White Sox

Carson Fulmer gaining confidence in White Sox camp

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Carson Fulmer gaining confidence in White Sox camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carson Fulmer’s jitters haven’t gone away, but the White Sox 2015 first round pick is starting to feel more comfortable as he works through major league lineups during spring training.

Well, through one major league lineup — both of Fulmer’s Cactus League starts have come against the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals. He allowed one run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts Thursday at Camelback Ranch, facing a lineup headlined by Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez.

“The butterflies are still there from getting amped up for a start,” Fulmer said. “I felt more comfortable with it. It was my second time facing them and I’m getting a good feel of how the pace of a game goes."

The White Sox, right now, don’t see Fulmer in their 2016 plans, though they certainly aren’t ruling out the Vanderbilt product forcing the issue this summer. He excelled in 23 innings — a small sample size, of course — last year, posting a 1.96 ERA with 26 strikeouts, nine walks and two home runs allowed.

If and when Fulmer does reach the major leagues, his experience in these spring training games could come in handy. Specifically on Thursday, he fell behind Hosmer to lead off the second inning, worked back to a 3-2 count and then walked the Royals first baseman on a fastball in off the plate that he called a “great miss.”

“He has a good eye for pitches like that and let it go,” Fulmer said. “He’s a disciplined hitter and one of the best in the game. “For me, I can build off of that so next time I face him, hopefully I have a different mindset going into it. I took a lot from that at-bat.”

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The walk wasn’t ideal, of course, but that fastball was a more aggressive miss in the spot he wanted to throw it. Fulmer said he’s growing to understand that having a top-quality arsenal of pitches — as he does — isn’t enough to make it at the major league level.

“If you don’t have an approach and don’t place it in the right spot, you’re going to get hit,” Fulmer said. “Attacking early, getting ahead obviously is the job of a pitcher, but quality pitches in the zone and putting it in the zone where they’re going to take swings at it.”

The Royals roughed up Fulmer for three runs on five hits in two innings on Saturday, so his start Thursday can be considered an improvement results-wise. There were a couple of hard-hit outs in there, though the run he gave up came on a bloop double, wild pitch and errant throw to third base.

While manager Robin Ventura traveled to Surprise for the other half of the White Sox split squad action Thursday, he said before leaving Camelback Ranch that he hoped Fulmer would be a little calmer his second time out.

“Hopefully it can just be a little easier,” Ventura said. “Last time he was out there he was amped up. Even for our guys, Carlos (Rodon) last year, it gets a little easier as they go out more times and have the opportunity to go out there and relax a little bit."

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At this nascent juncture in his career, every start will bring something new for Fulmer. But he already felt more settled in spring training start No. 2, which comes across as a small-yet-positive step in his overall development.

“I feel like I’m getting really comfortable with it each time I go out there,” Fulmer said. “I’ll just take the positives from this outing and move forward on to the next.” 

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.