White Sox

David Robertson showing why he could be a trade candidate as White Sox approach trade deadline

David Robertson showing why he could be a trade candidate as White Sox approach trade deadline

The White Sox are doing a bit better than people thought they would in the first year of their announced rebuilding process, but that likely won’t spark any illusions of grandeur at the corner of 35th and Shields.

Even after another come-from-behind victory Sunday on the South Side, the White Sox are locked in a tie with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in the American League Central at 36-45. What that means, probably, is that Rick Hahn will be fielding calls at the approaching trade deadline, the expected late-July outcome when the 2017 campaign began.

Someone who should be grabbing the attention of contending general managers is David Robertson, and with a few high-pressure successes this past week, he’s showed exactly why.

After closing out a win over the New York Yankees on Thursday by striking out American League batting leader Aaron Judge, Robertson navigated through a traffic-jammed ninth inning Sunday, getting a game-ending strikeout to clinch a White Sox win over the visiting Texas Rangers.

Robertson entered in the eighth, when the White Sox trailed by a run. But after Yolmer Sanchez smacked a game-changing homer in the bottom of the eighth, Robertson was again in a more familiar situation of closing out a game — even if he was trying to preserve his own win this time.

Rougned Odor started the inning with a single before getting cut down on a fielder’s choice. After an Elvis Andrus double, Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs. Robertson got Carlos Gomez swinging, though there was brief drama when the ball got away from catcher Kevan Smith. He retrieved the ball and dove for the out at home to end the game.

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“It was a tough start to the inning,” Robertson said afterward. “I felt like I threw Odor a lot of good pitches, he was just very selective at the plate. Laid off of everything down, I was trying to keep out of the barrel zone because I think the last time I faced him in the (World Baseball Classic) he got a home run off of me. Even though I was behind in the count and gave him a pitch to hit I didn't want to make that same mistake twice, especially in a game that had been going back and forth the way this one was.

“From then on as soon as he got to first, it was a battle, just me trying to figure out a way to get out of the inning and fortunately we figured out a way to get out of it.”

Robertson’s been pretty good out of the bullpen this season, entering Sunday’s series finale with a 3.18 ERA and 12 saves in 13 opportunities.

The White Sox aren’t short on attractive trade candidates, including outfielder Melky Cabrera, third baseman Todd Frazier, a few bullpen arms and of course starter Jose Quintana. Robertson is also at the top of that list, and shutdown relief arms always command a lot of attention at the deadline. Just look at what the Yankees got for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller last season, pilfering the farm systems of two teams that ended up in the World Series.

Could Robertson command an equally impressive haul? Time will tell, but there’s no doubt he’s been reliable out of the White Sox bullpen.

Of course, those kinds of things aren’t running through the minds of the players themselves, and Robertson — like most anyone else asked about trade rumors at this time of year — would rather focus on the immediate. For him personally, that means welcoming in another child. He’ll miss this week’s series in Oakland as he heads to the paternity list.

So until a trade does or doesn’t come along, Robertson will happily worry about his current team, which despite sitting at the bottom of the standings has been quite enjoyable to watch, especially this past week with walkoffs, game-winning homers and plenty of drama.

“It's been fun, I hope the crowd's enjoyed it,” Robertson said. “It's (been) loud, and it's been pushing us forward, that's for sure.

“It’s a great group of guys. We play hard every day. Sometimes we just aren't playing the best baseball we're capable of. Even this afternoon, we didn't play as well as we could have. That doesn't mean we can't do it on this next road trip. We just got to kind of get everything in rhythm and get everybody going together and I think this team's capable of doing good things.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.