White Sox

Buerhle flirts with no-no but Sox fall in extras

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Buerhle flirts with no-no but Sox fall in extras

Monday, April 11, 2011
Posted: 9:52 p.m. Updated: 11:56 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGOWhile evidence abounds that Chicago White Sox closer Matt Thornton shouldnt take the fall for Mondays 2-1 loss to the Oakland As in 10 innings, those scarlet lettersBSreside aside the flamethrowing lefthanders name in the box score. To Thornton, theyre deserved.

Watch: Thornton takes the blame

The first batter in the ninth, Andy LaRoche, I made three good pitches on and then made a bulls--- fourth pitch, and he drove it for a double, Thornton said. I dont care what happens after thatyou cant do that to the leadoff guy in a one-run game. Ive got to bury that slider. I left it in the zone, and he was able to do what he did with it.

LaRoche drove a double into the left-center gap, and Thornton coaxed a lineout to first from Coco Crispand then disaster struck. Daric Barton lofted a towering butterfly ball that danced on left fielder Juan Pierre, glancing off his glove at the warning track and falling for a run-tying error. It was the second time on this homestand that a flyball error by Pierre led to a blown save for Thornton.

Watch: Ozzie on Juan Pierre's error

It was a tough ball for Juan, very tough, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. The wind was blowing very hard. He went all the way to the wall. Its not an easy play as people think it was.

Juan Pierre is a great player, Thornton said. Hes made two mistakes behind me. Ill never say anything about that guyI want every fly ball I get to go to him. Hes dedicated to this game more than anyone in all of baseball. So Ill never say anything bad about anything going on behind me, anyone on my defense. Theyre great players. Ive got Gold Glove winners, All-Stars. Everybodys trying to win the game. We have one common goal, to win.

Pierre, as Thornton said as dedicated a player as there is in the sport, wasnt buying any excuses made on his behalf.

Watch: Pierre says he's cost the Sox two games

I missed the ball, Pierre said. I appreciate Guillen saying it was windy. I just flat-out missed it. Ive basically cost us two games on the schedule so far. I can handle the booing, but when you got a guy like Thornton out there closing for the first time, busting his butt, and you play that way behind him, I feel worse for him, as well as the team. It happens. I dont know what else you can say.

Of course, the error led to just one run and Thorntons exit from the game. Jesse Crain came on to retire Conor Jackson and Josh Willingham, but after a feeble bottom of the ninth by the White Sox, Oakland struck for the winning run, a line-shot homer off the bat of Kurt Suzuki.

While Mark Buehrle held the As hitless for six innings in pursuit of another legendary outing, the White Sox piled up five hits and seven total baserunners vs. Oakland starter Dallas Braden over his six innings. Chicago had just one run to show for itBrent Lillibridges first home run of the seasona blast to left-center that became the 10,000th home run in team history.

Watch: Lillibridge on making history

But unfortunately, such highlights were lost in the murk of another blown game. Thankfully, the principals are keeping a stiff upper lip and are ready to roll out the bag of balls again tomorrow.

As long as he sees Im not losing confidence in myself, none of our coaching staff is going to lose confidence in me, Thornton said. Im going to continue to be the same person Ive always been and keep on going after hitters same way. The results arent bouncing my way right now, but Im a strong enough person to keep on bouncing back and keep on having fun in the game, keep on giving it everything Ive got.

We will fight back, Guillen said. The last Thornton blown save, on Friday before was kind of a punch in the stomach being up by three. This one we were up by one run, and anything can happen late in the game when up by one.

Buehrle spins another gem

The heartbreaking turn of events erased an absolute gem spun by White Sox starter Buehrle, who turned in eight innings of two-hit ball, leaving with a chance to earned his second win of the season.

Buehrle no matter what, hes going to be the same guy, Guillen said. Hes going to let them put the ball in play.

He was throwing the ball very good, mixing pitches very well, said catcher Ramon Castro. We had a good rhythm from the beginning of the game.

Even Buehrle, ever modest, knew he had his mojo working against the As, traditionally one of his toughest foes.

Watch: Buehrle feeling good from the get-go
It was one of those games where everything was working, Buehrle said. Castro called a good game, just mixing it up. I threw a lot of fastballs in, offspeed pitches were working. Theres 33 starts: 11 of them youre going to have good stuff, 11 are going be so-so and 11 are going to be bad. And today was one of the good ones.

