White Sox

White Sox season preview: Outfielders

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White Sox season preview: Outfielders

Every day this week leading up to Friday's Opening Day contest against Texas (1 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), we'll be previewing a different unit of the White Sox. Today, we look at the extremely volatile outfield on the South Side. Be sure to check out yesterday's preview of the infield, too.

There's no unit on the White Sox that could be more boom-or-bust than the team's trio of starting outfielders. All three have the potential to put together solid offensive seasons that would be invaluable to supporting the Sox pitching staff. And while the Sox do have good outfield depth, one or two things going the wrong way would be a detriment to the team's playoff hopes.

Let's start in left field with Dayan Viciedo, who wallowed through the first four weeks of spring training before coming on strong as of late. On March 25, Viciedo's OPS fell to .288 -- but since then, the 23-year-old has been on a tear, collecting six hits (two of which were home runs) with two walks and four strikeouts.

Buddy Bell mentioned that Viciedo may have been taking his defensive struggles to the plate, contributing to his paltry spring numbers. He's going to be a work in progress as a left fielder this year, so his ability to separate his defense from his offense will be key in getting him back on track.

A 20-homer season out of Viciedo would be a nice boost to the Sox lineup -- ideally, he'll be hitting fifth behind Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko at some point this season. But if his offensive issues persist into the season, the absence of his power from the batting order could be a major problem.

Alejandro De Aza won't be as dynamic as he was during his 54-game stint with the Sox last year: a .329.400.529 slash line would give the Sox the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr. in center. De Aza is good, but he's not that good.

The key for De Aza will be to stay off the disabled list. Four years ago, it looked like he was going to assume the starting center field role for the Marlins before he suffered a devastating injury late in spring training. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has quite a bit of talent, both offensive and defensively, and if he's healthy expect for that talent to translate into quality production from the leadoff spot.

Alex Rios, though, is the real wild card here. He's had a handful of good months since joining the White Sox in 2009 surrounded by a sea of bad stretches, and last year posted the worst offensive season of his career. While Rios, overall, was fine in 2010, he's struggled in two of the last three seasons.

At 31, time is running out for Rios to prove his recent struggles aren't a trend. He didn't have a good spring training, hitting .224.266.293 with three walks, eight strikeouts and two extra-base hits. But that was just spring training, and if he's as comfortable in his stance as he and the White Sox have intimated, hopefully good results are ahead.

If they're not, though, Rios could begin to see his playing time dwindle in favor of Kosuke Fukudome or Brent Lillibridge. Fukudome would probably be the first option, although Lillibridge certainly could play his way into an increased role for the second straight year.

Expect Lillibridge to take most, if not all, of the innings in left field if Viciedo needs a breather -- Fukudome hasn't played an inning of left field since coming to the United States.

And therein lies the good news: If something does go wrong, the Sox have options. Lillibridge proved to be a more-than capable backup last year and could replace Viciedo if the Sox aren't sold on his value. Fukudome has experience in both center and right and could fill in for De Aza or Rios if need be.

Of course, the best scenario involves Viciedo, De Aza and Rios all being effective. But if one of them isn't, it may not completely doom the Sox chances.

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.”

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

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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.