White Sox

James Shields routed again as White Sox blasted by Indians

James Shields routed again as White Sox blasted by Indians

CLEVELAND -- James Shields’ first three White Sox starts have been nothing short of a disaster.

The veteran’s third turn with the White Sox on Saturday night was somehow worse than the previous two outings. Shields recorded only five outs as he allowed eight earned runs and the White Sox were routed 13-2 by the Cleveland Indians in front of 31,066 at Progressive Field. Shields has a 21.81 ERA since he joined the White Sox, who fell a season-low two games below .500.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know exactly what it is right now,” Shields said. “I’m going to keep grinding. The most disappointing thing is I’m disappointing my teammates right now and my performance is not giving them a chance to win ballgames.”

The White Sox were optimistic Shields discovered something late in Monday’s start against the Detroit Tigers. Though he allowed seven runs in that contest, Shields seemed to settle in late, finishing with two scoreless innings. Shields said he felt good and White Sox manager Robin Ventura suggested Friday that pitching coach Don Cooper and the right-hander were pleased with this week’s side session.

But none of that was apparent Saturday.

Shields walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and Jason Kipnis doubled high off the left-field fence. Francisco Lindor’s RBI single made it 1-0 and Mike Napoli’s three-run, opposite-field homer to right put Cleveland ahead by four.

The Indians didn’t back off as Tyler Naquin’s two-out double made it a 5-0 game. Only a nice leaping grab by Tim Anderson spared Shields from a seven-run deficit in the first inning.

Shields’ next inning started with a walk of Kipnis and a Lindor single. He managed to record two consecutive outs but a Juan Uribe RBI single chased him and left Shields responsible for another pair of runners, both of whom scored.

Shields allowed eight earned runs and seven hits with three walks in 1.2 innings.

“Obviously something is going on,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “I don’t really know what’s going on. We’re trying to go out there with a game plan and he can’t find a way right now. I felt that he made good pitches but at the same time when everything is going wrong, everything is going to go wrong.

“I know there is nobody who feels worse than him. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. I’ve known the guy for long time. He’s pretty pissed off.”

Shields has allowed 24 hits, 22 runs (21 earned) and five home runs in 8.2 innings with the White Sox, who owe him $22 million beyond this season. He has walked nine and struck out five.

Opposing teams have sent at least seven batters to the plate in five of the nine innings started by Shields and at least eight in four frames.  

Combined with his final start for San Diego, Shields is only the 16th starting pitcher in baseball history to allow at least seven earned runs in four consecutive starts and the first since Mike Maroth in 2007.

But options beyond Shields are extremely limited for the White Sox and he’ll stay in the rotation, Ventura said Saturday.

“You’ve got to figure out this out,” Ventura said. “Even for him, you’re starting to look at him — he’s not walking guys all over the place, but you’ve got to get through it.

“Velocity-wise it’s not what he was maybe five, six years ago. But he still has stuff to get people out and you’ve got to figure it out.”

For a third straight start, Ventura had to determine how his bullpen would divvy up the rest of the workload. Matt Purke and Michael Ynoa provided critical length as they combined for five innings. Matt Albers and Zach Duke also pitched 1.1 combined innings.

“You get (the bullpen) healthy and then you want to keep those guys strong,” Ventura said.

First-place Cleveland didn’t ease off the gas, either.

Naquin’s two-run triple in the fourth inning off Purke made it 10-0.

Uribe blasted a two-run homer and Naquin hit a solo shot off Albers in the sixth to put the Indians ahead 13-2.

Jose Abreu had a two-run homer in the losing effort for the White Sox. Abreu also singled and doubled and Avisail Garcia singled to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

Melky Cabrera is day-to-day after he rolled his wrist and left the game in the fourth inning.

White Sox Talk Podcast: A.J. Pierzynski rips Manny Machado


White Sox Talk Podcast: A.J. Pierzynski rips Manny Machado

Former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski comes on the podcast and tells Chuck Garfien why he’d sign Nolan Arenado over Manny Machado (6:15).

Pierzynski criticizes Machado for saying that he doesn’t play hard everyday (7:08). Would he make Machado the face of the White Sox franchise? (12:30)

He also talks about how bullpenning cost the Milwaukee Brewers a spot in the World Series (14:45).

He reveals the former White Sox player who had a gift for recognizing players who tipped their pitches (21:00).  Pierzynski tells behind the scenes stories about former teammates Nick Swisher, Bartolo Colon, Gavin Floyd and more (28:00).

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast


A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series


A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

The White Sox are not playing in the World Series. A 100-loss season will do that.

But just because the South Siders aren't playing doesn't mean White Sox fans shouldn't pay attention to the Fall Classic. There's plenty to take from this matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that applies to South Side baseball past, present and — most importantly — future.

Chris Sale

The guy who will throw the first pitch of the 2018 World Series is one of the greatest White Sox pitchers of all time.

Sale's been grabbing headlines the last few days for an alleged belly-button ring, but the only body part of his that matters come Tuesday night is his left arm. Since the White Sox traded Sale away in the deal that kick-started the rebuild, he's been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, putting up a 2.56 ERA in 59 regular-season starts, with 545 strikeouts in his 372.1 innings. He's made five postseason appearances with the Red Sox and hasn't fared quite as well, the overall numbers ugly thanks to a seven-run outing against the eventual-champion Houston Astros last year. But this fall, he's given up just four runs and struck out 14 batters in 10.1 innings.

