White Sox

White Sox in wait-and-see mode as trade deadline looms

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White Sox in wait-and-see mode as trade deadline looms

There are 23 days left before the trade deadline and Rick Hahn is considering several options as he decides whether or not to sell.

Prominent in the general manager’s thought process is how far below their career track records many veteran position players are and if they could recover -- even a little -- the White Sox offense would become a much more formidable bunch.

In its current state, the White Sox offense is on pace to score 552 runs this season, which would mark one of the worst outputs in franchise history. And having witnessed it for 81 games, Hahn isn’t oblivious to what has transpired.

He can’t unsee the repeated poor performances and missed chances if he tried.

Still, with the pitching the White Sox possess and parity reigning in the American League, any kind of lengthy run could catapult them back into the playoff picture.

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It's clear how real the struggle is for Hahn.

“It is hard having now seen this for 81 games, to not trust what your eyes are showing you,” Hahn said. “And it’s showing you it’s not clicking for whatever reason and you’ve got to change this mix.

“Those are the two avenues in front of us right now.”

This isn’t the street the White Sox believed they’d be on when they added $74.5 million worth of free agents in the offseason. They thought they’d improve upon a group that averaged 4.07 runs per game last season once they added Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche, among others.

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But instead of Park Place they’re on Baltic Avenue, averaging 3.41 runs per contest.

“I’ve heard people say they’ve never seen anything like this before,” Hahn said.

Look across the board and it’s astonishing.

LaRoche’s .711 OPS is 96 points below his career .807. Alexei Ramirez, who’s at .556, is 151 points below his career mark and he’s struggled in the field, too. Cabrera is 106 points below his norm of .746 and Conor Gillaspie is 100 points below what he did last season.

Those four are hardly alone.

But the White Sox hold out hope because of their pitching. And they’re 27-9 when they score four runs.

“You see the opportunities are there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “These guys are giving you great outings, and not just the starters, even the bullpen coming in, keeping it close, keeping you within one run to be able to get something done and you can't get it done. I know these guys are frustrated and they're good enough to be able to have it turn and you're waiting for it to turn.”

Two days after starter Jeff Samardzija said he hasn’t even though about the possibility of being traded, Hahn echoed those sentiments. Players aren’t focused on a breakup but how they can improve the current club, Hahn said.

“The sentiment is that, they want to put us in a position where it’s obvious that we’re not sellers over the next few weeks,” Hahn said. “They expect to go on a run and make it clear that we’re fulfilling the expectation we all had.”

And if they don’t complete a turnaround -- something the odds don’t favor and mounting evidence suggests would be extremely difficult -- it doesn’t sound as if a complete makeover is the plan. Hahn intends to evaluate who is part of the core and who isn’t.

“Obviously we felt heading into this season that we put ourselves in a position to contend but it was still, as I said at the time repeatedly over the offseason, it’s part of a process,” Hahn said. “We weren’t done and in our minds going to stop looking to try to add to a core group. We have a fair amount of controllable talent entering or in their primes for the next several years and that’s an enviable position to be in. From our standpoint, if we do start focusing on the future, it’s to figure out how many of this group are going to be part of that core and the best way to add to it.”

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: