White Sox

Brett Lawrie believes White Sox roster is 'World Series caliber'

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Brett Lawrie believes White Sox roster is 'World Series caliber'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Brett Lawrie has some pretty high expectations for the 2016 White Sox and that’s before they signed Jimmy Rollins.

The new second baseman said Monday he thinks the White Sox have the talent requisite for winning it all this season. An hour later, the White Sox added Rollins, a former National League MVP, on a minor-league contract with an invite to big league camp. Same as new teammate teammate Todd Frazier said Sunday, Lawrie, who was acquired from the Oakland A’s for two minor-leaguers in December, likes the look and feel of the White Sox roster.

“We’ve got so much talent, it’s World Series caliber, 100 percent,” Lawrie said. “It’s just about refining that and coming together as a group and having some fun out there and that’s one of the biggest things. Any time we play against the White Sox, you know who’s over there and the damage that they can do.”

With an entirely new infield, White Sox manager Robin Ventura intends to use the spring to get his charges accustomed to one another. Whether it’s Rollins or Tyler Saladino at shortstop, Lawrie at second and Frazier at third, White Sox players have to get a feel for one another, one of Ventura’s goals of camp. He said Monday he’ll give them ample opportunities to do so. While he stopped short of Lawrie’s World Series assessment, Ventura said he’s enthusiastic about the team in front of him.

“We like the guys that we have,” Ventura said. “Everybody wants to make predictions and everything else, but it depends on how we play. We want to get them focused on baseball down here, hungry to win these games first.”

Beyond Rollins — who’s expected to arrive in camp on Thursday — the White Sox potentially could be in line for another addition. General manager Rick Hahn said he’s not ready to designate his roster as finalized. Recently, Hahn has dropped more than a few hints he’s still searching for complementary pieces and one direction the White Sox could go would be the addition of an outfielder.

“We’re looking for any way to get better,” Hahn said, when asked if he liked to add another outfielder. “The final couple spots on the roster will come down to a combination of platoon advantage, speed, defense and positional flexibility.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Any more additions could add some height to Lawrie’s already impressive 41-inch vertical leap (and his 66-inch box jump). Asked a second time, the energetic second baseman — with his self-described “Canadian fire” and “hockey player mentality” — doubled down on his World Series-caliber comment.

“No doubt,” Lawrie said. “That’s the thing about baseball, anything can happen. It’s a long year, it's definitely a marathon not a sprint and we just have to come together as a group and have some fun and just enjoy each other’s company and go play baseball.”

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.