White Sox

Floyd aces unlikely pitchers' duel in the Bronx

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Floyd aces unlikely pitchers' duel in the Bronx

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 9:09 p.m. Updated: 1:12 a.m.
By Brett Ballatini
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORKIvan Nova, having vanquished the Chicago White Sox for 6 13 innings, sat in the Yankees dugout, spitting sunflower seeds and bobbing his head to Sweet Home Alabama.

As incongruous as a Dominican grooving to southern men seemed, even more so was the White Soxs comeback in the eighth inning, erasing Novas win and propelling the Pale Hose to a second straight win in the Bronx.

Paul Konerkos two-run homer in the eight off of flailing reliever Rafael Soriano instead handed a 3-2 win to Gavin Floyd, who authored a brilliant outing of 10 strikeouts against one walk and just three hits.

Gavin, man, he threw the ball good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Today is the best Ive seen him throw the ball in a little while.

Floyd upped his record to 3-1 on the season and trimmed some 40 points off his ERA, which now stands at a taut 3.60.
Sergio Santos came on for his second straight save, escaping a jam created by Floyd and Matt Thornton and further cementing his place as the clubs closer. He did it with amazing help from sub right fielder Brent Lillibridge, who ended the game with two straight spectacular catches.

With runners on first and second with one out, cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez slapped a screaming line drive toward the wall, over the substitute right fielders head.

It came off hard, but I saw the slice and tried to get to the wall as fast as I could, Lillibridge said. It started moving on me a little bit, and I kind of ran out of space hitting the wall. Working in that confined space, with the right-field foul pole at 314 feet is a little different than most ballparks. I reached out there and concentrated on it and made the catch to get the first one. But I didnt know the next one would be harder.

Lillibridge robbed Rodriguez but was unable to double off either Derek Jeter at second base or Mark Teixeira at first, giving Robinson Cano a chance to be a hero. The second sacker stroked a line drive down the right-field line that Lillibridge made an even more incredible catch on, a full-extension diving grab to save the game.

I got a good read on it, but the biggest thing in my head was if there was a close ball I have a chance to catch, Im going for it, he said. We have to have that attitude. Its been rough for us, so I said, All or nothing. I could have been the goat. In this instance, I was able to win the game.

The loquacious manager had his punch line all set up, from the beginning of his postgame remarks, and as usual, he was dead on.

Well, first of all, finally I found my closer: Lillibridge, Guillen said, laughing uproariously. Hes the one thats going to be closing games from now on. All Chicago fans, they can sleep very well, because I found my closer.

Sleep tight, Chicago. Life in the White Sox world is starting to look up.
Lillis Pad

Its been a wild ride for Lillibridge, who just a month ago was fighting for his White Sox life and now finds himself in some waysGuillens joking asideas the offensive and special-teams closer for the club. As a pinch-runner, bunter, and especially as a player able to man six positions on the field, Lillibridge has proven invaluable.

One of the big reasons Lillibridge made the ballclub is because we know he can play the outfield very well, Guillen said. He got three wins for us. He steals second just yesterday and we come up with the run. Every time we put him in the game, he scores some runs. On defense hes been great we know he can play the outfield.

His two catches to end the game can be burned onto the season highlight DVD already, no matter how far the White Sox play into October.

Ive never had anything like that in my career right now, Lillibridge said, shyly smiling with pride. Sometimes you dont know whats going on even as it happensyou react to the ball and take a chance. You cant practice diving in batting practice.

Usually, when the ball goes over my head off the bat, you have a pretty good impression of what the results going to be, Konerko said. I didnt think either of those was going to be caught. Both of them were completely different plays, but coming late in the game like that, making those two plays in those situations was awesome I dont think Ive ever seen a game end with two great plays like that by one guy.

The Lord was with Brent, making those two catches, Floyd said. He made some fantastic catches out there. They better be No. 1 and 2 TV web gems.

Somewhat humorously, Santos let out a yell upon the closing out that you could practically hear in the press box.

Gosh, amazing, said Santos, with his arm wrapped but still a bit dazed in the locker room minutes later. I havent felt that alive in a long time, just the adrenaline. For Lillibridge to make two huge plays back-to back, just, its nice that things are finally going our way, especially in the ninth inning because we had bad luck at home. So its nice to steal another win out here.

As a former fielder himself, Santos was more than interested in talking more about the incredible end to the game, courtesy of his pitching and Lillibridges defense.

I thought the first catch was tougher because I knew Lillibridge was playing deep, and it felt like it was up in the air for 10 minutes. After he made the catch, I was like, Great, Santos said. The one to Cano, once it left the infield and I saw it kind of hanging up in the air, I thought maybe hes got a chance to dive and catch it, because I knew he couldnt catch it on the run. I dont think Ive ever yelled as loud in my life. It was good.

Whats sweet about Lillibridges story is that hes no longer a player tormented by his role or shortcomings. Obviously, any major leaguer wants to move up the depth chart from No. 25 on the roster, but the superutilityman has turned a lack of playing time into an opportunity to impact the game with a single at-bat or run scored. The maturity hes put on display even dating back to last season makes him a guy the entire clubhouse roots for.

Typically, Lillibridge shrugs off most plaudits, with a bottom-line approach to playing, and winning.

Im just trying to get a games played recorded in the stat book, he said. Im just doing my job of going in there and playing defense. I try to steal a base and allowed Paulie to get a couple of fastballs Ive always felt a part of this team and have done what Im supposed to do. Making plays like tonight, even in a limited role, how can you not be excited?

