White Sox

Caught in limbo: White Sox players not distracted by uncertain future

Caught in limbo: White Sox players not distracted by uncertain future

The White Sox started their rebuild at a breakneck pace and have made significant progress with the trades of Adam Eaton and Chris Sale. But as general manager Rick Hahn indicated on Friday afternoon, the team's foray into tearing down the roster has only just begun.

Tired of mediocrity, the White Sox intend to reload their farm system and capitalize on the value of each and every asset. But because the plan requires patience in order to maximize those returns, many key players are in limbo with the team stuck between where it is and where it wants to be. Still, both Hahn and many of those players, including Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu, say they won't let the air of uncertainty surrounding the team's future become a distraction.

"I don't think I'd call it awkward because, again, they get it," Hahn said prior to the opening ceremonies at SoxFest on Friday. "They understand what we're about, they understand where we've been and why we're at the point we're at now.

"When seven o'clock rolls around, the job is very clear. They're going to do everything they can to try to win that ballgame, regardless of what 24 guys happen to be next to them in that locker room and these guys seem to be able to have that focus. And over the course of the season you may have to address it a few more times, or closer to the deadline before rumors circulate. But, again, they get what's going on here. These are professionals, they've been here before. So I don't think it's going to be a real difficulty."

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If it were easy, the White Sox would have continued on the rapid pace they established in December with the trades of Sale and Eaton. In one motion, Hahn revamped a thin farm system ranked in the lower third of baseball by adding seven talented pieces, many of whom are on display this weekend at SoxFest. With Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada in the mix, the White Sox now boast a top-10 farm system that should only get better when Hahn completes his next trade.

But the White Sox haven't been able to maintain that pace. Whether it's because of market saturation in the case of Abreu and Frazier, or the unwillingness of other teams to meet their price in the case of Quintana, the White Sox have stayed relatively quiet since December despite constant interest.

"Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as quickly as possible," Hahn said. "Unfortunately our desire, our impatience, our eagerness isn't what's going to dictate this market or the schedule of these moves. The timing of many of these moves is going to be based upon the market and our ability to get similar value and what we feel is appropriate value."

Hahn reiterated on Friday the White Sox aren't going to budge on their price, especially for Quintana, who is expected to bring in another significant haul whenever the team is able to trade him. Despite hearing his name in rumors all offseason – the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees to name a few – Quintana, whose contract includes team options through 2020, wants to remain with the White Sox.

"I heard a lot about trades this year, but I don't have control of that," Quintana said. "I'm happy to be here, and I have new teammates this year. We have some good talent this year, and I'm here. I have all of my focus on the White Sox.

"When I go to spring training, I don't pay attention to any social media. I just try to remain with good preparation and do all of my workouts for Day 1 of the season. That's it."

Despite their good intentions, the White Sox know they're destined for some ugliness in the future. When he first suggested the team's new direction in November, Hahn said he expected painful times ahead. Abreu said he's ready for whatever is to come.

"I think we are ready for all the challenges we are going to face during the season and in the future," Abreu said through an interpreter. "There is something, in this sport, it's a long season. You're gonna hits some bumps. You have to move on and do your best every single day. That's the way we need to approach the season."

Setup man Nate Jones admits he realized anyone could be traded after Sale was dealt to Boston in December. Despite signing an extension of his own the previous offseason, Jones very well knows he too could end up on a new team. But after he and the White Sox received their refresher course on "the business of baseball," Jones has moved on in order to not interfere with his preparation."It crosses your mind," Jones said. "But I guess I've been blessed enough not to have one of those worrier minds. You're like, ‘All right, it couldn't happen.' But that's it. I go on about my offseason and preparation for spring training the same way, just kind of block all the distractions and the rumors."

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.