White Sox

All-out effort results in on-time arrival to White Sox camp for pitcher Cory Luebke

All-out effort results in on-time arrival to White Sox camp for pitcher Cory Luebke

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cory Luebke kept his word and reported to White Sox camp on time after the birth of his first child earlier this week. All it took was a 24-hour drive from Nashville, Tenn., to Phoenix to make it happen.

Luebke told White Sox manager Rick Renteria he would make every effort to report for the team's first workout on Tuesday. But he wasn't sure how he'd pull it off as his wife remained in the hospital until late Sunday night after giving birth to their son.

After weighing their options, Luebke and his father decided driving was the best choice. So they put the pitcher's two dogs in the family truck at 3 a.m. on Monday and the two alternated between driving and sleeping for 24 consecutive hours, only stopping for gas and restroom breaks. Several days later, Luebke, a non-roster invitee to camp who threw his second bullpen session on Thursday, said he has finally caught up on sleep.

"So me and my dad started packing later Sunday night, trying to look at some flights and said, 'Hey, screw it, let's get in the truck and we can be there tomorrow,'" Luebke said. "It wasn't too bad. Dad took the first five or six (hours), and I took the next part. Drove, napped, drove, napped, got here, made it to my physical."

The length Luebke went to arrive on time shouldn't come as a surprise given what he's endured since May 2012.

Luebke, 31, was two months into a contract extension with the San Diego Padres that could have paid him nearly $28 million and pitching extremely well when he needed reconstructive elbow surgery.

In September 2013, Luebke's rehab assignment was shut down after several bullpen sessions, and in February 2014 he required a second Tommy John surgery after doctors found another tear and that his first surgery didn't take. The Ohio State product was primed to pitch again in 2015 — he made seven appearances in the Padres' farm system — before a staph infection ended his season.

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Luebke persisted despite his troubles and made the Pittsburgh Pirates' Opening Day roster in 2016, pitching in nine games before he was sent to Triple-A. Though he struggled in the majors, Luebke found a rhythm at Indianapolis, posting a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 29 strikeouts.

"Just looking back, I probably wasn't quite ready yet," Luebke said. "Stuff was good, (the Pirates) liked the upside they saw. Had my old stuff back, just wasn't locating well. After that first month I went down to Triple-A for a few months and it all started to come back."

Luebke has continued to feel well this offseason and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox in January. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman said Luebke would earn $1 million if he makes the big league roster. Given how good he feels, it's no wonder Luebke wanted to get to camp as quickly as possible. The White Sox could potentially keep a second left-handed reliever this season, and Luebke is in the mix.

But Luebke's son, Jackson, didn't arrive until eight days after his due date. In labor for 30 hours starting last Wednesday, Luebke's wife had a C-section. While the couple's child was healthy, the procedure resulted in complication's for Luebke's wife.

"The first few hours I didn't know how to feel because you look over one way and you've got a baby boy and he's doing great and you look over the other way and see your wife struggling," Luebke said. "It was tough. But it all worked out, and they're doing good now."

Roughly three hours after they arrived home Sunday night, the player, his dad and the dogs headed for Phoenix after packing. Luebke's mother stayed in Nashville to help out his wife and the baby, who are expected to join him later this spring. In the meantime, Luebke has spent much of the first few days in camp on FaceTime or looking at baby pictures. He also has managed to catch up on rest after five sleepless nights, which he said left him in a dream-like state.

Despite being a little out of it, Renteria said Luebke has looked good in camp so far.

"He's starting to hit his spots," Renteria said. "He looks like he's progressing to where he's ultimately going to be where he was previously, hopefully."

The team's new manager also said he was surprised to see Luebke report on time. Luebke, who was with the Padres at the same time as Renteria, had been in constant contact with his former coach and kept him apprised of the situation.

"He said he was going to make every effort and he did," Renteria said.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Everything we learned from Rick Hahn at the G.M. Meetings

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Everything we learned from Rick Hahn at the G.M. Meetings

Chuck Garfien speaks with Vinnie Duber who is covering the G.M. Meetings in Arizona where Rick Hahn spoke with the media for the first time in the offseason.

Why Vinnie's big takeaway is "don't take anything off the table" this offseason for the White Sox (1:45), Hahn talks about signing premium free agents and the Machado experience (6:00), weighing defense vs. hitting for who they get to play right field (9:10), would they move Yoan Moncada from third base if they signed a certain free agent?(11:45), where are things with Jose Abreu (21:00) and more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

No move is off the table for White Sox this offseason

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — What exactly will the White Sox do this offseason? If you have access to some truth serum, you’ve got a decent shot at finding out.

Despite the seemingly public nature of the White Sox pursuit of Manny Machado last winter, Rick Hahn doesn’t really talk about specific targets. So there was no word from the general manager Tuesday on whether there actually exist attempts to lure Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or your heretofore unnamed favorite free agent to the South Side.

But there was one big takeaway from Hahn’s roughly 45-minute session with reporters at the GM meetings: No move is off the table for the White Sox this winter.

We’ve long analyzed whether Player X fits better than Player Y, whether the White Sox are looking for a long-term piece or should be targeting short-term pieces, whether it makes any sense to pursue a player who plays a position the White Sox already have spoken for, et cetera, et cetera.

