White Sox

Ballantini: Peavy is still 'all-in' for Opening Day

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Ballantini: Peavy is still 'all-in' for Opening Day

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011
2:05 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

What impressed about Jake Peavys session with reporters on Tuesday wasnt that it was delayed a few minutes because hed literally just stepped off the mound after a workout, or that manager Ozzie Guillen felt compelled to interrupt Peavy by shouting, you better be ready for spring training or Im gonna get fired.

It was the no-bull, bullheaded hurlers unmitigated devotion to a White Sox team he felt hes let down in his short time in Chicago and pure drive he has to right a career thats fallen off-track in the American League, after a half-dozen dominant campaigns for the San Diego Padres.

This winters been miserable, Peavy said, acknowledging everything from his rehab from a season-ending latissimus dorsi tear on July 6, a recent illness of his fathers and unseasonably cold weather. But Ive been out there, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, playing catch. Im pushing it, while listening to my body. But I want to be ready by Opening Day. I think I can be.

Peavy created a stir at SoxFest in January (via general manager Ken Williams) by texting the GM with his typical enthusiasm, something the ace embarrassingly chuckled away when reminded on Tuesday.

I was just sending him an update, Peavy said. You know me. I was fired up.

Peavy also acknowledged after he was acquired by the Chisox at the 2009 trading deadline with an injured ankle, Williams wanted him to proceed with caution.

Kenny tried to put the brakes on me hard, to his credit, said the righthander. I pushed right through those brakes and said, Kenny, Im going good. Let me go, let me start.

Peavy spun three tantalizing games for the White Sox in September 2009, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA and .850 WHIP. But to hear him tell it, things were already running off the rails.

Winning those three games, it wasnt me, Peavy said. I got into some bad habits by favoring my ankle. I was trying too hard to come back, and it wasnt a good move on my part.

Peavy added that it took until video sessions at the end of April 2010 before he and pitching coach Don Cooper saw how badly his mechanics had fallen off.

The launching point for Peavys comeback is his recovery from a slow start in 2010. After correcting his mechanics, Peavy went 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA and .917 WHIP in five June starts, including a complete-game shutout at the Washington Nationals on June 19. Three starts later, on July 6, Peavy was lost for the season with his muscle tear.

I found myself, and had a strong month, Peavy said. That helps because I dont have to worry about finding my mechanics or arm slot again. Its something you build on, working from a positive place. If you have to get hurt, its better to get hurt when youre pitching well than poorly.

Peavy estimates himself at 60 to 70 percent but acknowledged that at his time of the offseason, no pitchers arm is at full strength.

I can tell my arm is not that strong, because its taking me longer than usual to get my arm strength back, he said. But even healthy you always hope that spring training pulls arm strength up.

The nine-year veteran reported with confidence that hed completed at the end of January his three-month throwing rehabilitation program, one that was constructed virtually out of thin air by White Sox staff, surgeons and doctors due to the uniqueness of Peavys injury. The pitchers Tuesday workout consisted of a half-hour of 120-foot long toss throwing at full strength, with no mental reluctance and a 40-pitch mix of fastballs and changeups off the mound. The ace planned on two more sessions off the mound prior to pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Feb. 17. Once in Glendale, Peavy will undergo an MRI and sit down with Cooper and others to plot his navigation through March.

Ill be the ringleader and try to push the envelope to make sure Im ready as soon as possible, Peavy said. Im sure they will play devils advocate. Only I know how Im feeling, but Im going to be reverent toward the coaches and staff I need to be reverent toward.

One difference that Peavy noted about rehabbing from the first arm injury hes ever suffered is that hes no longer quickly ready to pitch a la Mark Buehrle. But despite the longer pregame bullpen sessions and greater overall caution paid to the health of his arm, Peavy anticipates great success both for him and the entire five-man rotation in 2011.

