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Jackson stings Detroit in White Sox debut

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Jackson stings Detroit in White Sox debut

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Updated: 11:58 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT Edwin Jackson takes some strange routes to domination.

His no-hitters run 149 pitches and eight walks. His most stellar season came in the hitting-happy American League.

And his debut for the first-place Chicago White Sox came in the form of a nine-hit, seven-plus inning gem against his former teammates, the Detroit Tigers.

It was this latest bout of dominant pitching that pushed the White Sox to a 4-1 win over Detroit, taking the second of three games in this key, four-game intradivisional series.

He did a great job and threw strikes, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. I didnt know he threw that hard, and his command was outstanding.

I was just attacking the strike zone, making them put the ball in play, Jackson said. When you do that, the odds are in your favor as a pitcher. And the defense worked behind me.

Jackson was uncharacteristically pinpoint with his pitches on Wednesday, finishing with just one walk and zero wild pitches. For a pitcher averaging four free passes per nine innings and who had tossed a National League-leading 13 wild pitches with the Arizona Diamondbacks, thats a sure sign that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper has immediately spun some magic.

Unmoved? Consider that until Jacksons final batter, Miguel Cabrera, no Detroit hitter worked Jackson to a single three-ball count, much less a walk.

It was my mistake letting him go out for the last inning, Guillen said. He was sitting down for too long, 20 minutes. I came out of my game plan for no reason. It wasnt a good move on my part. He couldnt find the plate. I take the blame for that one.

Despite otherwise owning the plate and drawing countless short at-bats from the Tigers, Jackson was in trouble in each of the first four innings, allowing nine total baserunners. But the righty proved elusive, leaving eight men on base in those first four innings.

The way he worked his rhythm and tempo and everything, it was really nice to see, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. As long as he throws strikes, hes going to be fine.

Chicago struck early on offense, as Juan Pierre led off the game with a single and then had his 500th career stolen base on a 3-1 count, but it was erased by Alex Rios drawing a walk on the pitch. With two on, Paul Konerko stroked a single to left, scoring Pierre.

The rest of the Chisox runs came courtesy of the long ball. The first, extending the Chicago 9s lead to 3-0, came courtesy of a Carlos Quentin missile to left in the fourth that plated Konerko as well. After the smash, the Twitterwaves were all aflutter, claiming the crack of the bat could be heard back to Chicago and all the way out to California.

Hes not far from getting back and getting very, very dangerous as a hitter, Guillen said. A couple of balls, he just barely missed. In a couple more days hes going to go back to where he was two weeks ago.

The final score came in the sixth inning, on a Konerko rocket down the left-field line.

After Jackson struggled with his control in the eighth, walking Cabrera on four pitches, he left the virus on the mound for reliever J.J. Putz to catch. Putz walked Brennan Boesch on four pitches, and after Jhonny Peralta lined out to Rios, Brandon Inge stroked a soft single to short right that triggered a bizarre chain reaction. Andruw Jones fielded the ball but fell on his throw home, where an unadvisedly aggressive Cabrera was barreling; Joness Wiffleball toss hit the pitchers mound, then ricocheted plateward to hit Cabrera as he scored. This being baseball and not kickball, the run counted, and the shutout dissipated.

That was all for Putz, who was rescued by bullpen BFF Matt Thornton. The ace lefty quickly extinguished pinch-hitters Ryan Raburn and Jeff Frazier.

In the ninth, Bobby Jenks came on for a dominating 1-2-3 save, his 23rd in 25 tries.

Jackson may only have been away from the AL Central for five months of baseball time, but after winning six games in the final two months of last season for the playoff-chasing Tigers, hes right back in the thick of thingsand on Wednesday, it was Detroit who was in the way.

We have faith in whoevers out there, said Pierzynski, who believed pitching against Detroit provided some extra excitement for Jackson. But you bring in a guy whos been an All-Star and won big games in the American League, it definitely is a plus.

Jackson disagreed with the backstops assessment of his pitching motivation on Wednesday, but that was the only way in which the pair failed to click for this perfect debut.

I didnt take any more satisfaction beating Detroit than winning the game, period, Jackson said. This is the pennant race. The key is to win every game. My job is going out every fifth day and giving our team a chance to win.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

When will Nick Madrigal reach the majors?

