White Sox

Jeff Samardzija's shutout lifts White Sox to 2-0 victory

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Jeff Samardzija's shutout lifts White Sox to 2-0 victory

Jeff Samardzija did nothing to diminish his trade value on Thursday afternoon nor did he hurt the White Sox slim postseason chances.

The White Sox right-hander looked very much like an ace as he bested one of the teams believed to be most interested in his services in a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 23,298 at U.S. Cellular Field. Pitching in front of at least a dozen scouts, Samardzija hurled a four-hit shutout and Melky Cabrera homered as the White Sox won for the seventh time in nine games.

“I’d hope they know what I am by now anyway,” Samardzija said. “They have been scouting me for what, 2 1/2 years now. I think they have the book on me. It’s just going out and keep trying, especially for this team right now, where we’re at. We need to keep playing well and hopefully let them know we’re here and we need a whole year.”

Samardzija’s 2015 season has definitely improved with age.

The White Sox hold out hope theirs can, too.

Samardzija -- pitching at home for his childhood team --- said he pressed early on but has found a groove over the past six starts. Just likeSaturday against Baltimore, Samardzija took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in the finale against Toronto.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

He gave up a pair of hits that inning but induced a double play off Josh Donaldson’s bat to end the sixth.

Then his “amazing defense” kicked in led by Gordon Beckham and Carlos Sanchez. Samardzija applauded a diving effort by Beckham, who was at short in place of injured Alexei Ramirez, to end the eighth and Sanchez had a gem in the second. Those two also combined on a critical double play in the ninth as Donaldson bounced into a 4-6-3 when Beckham made a nice turn despite a hardslide by Devon Travis. Samardzija got Jose Bautista to chase a 3-2 slider to end the game.

Samardzija -- who walked one and struck out five -- has a 2.40 ERA in 45 innings over his last six starts.

While his improved pitching has helped boost the White Sox, they’re also aware it’s increasing his trade value. The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are two teams said to have some of the strongest interest in Samardzija andToronto GM Alex Anthropolus attended Thursday’s game.

“He was sharp, he was aggressive in the zone, his split was great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “His competiveness is always there. I think that's probably the biggest thing that sticks when you just watch him pitch, emotionally and everything else. He kept it all together.

“You know he's a good pitcher. Everybody knows that. For us to lose a frontline a pitcher, it would be tough, absolutely.”

[MORE: White Sox in wait-and-see mode as trade deadline looms]

It has mostly been an uphill battle for the White Sox offense this season and Thursday was no different until they scored twice in the sixth inning.

They stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth inning asR.A. Dickey retired Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. An inning later, the White Sox had runners on the corners and only one out. But Dickey retired Sanchez on a pop out to shallow center and struck out Beckham.

But Adam Eaton started the sixth inning with a triple to right-center field and he scored on a passed ball to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Cabrera then launched his fourth home run to right to make it a two-run game.

Given their seven recent victories have come against St. Louis, Baltimore and Toronto, the White Sox, who are 39-44, hope they can retain Samardzija and other key players long enough to try and erase a 32-42 start.

“We’re aware of what’s going on but if we play better baseball like we should we should have the team here,” Eaton said. “I truly believe we have the talent to win in this clubhouse. I said at beginning of spring training and I still believe it. We’re not even at the All-Star break yet.

“There’s no reason we cant play good enough baseball to get back into this thing.”

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.