White Sox

Beckhams trip to Florida: Better than a fried Oreo

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Beckhams trip to Florida: Better than a fried Oreo

Thursday, January 13, 2011
5:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Gordon Beckhams relaxed drawl, spilling out like molasses as he waited for his flight out of Miami on Thursday afternoon, flew in the face of a staunch determination to wipe out his disappointing 2010 campaign and reclaim a postseason berth for his White Sox.

Last year there was a lot put on my plate, and when I didnt immediately meet expectations I went into panic mode, the Chicago second sacker said of his atrocious start in 2010, which was scarred by his second position change in as many seasons field and first-half splits of .216.277.304 and a .581 OPS. That cant happen, and that wont happen again. I got frustrated, and mentally tired.

Beckham battled back and had an outstanding second half, putting up OPS marks of .950 in July and .931 in August before a beanball smashed his right hand in the seventh inning of an Aug. 31 game at the Cleveland Indians. The sophomore tried to battle through the injury but could mount only a paltry .497 OPS and seven total bases in the next two weeks before stepping to the plate for that last time on September 15.

I was in the worst mental state of my baseball life, Beckham reflected. It was good to come out on top.

The official beginning to the 2011 season might come next weekend as the ballclub hosts its annual packed fan hootenanny at SoxFest, but the now-traditional, still-unofficial start of proceedings came this week, in Miami, under the watchful eye of White Sox bench coach and future MLB manager Joey Cora. Several White Sox players committed to these voluntary, tune-up workouts that come a full month before pitchers and catchers begin to trickle into Arizona for spring training.

To hear Beckham tell it, Camp Cora was a resounding success on all counts, beginning with the bounce-back of the hand that had so plagued him at seasons end.

In December, Beckham said, he underwent a particularly painful batting practice session, which was later determined to be the breaking up of scar tissue in his hand. The very next day he hit the cages with no ill effects, and survived the three days of Camp Cora drills in perfect health.

I didnt deal with hand pain at all this whole week, the prototype Chisox grinder said.

On Monday through Wednesday, White Sox players gathered with Cora for infield drills and worked in the cages with White Sox batting coach Greg Walker.

I wanted to get some reps in with the infielders, get on the field and hit, Beckham said. It was a good time. It was good to start moving around and get ready for the season.

Of course, the Pale Hose being the Pale Hose, there has been no lack of off-field drama this offseason, culminating at the end of the year with Bobby Jenkss departure to the Boston Red Sox and the Fredo Corleone of the Chisox, Oney Guillen, exposing via the wildly inappropriate forum of Twitter apparent confidential, personal problems the closer had while in Chicago. Imaginably, it was a subject that did pop up during the South Beach boot camp.

Me and Joey talked a little bit about keeping confidences in the locker room, Beckham said. Everybody is on the same page. We want to play. We dont want outside drama to fill our locker room this year. Joey says hes talked a lot to White Sox manager and Oneys father Ozzie Guillen on that kind of stuff.

We want it to be on us. If were playing bad, its not because of some outside issues. Oneygate is over with and done.

While Beckham was brimming confidence as the dawn of the season nears (everyone on the team is going to share the load we have the pieces in place), the infielder almost didnt make it down to Camp Cora this week due to the surprise snowfalls that dusted the south: I would have been snowed in keeping my original flight on Monday, but I switched my flight to get there in advance. Me and snow, that doesnt work.
Short Stops

Defense was the real emphasis of Camp Cora, with Beckham, corner infielder Dayan Viciedo and third baseman Brent Morel getting in tons of infield reps per White Sox team footage released on Tuesday, in which Cora said that we want to get them in shape and work on backhands and some of the fundamentals of the game were striving to be one of the best infields in the league and we have the potential to do that. Beckham brimmed with similar confidence heading into his second season as a second sacker: I feel very comfortable at second; Joey was very happy with me at second last year. As an infield, were going to make some plays this year and can pick the ball. Its pretty obvious, we can play some defense.

Among many impressive-looking teammates, double-play partner Alexei Ramirez made the biggest impression on Beckham: Alexei looks bigger. Hes gained a little muscle.

Beckham was thrilled to have team captain Paul Konerko return to the fold, acknowledging that, without Paul last year, I might never have gotten out of the funk I was in He handles the leadership duties nobody else wants to handle.

The former high school quarterback and Atlanta native is rooting for a Falcons-Bears NFC title game, even if he has to miss the game due to SoxFest: Id like the game to be close; maybe the Falcons win it right at the end. Like most people, I just want to see good games in the playoffs.

There was no word on any ill effects from Beckhams excursion into the haute cuisine of South Beach on Wednesday night, when the second baseman tweeted, Went to Prime 112 tonight with Greg Walker and Brent Morel. Food was awesome. All I got to say is, fried Oreos. OH MY GOD. UNBELIEVABLE.

