White Sox

At crossroads, White Sox hope to find answers on mega road trip

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At crossroads, White Sox hope to find answers on mega road trip

A dark cloud hung over U.S. Cellular Field after the White Sox 8-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

Sheets of rain washed away any momentum the South Siders had after they returned home from a triumphant road stint. By early Sunday evening, however, they capped off a seven-game home stand with another loss, sending them limping to the buses wondering what had gone wrong. 

A series win in Milwaukee and a sweep in Oakland sent positive vibes through the clubhouse that winning on the road was no longer an issue. The White Sox were already 10-5 at home this year before this week so playing at home was thought to be a strength. Yet seven games of early deficits and insufficient offense now has the White Sox in the basement of the AL Central by way of percentage points.

The White Sox room for error continues to shrink as surprise teams like the Twins, who moved up into second place in the division with a win today and a Detroit Tigers' loss, show they aren’t going to be a pushover. The defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals are on a mission to get back to the Fall Classic. Eight games back of first place and five back of second isn’t where the South Siders wanted to be in late May. 

“We got two of the best records in baseball in our division,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before the loss. “Everybody else isn’t bad either. There’s no rest playing in your own division by any means.”

[MORE: Ventura confident White Sox veterans will jump-start offense]

Luck certainly has played a factor in some of the losses. If outfielder Adam Eaton catches Joe Mauer’s line drive today, could that have changed the complexion of the game? What if Eaton’s eight-inning gapper yesterday actually hits the ground instead of falling into the glove of a diving Aaron Hicks when the White Sox trailed by one?

“We’re giving 110 percent here,” Eaton said. “We’re battling our butts off day in and day out. Sometimes the cards don’t fall our way.” 

There are, however, red flags that still need addressing. The defense continues to be an issue as errors have had a demoralizing effect on this group. Early deficits have proved costly. And the offense has shown very few signs of life, making those early runs the pitching staff has given up a monumental challenge to overcome.

If there were easy answers, the White Sox would love to know.

“If you can find that out tell me as soon as you can because if you could find that out that would be very helpful to us and we could use that,” Eaton said.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Maybe this 11-game road trip is the answer the White Sox are looking for. A set with the Toronto Blue Jays, the last place team in the AL East, might allow the bats to warm thanks to the Blue Jays' 4.67 team ERA. Waiting for them afterwards is a double-header with a lukewarm Baltimore Orioles, winners of seven of their last 18 games. The real test that nobody expected is the Houston Astros this coming weekend. Yes, those Astros. The ones with the most wins in baseball. Then, if the White Sox are still standing, the Texas Rangers, who have started playing some of their best ball lately, await in Arlington. 

A two-country, four-city road trip normally doesn’t sound too enticing to baseball players. But maybe it’s the getaway and the answer the White Sox so desperately need as they try and escape the dark skies above them and figure out what kind of team they will be in 2015.

“That can be a good thing,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the trip. “I don’t think anybody wants an off day right now.”

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.