White Sox

Danks' first career HR walks off White Sox vs. A's

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Danks' first career HR walks off White Sox vs. A's

Jordan Danks wasnt deceived one bit by Pat Nesheks funky delivery on Friday night.

The White Sox outfielder had not only faced Oaklands side-winding reliever several times at Triple-A the past two seasons, but he also got a well-timed refresher course from a televised game earlier in the week.

As Danks walked by a clubhouse TV, he recalled noticing Neshek on the mound and several of their showdowns came back to him in an instant.

Those previous encounters paid big dividends for Danks on Friday night when the rookie hit the first home run of his career with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the White Sox to a 4-3 victory over the Athletics in front of 25,041 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox hit four solo homers and got three scoreless innings from the bullpen to preserve a one-game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central.

I remembered whenever I was on deck trying to get the timing down, getting my foot down at a certain point because it is just an awkward delivery, Danks said.

Danks got his front foot down on the first pitch he saw from Neshek with two outs in the ninth inning and blasted away. The 417-foot home run was such a no-doubter that As right fielder Josh Reddick didnt move before he left the field.

The drive capped a night in which the White Sox rallied from a 3-0 deficit.

It was his first home run and it couldnt have come at a better time for a better guy, said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who scored the White Sox first run with a solo homer in the second inning, his 22nd. It was a good win, obviously coming back. We fell down early and found a way to battle back.

Ditto for Gavin Floyd.

The right-hander allowed 11 runners to reach base in six-plus innings. Three of those runners scored in the first two innings, including a pair on Brandon Moss 412-foot homer to right to give Oakland a 3-0 lead.

But Floyd settled down and began to strand runners.

He left the bases loaded in the third inning when he struck out Brandon Inge, Floyds third strikeout of the inning. Floyd also stranded a runner in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, including Cliff Pennington in the sixth after he tripled with two outs.

Despite the early trouble, Floyd limited Oakland to three runs and seven hits.

He got to be more aggressive in the zone and was just sharper, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. Some guys are just like that. I think he'll bust through it. He's got the stuff. He shows it in the middle of the games.

The White Sox showed theyre capable of production even without first baseman Paul Konerko, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list Friday with a concussion.

Ex-Sox pitcher Brandon McCarthy didnt afford the White Sox many opportunities.

But they rallied behind solo homers from Pierzynski, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo.

Viciedo was mired in a 5-for-43 slump prior to his seventh-inning homer, his first since July 25.

Luckily we hit four home runs, Pierzynski said. Other than that we didnt do a whole lot offensively.

The White Sox only managed to get one other runner -- Alejandro De Aza who doubled in the third inning -- into scoring position against McCarthy.

McCarthy allowed three runs and six hits in six-plus innings.

You'd like to see a little more driving in a guy from second base and stuff like that, Ventura said. It's a nice win. You take it, but you want to see the offense do a little more.

Like Danks, who said he envisioned himself hitting a game-winning homer while he stood in the batters box. The rookie said it was the first game-winner of his entire career, dating back to Little League.

Its something that everybody dreams about their whole life, Danks said. Right before that I saw myself doing it and it was just one of those things. It was just awesome.

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.