White Sox

In a groove, Mat Latos solidifying White Sox rotation

In a groove, Mat Latos solidifying White Sox rotation

A precarious situation faced Mat Latos and the White Sox on Sunday afternoon. The Texas Rangers had runners on first and third with one out, and their lineup about to turn back over to the top of the order. Up two, manager Robin Ventura decided to keep the 28-year-old Latos in the game instead of turning to reliever Zach Duke.

Rangers left fielder Ryan Rua hit a smash up the middle that Latos snared and fired to second, where shortstop Tyler Saladino was waiting to sling the ball over to first base for an inning-ending double play. Latos exited with a massive fist pump, capping another strong outing for the right-hander the White Sox signed to a one-year, $3 million deal before spring training.

Latos has won all four starts he’s made this season and has a sparkling 0.74 ERA. Opponents have a .167 batting average on balls in play against him, which isn’t sustainable. He’s stranded 97 percent of the baserunners that’ve reached against him; Zack Greinke led the major leagues with an 86.5 percent strand rate in 2015. Eventually, more runners will get on base, and more of them will come around to score.

But after dealing with a rash of injuries over the last two seasons, Latos has pitched impressively from the back end of the White Sox rotation.

“Next time he starts there’s going to be some guys on, too,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “So it’s just a matter of making your pitch at the moment you need it, and he did that today.

From a results perspective, Latos’ spring was a disaster. He allowed 16 runs (15 earned) in 13 innings with nine strikeouts, six walks and two home runs. But sometimes, things click when the games start mattering.

“Spring Training and the season are two different things, or at least it’s the way I look at it,” Latos said. “I’ve said time and time again it only takes one pitch, one bullpen session, for everything just to click. (Pitching coach) Don Cooper and I put a plan together every time I grab a baseball. Every day I pick a baseball up, he has a plan for me.

“And you take that to heart. You want to make it work. We’ve incorporated everything we did in Spring Training and still what we are doing now into every game and everything has been clicking. I’ve been grateful and fortunate. Offense has picked me up, swung the bat really well on days that I’ve pitched. I’ve been able to keep zeroes on the board, and the defense has shown up behind me.”

Latos allowed one run in six innings against Texas, and his ERA actually went up because of it, from 0.49 to 0.74. His fastball, according to FanGraphs, is averaging 89.5 miles per hour, easily the lowest velocity of his career.

But as long as he’s hitting his spots with it and changing speeds, he’s shown early on he can consistently get outs. A strong rapport with Navarro has given Latos a boost, too.

“There are times where I’ve been on the mound and I’m looking at him going, 'Why are we throwing this pitch right here?'” Latos said. “But I’m still throwing it and still getting outs. I don’t want to say questioning him. But it’s more of the situation, maybe I would have gone something different but it’s still getting outs. That to me shows a guy who really knows how to call the game.”

The word Ventura used over and over again when talking about Latos was confidence. Not only is Latos pitching with confidence, the team has confidence in him, and he has confidence in the defense behind him.

And as long as Latos keeps opposing offenses off the board, that confidence won’t go away.

“This guy is confident right now in being able to throw strikes and put it where he wants to,” Ventura said. “If you can get guys swinging and not really getting good looks at you, the one that he gave up, that’s the one that’ll get you every once in a while. But for the most part, he’s not giving people good looks.”

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

dylan_cease_sox_podcast_slide.jpg
AP

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

Coming to you from Washington DC, we speak with Dylan Cease who competed in the MLB Futures Game along with his Birmingham Barons teammate Luis Basabe. 

Cease talks about the White Sox loaded farm system, what players have impressed him the most, where he gets his composure on the mound and more. 

Check out the entire podcast here:

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the prospect who got away: White Sox fans, read this at your own risk

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the prospect who got away: White Sox fans, read this at your own risk

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fernando Tatis, Jr. is one of the brightest future stars in the game. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, one spot behind Eloy Jimenez.

He’s a five-tool shortstop slashing .289/.359/.509 at Double-A San Antonio with 15 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 85 games. He’s bilingual, charismatic, the kind of guy who could be a face of a franchise.

And two years ago, he was property of the White Sox.

That was until they traded Tatis, who was only 17 at the time, to the Padres for James Shields. Tatis had yet to play a single game in the White Sox farm system, so it was tough to predict his future. However, speaking with Tatis before he competed in the MLB Futures Game on Sunday, the trade was definitely a shock to him.

“I was surprised. It was weird. For a kid that young to get traded, I had never heard of it. When they told me that, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Tatis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

No front office is going to bat 1.000, and when it comes to Tatis, this is a trade the White Sox would love to have back.

But first, more perspective.

In June of 2016, six months before the White Sox started their rebuild, they were 29-26, a game and a half out of first place. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a healthy Carlos Rodon anchoring their rotation, they felt that with the addition of Shields, they could compete for the division.

Unfortunately, perception didn’t meet reality. Shields struggled on the mound with the White Sox in 2016 and 2017. His numbers have improved considerably, and he could return the White Sox another prospect if he’s dealt before the trade deadline. However, it’s unlikely they’ll receive a player with the potential that Tatis has right now.

“(The trade) was about getting a good starter so they could get to the playoffs. I understood. I know this game is a business,” Tatis said.

Before the trade occurred, Tatis looked into his future and saw a day when he’d be the White Sox starting shortstop.

“Yeah, that was my goal when (White Sox director of international scouting) Marco Paddy signed me,” Tatis said. “We talked about it when I started and that was the goal.”

His goal now is to make it to the major leagues with the Padres.

“I’m pretty close. I want to keep working. When they decide to call me up, I’ll be ready.”

As for his former team, he’s impressed with the talent the White Sox have assembled.

“They’re building something special. They have really good prospects. I wish the best for them.”

You can’t help but wonder what the rebuild would look like if Tatis was along for the ride. He’s the one who got away.