White Sox

James Shields makes 2017 debut, Nate Jones hurt in White Sox victory

James Shields makes 2017 debut, Nate Jones hurt in White Sox victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox want James Shields to erase last season from his memory and start anew in 2017.

The veteran starting pitcher took the first steps toward the regular season on Wednesday afternoon when he allowed a run and two hits in two innings in his spring debut.

Despite later losing Nate Jones to a bruised knee, the White Sox rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch. Jones, who leaves to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic next week, is day to day after he took a comebacker off his right knee in the sixth inning.

“I guess one of the best attributes for a baseball player is to have amnesia,” Shields said. “But I’m not really worried about last season. I’m focused on right now and the work I put in this offseason, the work I’m putting in during spring training now. So far I feel really good, and hopefully we’ll move forward and progress as we go.”

Shields’ struggles in 2016 were well documented. He went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox after he arrived in June 4 trade from the San Diego Padres. Included in that run was a 21.82 ERA over Shields’ first three starts. Shields allowed 40 home runs on the season between San Diego and Chicago.

The White Sox are hoping for better production from Shields, to whom they owe $22 million through 2018. The Padres are on the hook for the remaining $22 million on a deal Shields signed before the 2015 season.

“This is a fresh start,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I don’t think it’s changing any other thing than it’s a new year. He’s obviously a gentleman that’s been in the game quite a while. He’s had some really good success over his career and I think he just wants to go out there and be himself again, try to just command the zone as he has in the past, be able to sequence his pitches and execute.”

Shields hit 91 mph on the radar gun and sat between 88-90 in a perfect first inning. He struck out two batters and walked none.

Jones had recorded two outs in the seventh inning before he took a one-hopper off his right knee and immediately limped toward the dugout. The right-hander was attended to for several minutes in the dugout by athletic trainer Brian Ball before he headed to the clubhouse. Jones’ gait was visibly improved as he walked off the field.

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Closer David Robertson allowed a run in his lone inning for the White Sox. Cory Luebke struck out three in two scoreless innings. Downers Grove-product Zack Burdi struck out two and didn’t allow a run in his inning while Jake Petricka pitched a scoreless sixth.

Nick Delmonico homered and singled in two trips. Courtney Hawkins also drove in two runs and singled twice, including once to setup the game-winning rally. Leury Garcia singled in the winning run.

As Dallas Keuchel calls out teammates' effort, White Sox response is critical

As Dallas Keuchel calls out teammates' effort, White Sox response is critical

While Rick Renteria’s decision to hold a team meeting before Monday’s game in Detroit wasn’t necessarily noteworthy, the White Sox's lackluster performance in the team's 5-1 loss to the Tigers following that meeting was significant – and concerning.

Just ask the starting pitcher.

“We just came out flat, and I feel like we just stayed flat the whole game,” Dallas Keuchel said. “We’ve got some guys coming out and taking professional at-bats, being professional on the mound and doing what it takes to win, and we’ve got some guys kind of going through the motions.”

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That’s a frustrated veteran calling out the effort of his teammates, which can be a tricky thing to do when you’ve made all of four starts in a White Sox uniform. But Keuchel was brought to Chicago for his experienced leadership and he’s been the team’s most steady performer through 17 games, giving the White Sox four chances to win in his four starts -- with only a 2-2 record to show for it.

Yes, the White Sox are banged up. Yes, they arrived in Detroit early Monday morning after a grueling loss to the Indians on national television Sunday night.

Keuchel isn’t here for the excuses.

“We got in at 2:30 in the morning. We played a tough ballgame against the Indians. That’s who we’re going to have to beat if we’re going to win this division or we get into the playoffs,” Keuchel said. “It just seemed like we were taking a night off. We can’t afford that with a young core that we have here. We’ve got to show up every day, and even if there’s no fans, we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to go. And if we’re not ready to go, we’ve got to fake it until we make it.”

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Keuchel was ready. It wasn’t his sharpest outing, but he only allowed three runs in six innings, once again giving his team a chance to win the game. Instead, the offense was lifeless, and the defense was sloppy, as an Adam Engel misplay in centerfield resulted in the second inside-the-park home run allowed in five days.

