Juan Minaya

'Improved' Juan Minaya adds split-fingered fastball to repertoire

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USA TODAY

'Improved' Juan Minaya adds split-fingered fastball to repertoire

The White Sox wanted Juan Minaya to add another pitch when he casually mentioned a few weeks back he throws a split-fingered fastball.

The hope is to another pitch could help the rookie reliever improve against left-handed hitters. Minaya -- who has converted seven of eight saves with 49 strikeouts and a 4.75 ERA in 41 2/3 innings -- threw a split-finger fastball when he pitched in the Houston Astros farm system. But Minaya said the Astros thought he threw it too hard and discouraged its use. The White Sox are more than happy to have Minaya be able to attack another quadrant.

“The (changeup/split-fingered fastball) has been a nice addition,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “We’re also trying to get him better and more consistent with his breaking stuff.

“Minaya has probably been one of the most improved guys, from the moment we picked him up from Houston, getting his delivery better. He’s throwing more strikes than he ever has with all of his pitches and the delivery enables that.”

Minaya, 27, hasn’t been scored upon in his last five appearances, though Avisail Garcia bailed him out with an assist on a wild game-ending play on Friday night.

Part of that success has come from the addition of the split-fingered fastball, which Minaya has thrown 16 times this month. Before September, Minaya had thrown the pitch only 11 times at the big-league level.

[MORE: Where does Jose Abreu fit in long-term plans?]

Minaya already throws a four-seam fastball, curve and a slider. But the split gives him a secondary pitch for lefties, who have an .829 OPS against Minaya this season.

“You can see he has confidence in it because he’s shaking to it a lot, which I love,” said catcher Kevan Smith. “He needed to throw that off his fastball. He has more than above average breaking stuff, but he broke it out a few weeks ago and we were like, ‘You’ve been holding out on us all season with that.’ That’s just going to bring more value to him, make more effective. A little more confident and successful.”

With the team’s entire original bullpen cast either traded or injured, Minaya has temporarily been thrust into the closer’s role. The mild-mannered righty has handled the ninth as well as could be expected and has shown the White Sox he has the stuff to potentially help out in the bullpen moving forward. Minaya would like to improve his fastball command but is pleased with how he’s handled a tricky situation. He’s also glad to have the White Sox supporting him throwing the split-fingered fastball.

“The other day I was talking with Coop and he said you need to get another pitch for lefties,” Minaya said. “I said I can throw the split, but I throw it hard. He said OK and I started throwing.

“The ninth inning is a tough inning, but you have to go out and compete.”

Chris Volstad earns first MLB victory in five seasons as White Sox top Astros

Chris Volstad earns first MLB victory in five seasons as White Sox top Astros

HOUSTON -- Two weeks ago Chris Volstad was focused on Hurricane Irma prep when the White Sox called to invite him to the majors. On Thursday night, he earned his first major league victory in more than five years as the White Sox defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 at Minute Maid Park.

Volstad, who had only made 10 big league appearances the previous four-plus seasons and spent all of 2017 at Triple-A Charlotte, allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings to pick up his first win since Sept. 10, 2012.

He hadn’t just shut it down after the Triple-A season ended, Volstad was actually shuttering his Jupiter, Fla. home and business the day the short-handed White Sox called.

“I was probably a little mentally shut down,” Volstad said. “But yeah, it’s kind of crazy how things can change. I guess it’s been about two weeks now. At home getting ready for a hurricane and then getting called back up to the big leagues.”

Volstad received word he might pitch early in Thursday’s game when a blister on Carson Fulmer’s right index finger worsened. Fulmer felt some discomfort after his Friday start at Detroit.

The White Sox let Fulmer try to go but yanked him after 20 pitches, including two walks. That brought out Volstad, who along with Al Alburquerque was promoted Sept. 10 after the White Sox lost several pitchers to injury.

The White Sox actually had to track Volstad down two weeks ago as he’d already been home for a week. He spent part of the time prepping for Irma, including boarding up his brewery.

He escaped a first-inning jam with a double play ball of the bat of Carlos Correa and ended a threat in the second with a pickoff at second base of Alex Bregman. After he surrendered a solo homer to Brian McCann in the third, Volstad retired the final eight men he faced.

[MORE: Why the White Sox are optimistic about their middle infielders' potential

He was awarded his first victory since he defeated Thursday’s Astros starter Dallas Keuchel 1,836 days ago here. Volstad remembered the win because Houston was still in the National League and he had a base hit in the five-inning start for the Cubs. He went 3-12 for the Cubs that season.

“You’re able to lock it in pretty quickly and get focused at the big-league level, you have to,” Volstad said. “But being home in Triple-A for the last few years, just getting called up about 10 days ago, I’ve got people following it, but it’s kind of unknown I guess. It’s a little surprising, but I’m glad to be a part of a team for sure.”

Fulmer, Volstad, Jace Fry, Mike Pelfrey, Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar and Juan Minaya combined on a three-hitter for the White Sox. Tim Anderson extended his hit streak to 12 games with a ninth-inning solo homer, his 17th.

With family members in its path, many White Sox players keep close eye on Hurricane Irma

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USA TODAY

With family members in its path, many White Sox players keep close eye on Hurricane Irma

Many eyes in the White Sox clubhouse will be focused on Hurricane Irma the next few days as several players’ family members are in the direct path of the record-breaking storm.

While his wife and children are in Chicago, the rest of catcher Geovany Soto’s family was already feeling the impact of the Category 5 storm by Wednesday afternoon in Puerto Rico. Manager Rick Renteria said some of his in-laws also reside in Puerto Rico. Reliever Juan Minaya’s family also is in the projected path of the storm, which is expected to reach the Dominican Republic sometime Thursday. Renteria said the White Sox will monitor the situation for now and act if necessary.

“We're all cognizant of the realities of life and the things that are really important,” Renteria said. “There are going to be a lot of people keeping track.

“I'm sure that anybody who has family anywhere that's being stricken by something that could be devastating, you'd want to be with them. There are certain logistics that probably won't allow that. I'm sure they're in motion, that their minds and their hearts are with their families. They wouldn't be human if they weren't feeling those things. I think we all deal with it in our own way and if there's a situation that occurs here we'll deal with it when we have to.”

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Soto spoke to his family several times throughout the day, most recently at 2 p.m. (CST). Soto said his parents, uncles, sisters, nieces and nephews hadn’t had power since 9 a.m. and had begun to see wind damage as early as 11 a.m. even though the storm hadn’t made landfall.

Soto was 6 when Hurricane Hugo slammed Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean in 1989. He knows Puerto Rico has been mostly lucky over the years and just hopes for the best possible outcome.

“It’s something that you really can’t control,” Soto said. “We want to believe that it’s out of our reach and just pray for safety and minimum damage.

“Keep praying for my family back at home.”

The White Sox have a number of players who reside in the Dominican Republic, but Minaya’s northern town of Puerta Plata is most directly in the hurricane’s path. The reliever said he lives about a 20-minute walk from the ocean and even closer to a river. His parents, brother, two sisters and nephews have decided to ride out the storm because they’re worried about looters.

Minaya said his family plans to stay together in a concrete house and expects to lose power at any point.

“The communication is going to be bad,” Minaya said. “If the hurricane goes like we’re seeing now, terrible.

“I’m very worried because my family is there.”