White Sox

Buehrle battered; 3 homers not enough for Sox

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Buehrle battered; 3 homers not enough for Sox

Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.

By Brett BallantiniCSNChicago.com

DETROIT A Good Friday for the Chicago White Sox? Nope.

Blame it on a misty, murky brew falling from the Detroit skies.

Blame it on Justin Verlander, whos been roughed up by the White Sox in his career but was a wicked little critta Friday night in mowing down the Hose.

Blame it on overzealous celebration after snapping a seven-game losing streak with a laugher in Tampa Thursday night.

About the only thing you cant blame Fridays flaccid, 9-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on is Carlos Quentin, whose Triple Crown push hasnt slipped off its stride for a second this season.

Quentin hit two mammoth solo shotssome 800 feet of round-tripper goodness into the teeth of a Siberian Express wind, exemplifying his disdain for all pitchers, opponents, and acts of foul weather. The titanic blasts pushed Qs slugging percentage for the season to an outrageous .707.

But that was the beginning and end of the highlights for the White Sox, who spent much of the game fielding an uneasy-9 who appeared as if they couldnt get out of the drizzly chill fast enough.

To his credit, manager Ozzie Guillen saw fight in his team, right from leadoff hitter Juan Pierres initial, nine-pitch at-bat. Of course, that at-bat ended in a strikeout (the first of a rare daily double for the speedster).

Were fighting, man, were fighting, Guillen said. Everyone in the lineup went out and got after Verlander in every at-bat. Theyre fighting with every pitch, but the guy they were fighting against was pretty good.

Guillen the soother has yet to transform into Guillen the soothsayer with his band of brothers that has fairly well wheezed along ever since the second of April. While the jefe might not see it, primary among the underachievers was ineffective Chisox starter Mark Buehrle, who started sharp but ended flatulent. The lefty lasted just 5 23 innings and surrendered six earned runs on eight hits.

The first four innings I felt like I could throw a perfect game or no-hitter, location-wise. Ill take that every start. They were hitting good pitches, Buehrle said. In the fifth and sixth I fell behind in the count. Its a frustrating game when stuff like that happens The way the ball carried surprised me, big time.

Carry or no, Buehrle has been the worst of the White Sox starters this season, with four subpar efforts unable to offset a gem vs. the Oakland As spun some 11 days ago. His average game score is just 43.6, significantly below a quality start level (pitchers begin the game with a game score of 50, so the White Sox have been worse off with Buehrle than without him).

Contrast that with Verlander, who is slowly turning around his fortunes vs. Chicago (he entered the game with a 4.55 career ERA against the White Sox).

Verlander did a good job, Paul Konerko said. He got some runs early, and does what he does: Run with it. He gave up a couple homers in the seventh, but thats what you do when youre doing your job and have a big leadyou come at people, you dont walk people. Hes a handful. Hes got four above-average pitches and above-average command on top of it. Hes as good as it gets. He got some runs to work with and didnt look back.

The Bengals ace threw 117 pitches through seven innings, with eight Ks (including his 1,000th career punch out, after which he stared down his victim, A.J. Pierzynski) against zero walks. Verlander was touched for three earned runs, but he allowed them wisely with three solo shots (Qs two and one from Konerko).

The back-to-back jacks were the first such clouts of the season for Chicago. The multi-homer effort was the 11th of Quentins career. Q boats a bloaty 1.107 OPS, with 70 percent of the right fielders hits so far this season falling for extra bases.

But the story of the game was Detroits ace sucking the life out the Pale Hose.

You put that combination of weather and Verlander, its pretty tough, Guillen said. Verlander continues to throw the ball really well. You don't see too many guys in this league pounding 97, 98, 99 mph and his changeup is 84. Hes a very tough guy to face.

Break on through

Konerko is sensitive to fan panic and the "All-In" pressure lumped on his club back in December. But respond to such pressures? Thats a different story.

Never, because a sense of urgency makes you play worse, he said. Youre playing with urgency, that means tension and tension will never lead to good things. So of course we want to play better and have better results, but you just have to know youre going about it right.

"In baseball, everyone has their own way go playing the game and going about it. Everyone has a different temperament. You have to know yourself. If youre going about it the right way, then keep doing itit will happen or it wont happen but at least you know youre doing it the right way. But playing with urgency and that kind of stuff, I just laugh at it. You go out with a purpose and play hard, playing with urgency means you care what other people think. And you just cant do that as a player.

While acknowledging his part in the slow start, veteran hurler Buehrle agrees.

We have plenty of time: 20 games in is way too early to be worrying, he said. We have faced quality pitching and we havent hit too good and pitched very well at certain times. Everything clicked those first couple of games, but when score 14 its hard to lose.
Paul Konerko shakes hands with Adam Dunn after hitting his fifth home run of the season Friday, one he admits came as a surprise. Meanwhile, the White Sox captain says he isn't feeling a sense of urgency despite the White Sox recent struggles. (AP)
Were fine. If we get to the All-Star break and are struggling, I might think about worrying.