Its a huge swing either way being ready or not on Opening Day, Peavy said. If Im healthy, it makes us a deeper and better team. I love all the starting pitchers we have, and all five of us, the team should be able to lean on when it needs to.

As for his potential rotation fill-in, rookie Chris Sale, Peavy ravedand apparently, so did a key White Sox nemesis.

I saw Joe Mauer this offseason down in Cabo, and he went on and on about the ability and stuff of Sale, Peavy said. Believe me, Im not trying to keep Chris out of the rotationbut him at the back end of our bullpen makes us stronger. But his presence means if I have to miss a turn or two, so be it.

Presumably slotting into the No. 5 spot in the rotation, Peavy would not have to take the mound until April 9 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Whether or not hes able to pitch in front of an adoring U.S. Cellular Field crowd a mere two months from now, Peavy is calmera bit calmer, at leastand more philosophical about his rebound, at the wise, old age of 29.

An injury like this makes you a stronger person, he said. I appreciate the game better than I ever have. Im going to be the guy Ozzie feels I can be. Im eager to show people that I have a lot of years left.

Short Stops

Peavy was giddy with this winters White Sox acquisitions, particularly Adam Dunn: We were too righthanded-dominant last year, with no power and balance in the batting order Ive faced Dunn many times, and he gets on base. I cant see 40 home runs not happening for Dunn in our ballpark.

On rookie Brent Morel: I hear Morel might be our third baseman this year. I loved the defense he played last season.

On Alexei Ramirezs defensive wizardry: I dont know how the voting goes for the Gold Glove, but I dont see many people in the AL better defensively.

Peavy said the Minnesota Twins are still the team to beat in the AL Central (weve got our work cut out for us) and that even with the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians rebuilding the AL Central is absolutely a great division.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

SAN DIEGO — Rick Renteria isn’t shy about what he wants for his White Sox.

No, he’s not out there on Twitter, demanding the front office adds Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Nicholas Castellanos and Dallas Keuchel. But every chance he gets, he talks about where he expects his team to be in 2020.

“We left the season last year, the last series of the year, talking about this year, what we were going to expect and what we wanted to do and the things that we want to accomplish,” the skipper said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “Obviously winning more games and being a part of a relevant season is important to us, so we're going to ask a lot of these guys.

“It's time. We talked about it being time. Guys are going to have to step it up. We've made tremendous strides, made growth, but we still have to continue to add pieces to put us over the top to give us an opportunity to be relevant.”

Don’t misconstrue those words as Renteria poking his front office. Rick Hahn & Co. know very well they’ve got more work to do in the wake of giving the richest contract in team history to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal.

But a generally silent first two days at the Winter Meetings — there is a rumor suggesting the White Sox are trying to trade for Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara — have not lived up to the sky-high expectations of fans, who anticipated hearing the South Siders tied to the biggest names on the free-agent market.

Because the White Sox have been so quiet, it’s hard to figure out what new toys Renteria will have to play with in 2020. It’s hard to figure out if the White Sox will even be ready to leap into contender status by the time March rolls around.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Renteria, though, who was talking about the 2020 postseason while still wrapping up an 89-loss season in 2019. He’s instructing the fan base to start thinking the same way.

“People, have expectations,” he instructed. “Have them on me. Have them on our team. Have them on everyone.

“What scares me is if people don't have expectations. That scares me because then it means you're not striving to be better. We want to be better. We want our guys to improve.”

The idea that all the young White Sox who broke out in 2019 still have a good deal of growing and improving to do is what makes the future so bright on the South Side. And it’s what drew Grandal to sign with the team. It’s what Hahn says should make the White Sox a destination for all free agents.

Renteria agrees.

“There's no one, I don't think, that we've talked to, even toward the end of last year and even people that we've spoken to in terms of possibly coming here that don't see where we're at right now,” Renteria said. “I think there is an optimism and an excitement about the South Side right now that is legit. I don't think it's made up. It's not. It's real.”