It was the 21st-ever battle between pitchers who had hurled perfect games in their careers, and Buehrle outlasted Oakland As ace Braden in their respective no-hit bids.

Bradens second attempt at perfection ended when Paul Konerko walked to lead off the second inning, and his no-hit bid was squashed when Alex Rios tapped out a safety with one out in the fourth.

Buerhle had a perfect game going through one out in the fourth (walking Barton) and saw his no-hitter dissipate in the sixth, when Suzuki singled to left leading off the inning. Ironically, just one pitch earlier Suzuki had sidestepped an out when Gordon Beckham couldnt hold onto his foul pop.

Tonight marked the ninth time that Buehrle had started a game with at least five innings of no-hit ball. The veteran lefthander had been the White Soxs poorest starter through two runs of the rotation, sporting a subpar average game score of 35 (an average game score is 50). Tonight, he tossed an 80, marking the third start in four games where White Sox arms have crafted a weighty 80-plus game score. Buehrle's .596 win probability added (WPA) was the 10th-highest for a White Sox pitcher since 2000. Buehrle left after eight shutout innings, surrendering just two hits and one walk against one K.

Guillen was catching criticism postgame for not running Buehrle out for the ninth, in pursuit of a complete game. But in his mind, there was no way he was letting his veteran lefthander out of the dugout for the final frame.

One thing I said in spring training Ive said over and over: We have to take care of Buehrle, Guillen said. He did his job, he had 99 pitches. Our bullpen, they are getting paid pretty good. I have confidence in the bullpen. Im going to use those guys the best way I can and the most I can. Our bullpen, we have guys with good arms and they can pitch.

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

What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

What White Sox fans wanted to know from Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria at SoxFest

SoxFest brings the opportunity for fans to question team brass. And sometimes things can get a bit fiery.

This year, however, it was more of a victory lap for Rick Hahn after he loaded up the roster with an incredible amount of offseason acquisitions. Rick Renteria, too, got plenty of adulation after he came out and said the White Sox have their sights on reaching the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

But there were still questions. Fans stepped up to the microphone and got some answers out of Hahn and Renteria during a pair of panels Friday and Saturday.

Here are some of the more interesting and pertinent questions and answers from the two sessions.

Extensions for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito?

The White Sox have made headlines in each of the last two offseasons by handing out big-money extensions to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert before they played a game in the major leagues. But Saturday brought a fan question about whether the team was planning more extensions, specifically ones for Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, two guys who broke out in a big way in 2019 and established themselves as the team's best all-around hitter and the ace of the starting staff, respectively.

These are not terribly pressing matters, obviously, as both guys are under team control for another four seasons. But the longer they go on their current deals and the longer they're allowed to keep improving, the more expensive they'll become to retain.

Hahn said that it's a White Sox priority to keep all of their talented young players together for as long as possible. He also mentioned that it has long been a part of the plan during the rebuilding process to be aggressive on extensions, as the team has shown with the deals for Jimenez and Robert. Players earn the right to reach free agency and explore the open market, but the White Sox do have a pretty good track record of retaining their own players, often on deals that have allowed them to keep some financial flexibility.

Tim Anderson in right field?

Whether it was a legitimate strategy proposal or a makeshift way to get Yolmer Sanchez back to the South Side, one fan suggested moving Tim Anderson to right field, pointing out Anderson's large number of errors at shortstop and that moving Anderson off the position would open room for Sanchez to work his defensive wonders on a daily basis.

Well, that suggestion didn't get much consideration from Renteria, who said rather definitively he will not be playing Anderson in right field.

The question might not have been the most realistic suggestion, but it allowed Renteria to express his belief in Anderson's defense. Though Anderson has made a ton of errors at shortstop — 88 of them in his four big league seasons — he continues to receive rave reviews from White Sox brass. Renteria said Saturday he believes Anderson will be "an elite shortstop in the big leagues," and Hahn said this weekend he believes Anderson will be a Gold Glove finalist one day.

As for Sanchez, he's still on the free-agent market despite winning a Gold Glove in 2019. And while the White Sox have shortstop spoken for with Anderson and second base spoken for with Nick Madrigal, eventually, Hahn was asked about the likelihood of a Sanchez return Friday night and basically reminded everyone to never say never.

More starting pitching?

