White Sox

John Danks' best start comes at critical time for White Sox


John Danks' best start comes at critical time for White Sox

The White Sox didn’t have to pull the rip cord Sunday afternoon and deploy the emergency parachute, which in this analogy would’ve been Hector Noesi or Jose Quintana.

Against the backdrop of a taxed bullpen from Saturday’s doubleheader, John Danks turned in seven innings of one-run ball in the White Sox 4-3 walk-off win over Cincinnati Sunday afternoon. Long relievers Scott Carroll and Carlos Rodon were unavailable after combining to throw 10 2/3 innings Saturday, while lefty Dan Jennings labored through 39 ineffective pitches in a ninth-inning meltdown in the first game of the doubleheader.

So if Danks were lit up — as he was over 2 1/3 innings against Minnesota in his last start — the White Sox might’ve been forced to use Noesi after he threw 1 2/3 innings before exiting Game 1 Saturday due to a lower back contusion. Sunday was Quintana’s bullpen day, too, which could’ve turned into actual game action in relief if necessary.

[MORE: Gordon Beckham bails out Robertson as White Sox walk off Reds]

The preferred, and probably necessary, option was for Danks to have just the start he did.

“I like knowing that it’s your game when you’re out there,” Danks said. “Obviously performance dictates how long you’re in the game but go out there for a while and give us a chance to win.”

Danks scattered six hits and three walks, with Cincinnati’s damage off him coming on Devin Mesoraco’s RBI triple in the fourth. He held the top of the Reds’ order — Billy Hamilton, Marlon Byrd, Joey Votto and Todd Frazier — to just two walks and no hits in 12 plate appearances.

“We knew he was going to go out there for around 105 to 120 pitches,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It was big. You saw him today, he was mixing in a little bit, you probably saw a little speeding up on guys and the quick movement. He was just trying to create some deception and it worked for him. He was around the zone, he was throwing strikes. We needed that today more than any day.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Not only did Danks mix his fastball and changeup effectively, but he worked at a quick tempo and threw a few Reds hitters off with it. In one instance, Danks quick-pitched Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who was still twirling his bat in his pre-stance routine as the pitch whizzed into Tyler Flowers’ mitt for a strike.

It was Danks’ longest start of the year by a full inning and his third quality start in six games. The 118 pitches he threw were his highest total since July 2, 2014. Sunday was the first time in 2015 Danks threw more than 100 pitches, too.

“We’ve been trying to do certain things just to give me a better chance,” Danks said. “Messing up timing’s one of them. I think it’s very effective. We’re going to continue to work on things but it’s basically doing whatever you gotta do to get that guy out and fortunately it worked.”

Allen Thomas, Alek Thomas share a precious father-son moment after son homers against dad's White Sox

NBC Sports Chicago

Allen Thomas, Alek Thomas share a precious father-son moment after son homers against dad's White Sox

Every father loves seeing their son hit a home run in a game, but White Sox director of conditioning Allen Thomas had a different perspective of his son’s home run on Wednesday.

Thomas’ son, Alek Thomas, was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Diamondbacks and is still in big league camp with Arizona. He homered against the White Sox in the ninth inning of a Cactus League game.

Alek, an 18-year-old Mount Carmel grad, went through the normal celebrations with his teammates, but soon after wanted to get dad’s attention. He was waving in dad’s direction as if to say, “Hey dad, did you see that?”

At first, Allen was trying to play it cool and not draw attention to the fact that his son just homered off his team. Eventually, they made eye contact and had a precious interaction caught in a split screen on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast.

Both son and father saw the clip on social media and interacted as you expect father and son to do.


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Eloy's comin': What the reported long-term deal means for the White Sox present and future

Eloy's comin': What the reported long-term deal means for the White Sox present and future

Hide your hearts, White Sox fans.

Eloy's finally comin' to the South Side, it would appear, with every national baseball writer under the Twitterverse's sun reporting that the White Sox are on the brink of a long-term deal with the No. 3 prospect in baseball, a contract that would keep Jimenez as part of what Rick Hahn is hoping is a perennial contender for the better part of the next decade.

