White Sox

Frankie Montas provides intriguing option for White Sox going forward

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Frankie Montas provides intriguing option for White Sox going forward

Frankie Montas lights up the radar gun and has the off-speed pitches to keep major league hitters off-balance. 

He’s got the type of arm that would be ideal in the bullpen during the late innings, but the other element Montas brings to the team is his experience as a starter.

In the minors, Montas has been used a starter. This year in Birmingham, the right-hander started 23 games and had a good deal of success, going 5-5 with a 2.97 ERA while striking out 108 and walking 48. 

Montas flashed on Sunday why he was the No. 3 prospect in the team’s organization according to MLBPipeline.com coming into the year. 

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After getting himself into a jam in the sixth inning against the Twins when he loaded the bases and allowed a RBI hit to Joe Mauer with only one out, Montas used his dynamic arsenal to battle and get the young and talented Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe, who feasted on Sox pitching all weekend, swinging. 

“I was like ‘Come on, don’t let them score’ and just hit the spot and make good pitches,” Montas said.

Sunday was only Montas’ third major league appearance, but it was also his longest. The other two outings he only went one inning each. White Sox manager Robin Ventura was pleased to see Montas take advantage of the situation the team was in by working through tough innings.

“I thought he battled well,” Ventura said. “Even in some situations loading up the bases in the middle of their lineup, he found a way to find something and get out of it. For him to get in there and go multiple innings was big for us to eat up some innings because (Chris) Sale didn’t go that long.”

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Montas likely won’t factor in to the rotation picture for 2016 but could be a tempting option coming out of the bullpen to go along with other power pitches such as Nate Jones, Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam. Another option, thanks to Montas’ history as a starter, would be to have him as the “long man” in the bullpen when a starter is pulled early. 

Catcher Tyler Flowers admitted he and Montas still have some work to do to get on the same page with his breaking balls but the rookie’s stuff is good enough to make hitters look silly.

“I thought he did a really nice job executing pitches later in counts, going for the strikeout and making sure he's down,” Flowers said. “That only works when you can throw it for strikes, and he was doing that.

“Plus he throws 100, so that helps, too. Little leniency as far as the command with the fastball. That also makes hitters tend to chase more pitches with the breaking ball. You kind of have to gear up for 98, 100, so you can get some funky swings on off-speed pitches.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Four-hit day for Eloy Jimenez

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Four-hit day for Eloy Jimenez

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Eloy Jimenez had four hits, including a pair of doubles to boost his batting average to .322 on the season. Seby Zavala hit his 10th home run of the season and drove in a pair of runs in the 7-2 loss. Spencer Adams got the start and allowed four runs but also struck out nine in just 4.2 innings of work.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez had two doubles and Evan Skoug had two hits in a 3-2 win. Big leaguer Carlos Rodon made a rehab start and struck out six, allowing one run in five innings.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had a hit and Thyago Vieira threw a scoreless inning in an 8-4 loss.

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

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USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”