As Hahn has alluded to for some time now, any skeptical fans out there likely won’t believe the White Sox have arrived as contenders until they see it, be it through the huge splashes of offseason additions or the fusion of the young core into a true force to be reckoned with. Rumors of reclamation-project outfielders and stopgap solutions in the starting rotation aren’t exactly bringing folks to Renteria’s level of excitement.

But any stretches of offseason inactivity shouldn’t make anyone forget about Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito or Tim Anderson or Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert or Nick Madrigal. Or, you know, Grandal.

That’s what’s real. That’s what’s got Renteria so excited.

Playoffs? A Jim Mora style reaction to that question wouldn’t be unwarranted. But Renteria is asking you to dream bigger.

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Why would the White Sox make a trade for Nomar Mazara?

Why would the White Sox make a trade for Nomar Mazara?

SAN DIEGO — After a deathly silent first day of the Winter Meetings, the White Sox finally created a little buzz on Day 2. A little.

Not any buzz that they’ll admit to, of course, Rick Hahn spending a second straight media session with nothing to announce, talking about how he’s unable to handicap whether the White Sox will make a move this week in Southern California.

But the buzz hit the internet shortly before Hahn spoke Tuesday afternoon, a rumor that the South Siders were once again trying to acquire right fielder Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard the White Sox linked to the 24-year-old. They were supposedly interested at the trade deadline in July. And just like they’ve reportedly started trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers in another effort to bring Joc Pederson to the South Side, they’ve similarly circled back to the Rangers and Mazara.

“He's obviously a powerful man, 6-4, I think, 6-5. He looks like he's seven-foot every time I see him in the box,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said, asked about Mazara during his media session Tuesday. “Runs extremely well for a big guy. Can defend. Good arm. Brings a lot of qualities to the plate. Can pop one in the seats as quickly as anybody. I think he's done it against us a number of times, but he can play right field well.”

Indeed he can “pop one in the seats,” as Renteria well knows. Mazara hit three homers in two days off Reynaldo Lopez and Odrisamer Despaigne back in June, including one that traveled 505 feet.

Fan reaction was not kind to the idea of the White Sox getting Mazara to plug their hole in right field, a likely result of expectations that the team would be in on the biggest available names this winter, such as free-agent outfielders Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Pederson, after a career year in which he blasted 36 home runs, would probably sate an appetite for a big splash.

Instead, we’re talking about Mazara. And fans are trying to figure out why.

No, he’s not splashy. In four big league seasons, he’s got a .261/.320/.435 slash line, 79 home runs and 308 RBIs. Playing in just 116 games in 2019, he hit .268/.318/.469 with 19 homers — breaking a streak of exactly 20 long balls in each of his first three seasons — and 66 RBIs. Those aren’t elite numbers.

With a supposedly aggressive approach and money to spend, why is Mazara the target instead of someone like Castellanos? That’s a good question, and one with some potential answers, however unsatisfying to the critics they might be.

Left-handed bat

The right-field vacancy has been, throughout the offseason, the team’s best opportunity to add some left-handed hitting to an overly right-handed lineup. While Hahn has said numerous times, Tuesday included, that the White Sox aren’t going to let handedness be the be all, end all in their search for new hitters, he’s also said that in an ideal world, he’d be able to add some left-handed balance to the lineup.

He did that when he signed Yasmani Grandal to the richest contract in club history. Grandal’s a switch-hitter, giving the White Sox a pair of those, Grandal joining Yoan Moncada. But the remainder of the lineup, both current and projected, is right-handed: Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. That leaves two spots, right field and DH, as the only opportunities to find more balance. The White Sox might move forward with a rotation at DH including Grandal, Abreu, James McCann (a righty) and Zack Collins (a lefty), leaving right field as the only spot, perhaps, to add a left-handed bat of some significance.

“It’s an ideal. There’s certain fits that exist within the trade market. There’s certain fits that exist within the free-agent market still,” Hahn said. “We are not going to sell out to handedness. If we can find a premium right-handed bat that fits that makes more sense than a left-handed option, that’s the route we will go.”

