White Sox

Chris Sale strikes out 11 as White Sox top Brewers

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Chris Sale strikes out 11 as White Sox top Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Chris Sale delivered his best performance of the season Tuesday night when the White Sox needed it most.

With the bullpen fried because of poor team starting pitching and a series on the line, Sale struck out 11 batters as the White Sox edged the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 in front of 26,935 at Miller Park.

The left-hander allowed three hits over eight innings and Alexei Ramirez made it count with a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth as the White Sox improved to 3-12 on the road. The victory -- the team’s fifth in eight games -- snapped a seven-game road-losing streak that dated back to April 18 in Detroit.

“It’s nice to get some normalcy and see some guys falling into place and we are playing well,” Sale said. “We are scoring runs and we are scoring runs late coming back on teams. Bullpen has been nails. So it’s on the starters basically to get it to them and keep less runs on the board than the other team.”

[MORE SOX: White Sox officially announce Carlos Rodon is part of rotation]

White Sox starting pitchers entered Tuesday with an average of 5.53 innings per start this season. While their 160 1/3 innings can partly be attributed to fewer games played, the rotation’s struggles haven’t been exaggerated. The team’s 5.16 ERA from its starters ranked 26th among 30 teams and Sale has contributed, lasting a career low three innings against the Minnesota Twins on April 30 -- his second consecutive non-quality start.

But fresh off a five-game suspension, Sale looked like a new man. Perhaps heeding the advice of pitching coach Don Cooper, who thought Sale had been trying to do too much, the left-hander reduced his velocity and painted the strike zone.

Sale hit his spots much more frequently, throwing strikes on 77 of 110 pitches. With the bullpen taxed, Sale was economical in the late innings, throwing 10 pitches in the seventh.

“It’s good for Chris in particular coming off a couple tough starts not really feeling that well to even have an opportunity to go that deep in a game against a team that’s swinging the bats pretty well right now,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “That does a lot for him and helps out the bullpen, too.”

Sale wasn’t without his mistakes as Elian Herrera crushed a 2-2 changeup in the fifth for a game-tying solo homer. But from there, Sale retired 12 of 13, including striking out the side in the sixth. He issued his only walk with two outs in the eighth inning, but struck out Jean Segura, who tripled in the first inning and scored. Sale extended his franchise-record to 19 games with double-digit strikeout performances.

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The White Sox were slow to start against Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers, who was perfect through four innings. But Ramirez and Flowers had back-to-back doubles to start the fifth inning to tie the game and Micah Johnson’s RBI single gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead.

Avisail Garcia singled in between walks of Jose Abreu and Conor Gillaspie to set up Ramirez in the go-ahead rally in the eighth. Abreu singled in an insurance run in the ninth.

David Robertson struck out two to convert his sixth save in seven tries. But aside from Robertson, a bullpen largely overused of late got a night off courtesy of Sale.

“It was big,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s been trying to find it and get a groove going. It didn't start off that well. They got the triple there and got on the board first but we clawed back and after that I thought he really settled down and had command of a lot of stuff. He was throwing strikes, getting them to swing early.

“This is just a little more vintage of what you would expect out of him.”

 

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

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AP

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

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Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

The baseball offseason is moving at a quicker pace than recent years, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is among those happy to see that.

Hahn and the White Sox contributed to that quick start to the offseason by signing Yasmani Grandal on Nov. 21. He said he prefers that in an interview with Bruce Levine and Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score on Saturday.

Hahn also gave an update on the team’s offseason.

“We still have work to do, but at the same time we’re obviously quite pleased to have added Yasmani Grandal, much to no one’s surprise bringing back Jose Abreu and we’re intrigued by some of the talks we have going on right now,” Hahn said. “Obviously you can’t convert on everything, a point that was publicly driven home this past week, but at the same time we know that regardless of whether we convert on one specific target or not, there are still a lot of reasons to be excited based on the guys we currently have, much less what we may add in the coming weeks.”

The comment about being unable to convert on everything is surely a reference to Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hahn didn’t give any hints as to what the White Sox are working on, but he did say he prefers the speed of this offseason.

“We’d certainly prefer to do things sooner rather than later,” Hahn said. “That’s generally true regardless of the time of year.”

If Hahn wants to get things done quickly, it would make sense that the winter meetings could be a time of White Sox activity. Hahn wasn’t biting on that.

“There’s nothing magical about getting a deal done Tuesday at the winter meetings,” Hahn said. “It creates a little more buzz perhaps and fulfills some expectations within the fanbase and the media.

“A guy is not going to have any less impact on your team if you acquire him Dec. 20 vs. Dec. 12.”

Hahn also gave updates on various current players on the team:

  • Yasmani Grandal has been studying up on White Sox pitchers and how he can help the young pitchers develop.

“This guy’s No. 1 goal and No. 1 priority is to make the pitchers better," Hahn said. "He’s texting me two, three times a week still with stuff he had seen on our guys and conversations he’s had with our guys about how he thinks we’re going to be able to get them better in the coming months.”

  • Hahn was asked if the White Sox would add another middle infielder to provide cover until Nick Madrigal comes up. He didn't rule it out, but cited Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick as capable of helping out. Hahn has previously said he expects Madrigal to be up for most of the 2020 season.
  • Nothing new here, but Hahn said Michael Kopech will enter spring training "without restriction" and will have "some innings management" throughout the season. Kopech missed 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2018 season.
  • Carlos Rodon's timeline to return from Tommy John surgery hasn't changed. Hahn said they will re-evaluate him in April to see where he is after spring training. He is still tentatively expected to return in late July or early August.

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