White Sox

Jerry Sands wants to show White Sox what he's got

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Jerry Sands wants to show White Sox what he's got

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While he knows his prospects have improved with Adam LaRoche’s departure, Jerry Sands said it won’t change how he operates.

The outfielder/first baseman is one of several candidates vying for the final two spots on the White Sox 25-man roster.

His bid to make the team has recently improved after the sudden retirement of LaRoche a week ago. But Sands already knew he’d have to prove to the White Sox he’s worthy of a roster spot after he they claimed him off waivers on Dec. 23.

Sands has hit .242/.257/.545 with three homers and eight RBIs in 33 at-bats this spring. He’s one of five players in competition for the final two spots on the roster along with Matt Davidson, Travis Ishikawa, Carlos Sanchez and J.B. Shuck.

“It doesn’t change what I’ve been doing,” Sands said. “Getting claimed off waivers, coming to a new team like I’ve been doing the last few years, just coming to camp, show them what I have regardless of the LaRoche situation.”

Sands said he wanted to work on several aspects of his game in camp --- “things that I’ve struggled with,” he said.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

One is to remember how to hit the fastball again. Hitting coach Todd Steverson said that skill can get dulled playing at Triple-A as Sands has for much of the past few seasons.

“You can kind of get off your game,” Steverson said. “Sadly enough, I used to say it all the time: the hardest thing you need to do coming from Triple-A back to the big leagues is to re-remember how to hit a fastball because they don’t throw a whole lot of them down there.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the fastball hasn’t been an issue for Sands this spring. The bigger task in Ventura’s mind is for Sands -- who would be an option at first base and in the outfield -- to show improvement against right-handed pitching. Sands has an .846 career OPS against southpaws but only a .569 against righties.

“He hasn’t seen too many righties in the big leagues the last few years, so you’d like to see him do that and get an idea about that,” Ventura said. “As far as swinging the bat and playing the game, he has been great.”

Sands said he feels comfortable in the outfield and at first base. He felt like he got off to a slow start, but likes how he has swung the bat lately. Even though his chances to make the team have improved, Sands wants to continue to make strides and convince the White Sox.

“(LaRoche retiring) helps me out a little bit, obviously, for a situation like that, for somebody to benefit from it,” Sands said. “But at the same point in time, the team is still going to have to go on and play without him. It hasn’t changed for me -- if he was here or not, I’d still try to do the same thing and show these guys what I got.”

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

Manager Rick Renteria said after Wednesday's win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles that he couldn't comment on the reports. Castillo played in Wednesday's game, during which the news broke.

"For me, those at this particular moment are rumors," Renteria said. "MLB is the one that is in charge of that type of stuff. Until they release anything officially I can’t really comment on that."

The veteran catcher, slashing .267/.309/.466 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games this season, was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in both the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news now and in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition change for those two pitchers?

Omar Narvaez would be the logical choice to take over as the No. 1 catcher. As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

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