White Sox

White Sox struggle in key spots in 3-2 loss to Royals

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White Sox struggle in key spots in 3-2 loss to Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Aside from a few good weeks, the White Sox offense has struggled all season.

Friday night wasn’t any different, as the White Sox missed taking advantage of a series of key chances in a 3-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Whether expanding the strike zone or hitting poorly in big situations, the White Sox stranded five runners in scoring position, including the tying runs in the eighth inning even though there were no outs.

The White Sox finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position en route to their sixth loss in eight games.

John Danks earned only his second career loss against Kansas City in 11 decisions as he allowed three runs in six innings.

“We had plenty of opportunities,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They pitched tough in these situations and we didn’t get it done.”

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No opportunity was bigger than the eighth inning and a group that -- despite the addition of several key bats in the offseason -- has averaged 3.74 runs per game missed out again.

Trailing by two, the White Sox didn’t produce a run even though any kind of contact likely would have got the job done.

Following a leadoff walk to Tyler Flowers and a ground-rule double by Trayce Thompson, Luke Hochevar struck out Tyler Saladino and Jose Abreu. Lefty Franklin Morales then got Melky Cabrera to fly out to deep right to strand the runners.

Adam LaRoche homered in the ninth inning but Greg Holland struck out Flowers with the tying run at first to close it out.

“We had the big one there in the eighth and had a chance to move it along and score and probably tie it up if it goes right and didn’t get it done,” Ventura said. “Especially with Roachy hitting a home run there in the ninth, you wish you would have got one of them at least.”

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One would have been sufficient in any number of spots with runners in scoring position.

Cabrera opened the second inning with a double and moved to third on an Avisail Garcia grounder. But LaRoche’s fly ball to left was too shallow and Alexei Ramirez popped out. After Abreu’s game-tying RBI double in the sixth scored Thompson -- who had the first two hits of his career -- Cabrera flew out and Mike Moustakas robbed Garcia of a potential RBI double.

The White Sox also stranded a runner at second base in the third inning.

None of that helped Danks, who early on appeared to have his Royals magic working yet again. He pitched around a two-out triple in the first inning and breezed through the next two frames, with a series of pop outs in one and all strikeouts in the next. Danks struck out Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning, part of 11 straight he would retire.

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Kansas City finally broke through in the fifth inning on a two-out RBI double by Alex Rios. Mike Moustakas, who Danks walked with one out, scored from first on the play as a relay throw by Sanchez forced catcher Flowers to leap and just miss the tag.

Danks got into more trouble in the sixth as Ben Zobrist singled to left and Cain, who tripled in the first inning, doubled into the left-field corner to make it a 2-1 lead. An opposite-field Eric Hosmer single gave the Royals a 3-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Danks walked Kendrys Morales but survived the sixth inning without further damage, stranding two. The left-hander allowed three earned runs and five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in six innings.

“I made a couple of mistakes that I got burned with, but I felt like it was good day,” Danks said. “Just got outpitched by a pretty good pitcher himself. "

“All my stuff is a little better, but I'd say the cutter is more consistent. Just staying down in the zone better. The balls that got up were the ball that hurt me tonight. I just have to be better at that. I feel good about where I'm at.”

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.”