White Sox

Wrapping up day 2 of SoxFest

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Wrapping up day 2 of SoxFest

From SoxFest on Saturday:

Adam Dunn is ready to move on from his disastrous 2011 season, reports Chuck Garfien. It's not something he wants to talk about anymore, and he actually wasn't asked about it as much in his seminar appearance Saturday -- most fans concentrated on telling Dunn how much they supported him in addition to asking questions about his offseason regimen.

Gordon Beckham is part of the crew that includes Dunn -- and Alex Rios -- that need to have bounce-back years for the White Sox to contend, by most accounts. But Beckham says he's not going to entertain those thoughts, thus avoiding putting any added pressure on himself.

One guy who hardly needs a bounce-back year is Brent Lillibridge, who hopes to parlay his growth in 2011 into a successful 2012 and, eventually, a starting role.

It's new to Jeff Manto to be in a market in which position coaches are sought out by the fans and media. The new White Sox hitting coach spoke to CSN about that "unusual" aspect to the job, as well as the approach he's going to take to Dunn, Rios, and the rest of the team.

In a way, Kenny Williams actually welcomed the smattering of boos that greeted him during Friday's opening ceremonies, as he notes the last two times he was jeered at SoxFest -- 2004 and 2007 -- the Sox made the playoffs the next season.

Robin Ventura participated in spring training as a player for 17 seasons, but come thing spring, he'll have to coordinate his first one as a manager. Lucky for him, he has a few coaching veterans on his staff who will be instrumental in having everything run smoothly.

Ventura mentioned during a seminar that he's not going to be afraid to sit a player down, no matter who they are or what they're making. He also mentioned that he won't treat everyone the same -- like Paul Konerko vs., say, Gregory Infante -- but he will try to treat everyone fairly.

Brent Morel told CSN he was too concerned with making contact during most of 2011, but in September, he concentrating on being more selective and driving the ball. That tweak in his approach produced eight home runs and 15 walks, for what it's worth.

Rick Hahn on the perception the White Sox don't like on-base percentage: "Yeah, it's like we don't like puppy dogs, chocolate and Christmas. Everybody likes those things." Hahn also joined Buddy Bell, Doug Laumann and Nick Capra in discussing the state of the White Sox farm system, which Larry has some thoughts on after looking at Baseball America's prospect handbook.

Don Cooper doesn't like to read too much into 7 23 innings of work, but Addison Reed was impressive enough in that cup of coffee last season that Coop has him as a lock to be in the 2012 bullpen.

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: