White Sox

Jeff Samardzija's first White Sox victory 'feels great'

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Jeff Samardzija's first White Sox victory 'feels great'

The “feels like” temperature on Weather.com said it was 31 degrees at first pitch on Wednesday and Jeff Samardzija probably won’t argue that point.

The White Sox starting pitcher said the blustery conditions, including 17-mph winds, at U.S. Cellular Field made it difficult to get comfortable on the mound. But Samardzija made the most of “subpar stuff” and led his team to a 6-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians, the first of his White Sox career. Samardzija pitched around six hits and two walks in six scoreless innings to earn a win he probably has dreamed about more times than he can count.

“It feels great,” Samardzija said. “It's all about proving yourself to these guys. You get new teammates and you want to come out here and make sure you prove your worth to them and they want to be go out there and play with you and be out there on tough days like that. They went out there and played great for me and (Geovany Soto) called a great game and got me through it.”

Since he allowed nine earned runs in his first eight innings with the White Sox, Samardzija has settled in nicely. He’s now allowed one earned run in his last 19 innings and hasn’t surrendered anything over the past 10 frames.

But the last six weren’t that easy and Samardzija threw 113 pitches on Wednesday to prove it. The right-hander stranded two runners in the second and fourth innings and left the bases loaded in the third.

“He has some tools to him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “So with the stuff that he has he’s able to find something that’s working that he can rely on. Doesn’t have to go to it the whole time. In big spots he would go to it.”

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Outfielder Adam Eaton said he sees the football player in Samardzija, especially before the games he starts. He’s not a player that you interact with much prior to taking the mound and that attitude carries over onto the field. Even though Samardzija’s pitch count stood at 93 after four innings, Eaton had a feeling he’d complete a few more. Samardzija needed only 10 pitches in each of his last two innings as he retired six of the last seven batters he faced.

“You can tell he’s focused on what he needs to do and how he needs to do it,” Eaton said. “You can feel that energy form him that he will give you 120 pitches of whatever the best he has that day.”

Samardzija insists there wasn’t much of his best to be given. He started to warm up in the middle innings and that helped him to become more efficient when he needed it most.

“It was cold, man,” Samardzija said. “Trying to get that arm warmed up. I felt like around the 60th, 70th pitch we started getting going where we wanted. It was just a battle out there. It was tough conditions and like I said, when you get that early lead and you have the faith in your defense just to throw it over the plate and they made some great plays for me, it makes the day a lot of easier.”

So does getting the first victory out of the way.

A.J. Reed, who played 14 games with the White Sox in 2019, retired

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USA TODAY

A.J. Reed, who played 14 games with the White Sox in 2019, retired

A.J. Reed, the one-time slugging prospect who made his way to the White Sox last season, retired earlier this month.

The news went unnoticed by many, though there it is on the International League's transactions page: Reed, a second-round draft pick in 2014, retired on March 4. He's 26 years old.

The White Sox picked Reed up on a waiver claim midway through last season, taking a flier on a guy who had no trouble racking up home runs in the minor leagues. He hit 34 of them playing at two levels of the Houston Astros organization in 2015, 34 more at Triple-A in 2017 and another 28 at Triple-A in 2018.

But Reed could never make it happen at the major league level, and that includes in the 49 plate appearances he got in just 14 games with the White Sox in 2019. He picked up only six hits, including one home run, and struck out a whopping 21 times.

Reed did manage a highlight in a White Sox uniform. He moved over from first base and pitched in relief during the ninth inning of an 11-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, retiring all three batters he faced.

He played his final game with the White Sox on Aug. 1 and spent the remainder of the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

In the midst of another rebuilding season, the White Sox were in position to take that sort of a low-risk gamble on Reed and see if they could help him discover something he couldn't at the big league level in Houston. Fans weren't happy watching him struggle at the plate, but that's life in the middle of a rebuild.

Thanks to breakout seasons from so many of their young core players and a busy offseason of big-name veteran additions, the White Sox don't figure to be in such a position again for the foreseeable future.

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Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Cliff Politte

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Cliff Politte

2005 was quite a year for late-round draft picks out of junior colleges in Missouri, especially Jefferson College.

That year, Cliff Politte had a career year and ended up with a new ring. Remember that guy?

Politte was born Feb. 27, 1974 in St. Louis. His father, Cliff, pitched in the Cardinals organization from 1959-65. The younger Politte captained the baseball and soccer teams at Vianney High School in St. Louis. In soccer, Politte was a midfielder and was part of two state titles.

Originally, Politte signed to play baseball for Memphis State, but the team wouldn’t agree to his wish to play outfield as well as pitch, so he ended up at Jefferson College.

Drafted by Cardinals in 54th round of 1995 MLB draft, Politte’s spot in the Jefferson rotation was filled by Mark Buehrle, his future White Sox teammate. Politte would pitch in the same game as Buehrle for the White Sox 38 times, including twice in the 2005 World Series.

The 54th round pick ended up the 1997 Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year, going 15-2 with a 2.22 ERA for Prince William (High-A, Carolina League ) and Arkansas (AA). He made the Opening Day roster in 1998.

It was quite a story for Politte to make his first MLB start at Busch Stadium for his hometown Cardinals. He got a no-decision but had a strong effort, going five innings, allowing two hits and a run against the Dodgers. The first hit he allowed was to his future teammate, Paul Konerko; his first strikeout was of former Rookie of the Year Todd Hollandsworth.

Politte earned his first career win in his next start, a 12-11 slugfest at Coors Field. At the plate, he connected for his first career hit on April 23 – off another future teammate, Dustin Hermanson. In eight games in 1998 – all starts - he finished 2-3 with a 6.32 ERA in his first taste of major league action.

The homecoming didn’t last all too long. Politte was traded with Jeff Brantley and Ron Gant to the Phillies for Ricky Botallico and Garrett Stephenson on Nov. 19, 1998. Politte shuttled back and forth between the Phillies and the minors from 1999 through 2001, along the way making what would be his final eight career starts (all in 2000).

In 2002, after making 13 appearances with the Phillies, Politte was sent north of the border to Toronto, in exchange for lefty Dan Plesac. With the Blue Jays, Politte collected his first career major league save July 24 at Baltimore, and finished 2002 with a 3.67 ERA in 68 combined appearances with Philly and Toronto.

Politte had a run as Blue Jays closer in May 2003 where he racked up nine saves. He struggled with inconsistency, finishing the year with a 5.66 ERA to go along with 12 saves, and became a free agent at season's end. He inked a deal with the White Sox on Jan. 7, 2004 – a one-year deal with 2005 club option.

Politte’s first season with the White Sox went well enough even though it ended early. A 4.38 ERA was a little better than league average – it was a high run-scoring environment at a hitter’s park. He got into 54 games and collected 19 holds, but an emergency appendectomy on Sept. 1 cut his season short. 

Politte was a key cog for the 2005 White Sox, quickly settling into his role as setup man. Heading into the All-Star break, he had a microscopic 1.02 ERA, second in the majors among all pitchers with 30 or more innings. Only the great Mariano Rivera (1.01) was better. But not even Mo could match his 0.736 WHIP at the time. Politte strung together 20 straight scoreless outings from May 29 to July 17.

He finished the regular season with a sterling 2.00 ERA with 23 holds. He was one of only a few major leaguers to hold both lefties (.182) and righties (.181) under a .200 average. Politte even collected an RBI hit on June 8 at Colorado – something no White Sox reliever had done since Terry Forster in 1972.

Politte made four postseason appearances, tossing a scoreless frame in Game 1 of the ALDS, then collecting a hold in Games 2, 3 and 4 of the World Series. In total, he allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings. He finished 2004 with an appendectomy. He finished 2005 with a World Series ring.

Politte’s luck ran out in 2006. Regression hit hard, as he posted an 8.70 ERA in 30 appearances before the Sox released him on July 20. He signed on with the Indians for 2007 and the Cardinals for 2008 but never made it back to the bigs.

Vianney High School retired Politte’s No. 10 in 2008, and in 2010 both Mark Buehrle and Politte were inducted into the Jefferson College Athletic Hall of Fame. Not bad for guys selected in the 38th and 54th rounds, respectively.

Nowadays, Politte is a sales manager and estimator for Pipe and Ducts Systems in St. Louis.