White Sox

Derek Holland, White Sox down Royals to salvage series split

Derek Holland, White Sox down Royals to salvage series split

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The way he has thrown and feels, Derek Holland believes he's deserved to wear the daily champion wrestling belt already once or twice this season.

He finally received it on Thursday afternoon.

Following a dominant outing well supported by his offense, Holland proudly bore a championship wrestling belt during his postgame interview. Holland delivered 6 2/3 sharp innings and Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson both homered as the White Sox pounded the Kansas City Royals 8-3 in front of 36,525 at Kauffman Stadium. Holland allowed two runs and struck out seven to help the White Sox split a four-game series with the Royals.

"Definitely (earned it)," Holland said. "I thought I had really good command of everything. For the most part, it's always going to be the defense. If I'm keeping them on their toes, they are going to make the plays. I attacked the zone big time today. My pitch count was fairly low for the most part. My offense did a great job putting runs on the board."

After every victory, White Sox players hold a ceremony to determine the player of the game. Said player then receives the WWE belt that Holland brought with him to the White Sox when he signed a one-year deal for $6 million in December.

Since joining the club, Holland has suggested he's as healthy as ever after three years of dealing with injuries. The veteran lefty said all spring he was excited to work with pitching coach Don Cooper -- that being here had Holland best positioned to regain the form that produced 8.6 f-Wins Above Replacement from 2011-13.

He provided another demonstration of how good he can be against the struggling Royals. Working quickly and mixing all five pitches against an aggressive Royals lineup, Holland soared through the early innings. He made fast work of Kansas City, getting his offense back into the dugout at an expedited rate through each of the first four innings. Holland needed only 41 pitches to complete those first four and his offense rewarded him with five early runs.

"Especially against a team that's kind of struggling right now, you don't want to let them get any momentum," third baseman Matt Davidson said. "We did a good job. We scored our runs, he went out and put up a zero and that's all you want."

"As a defender, he's working quick, he's throwing strikes -- it's everything you ask for."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets right here]

Holland could have asked for a little better luck in the fourth when Mike Moustakas ended his streak of 10 straight batters retired to start the game with an opposite-field double just inside the line. Otherwise, Holland didn't find trouble until the seventh, when he already possessed a seven-run lead.

Holland struck out two batters in the first and fifth innings and one each in the third, fourth and sixth. He allowed one earned run, three hits and walked one.

The effort raised Holland's K-rate to 20.2 percent, his highest mark since he finished the 2013 campaign at 21.1. Last season, Holland finished with a career-low 14.5-percent strikeout rate.

He also lowered his ERA to 2.02 in 35 2/3 innings.

"I think he's doing exactly what everybody expected of him to be honest," manager Rick Renteria said. "He's been around, he's a veteran presence. He came in wanting to have success. He's been doing a really nice job, throwing a lot of strikes, mixing in secondary pitches very well.

"He's very poised out there and continues to give us innings and keeps us in the game and fortunately we score a few runs and stay there."

Holland didn't have to be half as good as he was the way the White Sox hit Ian Kennedy.

Abreu gave the southpaw an early cushion when he obliterated a 2-2 fastball for a two-run homer to left center. Abreu's fourth round-tripper had an exit velocity of 113 mph.

An inning later, Davidson hit a 452-foot homer into the waterfall in left center to make it 3-0. A last-minute addition after Todd Frazier was scratched with a stiff back, Davidson also singled and walked in four trips. 

Cody Asche added some padding to the lead in the fourth inning with a bouncing, two-run double down the right-field line. Avisail Garcia put the game out of reach in the eighth inning when he followed a single by Melky Cabrera (2-for-5, two runs) and an Abreu double with a two-run, seeing-eye single to right.

Yolmer Sanchez also had a sac fly for the White Sox, who improved to 14-10 against American League Central opponents. Last season, the White Sox finished 32-44 in the AL Central.

"My job once they do that is to make sure I shut the other team down," Holland said. "I thought we did a good job of establishing in and out, up and down as well. The defense is right there making those plays."

"Once they put up runs on the board I still have to treat it like a 0-0 game. I can't get caught up whatever they do. I have to get out there and do my job."

He did once again and it finally resulted in a championship belt.

White Sox do not expect Mayor Lightfoot's travel order to impact MLB season

White Sox do not expect Mayor Lightfoot's travel order to impact MLB season

Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency travel order Thursday that requires travelers visiting Chicago from states experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases to quarantine for two weeks.

By the end of the month, a certain group of travelers — Major League Baseball teams — are scheduled to visit Chicago to play games against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Likewise, the White Sox will be traveling to play road games in other states, as well, from which they will eventually return.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

But the White Sox say they aren't expecting the new order to impact their upcoming 2020 season.