That, now that Luis Robert's path to an Opening Day roster spot has been cleared by a big-money contract extension, is the most pressing of the prospect-related queries facing the 2020 White Sox, a team that, it should be noted, will be turning its focus away from the minors and toward playing big league baseball in October for the first time in more than a decade.

Not unlike Robert, Madrigal shredded minor league pitching in 2019, playing at three levels and showing just how successful his elite bat-to-ball skills can make him as an offensive producer. He stepped to the plate 532 times and struck out only 16 times.

There's a reason even Rick Renteria is already calling the 22-year-old "Magic."

The general feeling seems to be that Madrigal will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, though with the waiting game apparently over on the South Side and the intent to win as many games as possible, perhaps a strong showing at spring training will see Madrigal starting at second base in the March 26 opener.

That's a question better answered after the White Sox have been in Glendale for a few weeks.

But Madrigal's goal is clear.

"I definitely want to be in Chicago as soon as I can," Madrigal said earlier this week at the team's hitters' camp out in the desert. "I know they have a plan for me one way or another, but I think that’s the ultimate goal: being in Chicago and winning with that team.

"I know this offseason there’s been a lot of moves, and I’m excited to be a part of that, hopefully, in the near future. The ultimate goal is winning. There’s nothing else at this point."

Madrigal might not have blown the doors off the minors like Robert, who finished with a 30-30 season, but he wasn't fazed by climbing through the system. Madrigal put up good-not-great numbers in nearly 50 games at Class A Winston-Salem but exploded for a .341 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage in 42 games at Double-A Birmingham before batting .331 and reaching base at a .398 clip in 29 games at Charlotte.

That he didn't even reach 30 games in a Knights uniform could signal that the White Sox might prefer a little more seasoning, but he didn't see any problems facing the pitching at Triple-A.

“Honestly, it wasn’t too different at all. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before," he said. "There were some older guys in the league, more consistent arms. I thought it wasn’t anything too different.”

Madrigal's earning high praise all over the place, rated among the best prospects in the game. He's earned rave reviews for his ability on both sides of the ball, picked by team executives (in an MLB Pipeline poll) as having one of the best hit tools and gloves of any player in the minor leagues.

There still might be some skepticism, or perhaps mere curiosity, as to how Madrigal's skill set will translate to the major leagues. Players like him, who focus on making contact and putting the ball in play, are becoming rarer in today's game, which sees a focus on power and launch angle and an acceptance of strikeouts. His manager, one of "Magic's" biggest fans, isn't too concerned about Madrigal finding success once he finally makes the jump to the bigs.

"Watching him swing the bat yesterday, I'm amazed at his bat-to-ball skills. It's incredible," Renteria said Wednesday from Arizona. "He's actually filling out a little bit more. All these guys, we've seen them for the last four years, they're growing up. And even though Magic just joined us last year, you can see a difference in him, physically speaking.

"I think his skill set, in terms of his bat-to-ball skills, as he continues to develop, you may see a ball leave the ballpark here and there. But the fact he can put the bat on the ball and manage the barrel as well as he does, he'll be able to find holes. Continuing to improve upon and cleaning his swing path, staying through the ball a little bit more and still being able to use all parts of the field, his skill set will play. He'll find a way to get on base at a high rate through probably contact and eye recognition, pitch recognition."

Rick Hahn has said that he expects Madrigal to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign, so even if he doesn't make the 26-man roster out of spring training, keep your eyes peeled for a Madrigal sighting not too deep into the baseball calendar.

This is a matter of when, not if. So the walk-up music folks at Guaranteed Rate Field better start getting ready. Will it be "Magic Man" by Heart? Or "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra? "Do You Believe in Magic" by The Lovin' Spoonful is, of course, also acceptable.

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Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

White Sox fans suddenly have reason to stop focusing on the minor leagues.

Rick Hahn's front office has done an incredible amount of work this winter adding impact veterans to the team's young core, and because of it, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side. The summer figures to be spent focusing on what Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease are doing at the major league level rather than what the potential stars of the future are doing in the minors.

