White Sox

Confidence scheme: White Sox hope to convince Dan Jennings he's ready

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Confidence scheme: White Sox hope to convince Dan Jennings he's ready

They believe he has the proper tools and now its up to the White Sox to convince Dan Jennings he’s ready for primetime.

When they acquired the left-hander from the Miami Marlins in December, the White Sox could see the makings of a potential key piece to their bullpen -- albeit an untested one. Though Jennings entered the season with a 2.43 career ERA, he’s out of minor league options and only appeared in critical spots in 20 percent of his appearances.

While they made a few minor mechanical adjustments this spring and he’s added a two-seam fastball, the White Sox believe the biggest improvement would be improved confidence. The way manager Robin Ventura has employed Jennings in the first week -- twice in big spots -- has begun to give Jennings faith he’s the man for the job.

“It’s a great feeling knowing a manager can go to you in that situation and give him another option down there and bridge the gap,” Jennings said. “Knowing he has that confidence to give me the ball, it extends to me that confidence to go out there and do the job.”

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His 8.10 ERA might not indicate it, but Jennings has done exactly what the White Sox have asked in his three appearances this season.

On Sunday, he induced an inning-ending double play in the seventh from Oswaldo Arcia.

Jennings’ other big spot was Opening Day with the White Sox down three runs. He walked two (one intentionally), but Jennings also retired Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer and induced a potential inning-ending grounder off Alex Gordon’s bat only for his middle infielders to misplay it into a two-run single. Instead of a scoreless inning, Jennings allowed three earned runs.

But there’s more than enough there for him to build off of, said teammate and throwing partner Zach Duke.

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“I don't think Dan gives himself enough credit,” Duke said. “If you look at his track record in the big leagues, it's really good.

“He probably feels the way he does because he kind of fell victim to the business of baseball. He's probably one of the only guys who had options so he got shuffled between Triple-A and the big leagues no matter what his numbers were.

“He works his tail off, he's not complacent, he doesn't feel like he's good enough yet, which is great. But he's really good.”

Tall and athletic with a consistent 92-mph fastball, the White Sox think enough of Jennings that they traded Andre Rienzo to Miami in exchange. Pitching coach Don Cooper said the only mechanical change he’s made is to keep Jennings taller in his delivery.

Cooper likes Jennings’ slider and the addition of the two-seam fastball, a pitch developed this offseason and with which he has grown comfortable.

He wants Jennings to improve upon his career mark of 4.1 walks per nine innings and to become more effectively against lefties, who hit .291/.358/.403 against him while righties have a .237/.326/.384 slash.

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But with the pieces in place, Cooper thinks those goals are attainable.

“We’re going to try to see if we can take him further,” Cooper said. “He’s got the equipment.

“Any time you can get a lefty that’s throwing 92, 93 with a good shape to the breaking ball and all he needs is more consistent strikes, well I think we’ve been OK getting guys like that and doing things with them.

“We’re fortunate to get an arm like that.”

Jennings feels just as good about his situation with the White Sox. While he’s not in position to take Duke’s setup role just yet, Jennings believes he’ll have plenty of chances to work in big spots. He intends to build the trust of Ventura and Cooper “over time,” he said.

“For me it's having confidence both ways -- knowing they have confidence in me and having me have confidence in myself, knowing they can put me out there in any situation and I'll go get people out,” Jennings said. “If they feel good about me that goes a long way because all of a sudden they can put me in those situations. As I long as I do my job the rest will take care of itself.”

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

No one knows better than Joakim Soria that the more successful he is as the White Sox’s closer, there is an increased likelihood that the veteran right-hander will be headed out of town at some point.

Soria has not only solidified the back end of the bullpen, the 34-year-old has emerged as perhaps the Sox’s most valuable trade asset to a contending team in need of relief help.

Over this last 14 appearances, Soria has not allowed an earned run and has converted all seven save chances with five hits allowed, two walks and 15 strikeouts.

“My body feels good and my arm feels good,” Soria said before the Sox defeated the Athletics 10-3 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I come to the ballpark expecting to pitch and … I try to be out there and help this team win.”

While the Sox haven’t done a whole lot of winning of late—Sunday’s win was just their second in their last 11 games—when they are victorious it’s accompanied by a Soria save. With the Sox’s rebuild in full swing, Soria understands that general manager Rick Hahn won’t hesitate to flip him in a trade.

“Players say they don’t think about it but you have to think about it,” said Soria, who was acquired from the Royals on Jan. 4 in a three-team trade also involving the Dodgers. “When you have a family with three kids and a wife you have to be prepared for everything. But it’s not like I come to the field thinking about that. It’s just God’s plan and whatever happens it’s a business and you prepare.”

Soria has 215 career saves, including 162 in seven seasons with the Royals, but hadn’t been a full-time closer since notching a combined 24 saves with the Tigers and Pirates. With the Sox, Soria won the closing job over fellow veteran Nate Jones in spring training and has been nearly unhittable in recent weeks.

Over his last 13 2/3 innings pitched, Soria has held opponents to a .109 batting average and sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. He has issued five walks in 28 innings and is averaging 10.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

The two-time All-Star has settled in nicely in a Sox clubhouse featuring a mix of veterans and promising talents. Soria has to balance that with the knowledge he might not be around as the season progresses.

“It’s something I can’t control,” Soria said. “I have a really good relationship with these guys and the chemistry with this team is very good. I can’t think outside of the box because (a trade) hasn’t happened yet. You have to keep focused and be ready for today’s game.”