And all this after Renteria tried to get the team to regroup before the game. Team meetings aren’t uncommon at the start of road trips, but this one came after the team’s second 1-4 stretch of the season.

“(We met) about everything,” Renteria said before his team lost its fifth game in six days. “How we're proceeding, staying positive, trying to learn from everything that is going on. Trying to take advantage of every opportunity that they're getting, and I think they're looking forward to trying to have a nice game today.”

That didn’t happen. Sometimes you can chalk that up to it being baseball, but Monday was different, and Keuchel clearly saw a lack of focus in his teammates as he “emptied the tank” on the mound.

“We need to clean a lot of things up,” he said. “If we want to be in this thing at the end of the season, we’re going to have to start that now. Like I mentioned to you guys before, when you have enough talent to potentially win every game, it’s very frustrating when you have games like this, and it just seems like we were out of it from the get-go.”

The White Sox needed to hear the pitcher’s critical comments, but the response from the clubhouse could determine the direction this young team heads in with 43 games to go. Will they object to a new guy calling them out in the media? Or will they respect a veteran voice who was part of a Houston Astros team that successfully pulled out of a rebuild to win the World Series? And will Keuchel’s dubious connection to that Astros team hurt his credibility at all in this situation?

These are all fair questions, but the White Sox would be wise to listen to a guy who has logged 1325.2 Major League innings, pitched in the postseason four out of the last five years and hasn’t been on a losing team since 2014.

I don’t need to remind you that the White Sox haven’t had a winning season since 2012 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008.

“There's going to be a lot of learning curves for this team just because of the process this team has kind of been under the last 2-3 years,” Keuchel said. “And this is one of them.”

Renteria wasn’t as willing to question his team’s effort after they fell to 8-9 on the season, but he did mention a need for accountability.

“My feeling is that I think we got a lot of guys that are going to be holding each other accountable in that clubhouse,” the manager said. “I'm very confident in that.”

Just minutes later, Keuchel said what he said.

Now it's up to his teammates to respond on the field.

 

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Dallas Keuchel frustrated with White Sox' effort in loss to Tigers

Dallas Keuchel frustrated with White Sox' effort in loss to Tigers

Dallas Keuchel took his teammates to task after Monday’s uninspiring 5-1 loss at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox arrived in Detroit in the wee hours Monday morning after losing a hard-fought, extra innings, rain-delayed game vs. the Indians on Sunday, and Keuchel says the team let that carry over into Monday’s game.

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“I would’ve liked to see the team play better tonight,” Keuchel said. “We just came out flat, and I feel like we stayed flat the whole game.

“We’ve got some guys coming out and taking professional at-bats, being professional on the mound, and doing what it takes to win, and we’ve got some guys kinda going through the motions. So, we need to clean a lot of things up.

“If we wanna be in this thing at the end of the season, we’re going to have to start that now. When you have enough talent to potentially win every game it’s very frustrating when you have games like this and it just seems like we were out of it from the get go... Today was one of the first games I've seen subpar play from everybody."

While that is obviously not the assessment fans want to hear from one of the top free agents the White Sox brought in this season, it’s that leadership that the team coveted so much from Keuchel in the first place. Leading is easy during a hot streak, but it’s more important during losing skids. Keuchel seems to understand that’s what the White Sox need as they try to transition from rebuilding team to playoff contenders.

“There’s going to be a lot of learning curves for this team, just because of the process that this team has been under for the last two or three years, and this is one of them. We faced a challenge tonight and hopefully we can come out tomorrow and strap it up and play some White Sox baseball.”

Tuesday’s expected return of Tim Anderson, whose energy has been noticeably missing since he suffered a groin strain on July 31, should help the team regain that spark. As one of the Sox’ most consistent hitters he should also help the sluggish offense, which has only mustered 11 runs over the last six games.

“We have a great opportunity these next couple of games to get some wins and keep moving the wagons forward,” Keuchel said. “As frustrating as it is tonight, we could very well easily come out tomorrow and play like we’re supposed to and then win the series on Wednesday.”


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