White Sox

White Sox: Slump 'confusing, frustrating' for Adam LaRoche

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White Sox: Slump 'confusing, frustrating' for Adam LaRoche

It isn’t effort and a rival evaluator doesn’t believe Adam LaRoche’s extended struggles are due to his age, either.

The bat speed and the swing put forth by the White Sox designated hitter isn’t noticeably different than it has been in the past, a National League scout said. But unlike any time in his career, LaRoche hasn’t been able to solve his slump this season and it hasn’t been easy for him to endure. LaRoche -- who is in the first season of two-year, $25-million contract -- entered Wednesday’s game with a .221/.319/.366 slash line with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 335 plate appearances this season.

“I’m sure I’ve had (a previous) time ‘This is baffling, the worst it’s ever been,’” LaRoche said. “But yeah, it’s confusing, frustrating and you think you’ve figured it out for an at-bat or two, and then it’s gone. In the past I’ve been able to figure it out and then hold onto it for a while. You just keep going and keep pushing.”

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of LaRoche’s slump is his increased strikeout rate: the 35-year-old has struck out 28.7 percent of the time. LaRoche’s career rate is 22.2 percent and he’s coming off an outstanding 2014 campaign when he whiffed in only 18.4 percent of his at-bats.

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White Sox manager Robin Ventura has had trouble pinpointing why LaRoche has struggled, too.

“You’re always looking at a guy that has been in the league this long and you can’t put your finger on it,” Ventura said. “It can be a slight mechanical thing -- and that’s not having seen him really in the past so you can look at video all you want but sometimes you look at something, throw it at him, an idea or mechanical thing. He might not be seeing it very well. The combination of those can be tough.”

LaRoche is determined to find his way out of a slump that extends back to June 12. Since that time, LaRoche has a .175/.237/.262 slash line with a homer and nine RBIs in 114 plate appearances. He isn’t alone in that the entire White Sox offense has struggled this season. But that doesn’t make what he has endured any easier for LaRoche to handle.

“You keep swinging and you keep working,” LaRoche said. “There’s only so much video you can watch, only so many things you can go back and look at that you think might have been different in the past. The fact is you just have to get in the box and be confident, expect good things to happen. I’ve always said, ‘If you expect bad things to happen, they’re more likely to happen. If you expect good things to happen, it’s more likely to happen.’”

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.”