In other words, the future is here.

But it's worth noting that the White Sox still have some of the best prospects in the game. It's true that a few of the biggest names among that group won't be prospects for much longer. Luis Robert just got a high-priced contract extension that clears the way for him to be in the lineup on Opening Day. While Michael Kopech will be limited in some fashion as the White Sox manage his workload in his return from Tommy John surgery, it's hardly out of the question that he could be a part of the 26-man group that leaves Glendale at the end of March. And Nick Madrigal, Hahn has said, figures to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign after he reached the doorstep of the majors last year.

The point is, however, that the White Sox core is not done growing. Moncada, Giolito, Anderson and Jimenez all broke out in big ways in 2019, and the veterans added to that group could push the team into contention mode as soon as this season. But Robert, Kopech, Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn are set to join that core, too, expanding it to one the White Sox hope will power championship contenders for years to come.

The Athletic's Jim Bowden ranked Robert as his No. 1 prospect in baseball, picking the 22-year-old center fielder to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And that's no stretch after the way Robert lit the minor leagues on fire in 2019. Playing at three different levels, he slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 31 doubles, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. He's a true five-tool threat who receives rave reviews that peg him as potentially the best of all the White Sox young talent. MLB Pipeline is in the middle of rolling out their rankings ahead of the 2020 season, and we'll learn where Robert ranks on the site's updated list next weekend during SoxFest. But most recently, Robert was the site's No. 3 prospect in the game.

Kopech still has prospect status despite the fact that he made his big league debut in August 2018. That Tommy John surgery limited his major league experience to this point to just four games, wiping out his 2019 season. Whether he'll be the same elite pitcher that was promised prior to his surgery is one of several important questions facing the 2020 White Sox, but it doesn't seem to be deterring the rankers. Bowden has Kopech as the No. 11 prospect in baseball, and MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Kopech is said to still be capable of unleashing the blazing fastball that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. The big question now is how often he'll be able to use it, with the White Sox planning to limit him in some capacity. We'll have to wait until spring to find out exactly what those limitations look like.

Madrigal might not spend a long time at Triple-A Charlotte, expected to be manning second base for the big league White Sox for the majority of the 2020 season. But like they did with Moncada, Jimenez and Robert before him, the White Sox have no plans to rush Madrigal to the majors. Bowden has him ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the game, and we'll find out soon where MLB Pipeline has him among second basemen. We already know they think the world of his glove — which was touted as Gold Glove caliber by the White Sox the night they drafted him in 2018 — naming him the second baseman on their all-defense team (he won a minor league Gold Glove for his work last season, too). MLB Pipeline also polled general managers, scouting directors and executives across all 30 teams, and Madrigal's name popped up often, voted to possess the third best hit tool, the third best glove and the highest baseball IQ among all of the game's prospects. The guy struck out just 16 times in 532 trips to the plate last season, so he's obviously doing something right.

Vaughn is receiving similarly rave reviews this winter. Bowden ranked him as the game's No. 35 prospect, and MLB Pipeline might end up putting the White Sox most recent first-round pick even higher, naming him the top first-base prospect in baseball. A slugger whose bat earned high praise when he came out of Cal last summer, Vaughn might not reach the South Side in 2020 like the rest of the guys discussed here. But he does figure to have a similar impact when he finally does. He played just 52 games between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem after joining the organization, hitting a combined five homers at those stops. He's still swinging the bat that launched 50 homers and drove in 163 runs over three seasons in college. That aforementioned MLB Pipeline executive poll? In it, Vaughn was picked as having the second best hit tool in the game. The White Sox just gave Abreu a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the South Side through at least the 2022 campaign, but the 37-year-old Encarnacion could be here as briefly as one year (his contract has an option for 2021), potentially opening up a spot for Vaughn should everything go right in the minors.

And this is without even mentioning guys like Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever, who could all wind up playing important roles on the pitching staff.

So while there is plenty of reason for your minor league interest to wane — because meaningful baseball is expected to be happening at the major league level in 2020 — know that the White Sox farm system (at least the tippy top of it) is still worth salivating over. These guys should be on the South Side soon, only adding fuel to the fire Hahn has built this winter.

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