. Since July 1, Ramirez has hit .333/.369/.483 with five extra-base hits, eight RBIs and five steals in 66 plate appearances. He also has looked much more like the Gold Glove finalist of a season ago.

[MORE: Alexei Ramirez 'starting to click' at right time for White Sox]

“Sometimes life is tough,” Ventura said. “There are things that go on with guys, you don’t really want to let it out. You have to live through, play through. Baseball is an everyday game and it’s hard sometimes to block some stuff out. I don’t know if its focus, but you need to go out and play to your capability. There have been times when he’s been a better player than other times. Right now he’s in a real good spot, playing great, even the last two nights arguably the best two games of the year swinging the bat and playing defense. A lot of stuff has cleared up for him and he’s able to focus on the field.”

As recently as 2013, family issues distracted Ramirez. Known for his quiet, introverted nature in the clubhouse, Ventura agreed that reading what Ramirez is thinking could be difficult. But the June meeting with Ramirez, who has a $10 million team option for next season with a $1 million buyout, has been good for all parties and clearly has helped the 2014 Silver Slugger Award winner on the field.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“He is pretty quiet,” Ventura said. “He likes to internalize stuff. You find a way to get it out of him. Sometimes you can ask a guy and they’re not going to necessarily give it to you. It’s a game that has to be played every day and sometimes you can get through it and sometimes you cant. He’s fought through it and right now he’s the guy that we know that he is when he goes out there and plays. You see the plays he makes the last couple nights and it’s been great.

“Talk to them a lot. They have times they have to give you what you need out of them. He has fought through a lot this year.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Tim Anderson opens up about his struggles in 2017 and why he wants White Sox fans "to know the real me."

Anderson dives into his personal tragedy from last season when his best friend was murdered in Alabama. 

He talks with Chuck Garfien about the dark days that happened, how counseling helped him, his new leadership role in 2018, if he'll draw more walks this season, "bringing swag to the South Side" with Yoan Moncada and much more.

Listen to the full White Sox Talk Podcast right here:

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

After last season's personal tragedy, Tim Anderson ready to unleash real self

GLENDALE, AZ --  There’s a different Tim Anderson at White Sox spring training this year.

You can see it on his face  You can hear it in his voice.

“I’m busting out of the shell. I’m talking more,” he said as he sat down for an interview with NBC Sports Chicago (in the video above).

It’s not the new Tim Anderson. It turns out, it’s the real one that’s been there all along.

“This is me. It’s always been me. I never knew how to express myself. I feel like I’m being a lot more open,” Anderson explained. “That’s what I want to give to fans. Let them know the real me. You’re cheering for me. Why not know me? I’m being open and kind of let fans into my life.”

The White Sox shortstop has learned a lot about life in the past year. It all started in May when the White Sox were in Baltimore to play the Orioles. Anderson received a phone call at 4 a.m. It was news from back home.

It was the worst phone call of his life.

His best friend Branden Moss had been murdered in the parking lot of a Tuscaloosa, Ala., bar after helping the victim of a fight.  

The two were like brothers. Anderson is the godfather to Moss’s young daughter. Moss was the godfather to Anderson’s 2-year-old daughter.

“It was heartbreaking,” Anderson said.

While Anderson grieved, playing baseball seemed like it would be a perfect escape for his pain. Only it wasn’t. Far from it.  Baseball might have made things even worse.

In fast-paced sports like football and hockey, players don’t have much time to think. It’s react, react, react. Whatever might be happening off the field feels like a million miles away.

Not in baseball.

The game moves at a much slower speed. There’s plenty of time for your mind to wander. Thoughts kept going back to Anderson’s lost friend, taken from him in an instant.

At 23, he didn’t have the tools to deal with the emotional pain and excel at baseball at the same time.

“The year was rough. I wasn’t having fun in between the lines. I was making the game harder than it was. I was thinking too much. I was feeling sorry for myself and the list can go on. When my friend died it definitely took a lot out of me. I had a dark moment,” Anderson said. “Some days I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the ballpark because I knew it was going to be a bad day.”

Making matters worse, there were many nights when Anderson didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Still, he dragged himself to the ballpark and somehow tried to play.

The results weren’t pretty. On June 22, Anderson already had 16 errors at shortstop, most in the majors. At the plate, he was hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs.

He knew he was better than that. He also knew something else: He needed help.

In July, Anderson started meeting with a therapist who was able to unlock the pent up thoughts and emotions that he was burying inside him.

The therapist would write down everything that Anderson was feeling on paper and then read it back to him.

“Just going in and talking and pouring everything out of you. It lets you hear what you’ve been going through,“ Anderson said. “When she did it, it was a lot. I took what she read to me, balled it up and threw it away. I got lighter. It was a brightening. Those counseling sessions definitely helped me.”

Soon, Anderson was back to being himself both on and off the field.

In the month of August, he had 8 doubles, 5 home runs and 16 RBI.

“Woof. I was hot,” he said after hearing those stats. “That’s Tim. That’s more Tim that we need to see.”

In September, he batted .327 with 3 home runs and 9 stolen bases.

“We need a lot of that this year. That’s the way I want to go. That’s the way I want to go about it. Get back to what got me here.”

There was still an issue with his plate discipline. He had 32 strikeouts and only 1 walk in September.

“We play a tough sport as it is. They’re going to come,” Anderson said about the walks. “I mean, when I walk more, what are you going to tell me? ‘Start swinging more?’ It’s one of those things. It’s a give and take. We’ll see what happens.”

In 2017, Anderson received a crash course in adversity. What did he learn from all that pain and misery?

“Tough times happen, but they don’t last forever.”

Now that he’s survived the personal storm from last season, he wants “another shot at it. I feel like last year went left. This is new season.”

So, what does he envision for himself in 2018?

“Having fun, smiling a lot, picking up my teammates, hugging on the coaches and players. A lot of love, more so than stats,” Anderson said. “I’m fired up. I’m excited. I feel like I’m ready to lead this pack. We got a great group of guys. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”