Fisked

Konerkos seventh-inning clout wasnt just the 370th of his career, pushing him past Ralph Kiner and into a tie with Gil Hodges for 68th all-time. It was one of the strangest dingers of the veterans career.

The home run was surprising, Konerko reflected. I certainly wasnt watching. I knew it would be out of play, over the fence and foul, most likely. When you hit a ball thats foul and has a hook on it, it never comes back. But the wind pushed it back. Its definitely luck, and I got some on that one.

Konerko stood at the plate and didnt move until his shot clanged halfway up the foul pole in left. Natch, the mere attention paid to his who-me homer drew out the sensitive side of the slugger.

It certainly wasnt me trying to watch a home run and show off, Konerko said. I thought it was a foul ball, and I hope no one took offense to it.

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

Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future

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Eloy Jimenez is swinging some kind of a hot bat in Triple-A, giving White Sox fans visions of the (near?) future

The White Sox once more dropped to 30 games below .500 on Sunday, providing another reminder that this isn't the season where the team will be competing for a playoff spot or any kind of championship.

But all fans have to do is check the box scores rolling in from Triple-A Charlotte to get another kind of reminder: that a season where the White Sox will be competing for a playoff spot and a championship could be right around the corner.

Eloy Jimenez, the team's top-rated prospect and the No. 2 prospect in baseball, is killing it lately. Since returning from the disabled list in the middle of the month, Jimenez has a .424 batting average and is slugging a jaw-dropping .818 — thanks to three homers and four doubles — in eight games.

These are just the latest superb numbers from Jimenez, who has torn it up all season long, first at Double-A Birmingham and then in Charlotte since his promotion on July 1. Heading into Sunday's game, he was slashing .324/.375/.572 between the two levels. Then he upped those numbers with a base hit in his lone plate appearance as a pinch hitter in Sunday's game.

The only thing that can be seen as a negative for Jimenez this season — and this really isn't too much of one — has been health. While he's avoided the significant injuries that have stolen months of development time away from the likes of Luis Robert, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Jake Burger and Micker Adolfo, Jimenez did start the season late with a pec injury and then missed a couple weeks earlier this month with a strained adductor muscle. Judging by the results, neither injury has done much (if anything) to negatively impact his offensive capabilities.

And so with the statistics remaining ridiculously good and getting better, the question that's dogged the White Sox dating back to the end of last season remains: When will Jimenez join the big league roster?

Only the White Sox have the answer to that question at the moment, but it would figure to be some time relatively soon and almost certainly before this season is over. That might not be specific enough for the fans clamoring to watch Jimenez play on the South Side. But take some cues from what general manager Rick Hahn has been saying all season:

First off, the White Sox performance and place in the standings will have no bearing on when Jimenez is promoted. The team will not bring Jimenez up just to inject some life into the final 60 games of the 2018 campaign. Jimenez's development has nothing to do with this team's win-loss record and is completely tied to the team's future, not its present.

Second, Hahn has talked about the benefits of Jimenez receiving at-bats at the Triple-A level and gaining experience facing the kinds of pitchers he didn't face in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He obviously didn't put a number on it, so the argument that Jimenez's 80 plate appearances in 20 games are enough to determine he's big league ready is potentially valid or potentially invalid, depending on what the White Sox have determined they want to see behind the scenes.

Third, Hahn has often said that not everything shows up in box scores. While Jimenez is putting up big numbers, the team is looking for other things that aren't as easy to recognize for those of us who aren't in the player-development business, not to mention those of us who don't even have an MiLB.TV subscription. Hahn said the same thing when Michael Kopech started the season in dominating fashion, and Kopech remains at Triple-A as the White Sox continue to wait for him to reach certain developmental benchmarks.

Fourth, Hahn has pointed to last year's treatment of Yoan Moncada as somewhat of a template for how the White Sox will treat their highest-rated prospects who are close to reaching the majors. Moncada, unlike Jimenez, had a small amount of big league experience before joining the organization in the Chris Sale trade, making his case slightly different. But he, too, was putting up good numbers at Triple-A, with a .282/.377/.447 slash line before his promotion on July 19. Moncada debuted about this time last season after doing well at the Triple-A level, but remember that he played 80 games there after starting the season with Charlotte. Jimenez joined that club in the middle of the season and has played in a quarter of the games that Moncada did before getting the call to make his White Sox debut. Though it's true that Jimenez is putting up significantly more impressive offensive numbers.

So "relatively soon" is perhaps the best we can do right now when trying to predict when Jimenez will reach the South Side. The White Sox have their own checklist when it comes to Jimenez's development, just like they do with every player, and only they will know when he's completed that list.

What is no mystery is how Jimenez is faring at Triple-A. He's swinging a red-hot bat, and few would argue that the numbers don't look major league ready. There's more to it than just the numbers, of course, but it would figure to be a safe bet that White Sox fans will be able to start purchasing Jimenez shirseys before the clock runs out on the 2018 season.

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.