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Sox Drawer Q&A: Is this the White Sox 'Jon Lester' offseason?

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USA TODAY

Sox Drawer Q&A: Is this the White Sox 'Jon Lester' offseason?

Back for another round of questions here in the Sox Drawer. Let's go.

Q: Do you believe this is the Sox "Lester" offseason where they make a large investment in a player for the future? Or are we still one year away from seeing this? — @BCurley3

CG: That's a question many White Sox fans are wondering about. And by the "Lester" signing, I assume you are referring to the likes of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. I'd like to think that if the White Sox have a desire to sign a big-name free agent, they will make every attempt to do it now and not wait for the 2020 free agents, even if it's coming off a 100-loss season. As general manager Rick Hahn put it in his season-ending press conference, "You can't always control when certain players become available. You can say in 2020 or 2021 we expect to be this, and we know we are going to need X. You can't look at the projected free agent and say that player will be available, much less that player will be a White Sox when the time comes." It might turn out that the White Sox don't sign that marquee free agent this offseason, but going off what Hahn said, I believe they will go all-in when their targeted "Jon Lester" is available.

Q: If you had your choice, would the White Sox sign Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado? — @Dehhmac_

CG: I'll take either. Arenado gets the edge defensively. Machado has the advantage offensively. One stat about Arenado that gives me some pause is his career home/away splits. At Coors Field, he's slashing .320/.374/.609. Away from Coors Field, he's at .263/.318/.469. He's still a great player, but his numbers are inflated due to the higher elevation in Denver. If they don't sign him to a contract extension this winter, I'm curious to see if the Rockies listen to trade offers during the Winter Meetings like the Orioles did with Machado last year. The Rockies are much more competitive than the Orioles, so they might decide to go for it one more time with Arenado. If not, a crazy Winter Meetings just got crazier.

Q: I have long expected this to be the offseason when the Sox start signing free agents. However, lately, I've heard about possible big-name trade potentials. Do you expect trades this early in the rebuild or mainly acquisition through free agency? — @ToddHertz

CG: At some point, the White Sox will probably dip into their farm system to acquire major league upgrades where they see fit. Because there were so many injuries to prospects last season, I'm not sure they've seen enough to know exactly what they have to make those kind trades just yet. However, the one position in the minors where they seem very deep right now is in the outfield. That could be an area they could subtract from to add elsewhere. I think the White Sox timed their rebuild very well with free agency. Last year's lackluster free-agent class was a great time to be on the sidelines. The next two winters will have much better talent available. The White Sox don't have much on the books and will be in a good financial position to make upgrades.

Q: After Eloy comes up in April who's the next guy in waiting and when does he come up? —  @franknacchio19

CG: With two open spots in the rotation, we could see a few prospects compete for starting jobs in spring training. Jordan Guerrero, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams are possibilities. All three of them finished the season at Charlotte and could be close to knocking on the door. The next big name after that would seemingly be Dylan Cease, who if he continues to pitch like he did this past season will probably be on the Michael Kopech timeline to the majors, and Kopech came up in August.

Q: If the rumors are true and the Diamondbacks dismantle their roster, which player on their roster makes sense for this White Sox team long term? —  @mr_zablocki

Q: Who would you hypothetically trade for Goldshmidt? — @DaRealScaletta​​​​​​​

CG: Looking at the Diamondbacks' roster, there aren't many natural fits with the White Sox rebuild. Where's the All-Star third baseman on a rebuilding team with a four-year, team-friendly contract? I like Zack Greinke, but he's going to be 35-years-old and has three years and $104 million left on his contract. A 27-year-old Robbie Ray would be solid, but he's under team control for only two more years. Paul Goldschmidt is an all-world first baseman with three Gold Gloves, but he's a free agent after next season. Depending on what the White Sox do with Jose Abreu, who also has one year left on his contract, maybe they go after Goldschmidt next offseason if they don't re-sign Abreu.

Q: Tell a Yolmer story. — @NJBooth20

CG: Yolmer was wearing this cool T-shirt in the clubhouse this past season. On the front, it said "play hard" with a photo of him making Mickey Mouse ears. On the back it said "have fun," and there's the photo of him pouring Gatorade all over himself. I asked him if I could have one of those T-shirts. He said, "50 dollars." I countered with, "How about 30?" With perfect comedic timing, Yolmer came back with, "Make it 10." He might not be the best bargainer in the world, but Yolmer Sanchez is definitely one of the funniest people around.

Q: Why did Nagy run the ball on 3rd and 4?? — @rypie182​​​​​​​

CG: Not sure.

Q: Can I leave a voicemail? Too drunk to tweet. — @HurriKayne26​​​​​​​

CG: Rough Bears game.

Q: Who will be the biggest surprise and/or the greatest improvement for next season's team? — @nicklicious33​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. If he's able to come back, I can think of one person in particular who would be quite an incredible surprise in 2019. That's Danny Farquhar. At home in California recovering from his near-death brain aneurysm, Farquhar is training with the hopes of pitching in the majors again, possibly as soon as 2019. I wouldn't put it past him. He's a special person who has been defying the odds since that horrific night in April. It would be great to see!

Thanks again for all of your questions. We'll do it again next week.

Sorry, White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

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USA TODAY

Sorry, White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.