White Sox

AJ may need extra boost for All-Star bid

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AJ may need extra boost for All-Star bid

NEW YORK -- A.J. Pierzynski celebrated his 1,000th game with the White Sox in style on Saturday with two solo home runs.

Already with 14 homers this season, the veteran catcher is within four of the career-high 18 he established in his first season with the White Sox in 2005. His play has many in the clubhouse of the belief Pierzynski is worthy of a nod when All-Star rosters are announced on Sunday. Pierzynskis current .849 OPS is easily the highest of his career and hes hitting .285 with 45 RBIs.

A two-time All-Star, Pierzynski said hed enjoy the opportunity to head to Kansas City over the break, but its not something hes going to count upon. As of last Monday, Pierzynski was fourth among American League catchers in the fan vote, one in which Texas Mike Napoli held a hearty lead. Minnesotas Joe Mauer is also a likely candidate to make the team because he is easily his teams top -- and perhaps only -- candidate for consideration.

It would be great, Pierzynski said. Ive done it a couple of times. Its awesome. Its the ultimate personal reward as a player to be voted as an All-Star, to go there and enjoy the game. At the same time, I know how it works. Its a popularity contest and I know Im probably not going to win it and Im not going to go. Ive been there before. Ive had good first halves before and not gone so Im not going to put a whole lot of stock into it. Or get my hopes up. I think I deserve it, but if not its OK. Im not going to lose any sleep over it.

Pierzynski believes his home run total is up because of a combination of technique and maturity. Whereas in the past he hit with more top spin, Pierzynski said he has tried to hit with more backspin this season. He also said he has done a good job to avoid getting out in front when he swings.

I think now that Ive gotten a little bit older, Ive settled down a little bit, Pierzynski said. I still have my moments where I get mad, but Ive kind of learned to control especially this year a little bit better. Just trying to technique em and just get the barrel and back spin balls instead of getting a little bit anxious and getting out front. Ive always hit a lot of balls with top spin. Its gotten me a lot of hits, but it doesnt lead to hitting for power and this year Ive hit a lot more balls with backspin that have carried.

Good health has allowed Pierzynski to reach the 1,000-game mark with the franchise quickly at a position where durability is rare. Pierzynski has averaged 133 games a season since he joined the White Sox.

Ive been lucky, Pierzynski said. I havent had any major injuries, things that put me on the shelf. Last year was my first time on the shelf and it was miserable. Im fortunate to have been on competitive teams where the manager runs me out there a lot and I have to thank my parents for giving me good genes. I enjoy my job, taking the field every day. Its something I hope I can do for a few more years.

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

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USA TODAY

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Omar Vizquel is named the Carolina League Manager of the Year, Sept. 13.

Vizquel became the third Winston-Salem Dash manager to be named Manager of the Year. The Dash went 84-54, the second-highest win total in franchise history and won the division title in both the first and second half.

Vizquel's season: As soon as Vizquel retired after the 2012 season, he went straight into coaching. First, he was an infield coach for the Angels in 2013. Then, he became the first base coach for the Tigers.

Vizquel remained there until taking the Dash job in the White Sox organization this season. Winston-Salem was an important post because seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 30 prospects from MLB Pipeline's rankings spent some time there in 2018.

Vizquel was able to guide that talent to a whole bunch of winning. The Dash had the best record in the Carolina League in the regular season.

The playoffs did not go so well. The Dash got swept by the eventual league champion Buies Creek Astros in the first round.

Still, it was a successful managerial debut for Vizquel and the White Sox got to take advantage of his experience with a number of top prospects playing under him.

He may not manage the White Sox any time soon, but Vizquel's ties to the organization (two years playing with the team and now coaching in the organization) make him a possible candidate at some point in his managerial career.