White Sox

Improved routine has Erik Johnson ready for second shot with White Sox

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Improved routine has Erik Johnson ready for second shot with White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS — Erik Johnson is back, and the White Sox intend to see what he can bring to the table in his second go-around.

Johnson is one of four players who was promoted (three from Triple-A Charlotte) when rosters expanded to 40 players on Tuesday along with catcher Rob Brantly and utility man Leury Garcia. Frankie Montas, the team’s top pitching prospect, also was promoted from Double-A Birmingham, and both he and Johnson are expected to start in the bullpen.

But, general manager Rick Hahn identified Johnson — who was demoted to Charlotte after five starts in 2014 despite entering 2014 as the club’s No. 2 prospect — as the first in line to get a start this month. Early Tuesday, Johnson was named the International League pitcher of the year.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Hahn said. “No matter what happens here over the next few weeks, he’s already had a great year, unlike last year where it started out rough and he’s sort of playing catch up. He’s already accomplished a great deal in 2015 and should head into the offseason with a great deal of confidence and the feeling that he’s very much back in the mix in being part of a major league rotation in 2016.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox call up Francellis Montas, three others]

Johnson started 2014 in the rotation but posted a 6.46 ERA in five starts and was demoted. He never made it back even though the team struggled all season and finished with 89 losses, sliding off the prospect map almost altogether.

But Johnson arrived at spring training with a desire “to make moves,” and he’s done that all season.

Had it not been for an extremely healthy season from the White Sox starting rotation, Johnson would have been here earlier as he went 11-8 with a 2.37 ERA and struck out 136 batters in 132 2/3 innings at Charlotte. He was the starting pitcher for the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game and has been dominant.

Johnson said the key has been identifying a routine and sticking to it.

“It was just learning how my body works the best,” Johnson said. “Just knowing and going through your routine and really getting to know your arm, your body and how you can attack.

“Routine is the biggest thing that leads you to predictability. For me, I know it’s almost a soothing feeling where I can go do my routine and get what I need to get done, so I feel prepared and I feel ready for that fifth day. It’s almost like knocking down dominoes.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox pitcher Erik Johnson named International League's Most Valuable Pitcher]

Both Hahn and White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Johnson’s routine over the final month could include several starts. Ventura is curious to see how Johnson responds though the White Sox will have to pick and choose spots.

“We’d of course like to get him an opportunity to start at some point,” Ventura said. “Hopefully more than one.

“There’s not probably much of a difference as how we look at it as he looks at it. He’d like another shot at it, see where he’s at.”

Johnson has a pretty good idea where he is and feels ready for any opportunity the White Sox throw at him. He’s felt good all season and looks forward to showing it off at the MLB level.

“It wasn’t one specific game,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t one specific catch or bullpen. It was just kind of getting to know and making adjustments, whether it’s during the game or if it’s midweek, where I can make some adjustments before my next start. Just being able to recognize something that might have come up last game that I need to address and just be ready for the next time out.”

Major League Baseball swinging and missing on big opportunity

Major League Baseball swinging and missing on big opportunity

Major League Baseball was lobbed an 0-2 pitch right over the center of the plate. Not only did it swing and miss, it fell over into a cloud of dust.

In the middle of a global pandemic, baseball had a chance to be America’s symbol of hope. Summer’s pastime should have been a rallying cry and a source of healing. And with that would have come a vast number of eyeballs, new fans and high television ratings.

The long-term gain for baseball was obvious. All it needed was leaders of the game to come together with cool heads and good faith to hash out an agreement.

Apparently, that wasn’t possible.

I’m using past tense because it feels like the damage has already been done. I still believe baseball will be played in 2020, but the potential goodwill that could have been built up with fans feels lost.

The easy thing to do is blame the players for being greedy. But would you do your job for 25 percent of your salary, as some players are being asked to do?

But this is an extraordinary situation and these millionaires have plenty of money and are just playing a game!

