White Sox

Buehrle deferring Opening Day start to Danks?

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Buehrle deferring Opening Day start to Danks?

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
Posted 11:31 a.m. Updated 12:40 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz The first day with a full squad at spring training bore a strong resemblance to the triumphant Chicago White Sox offseason: no drama, big smiles, optimism oozing from every corner of the clubhouse.

Lastings Milledge was nestled into a locker stall next to White Sox veteran Juan Pierre, where the outfield leader had already embarked on mentoring the teams fourth outfielder hopeful.

Mark Buehrle pedaled laps on a stationary bike with a smile, having fully swayed from offseason uncertainty over being traded to his potential to start his franchise-most ninth Opening Day game.

Manager Ozzie Guillen held court loudly, jostling with Tony Pena with his custom blend of loud talk and wild gesture.

Buehrles Hurling

After letting on that he has something on Paul Konerko that will serve him handily during the course of the season, when teasing can turn to blackmail, Buehrle addressed the possibility of making a ninth Opening Day start, which would extend his team record.

Ozzie hasnt mentioned it to me, no, Buehrle said. But what will I do, tell him no?

Buehrle theorized that it would be between me and John Danks as to who should be the Opening Day starter, but with a bit of smirk acknowledged that for the last couple of years, hes been better than me. The lefthander was gracious enough to admit that if consulted, hed recommend Danksie for the Opening Day assignment.

The chances of Buehrle failing to start the season opener on the hill, of course, is virtually nil. Guillen as much as confirmed that on the opening day of an eerily tranquil camp.

Right now, Buehrle is my Opening Day starter, Guillen said. I might get the rotation drawn up in the next couple of days to see. We face Cleveland, and hes always pitched good against the Indians early in the season. So I dont see why Buehrle wont start on Opening Day.

Ill save that news for when were boring and nobody is talking about the White Sox. Then Ill say Buehrle is my Opening Day starter.

Buehrle went 13-13 in 2010, with a 4.28 ERA and Buehrle went 13-13 in 2010, with a 4.28 ERA and 3.90 FIP, bringing in 15.2 million in value on the third year of his four-year, 56 million contract. His Opening Day, 6-0 shutout of the Cleveland Indians a year ago both set a team record for most Opening Day starts and saw the two-time Gold Glove winner author the most spectacular fielding play of his career, a hockey kick-save, football-hike assist on a Lou Marson slap through the box.

Buehrle has been a preposterously consistent pitcher, never falling short of 30 starts as a rotation member, winning double-figure games in 10 straight seasons, and falling short of a .500 record just once (12-13 in 2006). While many players might see a dramatic rise in their numbers in a contract year, Guillen dismisses such a notion in Buehrles case.

A lot of managers like to manage a guy in the last year of a deal because they think theyre going to get their best playing for the next contract, he said. But youre going to see the same Buehrle, no matter what. Hes not going to changehell be the same with a 10-year deal or a two-month deal.

Qs Cues

Few White Sox have been as hyper-speculated over as mercurial rightfielder Carlos Quentin, who has pledged to bring a lighter attitude tothe 2011 campaign.

Quentins intensity, which is held in awe bordering on apprehension bythe teams administrators, was in traditional seriousity in his firstmedia address of the season, with a dry admission he was absolutelythrilled at the White Soxs offseason additions.

As for what hes done to re-channel his infamous intensity for 2011,the slugger was coy: Just worked on some things to come backstrong, knock on wood, and enjoy this game a little better.

For Quentin and the White Sox, its been somewhat of a slow descentsince his near-MVP season of 2008, when a temper flare at the plateresulted in a broken wrist and being sidelined for the last month ofthe season. After slugging 36 homers and driving in 100 runs in justfive months in that shocking breakout campaign, hes averaged just 115games over the past two seasons.

Despite hitting 47 home runs over his past two seasons, Quentin understands his production has been disappointing.

Any time you go out and perform like I did in 2008, you thinktheres more out there, he said. You had the opportunity to build onthat, and you feel like you didnt, you feel a little disappointed.

At the end of 2010, both Guillen and GM Ken Williams underscored toQuentin that while they adored his intensitysingling him out as aninspirational team leader by exampleboth advised the outfielder toease up on himself. From the sound of things, Q has listened.

To succeed in the future, youve got to learn from some things youvedone and make them right, Quentin said. I would be foolish not tolearn from some negative things that have been consistently repeatedin my life.

With a burgeoning salary and legitimate questions about his durability,the White Sox brain trust has yet to seriously entertain swappingQuentin away. Williams has mentioned, with a knock on wood, he hasnttraded away many SportsCenter guysplayers he fears hell have to seeon highlight reels nightly, wearing other than a White Sox uniform.Clearly, the GM feels Quentin in one such guy. Guillen hasnt betenbashful about the esteem with which he holds Quentin, and the feelingis mutual.

I talked with Ozzie a lot last year about things Ive done, thingsto be accountable for, Quentin said. Pressure is always somethingthats been self-inflicted by myself, its something Ive worked on tolighten up and enjoy this game.

The slugger got a little short when pressed about the self-inflictedpressure problems hes dealt with in the past: Of course, the effortis there when you work on things, you just never know how theyllturn out, always knowing every day is a grind, not just physically butmentally, and keeping myself in the right place.

Quentin did smile when asked about the status of his knee, which wasbanged up in multiple instances in 2010, contributing mightily to hisroutine, ice-wrapped, Michelin Man appearance postgame. In addition tosome healing time, the rightfielder reported putting in a lot of workto stabilize his hip and a high volume of explosive lifting.

