White Sox

Frustrated Robertson wants White Sox to know he's 'worth it'


Frustrated Robertson wants White Sox to know he's 'worth it'

CLEVELAND -- His save rate stands at 80.6 percent but David Robertson feels like he still has much to prove to his new team.

Though Robertson has converted 29 of 36 save attempts, his performance isn’t what he hoped to bring to the White Sox after signing a four-year, $46-million contract in December. So even though the team’s postseason chances have vanished (the White Sox tragic number for the wild card is nine and they can no longer win the American League Central after Friday’s loss) Robertson feels like he has something to play for over the final 16 games of the 2015 campaign. Robertson is 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings this season.

“I want these guys to leave this year having confidence in me knowing that when I come in the ninth inning I’m going to finish their game and hand them the ball with the win,” Robertson said. “I have to pitch better. They gave me a contract for a reason and I’ve got to perform to the best of my abilities to show people that I’m worth it.”

Robertson is his own harshest critic and the past week has been particularly difficult. He blew his seventh save on Thursday when he allowed a three-run homer to Billy Butler on the heels of Monday’s performance where he yielded four runs (two earned) and just about everything went wrong.

But given the choice between this year’s bullpen and the one he managed in 2014, Robin Ventura would take the current version 11 times out of 10.  He understands the frustration but appreciates the stability Robertson has brought to the White Sox bullpen.

“There are more roles,” Ventura said. “Those were defined early. You bring Robbie in, a guy that’s been a closer for a while, it moves everybody else around.

“The closer role is such a fine line. It’s pass or fail every time he goes out. There are very few times he’s in a game when the game doesn’t hang in the balance. So when it doesn’t go well, it’s magnified, he feels terrible. Nobody feels worse than he does. He takes it hard, and he’s able to get over it the next day, but he still takes it hard.”

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Stability doesn’t mean as much to Robertson because he expected he would provide it when the White Sox signed him through 2018. He knows it’s not realistic to convert 100 percent of his save chances (the top closers convert close to 90 percent) but Robertson expects to do that.

Even though his walk rate (2.04 batters per nine innings) is the lowest of his career, Robertson believes 2015 is his worst season to date. His 66 percent strand rate is the lowest of his career, down from a career mark of 79.1 percent. When he converted 39 of 44 saves for the New York Yankees in 2014, Robertson left 77.7 percent of his runners on base.

Some can be attributed to bad luck but Robertson said the rest is on him.

“I’ve had some interesting things happen in some games this year that I’ve never had happen,” Robertson said. “But I haven’t made enough quality pitches in big outings when I’ve needed to.

“I’m not pleased at all with my performance this year. I’ve felt like I’ve thrown the ball worse than I’ve thrown it in the last six years. This has been a really bad year for me. I don’t want to be that guy who’s iffy, wishy-washy when it comes to the ninth. I want to be the guy who’s solid, who’s lock down and it has been tough for me because I’ve had a lot of bad games this year.”

Dylan Cease, pitching tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, showing why he’s a part of White Sox bright future

Dylan Cease, pitching tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, showing why he’s a part of White Sox bright future

Dylan Cease isn’t the highest-ranked pitching prospect in the White Sox system. He wasn’t even the highest-ranked prospect in the trade that brought him to this organization.

But Cease is doing anything but flying under the radar, a testament to the amount of minor league talent and the level of interest in this rebuilding process.

Cease, no slouch in the rankings at No. 5 in the White Sox organization and No. 56 in baseball, is having a nice season at Class A Winston-Salem. He enters Thursday night’s game — which will air on NBC Sports Chicago — with a 3.12 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 40.1 innings of work. Last time out, he bounced back from his only real rough start of the campaign, throwing six shutout innings. It paled only in comparison to his finest start of the year: seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts on the first day of May.

Earlier this month, he spoke on a conference call about some of his hopes for and improvements made during the 2018 season.

“Making every start is probably one of the most important things when it comes to being a starting pitcher,” Cease said. “For me, my goals are more execution-based. How am I executing my pitches? How are they coming out of my hand? Things like that. But that’s definitely on the back-burner of something I want to do.

“I definitely feel like I’ve taken a step forward (with my command). The ability is there, it’s just whether you can consistently do it. And for me, I feel like I’ve been doing it better, and I’m continuing to kind of narrow down on my process and find the consistent things I need to do in order to put myself in a position to execute my pitches. So it’s definitely getting better.”

White Sox fans who haven’t taken the leap and sprung for the minor league streaming service will finally get a chance to see Cease pitch for the first time since an impressive spring training, when he pitched 6.1 shutout innings over three outings, allowing just three hits.

It was a big deal for the 22-year-old, acquired not a full year prior in that crosstown trade with the Cubs.

“I definitely would’ve said I was a little bit nervous,” Cease said. “But being able to get big league guys out and see that I can do it and then start those games, it made me feel that I was closer.

“I think the most valuable thing about that was seeing that I could do it. It gives me that much more motivation to keep working on my craft and get up there and be consistent with it.”

Cease is still pitching at the Class A level, so it might be a while before he’s pitching in the majors. But he seems to have as good a shot as anyone of competing for a spot in the White Sox crowded rotation of the future. He’s got stiff competition, obviously, with the likes of Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez all pitching at higher levels of the system, including the major leagues.

But if Cease can keep pitching like he has been, he’ll keep his name in the discussion.

Charlie Tilson gets another chance with White Sox after Leury Garcia hits the DL


Charlie Tilson gets another chance with White Sox after Leury Garcia hits the DL

Charlie Tilson is finally back in the major leagues. And this time, he’s hoping he can stick around for more than one game.

Tilson, currently ranked as the White Sox No. 15 prospect, was brought up from Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday, joining the active roster after the team placed Leury Garcia on the 10-day disabled list with a left knee sprain.

Tilson, a Wilmette native and New Trier High School product, came over to the White Sox from the St. Louis Cardinals in a midseason trade in 2016 and got a hit in his first big league at-bat. But in the same game, he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury while trying to make a diving catch in the outfield. The following spring, he suffered another serious injury, a stress fracture in his foot, and was forced to sit out the entire season.

He missed out on an Opening Day roster spot this year when Adam Engel outperformed him during spring training. But the White Sox hope Tilson will be able to provide some production in an outfield that has struggled in that department this season. Engel, even after a four-hit night on Wednesday, is batting just .212. Trayce Thompson is hitting well under .200. And Avisail Garcia and Nicky Delmonico are dealing with their own significant injuries as Leury Garcia joins them on the DL.

Tilson batted .248 in 39 games at Charlotte this season prior to Thursday’s call-up. He had three hits in Wednesday night’s loss.