White Sox

Alex Avila gets best of former teammate Justin Verlander, homers in White Sox loss

Alex Avila gets best of former teammate Justin Verlander, homers in White Sox loss

DETROIT -- Things might be a little awkward between Alex Avila and Justin Verlander.

The two former teammates faced off on Wednesday afternoon for only the second time ever and Avila didn’t treat the Tigers’ ace too kindly.

Avila, who caught Verlander for six seasons, ripped a 435-foot solo homer to dead center in the fourth inning, but the White Sox still lost to the Detroit Tigers 3-2.

Avila is now 2-for-5 with a walk in two games against Verlander. They also faced each other on June 5.

“I know I’m going to be hearing about it,” Verlander told Detroit reporters. “I think I’m going to ask him back for one of the watches I’ve gifted him. It’s only fair, I think.”

Avila and Verlander have shared a ton of memories over the years.

Avila was Verlander’s primary catcher from 2010-2015. He caught him 116 times, including in 33 of 34 starts when Verlander won his only Cy Young Award and was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. Verlander had a 3.10 ERA with Avila behind the plate, including a 2.35 in 2011.

Avila hit against Verlander three times on Wednesday, striking out twice. He thought his old teammate looked extremely sharp as Verlander held the White Sox to two runs and three hits in seven innings. Verlander struck out nine.

“He has pitched great all year, really exposing hitters’ weaknesses with that mid-90s fastball, staying at the top of the zone with that,” Avila said. “His slider-cutter worked well for him. He’s pitching great. It’s tough to get runs off him.”

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Avila was excited to not only face Verlander, but also to catch Chris Sale. He said White Sox manager Robin Ventura told him he’d catch Wednesday’s game a few days earlier and he anticipated the game.

Verlander said he thinks the catcher has the advantage in these types of meetings.

“Alex having caught me a lot, cheated a little bit to that first pitch heater in, and that’s fine,” Verlander said. “A lot of guys do that and I just need to execute it a little better.

“It’s like he’s faced 1,000 times, so you can’t get upset because it’s an ex-teammate.”

Avila said it “felt great” to homer off Verlander, but he hadn’t yet talked to him or texted.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point,” Avila said.

Verlander figures this won’t be the only time the two square off. If Avila wants to keep hitting homers, he might think about leaving personal items at home.

“I think I’ve gave him two or three (watches),” Verlander said. “I’ll start with the least expensive one and work my way up because we face each other a lot.”

After homering for his first MLB hit, Zack Collins was 'in shock'

After homering for his first MLB hit, Zack Collins was 'in shock'

The young players that figure to feature heavily in the future of the White Sox have had quite a week.

It started with Lucas Giolito being the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins, then Eloy Jimenez blasted a big go-ahead home run in the ninth inning in his first crosstown game against the Cubs. Now, Zack Collins has added his own blast of optimism to the White Sox young core.

The 24-year-old made his first major league start on Friday in Texas and delivered a three-run home run in his first at-bat. It was his second MLB plate appearance after he drew a pinch-hit walk Wednesday in Wrigley.

After the White Sox beat the Rangers 5-4 in 10 innings, Collins talked to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast.

“Honestly I was just in shock,” Collins said. “I was running around the bases. It seemed like it lasted like three seconds and I felt myself sprinting around second so I had to slow it down and enjoy the moment, but it was an awesome time.”

Collins finished 1-for-5 with three strikeouts, but that is Collins’ game. He’s going to strikeout a lot and his batting average probably won’t be pretty. He has a career .234 batting average in the minors (.250 in Triple-A Charlotte this year), but he coupled that with a .378 on-base percentage and big power.

In his five trips to the plate on Friday, Collins saw 22 pitches. He’s going to work the count and sometimes he’s going to run into home runs.

“It was smooth,” Collins said. “I just kind of put the ball in play and the ball flew. I really don’t know. It was kind of a blur to me. It was obviously a big moment for me.”

Collins was called up Tuesday morning ahead of the first game against the Cubs. He didn’t play that game, but the pinch-hit walk on Wednesday helped take out some of the nerves.

“On Wednesday night I stepped up, I had a little bit of jitters, had a little bit of butterflies and stuff, but I think that was the point of getting in there on Wednesday and getting all that out,” Collins said. “It felt good tonight.”

Collins still hasn’t played catcher since he got called up. He was the DH in Friday’s lineup. That didn’t stop his dad from being excited about his first start.

“I was pumped,” Collins said of when he saw he was in the lineup. “I immediately texted my dad and told him I was in there. He told me good luck, play hard, do your thing. Obviously it started off well and we got a big win tonight so it was fun.”

As of the postgame interview, Collins didn’t yet have his home run ball. However, it sounded like he was able to make a deal with a fan for it.

“Somebody said they did get the ball,” Collins said. “I think I have to make a little trade with somebody.”

 

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WATCH: Zack Collins hits a three-run homer for his first MLB hit

WATCH: Zack Collins hits a three-run homer for his first MLB hit

Zack Collins started his MLB career in fitting fashion, with a walk.

In his next trip to the plate, he hit a home run.

Collins came on as a pinch-hitter Wednesday at the Cubs and drew that walk. Friday's game at Texas was his first start. The 2016 first-round pick entered the lineup as a DH and batted eighth.

He came up with two on and two out against Rangers starter Ariel Jurado. Collins, as he is known for, took the first three pitches before fouling off a curve on a 2-1 count. Then he took a slider deep to right-center.

Watch Collins' home run in the video above.

Collins is known for three things as a hitter: home runs, walks and strikeouts. Before getting called up from Triple-A Charlotte, Collins was hitting .250/.374/.482. He had nine home runs in 50 games with 36 walks and 66 strikeouts. He was sixth in the International League in walks while playing fewer games due to splitting time at catcher.

In a very short time period, Collins is showing what the White Sox thought they were getting when they drafted him 10th overall in 2016.

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