That’s way too simplistic of a view that lacks decades of context between baseball’s players and owners, but the players still showed some awareness of that line of thinking when they agreed to prorated salaries back in March. This is a sport with guaranteed contracts and the players agreed that if they only play half the games, they should only receive half of their money. In return, the owners agreed to grant players full service time in 2020 no matter how many games are played.

It was a common-sense agreement in the midst of a crisis and suggested that goodwill could be built up in a sport that hasn’t had very much trust over the last few years.

But two months later, the situation is very different. The owners, perhaps with the realities of their short-term losses setting in, are asking the players to take even more cuts. The players have balked. The fans have lost.

There’s been a lot of extreme rhetoric during these negotiations, but this independent piece by entrepreneur Roger Ehnrenberg does a good job of explaining why owners are essentially asking players to finance their short-term losses from COVID-19.

Ehnrenberg writes: “During COVID-19, there has been a short-term hit to asset value as ticket sales, ad revenues, merchandise sales, etc. have slowed to a trickle. The owners have fixed costs (like stadium leases and/or maintenance, supporting the farm system and supposedly player contracts) that need to be covered regardless of revenues, so on a cash flow basis the lack of baseball is costing them real cash. But guess what — this is what being an equity owner is — benefiting from the ups but paying for the downs. But that’s not what the owners want — they want their highly compensated employees to cushion the blow, without any return for what is an implicit financing of the owners by these players.”

Look at it like this: If players insisted on receiving their full, already agreed-upon prorated salaries, but also agreed to defer the payments in effort to help cash flow problems in 2020, they’d essentially be financing the owners with zero interest. From a business perspective, this alone would be a generous offer from the players and multiple sources have told NBC Sports Chicago that deferred payments could end up being the compromise in this situation.

But the proposal sent to the MLBPA earlier this week asked for more. At this point, the players are not expected to respond to that proposal. Instead, they’ll come up with their own proposal.

Ehrenberg details other conventional ways owners can cover their short-term losses. For example, they could secure a bank loan. Or, on the more extreme end, they could sell part of the team.

“This is the way things work in the real business world,” he writes.

The smart move is for baseball to embrace the long-term gains that can come with getting back on the field and being a symbol of hope in America. This would bring new fans to the game and heal wounds with others that have left the game.

Operating in good faith and assuming a short-term financial hit might not be the easy thing for owners to do, but it is the right thing to do for baseball. The money and profits will still be there in the future and there will be more of it if the sport is able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Instead, Major League Baseball is alienating its players and fans even more than it has in the past. What’s especially concerning is the impact the current disagreements will have on the next labor negotiations in 2021.

The quick, sensible negotiations in March pointed to potential peace and respect between the two sides. Indeed, this was an opportunity for owners to regain the trust that has eroded over the last three years. Instead, that opportunity appears to be lost.

Baseball can’t stomach the complete loss of the 2020 season. Add in a labor strife when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021? Ouch.

Someone in Major League Baseball must see the damage that is being done. The 0-2 pitch right down the middle was spoiled. Perhaps there’s still a chance to get back in the game.

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White Sox selling special T-shirts to support Chicago coronavirus response

White Sox selling special T-shirts to support Chicago coronavirus response

Want to get a cool-looking White Sox T-shirt and support an important cause at the same time?

You're in luck.

The White Sox announced Friday that they're selling T-shirts with a pair of limited-edition designs to support the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund.

The shirts, sporting elements of the White Sox logos, the Chicago city flag and the slogan "Chicago Together," went on sale at whitesox.com/chicagotogether at 10 a.m. Friday morning.

RELATED: Eloy Jiménez makes surprise donation to workers making masks in Little Village

As the White Sox mentioned in their announcement, the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund is a collaboration with the City of Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust and United Way of Metro Chicago that disburses funds to local nonprofit organizations serving the region’s most vulnerable neighbors. In March, the White Sox and the Bulls commited $200,000 to support the fund.

NBC Sports Chicago put on the "Be Chicago" fundraiser show to support the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. You can watch that show in its entirety right here.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.