White Sox

Bob Costas: White Sox made 'right choice' with Jason Benetti

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Bob Costas: White Sox made 'right choice' with Jason Benetti

Legendary broadcaster Bob Costas was intrigued to meet Jason Benetti 10 years ago for several reasons.

Costas and the new White Sox play-by-play man share an alma mater, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. And Costas appreciates and respects how Benetti has dealt with his disability.

But the admiration Costas — one of several fabled broadcasters whom the Homewood-Flossmoor product considers a mentor — has for Benetti extends beyond their initial connections. And Costas thinks the abilities that Benetti possesses make him a perfect hire for the White Sox.

“They’re getting one of the best young broadcasters around, getting someone who not only has talent, but who loves and understands the craft,” Costas told CSNChicago.com. “And because of his pretty close to unique circumstances, he is deeply appreciative of everything that this means. He appreciates and understands the history of the craft, he understands the history of the game and he understands and appreciates that he now has a chance to be a part of it.

“Yes, it’s a career move. But it’s more than that. He appreciates it on a personal level.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jason Benetti gives fans new voice to root for and follow]

The career of Costas - who attended Newhouse - has spanned more than 40 years. Having worked more high-profile events than one could keep track of, the 26-time Emmy Award winner has met his share of ambitious young announcers.

Benetti stood out immediately.

Of course there’s the Newhouse connection, a network of alums that looks out for one another (Mike Tirico and Sean McDonough are also Syracuse products and Benetti mentors). And Benetti was up front that he was born with Cerebral Palsy, which distinguished him, Costas said.

But Benetti’s talent is the real draw, Costas said.

“What struck me about him as a broadcaster was he had very good command of language,” Costas said. “Some people have the same couple dozen ways to describe things and that’s that. With him there’s a great deal of variety.

“His powers of description are better than the average person, especially starting out.

“Early on he had that knack.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Cubs' Len Kasper had big influence on new White Sox announcer Jason Benetti]

Benetti remembers the first time Costas called.

“When he said ‘Hello,’ he didn’t even have to say his name,” Benetti said. “He’s so distinctive. It’s beautiful.”

Benetti describes his mentors, a group that includes Costas, Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, McDonough, Ian Eagle and Tirico, as “aim-higher people” who offered both encouragement and feedback.

“Those people in that group … basically said, ‘Be you and do great work and here is how I would like to help,'" Benetti said.

Early in his career, Costas received assistance in several forms.

Syracuse professor Stan Alten offered critical feedback - “even after I was at NBC, through the mid-80s, I would hear from him,” Costas said. And previous bosses, namely KMOX’s Bob Hyland and NBC’s Dick Ebersol, instilled the confidence Costas needed when they took chances and hired him.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Familiar with Benetti’s work for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, Costas knew Benetti didn’t need much critical assistance. He thought Benetti mostly needed more repetitions to hone his style.

“What he needed more than anything else was encouragement and occasional feedback,” Costas said. “He didn’t really need someone to tell him, ‘Do this. Don’t that.' He already kind of understood it.”

What has impressed Costas perhaps most are the work ethic and preparation, the respect for his role and how Benetti has handled his disability. That combination, along with his vocabulary and delivery, has Costas confident about Benetti’s future with the White Sox.

“He acknowledges it, but he minimizes it simultaneously,” Costas said. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, here it is. It’s not holding me back. If that reality inspires anyone else, than so much the better. But I don’t want it to be the very first and only thing people think about when they think about me.’ And his work has assured that’s going to be the case.”

“His background makes him an interesting story. But his talent and quality of craftsmanship are what make him the right choice.”

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.