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.

Tim Anderson won't stick to sports: 'This problem is bigger than baseball'

Tim Anderson won't stick to sports: 'This problem is bigger than baseball'

Tim Anderson is a baseball player. It’s how he makes a living for him and his family.

In this moment in history, he affirmed that indeed he is finding it difficult to try to care about baseball.

“I guess you could just say take care of what really matters,” he said during a conference call Monday afternoon. “I think this problem is bigger than baseball at the moment.”

Anderson, the reigning big league batting champ and the only Black American player on the White Sox roster, sees what’s happening across the country, watching the thousands of protesters demanding an end to police brutality against and the police killings of Black people in the wake of the death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis.

“Definitely witnessing something I only have heard about but I never have lived in,” he said. “It was definitely crazy. Just to see the things that are going on and how the world is reacting, I think there are a lot of angry people out there who feel like they are going unheard.

“I think that’s why it’s boiling down the way it is and things are happening the way they are. There’s a lot of angry people out there.”

It’s impossible to think about athletes and the issue of police brutality against Black people and not think of Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who took a stand by taking a knee during the national anthem at NFL games. He enraged plenty in the process and has remained jobless despite being a Super Bowl quarterback in a league constantly searching for answers at the position.

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Anderson hasn’t gone that far. He said he hasn’t participated in any of the protests. His public response to the current climate can be summed up in a few tweets, the most striking of which featured four pictures of him posing in front of the aftermath of Saturday night’s protests and separate acts of destruction and vandalism in Chicago. Monday, he described “the good, the bad and the ugly” of that aftermath as a piece of history, as well as art.

But as he’s made clear before, he’s not going to “stick to sports,” the instruction often lobbed at athletes who dare speak about anything but their chosen profession. Fans are always hungry for a baseball player’s comments on baseball. A certain subset of them has zero tolerance for their comments on just about anything else.

It’s a ridiculous way to act, as if all people should reserve their thoughts to their job and nothing more. And in these times with sports on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderson perfectly explained why.

“We stand for more than just sports,” he said. “If you remove the sports, as you can see now, then what are we? We're human beings. We stand for more than our job title.

“People are trying to be themselves instead of just being ‘the baseball player.’ … I think it's just allowing more people to be themselves.”

Who knows how prevalent the tough conversations that lead to change are in clubhouses across Major League Baseball. Some players have spoken out on Twitter, including White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito. Asked about his conversations on these subjects with his teammates, Anderson singled out Giolito as someone he’s talked to before and someone who “gets it.”

“Gio is the person … we kind of conversate on a different level when it comes to certain things,” Anderson said. “You hear his perspective, and always using that as a learning tool. … He’s understanding it and kind of speaking out because we have talked about things, what it’s like growing up being black and how things are just not always what they are now.

“Definitely bold of him to speak out. Let me know he felt the love. I always knew how Gio felt about things and certain situations because that is a person I talk to. Just to see that, I definitely felt the love. He gets it and he understands it. So, I think that’s why he posted it. He wants what’s best, as well. I think we all do.”

Anderson isn’t even participating in the protests, and it's unfair to ask him to speak for Black America just because he’s the Black guy on his major league team.

But he’s an American citizen like the rest of us, and he’s choosing not to stick to sports and to act in a way he hopes can help solve what’s plaguing our country.

“We're at a moment where we need everybody's love, regardless of what race,” he said. “I think we're at a moment where we need to hold hands, every race, every color, it don't matter. I think we move better as one.”

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MLB could shrink season to 50 games if no deal reached with players

MLB could shrink season to 50 games if no deal reached with players

How short a baseball season is too short a baseball season?

Major League Baseball’s latest thought as negotiations over the fate of the 2020 campaign continue: a season of only 50-something games.

Though initially reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan as an impending proposal from the league, it was later clarified by both Passan and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman that there is no intention to formally propose a shortened season but that the March agreement between the league and the union allows the league to mandate a shortened season if it sees fit.

Basically, it’s a possible route the league could take if the two parties can’t come to an agreement.

With that March agreement, the players agreed to receive prorated salaries during a season shortened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But staring at a steep drop in revenue without paying customers in the stands, the owners have insisted it is not economically feasible to pay the players that much and also stage a season that is even half the normal length.

Last week, the league proposed further pay cuts in a sliding-scale system that would have lower salaried players receiving close to their full prorated salaries and highly paid players getting hammered with pay cuts the union called massive.

The players, led by the voice of Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, said that there was no point in discussing further reductions in compensation until the owners could provide adequate proof of their financial hardships. While there would be an obvious drop in revenues due to games played without fans, there would still be revenues, perhaps a lot of them, thanks to lucrative TV contracts. But without access to that information, the players are hesitant to trust the owners’ claims.

And so they pitched more games, 114 of them, to be precise, which would theoretically allow the owners to earn more TV revenue while allowing players to earn more money in prorated salaries.

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That seems to be far too much in the estimation of the owners. As The Athletic’s Jayson Stark tweeted Monday, the owners seem to be telling the players that there is a certain amount of money available to spend on player salaries and players can either make that money over a 50-game season (with full prorated salaries) or an 82-game season (with additional pay cuts).

Reports Monday indicated the league will continue to negotiate with the union on the number of games for a 2020 season, which ESPN’s Karl Ravech assured Monday will happen.

While money remains the hottest discussion topic, let’s not forget all of this is taking place during an ongoing pandemic, and an MLB-imposed 50-game schedule would have its benefits from a health standpoint. Players, especially starting pitchers, who find a brief second round of spring training insufficient to get their bodies into game shape would have vastly more off days than normal, allowing their bodies to prepare and recover. With the red flags surrounding the league’s proposed coronavirus testing strategy, cutting down the number of days players would be going into work would cut down the opportunities for the virus to spread.

Fans, however, might not greet this possibility with those things in mind, choosing instead to focus on a season so short it would make any champion illegitimate in their minds. But another opportunity exists under those circumstances, for fans to see what baseball is like as a sprint rather than a marathon and whether that adds excitement to a game criticized for an at times glacial pace.

Throughout these discussions, there have been reports of baseball's desire to end the postseason — which is expected to be expanded from 10 teams to 14 teams, the players even including that as part of their most recent proposal — as close to the end of October as possible. The league is supposedly fearful of an increased public-health risk come fall.

Soon, with the days moving regardless of whether or not these two sides can come to an agreement, the playable window will begin shrinking, forcing the number of games in the season to shrink with it.

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