White Sox

Don Cooper: 'It’s either good or it’s bad' with White Sox pitcher James Shields

Don Cooper: 'It’s either good or it’s bad' with White Sox pitcher James Shields

You never know what you're going to get with James Shields.

"There’s no in between. It seems like it’s either good or it’s bad," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said on Saturday. "There’s no middle ground. Early it was, he wasn’t controlling the counts. He was falling behind and having to use part of the plate.

"Now it’s just making too many mistakes. Too many mistakes with his pitches and leaving some up. This is a ballpark where balls go. So, that’s kind of it right now."

When Shields first arrived with the White Sox, he struggled mightily, allowing 21 earned runs and five homers in a combined 8.2 innings pitched in his first three starts.

He bounced back with an impressive seven-game stretch, in which he had a 2.11 ERA — good enough to draw some trade chatter near the deadline.

But as of late, Shields reverted back to the pitcher he looked like when he first arrived in Chicago. He has given up 27 earned runs on 33 hits while allowing nine homers and eight walks in his last four starts.

"I think he’s having an off period," said manager Robin Ventura. "There’s stuff there. You can see it. We’ve seen it. In Boston he had a nice run there.

"This is a tough place to pitch, especially if you’re not locating exactly where you want and guys put good swings on it. It’s a small ballpark and that’s where you can get hurt the most, especially in the summer."

As the trade deadline passed, the White Sox ultimately decided to hang on to Shields, who has two years left on his contract beginning next season.

If the White Sox are committed to keeping the right-hander in Chicago, Cooper believes Shields — who turns 35 in December — can still be effective. He just needs to find consistency.

"He’s shown us six in a row good ones so it’s in there. We’ve got to bring more out," Cooper said. "We’ve got to be able to stem the tide or minimize and find a way … I don’t know the right terminology. Like I said, it’s either good or bad.

"We’ve got to find a way to make more pitches to keep us in the ballgame game on the days he has not thrown well. Getting ahead and minimize mistakes is the way to do that."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

Shields' early exits has forced the White Sox bullpen to carry a load Rick Hahn & Co. were looking to avoid when they acquired the right-hander.

Despite the extra innings to aid Shields, Cooper doesn't think they have overworked the bullpen.

"Listen anybody that has a bad start, that’s going to put a little bit tax on the bullpen," Cooper said. "On the games he hasn’t pitched well, yeah there’s tax there. There’s also a tax when we didn’t let (Chris) Sale pitch that day and in John Danks’ games and in (Mat) Latos’ games.

"In anybody’s game that don’t give us the job description of a White Sox pitcher, which is carrying the bulk of the work. Anytime that happens there’s more work on a bullpen."

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

The White Sox rebuilding puzzle is getting closer to completion.

Zack Collins is reportedly en route to the major leagues, according to a report from Miami talk-show host Andy Slater. That adds another one of the White Sox highly rated prospects to the growing list of them at the big league level as the franchise’s contention window looks set to open relatively soon.

Collins was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016, selected with the No. 10 pick that year out of the University of Miami. Currently ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the farm system, he’s always been praised for his offensive abilities. Last season at Double-A Birmingham, he finished the year with a .382 on-base percentage and launched 15 homers, also winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game.

In 48 games with Triple-A Charlotte this season, Collins owns a .258/.382/.497 slash line with nine homers, nine doubles, 38 RBIs and 35 walks.

Collins has been lauded as a big bat, but there have been questions about other parts of his game as he’s risen through the system. From the day he was drafted, there were questions about his defensive ability, leading to speculation that he might one day end up at a position besides catcher. He’s also racked up the strikeouts in the minors, with 396 of them in 322 games over his four minor league seasons.

But the White Sox haven’t wavered in their confidence that Collins can be a big league catcher, and it looks like that’s the position he’ll fill should the White Sox call him up before the start of next week’s Crosstown series with the Cubs. Welington Castillo was removed from Sunday’s loss to the New York Yankees with back tightness. The team said Castillo will be reevaluated on Monday. With this report of Collins’ promotion, it looks like Castillo could be headed to the injured list.

Another top prospect reaching the majors adds another tangible example of rebuilding progress. Fans have been clamoring for the promotions of Dylan Cease and Luis Robert all season long, and while Collins might be a little further down in the rankings than those two, this should still please fans who, even in a season filled with positives, want to see a more rapid advancement toward the rebuild’s ultimate goal.

Collins will perhaps benefit from a lack of pressure, what with James McCann in the midst of a potentially All-Star season as the White Sox primary catcher. The White Sox could perhaps continue to lean on McCann, allowing Collins to ease into the major leagues.

But just like Michael Kopech last August and Eloy Jimenez in March, Collins’ mere arrival is a step forward in this process, one that should please fans immensely.

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Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues


Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues

Yoan Moncada's battle with his back issues might not be as over as we thought.

The third baseman made his return to the White Sox starting lineup Sunday following a four-game layoff due to a mild back strain. But his return didn't last long. After a fourth-inning strikeout in his second plate appearance of the 10-3 loss to the visiting New York Yankees, Moncada was removed from the game with what the team announced as upper back tightness.

Moncada is described as day to day. The White Sox have an off day Monday ahead of the start of a two-game Crosstown series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

"He's doing good. I think I'm not the only one who noticed his grimace in the swing. It made no sense to continue to expose him to that," manager Rick Renteria said after Sunday's game. "All indications are he should be ready to go on Tuesday.

"Didn't seem to put him in any predicament. Hopefully it didn't set him back. All indications are that hopefully he'll be back on Tuesday."

Moncada was removed from Monday's game against the Washington Nationals with what was initially described as back spasms. Renteria updated the verbiage to a back strain in the following days. Moncada missed Tuesday's game against the Nationals, went through a Wednesday off day and then missed the first three games of the four-game weekend set with the Yankees. His return lasted all of four innings Sunday before he was taken out again.

"Just watching the swing, watching the finish, which is what I was concerned with, getting through the ball. He's ready to get through the ball, it's just the finish. He's feeling a little something there," Renteria said. "You can't replicate it in any drill work. We've tried to do it. Everything he did was good. All the work he did was good.

"Everything we tried to do to replicate it, it wasn't existent until you get into the game, then you know. That's why I think it was a good — I don't know if you want to call it a test, but it was a test. We wanted to see where he was at. Didn't make any sense to continue to push him. Get him ready and calm it down and get him ready for the series against the North Siders."

Moncada wasn't the only White Sox hitter removed from Sunday's game. Welington Castillo, who was the designated hitter, was taken out with what the team announced as lower back tightness. Renteria confirmed after the game that Castillo's injury came on his swing in the second inning, a line drive off the center-field wall that ended up as only a single. Castillo will be reevaluated during the off day Monday.

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