Hahn said Thursday that while there likely won't be any more big-ticket additions, the White Sox busy winter might not be completely over just yet, with minor moves still being discussed by the front office. More starting pitching would seem to make plenty of sense considering there's not a ton of depth behind the five guys slated to make up the Opening Day rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gio Gonzalez. Considering the plan for Michael Kopech has yet to be finalized and Dylan Covey is no longer with the organization, some small additions like the Ervin Santana deal last spring would be logical.

One fan asked why not add a slightly bigger ticket item, specifically bringing up free-agent pitcher Taijuan Walker, to further bolster the starting staff. Hahn wouldn't close the door on adding more starting pitchers but pointed out that because of the depth the White Sox have on the way — with Kopech factoring into things somehow and Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all working their way back from Tommy John surgery — the White Sox might not be the most attractive destination for a mid- or bottom-of-the-rotation pitcher, who could see his opportunity to pitch vanish once all those arms return to full strength.

A return for Dane Dunning?

Speaking of starting-pitching depth on the way, Hahn did offer up some sort of timeline for one of those guys, saying that Dunning could be pitching for a minor league affiliate come "June-ish." That's a made-up month on the same level as "Smarch," but it's also a good sign for the White Sox, who saw Dunning flying through the system before his injury.

Hahn said at last year's SoxFest that if not for the arm injury he suffered in 2018, Dunning could have factored into the Opening Day rotation for the 2019 season. Considering that level of potential readiness — a level most likely altered in some fashion by the surgery and long layoff — Dunning might be someone who could play a role in the 2020 season.

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White Sox boast four top-40 prospects in MLB Pipeline's newest list

White Sox boast four top-40 prospects in MLB Pipeline's newest list

The transition from rebuilding to contending figures to come soon on the South Side. But the White Sox are still about that top-prospect life.

MLB Pipeline unveiled its updated list of the top 100 prospects in baseball Saturday, and the White Sox landed four guys in the top 40, including three in the top 20: Luis Robert was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the game, with Andrew Vaughn at No. 16, Michael Kopech at No. 20 and Nick Madrigal at No. 40. 

White Sox fans, thanks to an offseason full of free-agent signings, have shifted the bulk of their attention to the major league level. Rick Renteria is talking playoffs or bust, and it seems the team's long-awaited contention window could open as soon as Opening Day. And these youngsters are a big part of the reason why.

Three of the four — Robert, Kopech and Madrigal — are expected to make significant contributions to the 2020 team, and they'll likely all be off this list the next time it's updated, as they'll be full-fledged big leaguers and no longer prospects.

Robert, who tore up the minor leagues last season, is likely ticketed to be the White Sox starting center fielder on Opening Day, thanks to the big-money contract extension that wiped away any lingering service-time discussion. He became the second consecutive White Sox prospect to get such a contract before playing a single game in the majors, following Eloy Jimenez, who received his own big-money deal last spring.

Kopech has already reached the big leagues, though he was limited to just four appearances prior to requiring Tommy John surgery in September 2018. His recovery wiped out his entire 2019 season, so even though it seems like he jettisoned his prospect status a long time ago, he's still considered one with so little playing time under his belt. The White Sox might slow play his return to the major league mound, and it's possible he might not be on the Opening Day roster. But the team is waiting until spring training to finalize a plan for the 2020 season.

Regardless, the White Sox brass continues to describe Kopech as someone who will feature prominently in the starting rotation.

Madrigal is also expected to reach the big leagues in 2020 after making it all the way to Triple-A Charlotte last season. His ability to make consistent contact remains the most impressive part of his game, and he struck out just 16 times in 2019. But he also has a reputation as an elite defender at second base, and that's where he should be taking over on an everyday basis once he reaches the South Side. When that will be remains to be seen; it doesn't sound like Madrigal will be expected to make the Opening Day roster after he played in only 29 games at Charlotte last season. But Rick Hahn said it's possible Madrigal could impress enough in spring training to force the issue.

As for Vaughn, the 2019 first-round first baseman is a little further behind the other three players discussed here. But thanks to his powerful bat, he's caught the eye of plenty of evaluators, as evidenced by his high placement on MLB Pipeline's list. Jose Abreu isn't going anywhere for the next three seasons, though Edwin Encarnacion's claim to the White Sox everyday DH role could last as little as one year.

If Vaughn follows a similar path as Robert and Madrigal — who both rose from Class A to Triple-A during the 2019 season — perhaps he'll be discussed as being close to major league ready for the 2021 season. Heck, if the White Sox find themselves in a pennant race in 2020, perhaps Vaughn is considered as a September addition. But that will obviously depend on how he fares in the minors.

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