Sale's status as one of the game's best hurlers is a reminder of a couple things for White Sox fans watching him wear differently colored Sox this fall: 1. why they liked him so much in the first place, and 2. what kind of price it took for Boston to get him. The K Zone can be reborn, if only briefly and in the comfort of White Sox fans' own homes, for Sale's appearances in this World Series. But more importantly to the future of the South Side franchise, Sale's continued excellence is a reinforcement of the potential of Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the two biggest names in the return package. It took those guys and their incredibly high ceilings to get a pitcher as good as Sale, and that's still a good sign for the White Sox future.

This is how you rebuild

The Red Sox have a reputation as one of baseball's biggest spenders, but their roster is rife with the fruits of player development, something the rebuilding White Sox are trying to yield in their contending team of the future.

Boston has a couple big-ticket players in David Price and J.D. Martinez, but they're two of just four free-agent signings on the Red Sox World Series roster. Meanwhile, a whopping seven were drafted by Boston, including the entire starting outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and likely AL MVP Mookie Betts. The left side of their infield is a pair of international signings in Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, so that means five of the Red Sox starting nine position players (five and a half if you count Christian Vazquez, one half of the Red Sox catching tandem) have never known another organization.

The Red Sox might not win this World Series, but their roster makeup isn't dissimilar from the last two teams that hoisted a trophy, the Cubs and Astros, who boasted their own groups of homegrown stars. And here's something you might not realize: Boston had back-to-back last-place finishes in the AL East in 2014 and 2015, during which they rid themselves of veteran contracts and earned a couple high draft picks. They made the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft for all that losing. The result? Benintendi.

And so it's another October with a team proving that the tear-down-and-rebuild method can work wonders. White Sox fans might not be rooting for the Red Sox this fall, but their victory would be another for the rebuilding strategy — and should give plenty of hope to South Side fans envisioning their own group of homegrown stars leading a championship run one day.

Manny Machado

The World Series will allow White Sox fans to do a little bit of scouting on some free agents that the South Siders could pursue this winter, and there's no bigger name in that category than Machado, the Dodgers shortstop expected to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history this offseason.

Many a Twitter-using White Sox fan have had Machado on their wish list for years, though that number might be declining following some of Machado's words and actions during the NLCS. He didn't run to first on a grounder, then ignited a PR disaster by saying hustling wasn't his "cup of tea." He interfered with a pair of double-play turns by sticking his hand up while sliding into second base (the same play that, during a Crosstown game last month, ended with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson screaming at umpire Joe West). And Machado most notably dragged his foot over Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's leg in a play Aguilar's teammates called dirty after the game.

So with all that in mind, Machado and his extreme amount of talent — he's at the end of a career year that saw him slash .297/.367/.538 with 37 homers and 107 RBIs during the regular season — will be on the game's biggest stage for all to see. That includes his future team, whichever that might be. Those White Sox fans still hoping he lands on the South Side to help kick the rebuild into overdrive can watch this World Series to see just how good he is with the bat and with the glove. On the latter, should the White Sox be willing to rearrange their infield for Machado, who is insistent on playing shortstop despite his two Gold Gloves at third base? Watch and see.

Other free agents to be

But Machado's not the only player in this matchup who'll be hitting the free-agent market this winter.

Before either of these teams punched their tickets to the Fall Classic, I wrote about a pair of pitchers who will be free agents this offseason and who could make sense for the White Sox, and lo and behold they're both going to make starts in this World Series. Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to get the ball for the Dodgers in Wednesday's Game 2, and though yet to be announced, we'll likely see Nathan Eovaldi go for the Red Sox when the series shifts to Los Angeles.

Rick Hahn said the White Sox will be looking to add pitching this offseason, and Ryu and Eovaldi will both be available. Either would be an upgrade in a South Side rotation that led baseball in walks this season. Eovaldi walked just 20 guys all year, 12 in 54 innings with the Red Sox and only eight in 57 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays. That's compared to a season strikeout total of 101, for a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ryu, meanwhile, walked only 15 batters in his 82.1 innings, compared to 89 strikeouts. His ERA was a pencil-thin 1.97, significantly lower than Eovaldi's still quite good 3.81 number, which was 3.33 after the midseason trade from the Tampa. Could either one be a future White Sox starter? Maybe.

Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is also heading to free agency and could be of interest to White Sox fans who don't see a future closer among the team's crop of young relievers. He's going to cost a lot, though, a seven-time All Star with a 1.91 career ERA and eight straight seasons of at least 31 saves (40-plus in five of those).

Other bullpen guys who will be looking for jobs this winter: Joe Kelly of the Red Sox (one earned run allowed in 5.1 innings this postseason) and Ryan Madson of the Dodgers (one run allowed in 6.1 innings this postseason).

Oh, and Dodgers Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw could be a free agent, too, if he opts out of his current contract. The White Sox would figure to be quite a longshot to lure him away from Southern California, but if Kershaw were to go somewhere else, that could shake up the whole market and open up other possibilities for teams like the White Sox. Something to keep in mind.

The next important trend

The World Series and the postseason in general have been ground zero for some of the game's latest sweeping changes in recent years.

Specifically, the emphasis on relief pitching has dominated the last couple Fall Classics, and teams like the Brewers and Rays showed how good a team can be while leaning as heavily on the bullpen as any team ever has. While this World Series might not feature teams practicing "bullpenning" to those extremes, the relief corps again figure to play starring roles. If that happens, how does that impact the White Sox rebuild? Does a heavy focus on starting-pitching depth need to shift to a bigger focus on relief-pitching depth? Or do the lists of future free-agent relievers become of greater interest than players at any other position?

Or perhaps an entirely new trend is born this fall that the White Sox will have to react to while constructing their teams of the future. You won't know unless you watch the World Series.