White Sox

Conor Gillaspie adapts to new role with White Sox

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Conor Gillaspie adapts to new role with White Sox

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Gillaspie would love to play more often but he continues to make it clear that winning is his priority.

So while his playing time has been severely reduced, the White Sox third baseman said Monday afternoon he has his club’s best interest in mind versus his. Including Monday’s game at Pittsburgh, Gillaspie has started only four of 13 games this month as the White Sox have favored Gordon Beckham’s glove instead.

“I feel fine,” Gillaspie said. “I haven’t gotten as many at-bats as I did last year so it’s kind of hard, I feel. I’m definitely not in a groove, that’s for sure. But the bottom line is we need to win games. I’ve played a lot more the last two years and we weren’t winning games. Truthfully, it wasn’t that much fun. Whatever we need to do to win games, I’m all in. Whatever that entails, let’s get after it and hopefully we can start winning some games.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Gillaspie is carrying a .256/.293/.400 slash line with three homers and 14 RBIs this season in 133 plate appearances. Beckham is hitting just .233/.298/.353 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 131 plate appearances. But Beckham’s glove is far more valuable to a team that has produced awful defense for 61 games.

The White Sox are 29th in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved at minus-43. They’re within two of last-place Philadelphia (minus-45) and nearly double the New York Yankees, who are 28th at minus-22. The Kansas City Royals are first overall with 42 Defensive Runs Saved.

Beckham is worth 2 Defensive Runs Saved in 271 2/3 innings at third this season while Gillaspie is minus-4 in 268.

For the time being, that has the White Sox giving considerably more time Beckham and Gillaspie adjusting to a new role. On Saturday, he hit a pinch-hit homer, the third of his career. On Sunday, he struck out on three pitches.

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“Just have to change a little bit,” Gillaspie said. “You have to be ready the first pitch. Yesterday I wasn’t quite ready the first pitch and three pitches you are out. You really have to be ready to hit. When you are playing or starting, you have some time to not take an at-bat off but you can see a pitch or two. Sometimes that helps you. When you are pinch-hitting, you have to be ready.”

Gillaspie has done his best to be prepared for whatever the White Sox ask. If he’s disappointed, Gillaspie, who started 120 games last season, hasn’t shown it.

“Whatever they need,” Gillaspie said. “I stand true to that. I told you guys no matter what happens, that’s always going to be. The No. 1 goal here is to win and whatever gives us the best chance, if that means sitting games, then I’m all right with it. So, you just try to always stay positive and keep working hard.”

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.