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

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

Rebuild, meet overdrive: Eloy Jimenez provides best snapshot of White Sox progress yet

A rebuild, White Sox fans know all too well, takes place over a lengthy period of time. Progression, development, these aren’t things easily pointed to as a single moment.

Allow Eloy Jimenez to provide an exception to the rule.

The White Sox contention window might not have been yanked open with one broken-bat homer to beat the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But Jimenez’s game-winner was the best single image yet of the direction Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project is moving.

Surely you don’t need a refresher on the highlight seen ‘round Chicagoland by now, but take a second to realize how incredible, how unscriptable it was: Jimenez, traded away by the Cubs two summers ago, up in a tie game in the ninth inning in his first game at the ballpark he always assumed would be where he’d be playing his big league games. Well, he finally played a big league game inside the Friendly Confines — and he delivered an unforgettable moment for the team on the other side of town.

Yeah, maybe it’s perhaps a little hyperbolic, maybe it’s a pure reaction to the moment, but: Rebuild, meet overdrive.

“We’re playing in the city of champions,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “The White Sox were champions at one time, the Cubbies have been champions. You have a history of basketball and football. It’s the city of champions, so a lot is expected of them. They’re starting to embrace it, understand it and revel in it.”

Talk of championships might seem a tad premature for these White Sox, still under .500 even after Jimenez blasted them to dramatic victory on the North Side. But then again, that’s been the end goal of the rebuild from Day 1. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly that the rebuild won’t be a success unless there’s a parade.

Jimenez’s homer came in June, not October. But it cranked the dial even further on the blindingly bright future these White Sox are building.

Lucas Giolito is providing examples of progress every time he steps on the mound these days. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert and Dylan Cease are doing their part, too. But no one has been as central a part of the future than Jimenez, the guy who’s supposed to be the middle-of-the-order power bat in this lineup for the next decade. The way he delivered Tuesday made for a flag-planting type moment on the White Sox journey up baseball’s mountain.

“We all knew the talent was there from the get-go as soon as the club acquired him. It was just a matter of time for him to get to the big leagues, get comfortable in the big leagues,” Giolito said after the game. “I think he's getting comfortable with the big leagues a lot faster than I would've predicted. He's a really, really good player, great teammate. Can't say enough good things about Eloy. He really delivered for us tonight, and it was a big one.”

Again, it’s June. It’s a game against a National League opponent, not exactly the kind of game that helps chew up the deficit separating the White Sox and the out-of-this-world Minnesota Twins at the top of the AL Central. But within these city limits, it’s hard to imagine a bigger stage than this.

The media swarmed Jimenez postgame, causing him to express some shock at the number of cameras and recorders suddenly thrust in his face. He’s been asked a million times what it would be like to play in Wrigley Field. When he rounded first base, the smile on his face — a permanent fixture — was enormous. He gave a huge clap when he touched home plate. Were the emotions what he’d been dreaming of?

“Yes,” was the only verbal response. The body language told a much richer story. He let out ebullient sounds that brought to mind Tim “The Toolman” Taylor. The smile nearly got too big for his face.

These were the Cubs he just beat, a team so often the comparison point for these White Sox. They’re trying to find their way through the same total rebuild the Cubs went through. And without these Cubs, the White Sox might not be as far along as they currently are. Thanks to that trade, which brought Jimenez and Dylan Cease into starring roles in this rebuild, the championship future Hahn has envisioned looks realistic. It looks closer.

The North Siders came out the other end of a rebuild champions. The White Sox have their eyes on the same result.

It might not happen tomorrow, even if the bright spots are shining through now more than ever. But it’s something the White Sox are fully chasing. This is the city of champions, after all.

“It means a lot because we’re fighting for a spot in the playoffs,” Jimenez said. “We have been playing really good and I think that was a good victory for us.”

A good victory for now. A good victory for later. A good victory, indeed.

That was a storybook ending. And it’s only the end of Act I, Scene I.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Eloy Jimenez drives to Wrigley with Chuck, then drives a dagger into the Cubs hearts

For his first regular season game ever against the Cubs, Eloy Jimenez got a ride from Chuck Garfien which started at Guaranteed Rate Field, stopped at Wrigley Field and ended with Jimenez hitting the game-winning home run in the 9th. First, Vinnie Duber joins Chuck to discuss how Jimenez homered despite breaking his bat (2:00). On the ride, Jimenez' talks about playing at Wrigley (8:20), what Cubs fans say to him now that he's on the White Sox (10:00), how he persuaded Rick Renteria to let him pinch-hit against the Cubs in a spring training game in 2018, and homered (11:30), what his mother thinks of him saying "Hi Mom" (14:30), Jimenez sings hip-hop (17:40), why a home run against the Cubs would mean so much (24:50), his reaction when the Cubs traded him to the White Sox (27:20) and more.

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