White Sox

Frame job: Tyler Flowers aids pitchers in White Sox win over Cubs


Frame job: Tyler Flowers aids pitchers in White Sox win over Cubs

Cubs hitters looked back in anger three different times on Friday afternoon.

Aside from a 1-0 White Sox victory over the Cubs, that was one of the true indicators it was a “good day” for Tyler Flowers.

Not only do White Sox pitchers continue to vouch for his blocking skills, his pitch framing abilities played a significant role as the White Sox won for their eighth time in 10 games.

Utilizing the technique he labored over in the offseason, Flowers — who entered Friday sixth among big league catchers in pitch framing, up from 14th in 2014 — earned strike calls on 12 borderline pitches for White Sox pitchers as they combined for a dozen strikeouts.

[MORE: White Sox much-maligned defense comes through to beat Cubs]

“He does an exceptional job back there,” said White Sox closer David Robertson, who struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to capture his 19th save. “He blocked a lot of curveballs I threw today. He knew they were coming in the dirt and I was able to put them where I wanted to do and he was able to stop them. He was like a wall back there.”

While his main job with Robertson was to block pitches against Jorge Soler, Flowers’ framing was critical during a Dexter Fowler at-bat in the eighth inning.

With Zach Duke on the mound, the tying man on first and the White Sox ahead by a run, Flowers called for a curveball and had his glove hovering just above the ground.

Duke hit his target and even though the pitch was well below the zone, plate ump Dan Bellino wrung up Fowler much to the leadoff man’s dismay.

According to brooksbaseball.net, Flowers earned five low strikes that were visibly out of the strikezone. Five of the team’s 12 strikeouts also came via called third strikes.

“You always want to be (low), but that was borderline,” Flowers said. “That’s kind of where you live though. Being a pitcher, the lower you can throw it the better — to a point. I mean you can’t bounce it in there 3-2, you have to get him to swing.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!

The framing also worked to Carlos Rodon’s benefit on a day in which the rookie was effectively wild. Rodon threw strikes on 57 of 104 pitches but it would have been less had he not received several wide and low ones thanks to his catcher.

One of the more notable encounters came in the fifth inning, when Starlin Castro believed he drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch only for Bellino to call a strike inside. Castro fouled off a 3-2 offering before Rodon hit thevery outside edge with a 94-mph fastball for the third strike.

An inning earlier, Rodon, who struck out six and walked six over six scoreless innings, got out of a trouble spot with Flowers’ help. With runners on first and second off with a 3-2 pitch that resulted in a strikeout of Chris Denorfia, Flowers fired to third in time to throw out Kris Bryant for an inning-ending double play.

“Tyler defensively was great,” Rodon said. “Big throw out to third there for that strike-‘em out, throw-‘em, out. Whatever he threw down, I was going to throw it. He's always good, always great.”

Rick Renteria voices frustration with Reynaldo Lopez during start in Detroit

Rick Renteria voices frustration with Reynaldo Lopez during start in Detroit

Reynaldo Lopez’s outing Sunday in Detroit didn’t get off to a good start and his performance led to a couple lengthy lectures from his manager.

After giving up a two-run home run in the first inning, Lopez allowed a leadoff single to Dawel Lugo in the second. White Sox manager Rick Renteria paid Lopez an early mound visit.

This wasn’t pitching coach Don Cooper going to the mound to talk to Lopez about mechanics or strategy on the next batter. Renteria walked up, looked Lopez straight in the eye and talked at him for 15 seconds without Lopez getting in a word. At one point in the interaction, Renteria appears to say "It's time to wake up."

MLB.com’s Scott Merkin asked Renteria about the mound visit after the game. If it wasn’t clearly apparent by watching the interaction, Renteria wasn’t pleased with Lopez.

Lopez threw over to first a couple times before getting behind 2-0 to the next batter, Grayson Greiner. Greiner grounded into a double play, but former White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham homered off Lopez right after that.

Lopez gave up another run in the third and Renteria again felt the need to lecture Lopez. This time it took place in the dugout.

With Lopez sitting in the dugout, a somewhat animated Renteria pointed to the 25-year-old’s chest multiple times. Lopez simply took it in and nodded. Watch this interaction and the mound visit in the video above.

Lopez came out for the fourth inning and gave up his fifth run. He was pulled before the start of the fifth. He gave up five runs on nine hits (three home runs) in four innings in a 6-3 White Sox loss.

Lopez has a 5.57 ERA on the season, which is a big drop off from his promising 3.91 ERA in 2018. Lopez was far from a finished product last year, but showed the potential to be a long-term piece in the White Sox rotation. Now? Not so much.

If Renteria’s words about making sure Lopez “was aware that he was actually pitching today” weren’t stern enough, he continued with a more general comment about the future of the White Sox.

If that wasn’t specifically directed to Lopez, it certainly applies to him. Lucas Giolito has established himself as a lock for the 2020 rotation. Dylan Cease will be given a chance to continue to improve. Michael Kopech is coming back from injury. The White Sox likely add a starting arm either via trade or free agency this offseason.

Lopez may not be a part of the future rotation and time to show he deserves a spot is running out.

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Eloy Jimenez reaches 30-home run mark in rookie season

Eloy Jimenez reaches 30-home run mark in rookie season

It took a couple months for Eloy Jimenez to get going in his rookie season, but the prized White Sox outfielder is meeting most reasonable expectations for his first year in the majors.

Jimenez smacked his 30th home run of the season Sunday in Detroit, which represents a notable round number milestone. Jimenez now has eight home runs in September and it’s only the 22nd of the month.

Jimenez launched a 2-0 slider to left center in his first at-bat to give the White Sox an early lead in Detroit.

A 30-home run season is a long way from the player Jimenez looked like in April and May. Entering June 1, the 22-year-old was hitting .220/.273/.390. He was struggling to lay off sliders out of the zone and looked a bit lost at the plate.

In June, Jimenez looked like the talented hitter the White Sox believed he was capable of becoming. He hit .284/.340/.602 with eight home runs, including a memorable go-ahead home run in Wrigley against the Cubs.

An injury playing the field in mid-July in Kansas City cost him a couple weeks and seemed to disrupt whatever rhythm he was building in June. This month, Jimenez is once again showing his elite potential. He won AL Player of the Week last week.

Jimenez’s overall numbers now have the look of a solid, promising, albeit still flawed rookie season. After Sunday, Jimenez is hitting .269/.318/.514. The power is there, but the batting average and walk rate are both lower than most expectations for him long-term. However, to put up an above average overall season at the plate as a rookie while dealing with two stints on the injured list is definitely a strong base to build from.

Expectations will be higher for Jimenez in 2020. Many will expect him to take a step towards becoming a middle of the order hitter for years to come. For now, it’s safe to look at Jimenez’s 30th home run as proof of a solid rookie campaign.

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