White Sox

Don Cooper: 'We've Got to Win Games'

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Don Cooper: 'We've Got to Win Games'

Friday, April 16, 2010
2:18 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Its a few hours before the White Sox take the field in Cleveland. I give pitching coach Don Cooper a phone call to talk about his stellar bullpen which hasnt given up a run in the last six games, a streak totaling 17 13 innings.

But Coop is not a happy camper.

"Heck, weve played 10 games for crying out loud," Cooper said. "Everybody wants to draw conclusions from a lot of different things. Yes, I like what theyre doing. Its better than getting their asses kicked thats for sure. But weve got 152 games left, and were sitting at 4-6. Nobody is digging that. We've got to win games.

OK

Lets talk about rookie phenom Sergio Santos, who struck out the side Thursday night, getting Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and John Buck. All swinging. The converted shortstop hasnt given up a run or even a hit in four innings out of the bullpen. Youve got to be impressed with him, right?

"Hes had four appearances and hes done well so far," said a slightly impressed Cooper. "Weve got a long way to go. This is a great story, but its chapter one."

So, how does Coop explain his lightning quick transformation? Two years ago, Santos was a Blue Jays minor league shortstop. Last year, his first season as a pitcher with the White Sox, he was 0-3 in the minors with an 8.16 earned run average. Now hes firing 96 mph fastballs past the team he wasnt good enough to play for, and it looks like hes been on the mound for years.

Before this experiment began, when was the last time Santos pitched in a game?

Freshman year in high school.

"Hes got a power fastball, a power breaking ball and a power changeup. Hes got three power pitches," Cooper said. "Now its a matter of learning how to pitch and being consistent and being ahead, which is what hes been doing so far."

That certainly wasnt the case Thursday night with Freddy Garcia, who got torched by the Jays, giving up seven runs on eight hits in three-plus innings.

He never had it. And Cooper didnt dance around it.

"Freddy did not pitch well last night at all," Cooper said. "His command was not up to snuff or where it needs to be."

Two games under .500 is not where the Sox need to be either. They have the talent (and certainly the time) to turn it around. However, there are many concerned fans and media members who arent so sure, overly sensitive about the Sox cold start.

Cooper took it even further.

"Theyre sensitive about what happens in spring training! Theyre still thinking that spring training matters or that it counts," he said. "Everything that goes on, the media is sensitive to stuff because youve got to write stuff and break stuff. Its just 10 games. People are probably writing us off. Thats OK, too. Whatever you guys want to do is fine with me, but Im just telling it like it is."

That means telling a reporter that his idea about doing a story on a lights-out bullpen in April is a bad idea. The story is bigger, and yet simpler than that.

"Its not about the bullpen, its not about the starting pitching, its not about the hitting or defense. Its about winning games. When we dont do that, none of this really matters. The one conclusion Ill give you is this: were sitting at 4-6. We certainly didnt expect to be that starting out.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

White Sox Talk Podcast: The 10th anniversary of Mark Buehrle's perfect game

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

White Sox Talk Podcast: The 10th anniversary of Mark Buehrle's perfect game

Chuck Garfien and Steve Stone take a look back at Mark Buehrle's perfect game. How did Buehrle do it? How did Dewayne Wise make that catch?

Plus, Buehrle and A.J. Pierzynski talk about how Buehrle actually told Pierzynski before taking that field that day that he would throw a perfect game and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Yoan Moncada cleans up for White Sox: 'I think we found our No. 4 hitter'

Yoan Moncada cleans up for White Sox: 'I think we found our No. 4 hitter'

Though Jose Abreu and James McCann represented the team at the All-Star Game earlier this month, Yoan Moncada holds the title of the White Sox best hitter through the first 97 games of the 2019 season.

The guy who struck out 217 times during his first full season in the majors last year has been a completely different hitter this time around. Instead of looking lost at the plate, he’s the guy White Sox fans want to see at the plate in run-producing situations. He hasn’t spent much time in one of those traditional run-producing spots in the batting order, but manager Rick Renteria inserted Moncada into the cleanup spot Monday night.

And Moncada cleaned up, all right.

“I think we found our No. 4 hitter,” starting pitcher Ivan Nova said after he went the distance in a 9-1 waxing of the Miami Marlins. “A lot of times you get surprised. While he was hitting second, you're thinking and knowing, the type of hitter that he is — you're only thinking as a player, they have another way to think. But today, I think it was first time hit in fourth, and he showed.”

Moncada went 2-for-4 with the game’s biggest blow, a three-run homer in the fifth inning that blew things wide open. He drove in four runs on the night, and he flashed a potential glimpse of the future of this future-focused franchise.

Combining with Abreu, who went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and three runs scored, Moncada showed what the middle of the order might look like for this team when rebuilding finally transitions to contending. That could come as soon as next year, and when you throw the currently injured Eloy Jimenez into that group, the White Sox could boast a fearsome 3-4-5 as soon as later this season.

“If someone is happy that we finally found a cleanup hitter, it’s me,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “Nothing that he does surprises me because I know all the talent he has. I know that he still can do more. He has been working hard. He’s a great baseball player with a lot of talent and I still think he can do more.

“What he did today is not a surprise for me. I still know he’s a great player and I think we’ve seen that throughout the whole season this year. He’s going to get better.”

Moncada has been sensational all season long, proving why the White Sox weren’t at all worried during his struggles in 2018. He owns a .304/.362/.530 slash line through these first 97 games, and his three-run blast Monday night gave him a new career high in that category after he smacked 17 a year ago. He’s six RBIs away from setting a new career high there, too. And even though he made a fielding error Monday that only briefly delayed Nova finishing off his complete-game effort, Moncada has been generally excellent at third base in his first season at that position as a big leaguer.

But putting Moncada in a run-producing spot in the order is a new wrinkle for Renteria this season. Coming into Monday’s game, Moncada had spent 63 games as the team’s No. 2 hitter and just 26 everywhere else. According to the skipper, Moncada is good enough to hit anywhere, and that’s certainly true. His eventual everyday spot in the lineup might have more to do with the hitters around him than simply what he can do by himself.

But if Moncada keeps up the kind of offensive production he’s churned out this season, maybe sticking him right in the thick of the order is what's best for the White Sox — even if those lineups of the future include big bats like those swung by Abreu, Jimenez, Luis Robert and Andrew Vaughn.

“For me, it's an advantage to hit in the cleanup spot having (Abreu) ahead of me,” Moncada said through Russo. “That way, you can see how the pitchers are attacking him, and you have a better idea, in those situations when you need to produce, how the pitchers are doing it. Even though he's a right-handed hitter and I hit from both sides of the plate, it's good. It's something that gives you a better idea of how the pitchers are doing, how their pitches are working.”

“He had a nice game,” Renteria said. “He can hit anywhere in the middle and the top of the order. I wish I could say I'm really a genius, but I'm not. He's got that talent. He's able to take advantage of it and today he had a nice day. He made everybody look good.”

It would make sense to see Moncada batting fourth again as this first homestand of the second half and the 2019 season roll on, but that’s up to Renteria, who has his reasons for every permutation to his lineups.

Of course, if Abreu gets ahold of Renteria's lineup card and starts writing out the batting orders, we’ll know where Moncada will be slotted.

“If I would have that decision,” Abreu said, “I would put him in the cleanup spot for the rest of the season.”

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