Well forget about all those disclaimers. There seems to be no door Hahn’s front office is going to close in the name of improving this team.

Just go down the list of potential additions the White Sox could make this winter, and you’ll see what I mean.

Short-term additions are on the table

Are the White Sox, who have long touted the importance of long-term fits, still shying away from shorter-term additions? No. Long-term additions are better, but … 

“We're getting closer to the point where it makes more sense to have one- or two-year fixes in place. Ideally, we want to find a way to add to the core, guys that are going to be here for a long time and continue to grow with what we've already accumulated. In reality, that's a little easier said than done, so some of the improvements may come on a shorter-term basis.

“Yeah, we've gotten to that point where it does make some sense to add a couple of those types.”

Older veterans who haven’t always seemed like the best fit for a young, rebuilding team? Now that the White Sox are nearing their transition from rebuilding to contending, those guys become realistic options. On the table.

A trade for a player with one year of control (like Mookie Betts) is on the table

Would the White Sox trade for a player with just one season of club control remaining on his contract? Yes. Guys with more control are better, but … 

“You want guys who are going to fit for the long-term,” Hahn said. “We want to add a guy who's got a three-, four-, five-, six-year window of control, where he's going to continue to improve and he's going to grow with this young core. Those guys aren't so easy to acquire.

“Short of that, we're going to look for guys who can certainly make you better in the short-term but ideally have a little back-end control. If those don't exist, if we don't come across the right fit, then we'd be open to a one-year improvement knowing that with where we've put ourselves economically, we might have the ability to retain that player when they hit free agency.”

Interesting, considering the Boston Red Sox might be dealing away Mookie Betts in their quest to get under the luxury tax. Betts seems set on heading to free agency after next season, meaning whichever team acquires him would only be doing so for one year. But the White Sox could use a player of that caliber in their lineup and a player of that caliber in right field. Sounds like they wouldn’t exactly lack confidence in their ability to make his stay last more than just one year, either. On the table.

A right fielder who plays suboptimal defense (like Nicholas Castellanos) is on the table

Speaking of right field, just how important the White Sox add a right fielder who can play some defense? Very. But … 

“It’s a legitimate consideration. We don't want to send somebody out there and it's going to, you know, tax our center fielder too much or tax the pitchers too much by not making plays,” Hahn said. “So it's a legitimate consideration.

“I pause half a step because we have discussed some pretty good offensive contributors who might not quite be up to snuff to what you want defensively that conceivably at some point in the offseason we wind up saying, ‘They're the best option, so let's move on it.’ So I don't want to just say it's the end all be all.”

Interesting, considering that the top outfielder on the free-agent market fits the description of someone who swings a difference-making bat but might not be “up to snuff” defensively. Castellanos’ offense is not a question, and while his defense is probably not as bad as his reputation would lead you to believe, the reputation exists for a reason. Putting him in the same outfield with work-in-progress Eloy Jimenez would be less than ideal. But putting their bats in the same lineup might be too much to pass up. On the table.

A professional DH (like Edwin Encarnacion) is on the table

When adding a designated hitter, do the White Sox want someone who has plenty of DH-ing experience and could DH on an everyday basis? No. But … 

“We're not eager to get locked in with someone positionally who can only DH,” Hahn said. “I think having a guy who can fill that role but also go out and play a defensive position would be a net greater benefit. We're talking about generic, hypothetical players.

“If you're talking about a guy Nelson Cruz, yeah, you're OK with that guy just being a DH. If you're talking about lower caliber guy than that, then maybe you want them to add some defensive value, as well, to move them around the diamond and get other guys off their feet from time to time.”

Ideally, the White Sox would like some versatility. It’d be nice to have a Cruz-esque thumper at DH, too. One of those exists on the free-agent market in Edwin Encarnacion. On the table.

A player who plays position the White Sox already have (like Anthony Rendon) is on the table

And what about Rendon? He’s the top position player on the free-agent market. He also plays third base, the same position Yoan Moncada does. Moncada had himself a terrific year playing third for the White Sox. Would they change his position for a second straight season? They don’t want to. But … 

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.”

Interesting. Rendon seems like the type of player you rearrange your defense for. He’s one of the best hitters in the game and would accomplish the White Sox goal of adding a premium talent to their rebuilding project. Moncada’s versatility could play a big role in that. On the table.

Top-of-the-rotation pitchers (like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg) are on the table

What kind of starting pitchers are the White Sox looking for this winter? Top-of-the-rotation guys or middle-of-the-rotation guys?

“We have room for improvement in both spots,” Hahn said. “We'll continue the trade and free-agent market for all different types of starters, and any ones that we feel are going to make us better both short- and potentially long-term, we'll be in on.”

That’s extraordinarily all-encompassing, but instead of viewing it as the White Sox not saying much, view it as there being many different possibilities. Cole and Strasburg fit the mold of top-of-the-rotation arms, as do fellow free agents Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel. Zack Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi might be more of the middle-of-the-rotation types. All of them and more are on the table.

———

That’s a breakneck assessment of the situations, but the takeaway remains: No move appears to be off the table for the White Sox in this stage of the offseason, and that ought to have folks looking for big splashes at every turn pretty excited.

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