White Sox

Brawl builds bonds: White Sox look for a spark

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Brawl builds bonds: White Sox look for a spark

They’re still in the getting-to-know you process but the White Sox have a much better idea who their new teammates are after Thursday night’s melee.

From the second Yordano Ventura stared down and shouted obscenities at Adam Eaton, the White Sox showed off their protective nature. Benches and bullpens cleared and a group with 13 new players rallied together in defense of Eaton and others in a beanball war that has persisted throughout the team’s first four meetings of 2015 with the Kansas City Royals.

The incident resulted in a delay of several minutes and a number of scuffles, including several highly visible charges by White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Five ejected in White Sox, Royals brawl in seventh inning]

“There are a lot of feisty guys in here, too, which I like,” Eaton said. “A lot of guys like me. I respect our guys, too. You come out there on my behalf, it's awesome. It shows the team camaraderie.”

Samardzija may have earned the most points among his teammates.

Though he didn’t play in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Royals, Samardzija didn’t hesitate to get involved in a brawl that left Kansas City manager Ned Yost on the ground. With his long brown hair flying every which way, Samardzija twice charged into a mass of bodies and appeared to be trying to engage Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain. In one instance, Samardzija -- who was not available for comment -- charged toward Cain and Kansas City third-base coach Mike Jirschele tried to intervene, which left he and the pitcher on the ground.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Adam Eaton on KC - "I respect the hell out of that team"]

“We have some guys in here that pulled for each other and we’ve known that the whole time,” pitcher Chris Sale said. “I don’t think tonight was any different than any other night or any other game or anything that we didn’t already know about each other.”

When Samardzija -- who drew first blood in this ongoing feud, hitting Cain on Opening Day after a Mike Moustakas home run -- was on the ground, Kansas City pitcher Edinson Volquez attempted in vain to land several punches. But Volquez quickly backed up and ran away from the fray when White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers stepped in and started to bark.

“It definitely can be a bonding thing,” Flowers said. “As a team right there, protecting each other’s, watching your back … You don’t want to see those kinds of things happen a lot, but when they do, you count on the guys around you to make sure nothing bad happens.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes how his players defended one another. As of Thursday night, he wasn’t sure if any suspensions would be handed down -- though it’s hard to imagine nobody is penalized.

“You see what’s going on out there and you don’t know how it exactly starts, but once it starts … there was a good team thing behind it too, when guys have each other’s backs,” Ventura said.

Sale hopes another positive for the White Sox emerges from what he called a “big mess.” The White Sox have struggled through their first 15 games but Sale hopes Thursday’s event can act as a catalyst.

“Let’s hope it’s something that sparks us, lights a fire,” Sale said. “We need something like that and hopefully it catapults us into a streak and we look at this and keep going up.”

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.