Lesser of the defensive evils?

Hahn has also said that, ideally, whichever player the White Sox add to fill the hole in right would be a good defender. That one’s perfectly easy to understand. While the White Sox have no intention to move Eloy Jimenez out of left field, believing he showed some big-time improvement as his rookie season went along, he’s still a work in progress out there. Some have jumped to the conclusion that he’s already best suited for DH. I’d suggest waiting a little longer than just one injury-interrupted rookie season before declaring him unserviceable in left. Luis Robert, another rebuilding cornerstone, earns rave reviews for his defensive work in center, but he’ll be getting his first taste of the big leagues in 2020.

Well, Mazara isn’t exactly a Gold Glover in the making, it seems. He had minus-four Defensive Runs Saved last season, not a good number. But other options are worse.

Castellanos has a poor defensive reputation, one backed up by the numbers: He had minus-nine DRS in 2019. Seemingly no one at the Winter Meetings has a good thing to say about Ozuna’s defense, either, and he exclusively played left field during his two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Adding either to the outfield mix on the South Side would create unwanted defensive headaches. Could their offensive profiles, particularly that of Castellanos, overcome those defensive reps? Absolutely, but also at a high price point.

Mazara has a reputation as a (perhaps only slightly) better defender and certainly as an athletic player. And the White Sox wouldn’t have to give him tens of millions of dollars to put up such woeful defensive numbers.

“We like, generally, to have athletic players who are capable of contributing beyond just one dimension of their game,” Hahn said. “For example, not just being able to beat you with the bat, but perhaps with their legs and perhaps with their defense. That's the ideal.

“That isn't always the case. There are certain positions where that's a little less the case, and you make due with it and so be it because of how special they may be in another area of contribution.

“Eventually at some point we're going to see Luis Robert running around center field. Certainly with surrounding him with guys that are similarly athletic -- perhaps not on par with that, because he's a bit of a freak -- has some appeal. It's not essential, but yeah, ideally, that would look nice.”

Diamond in the rough?

The White Sox say they’re moving into the next phase of their rebuilding project, and that would seemingly be a phase in which they don’t have to go digging for buried diamonds that might turn their careers around in a new setting. But that’s what Mazara could be.

And Hahn said he likes the idea of adding that kind of player.

“That's where you really can make your hay,” Hahn said. “That's where, if you can find something that's undervalued and you can get it better and you have tangible reasons for believing you can get this guy better, that's a real opportunity.”

Maybe eyes are rolling because Hahn wasn’t similarly glowing about the opportunity to break the bank on someone at the top of the free-agent market, but that’s not a bad desire. Every team wants to find buy-low gems that could blossom into key contributors. Heck, the Cubs made one a centerpiece of their rebuilding project with a 2013 trade that brought Jake Arrieta to the North Side.

That’s hardly suggesting that the White Sox would get the steal of the century in a deal for Mazara. But there’s a reason he was such a highly touted prospect once upon a time. He’s still just 24 years old, and perhaps that old change-of-scenery chestnut actually makes some sense. The Rangers might be willing to sell low due to their projected outfield alignment or due to tiring of waiting for Mazara to live up the hype. And the White Sox could at least take advantage.

———

Are there reasons to be skeptical? Of course. Mazara’s offensive numbers have not been overly impressive. His defense is not what one would call “great.”

But he does address some needs, and perhaps most importantly, he’d be a big upgrade.

Mazara would not be a big-splash type of acquisition, but he’s way better than what the White Sox have in right field at the moment, which is nothing. They do not have an everyday right fielder, and we saw in 2019 how unproductive a parade of ineffective options can be.

Mazara had a .786 OPS in 2019. White Sox right fielders had a .565 OPS.

“Nowhere to go but up” is not a reasoning that fires up a fan base. But it’s also true for the White Sox when it comes their right-field situation.

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