"Based on our current understanding, we do not expect this to impact our operations as presently planned," a White Sox spokesperson told NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday.

Currently, no states that are home to Central Division teams from either the AL or NL are impacted by Mayor Lightfoot's order. But as has become extremely apparent, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can change things quickly, and there's no knowing which states might be impacted come Opening Day or at any point during the two-month baseball season.

At the moment, the mayor's order, which goes into effect Monday, applies to visitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Landing on that list involves a specific metric. Per the city's website, "a state will be designated if it has a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average."

Major League Baseball is imposing a geographic schedule to minimize travel for teams during the shortened, 60-game season. Teams will only play their division rivals and teams from the same geographic division in the other league. The White Sox will play their four AL Central rivals and the five teams from the NL Central.

As of the mayor's order being issued Thursday, the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were not part of the travel order. But every one of those states except Missouri, as well as Illinois, is currently experiencing a week-to-week increase in the number of new cases. The number of new cases is also rising in Iowa, where the White Sox are still on schedule to play in the Field of Dreams game on Aug. 13.

The city has the ability to grant exemptions, though, and Major League Baseball's extensive health and safety measures could come into play. According to the city's website, "the Commissioner of Health may additionally grant an exemption based upon an organization’s or business’ testing and other control policies or in extraordinary circumstances, which warrant an exception from mandatory quarantine."

So the city has the power to let the MLB season, as it pertains to teams traveling in and out of Chicago, to operate as planned. It can allow the Cleveland Indians come to town, or allow the White Sox to return from a trip to Detroit, even if other travelers from Ohio or Michigan, for example, are mandated to quarantine for two weeks.

As mentioned, the evolving status of the pandemic and the response to it, not just in Chicago but across the country, can change everything in a hurry. Major League Baseball faces its own internal hurdles when it comes to safely getting the season off the ground and completing it.

But as the White Sox understand it, there might not be reason to believe Mayor Lightfoot would be throwing a separate wrench into the difficult task of playing the 2020 baseball season.


Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

One of the most popular questions surrounding the White Sox, as they head into a season unlike any other, has lingered throughout the three-month layoff.

What kind of rookie year will Luis Robert have?

Things have obviously changed since March, when spring training came to an abrupt halt and everyone on the South Side had to wait indefinitely to see Robert play his first major league game. The wait is over, but Robert's first taste of the bigs will come in a shortened, 60-game season. The hype is still there, sure — and for good reason — but as past hyped White Sox prospects like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez have shown, it can take time to adjust to major league pitching and start playing up to expectations.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

Moncada went through a full season's worth of struggles in 2018, striking out 217 times before having a huge 2019 campaign and emerging as the team's best all-around player.

So when he shares confidence that Robert's going to do just fine in his rookie season, it might not be a bad idea to listen.

"He’s a young guy with a lot of talent. Everybody saw that during the spring," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Wednesday. "I think for him, the key is to just play his game, don’t feel pressure, and with the support of all of us, he’s going to be good. I’m very confident he’s going to have a very, very good season just because of the talent he has."

The talent is obvious. Robert garnered preseason expectations as a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors because he's a true five-tool threat who spent last season wowing minor league crowds with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field.

The hype is real.

“He can do it on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said back in February. “He’ll hit a 400-plus-foot home run one day, and then he’ll make a Superman catch in the outfield. It seems like he can do it all. Stealing bases every day. He’s definitely the complete package.”

But how will the unpredictable circumstances of 2020 affect Robert? How they will affect anyone remains a mystery until teams start workouts this week and start playing games a few weeks later. One thing we can calculate at the moment is time, and Robert won't have much of it to make any necessary adjustments.

We saw it take far more than 60 games for Jimenez to get used to the way big league pitchers were attacking him last season. He figured it out eventually, started launching balls over the center-field fence and had a torrid final month to his rookie campaign. Robert won't have the same luxuries in 2020.

RELATED: Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

But he will have resources, the same ones he was expected to be able to lean on before the pandemic wiped so much of the season off the calendar. Moncada has benefited so much from Jose Abreu's mentorship, and there's no doubt that Abreu and Moncada both will offer any advice they have to their countryman Robert.

"I passed through that process, and Abreu was there helping me through the process and that was very helpful," Moncada said Wednesday. "And I think for (Robert), it’s going to be the same. We’re going to be there for whatever he needs, for whatever questions that he has. That’s going to be very helpful for him. We’re always going to be there for him."

They'll just have to be there from six feet away.