The deal, which has not yet been made official by the team, is hard to see as anything but a smashing success for the White Sox. Are there risks with guaranteeing a reported $43 million to a player who's never swung a bat in a major league game? Sure. But the positives far outweigh the potential negatives.

In the immediate, it completely wipes away the service-time element that has been dominating the conversation over Jimenez's approaching major league debut. Though they never publicly stated this was their intent, the White Sox, playing well within baseball's rules, were expected to delay Jimenez's big league arrival a few weeks into the 2019 regular season, earning an extra year of team control by doing so and turning the typical six-year rookie contract into seven years of club control. Any team would be foolish not to take advantage of those rules, but the accusation of "manipulation" now never has to be made and the argument doesn't even need to take place. The entire topic gets thrown out the window and this contract locks in six surefire years of control with team options for another two. If the contract lasts all eight years, it will assure Jimenez stays in a White Sox uniform one year longer than he would have without it.

With that service-time issue no longer an issue, Jimenez's debut doesn't need to be delayed. He can appear on the White Sox roster for Opening Day next week in Kansas City. That gives him a full season in the majors in 2019, with the opportunity to do the usual growing and developing and learning that comes along with a first full season in the bigs. Rick Renteria will be able to pencil Jimenez into his everyday lineup starting on Day 1. It might not necessarily translate to any more wins for the White Sox this season, considering he was only expected to be in the minor leagues for a few weeks, but it makes the team better from the jump.

Arguably the team's best player will be in the lineup for the season opener next Thursday and for the home opener April 4, not sentenced to a fortnight or two of avoiding injury down in Charlotte. It provides a tangible example of progress in a rebuilding effort that's been plagued by negative headlines of late, be it the incensed reaction from the fan base following the front office's missing out on Manny Machado or another highly rated pitching prospect having Tommy John surgery and getting put on the shelf for a year. Instead, the No. 74 jerseys can start flying off the shelves, and the top reason to pay attention to this team in 2019 begins a month earlier than it would have. All good things.

Obviously, Jimenez benefits in the short term, too, getting a big raise right away. That's life-changing money for just about anyone, and that includes a 22-year-old minor leaguer from the Dominican Republic. Though he's delaying his first stab at free agency by a year, he gets stability in return, as well as a pretty nice demonstration of the faith the White Sox have in him to become one of the game's elite players.

But this deal isn't about the White Sox getting Jimenez in the lineup every day over the next six months, it's about getting him in the lineup every day for the next eight years. The assurance that he'll be a part of the core for the next eight years extends the planned contention window that far into the future. It provides an anchor in the lineup that figures to feature more players like Jimenez over the coming years: the Luis Roberts, Micker Adolfos, Nick Madrigals and Zack Collinses.

Of course, it's unlikely the White Sox will get to perennial-contender status on prospects alone, and the outside additions they tried to make this offseason will have to come at some point. This deal helps with that, too. Jimenez could've conceivably made more money in the arbitration process. The White Sox could use the savings on free agents, and luring them figures to get easier once they see what Jimenez can do.

See? A wealth of positives. The pessimists will track down the negatives, and they won't make incorrect points. Jimenez is completely unproven as a major leaguer, without a single big league plate appearance to his name. Prospects, even the highly rated ones, don't always hit, and to push the chips in on six to eight years of a player who's never seen major league pitching is by definition risky. There's a reason there were only two deals like this prior to this one.

But this deal reflects just how highly the White Sox think of their organization's top-rated prospect. Hahn and Renteria both said this offseason that they believe Jimenez can be on the same level as the big-name free agents the team pursued this offseason. Jimenez has the same kinds of expectations for himself.

Those expectations have now been teamed with commitment. It looks like a winner for the White Sox, but the eventual review of the deal will be made by Jimenez and how much he can do to help this rebuilding team turn into a World Series winner.

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