I responded very well, he said. Im excited with my weight rightnow. I feel like Im in a good place mentally, and ready to go.

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

The future is now: Michael Kopech to make White Sox debut Tuesday

The future is now: Michael Kopech to make White Sox debut Tuesday

The day White Sox fans have been waiting for is finally here.

In another benchmark moment on the timeline of this rebuilding process, top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech will make his major league debut Tuesday night in a game against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kopech, acquired in the rebuild-jumpstarting trade that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, has been the subject of much attention at Triple-A Charlotte this season. After he dominated at the Double-A level in his first season in the White Sox organization, striking out 155 batters in his 22 starts, he’s had an up-and-down 2018 campaign. But boy has he been electric of late.

He was dominant in his first five starts of the season, with a 2.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 27 innings of work. But over a two-month stretch from early May to early July, he had a 5.69 ERA with 47 walks over 12 starts. But Kopech got things back on track in a big way. He’s allowed just nine earned runs and struck out 59 batters compared to just four walks in his last 44 innings over seven starts. He posted a 3.70 ERA on the season at Charlotte.

Kopech’s long been advertised as a flamethrower with blow-em-away stuff, and that has obviously grabbed the imaginations of White Sox fans dreaming of him anchoring the rotation of the future. Kopech’s the highest-profile of the team’s wealth of starting-pitching prospects that includes Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen, among others.

But Kopech’s arrival — as well as that of outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who could also be up before season’s end — will bring the most excitement. The 22-year-old is ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.

It’s a strong indication that Hahn’s rebuilding effort is moving along as planned, even if the big league squad is struggling in the win-loss department. Kopech’s promotion is changing the storyline surrounding this team from waiting for the youth movement to watching it in action.

Can Nicky Delmonico be this year’s Nicky Delmonico for White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Can Nicky Delmonico be this year’s Nicky Delmonico for White Sox?

Who will be this year’s Nicky Delmonico?

It’s kind of a strange question, considering Delmonico is always himself. But it’s a question that gets at this topic: Who will be the late-season surprise that makes 2020 lineup projectors pause and puts on enough of a show to start the conversation about their place in the White Sox long-term plans?

To this point, that guy has been Daniel Palka. The slugger with a flair for the dramatic hasn’t excelled in every facet of the game, but his power displays, often in clutch moments, have earned him a loyal fan base in this rebuilding season. Considering he wasn’t even a member of the organization when the campaign began, it doesn’t really get more surprising than that.

Meanwhile, Delmonico hasn’t matched the impressive numbers he was able to put up at the close of last season, when he came out of nowhere — as in, not high on the list of the organization’s top prospects — to slash .262/.373/.482 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in just 43 games.

A hand injury that knocked him out for months, the dip in his numbers — .229/.322/.388 heading into Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Royals — and the ever-increasing amount of depth among the White Sox outfield prospects has perhaps taken Delmonico out of that conversation about the future.

But with home runs on back-to-back nights and a total of six RBIs in the last two games, perhaps Delmonico can play a similar role to the one he played last season, coming out of nowhere and staking his claim to future consideration. A strong finish might keep his name in the mix as the outfield of the future crowds with the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Luis Alexander Basabe, Luis Gonzalez, Alex Call and Joel Booker.

“It would be huge just to end the year on a good note,” Delmonico said Sunday. “But all I’m trying to do is control what I can control and go out there and give it everything I have.”

Delmonico obviously has experience in finishing the season strong. His production at the big league level at the end of last season came after a slow stretch in the middle of the summer, when he posted only a .216 batting average in the month of July while playing at Triple-A Charlotte.

This season, Delmonico’s numbers haven’t been much better in the second half than they were during a slow start ahead of the hand injury. Since the All-Star break, Delmonico is slashing .236/.304/.528 but with 11 extra-base hits including a quartet of homers. He said he can use the experience of turning things around last summer to close this season strong.

“When I was in Charlotte, I kind of hit a rough July and then kind of picked it up. And then when I was here, I kind of picked it up again and learned from a lot of my teammates, a lot of other guys,” he said. “I’m trying to pick up that same thing, that same mentality of where I was last year and just trying to go out and compete, learn and see what happens.”

Manager Rick Renteria, talking amid Delmonico’s two recent long balls, has liked what he’s seen.

“He’s been swinging the bat pretty good,” Renteria said Saturday. “I think he’s a little more fluid. (Friday), he put a good swing on that pitch that he was able to drive out of the ballpark. He’s getting more and more comfortable. Hopefully, it continues. We’ve got (however many) more days of the regular season left. All of these guys, at this point, you hope that they turn the corner and they start to improve on certain things that they’ve been working on throughout the course of the season.”

While the wave of prospects that is rolling its way toward the South Side figures to hold the bulk of the outfield of the future, of the time when rebuilding mode transforms into contention mode, there are unique opportunities for the guys currently playing at the major league level. Though that’s not to say Delmonico is currently without competition: Palka has impressed with his power, Leury Garcia has earned playing time with a solid bat, Adam Engel has been tremendous defensively, and Avisail Garcia was an All Star a season ago.

“I can learn from them, it’s awesome,” Delmonico said of his fellow big league outfielders. “I can learn from Adam, Avi, Leury, all these guys that are really good out there. As well as Palka, we go out there every day for early work. Just kind of learn from them. I try to motivate them, they motivate me and we continue to go.”

The opportunity is still there for someone like Delmonico, who at only 26 could still work his way into — or back into — those 2020 lineup projections.