White Sox

Jones feeling confident as he shines on the mound

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Jones feeling confident as he shines on the mound

NEW YORK --- Jesse Crains tight shoulder afforded Nate Jones another big opportunity on Friday night and the rookie shined.

Jones earned a hold in Fridays 14-7 victory as he entered a three-run game in the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out two in a scoreless frame. It was the fifth hold for Jones --- 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA in 30 games --- earned this season and the second time he pitched with the lead in the eighth inning of a game still in doubt.

When I first came up I never imagined that, Jones said. But the job is still the same. You still have to go out there, throw strikes, get ahead and get guys out and try to do your best putting up zeroes. (This is) all new to me. Whatever they have me do, Im more than happy to do it. It just has evolved into this and Im thankful.

The right-hander said he and the other rookies in the bullpen have benefited from the trust shown to them by White Sox manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper.

Both Coop and Robin show a lot of confidence in us, Jones said. It does nothing but make you have confidence in yourself.

A favorite White Sox stat of 2019

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USA Today

A favorite White Sox stat of 2019

The 162-game grind of a season leaves a lot in its wake. Including pages upon pages of statistics on the internet. It’s always fun to revisit the season that was, going through all the fun facts and stats that I completely forgot about as well as discovering new ones that slipped by me at the time.

Some of these are meaningful. Many of them are completely useless… but FUN!

This one below might just be my favorite.

On May 3, the White Sox trailed 6-1 heading into the top of the ninth inning. With only a five-run deficit, Ricky Renteria turned to infielder José Rondón to pitch the final inning. That was seen as a rather unconventional choice, as position player pitchers are very uncommon in games that close. But that’s not why we’re here. When he entered the game, he started throwing pitches that didn’t even register on the speed gun. The four pitches that DID register ranged from 50.7 to  59.0 mph. But that’s also not why we’re here.

What José Rondón did was retire the first batter he faced by getting him to fly out to center field. That batter was Mookie Betts, who was the AL MVP the season prior.

But wait, there’s more!

You may recall that on August 6, 2018, Matt Davidson entered a game in the ninth inning where the White Sox trailed 7-0 to the Yankees. It was his third pitching appearance of the season (which in itself deserves to be remembered). He got Brett Gardner out on a grounder in front of the plate. It’s what he did next that is particularly notable. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton, who just so happened to be the NL MVP the season prior.

So in two consecutive seasons a White Sox positon player got the previous season’s MVP out. Amazing!

And to go even further, prior to Davidson, the last position player to get the previous season’s MVP out was ANOTHER White Sox player. J.B. Shuck on June 8, 2016, got 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper to ground out.

So I started wondering, who else from the position player ranks managed to strike out somebody who won an MVP the previous season? So went through and made me a list. I went back to 1970.

Position player pitchers who got the previous season’s MVP out from 1970 to present:

July 22, 2019 Mike Brosseau Rays Mookie Betts lineout
July 20, 2019 Stevie Wilkerson Orioles Mookie Betts groundout
May 3, 2019 Jose Rondon White Sox Mookie Betts flyout
Aug. 6, 2018 Matt Davidson White Sox Giancarlo Stanton strikeout swinging
July 8, 2016 J.B. Shuck White Sox Bryce Harper groundout
May 25, 2011 Wilson Valdez Phillies Joey Votto flyout
June 13, 2008 Aaron Miles Cardinals Jimmy Rollins flyout
Aug. 22, 2000 Brent Mayne Rockies Chipper Jones groundout
July 2, 1991 Doug Dascenzo Cubs Barry Bonds flyout

Sometimes you look for one thing and find something else equally amazing. How about THREE DIFFERENT position players getting Mookie Betts out this season? He was 0 for 3 against position player pitchers only one year removed from an MVP season, which is just plain weird. But how about the White Sox with three consecutive entries on this list? They have had a position player get the previous season’s MVP out three of the last four seasons. And the two guys who did it before Shuck, Davidson & Rondón were also former Sox. Wilson Valdéz played 19 games for the 2004 White Sox and Aaron Miles played 8 games for the 2003 Sox.

It's tough to deny that the recent flurry of entries on this list is due to the fact that position player pitchers have been much more prevalent lately. And sure, having a position player pitcher isn’t fun since the usual reason they’re even used is because the team is being blown out. And sure, maybe a batter doesn’t bear down as much when his team is up 12-1. But still, hey position player pitchers getting MVPs out? That’s always cool no matter what. 

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Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

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USA TODAY

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

Gerrit Cole is rightfully at the top of many White Sox fans' free-agent wish list. But might those hopes already need adjusting?

Cole looks to be on track to land the richest pitching contract in baseball history when he hits free agency after the Houston Astros' playoff run is over. The White Sox are shopping for starting pitching, and what team wouldn't love to top their rotation with the guy who might be awarded the AL Cy Young?

But whether or not you're part of the Twitter-using faction of White Sox fans that believe the team would never spend such money to land a pitcher the caliber of Cole, it might not matter.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to a couple of Cole's fellow Astros, and they told him they think Cole will end up playing in California. The South Side, at least in the Astros' clubhouse, it seems, is not a betting favorite.

"It will be west of Nevada," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We know he wants to be a West Coast guy. He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. ... But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

"I got the Angels," pitcher Wade Miley said, "and paying him at least $250 million."

Well then.

Certainly the Los Angeles Angels are not a new suggestion in the "where will Cole sign" discussion. Cole went to high school a 10-minute drive from Angel Stadium and pitched his college ball at UCLA. The Oakland Athletics? That's a new one.

Anyway, a lot of White Sox fans are probably out there thinking "here we go again" as we begin poring over every bit of minutiae in this winter's free-agent market, just like we did last offseason, when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both out there for the signing — and both White Sox targets. That months-long reading of the tea leaves, of course, was all kicked off when MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the White Sox interest during the GM Meetings in November.

So far, there's nothing out there connecting the White Sox to Cole besides pure speculation, that and the fact that Rick Hahn has said his front office will be in the market for starting pitching. Cole, being a starting pitcher, fits the minimum requirement as a potential target.

In fact, in listing a boatload of teams that might make a run at Cole this winter, Nightengale left the White Sox out. He mentioned four of the five California-based teams: the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and every White Sox fan's favorite, the San Diego Padres, who landed Machado back in February. He also mentioned the Astros, the New York Yankees (who Cole will pitch against in game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers.

No White Sox.

There are plenty of other variables in this sweepstakes than just geography, and chief among them figures to be money. The White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility gained as a goal of the ongoing rebuilding process, but Hahn said that's not the most attractive element when it comes to free agents signing up to play on the South Side.

"The biggest advantage we have is the talent base we've accumulated so far and the excitement to come and be part of that," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "We do have some economic flexibility. That was part of the plan from the start. But I think if you're looking at advantages, a lot of teams have money. A lot of teams don't offer the ability to play with some of the players that are joining us here already and joining in the coming years and the opportunity to win a championship in a city like Chicago."

Whether that appeals to Cole or whether the White Sox will set their sights elsewhere remains to be seen. Certainly his fellow Astros' predictions aren't the be all, end all. Remember last winter when it was a foregone conclusion Machado would be a Yankee because he was a fan of that team growing up? Didn't work out that way. (It's here that I'll mention a pretty cool nugget in Nightengale's piece about Cole sitting in the front row cheering on the Yankees during the 2001 World Series. Is he destined to wear pinstripes because of it? No.)

For the White Sox, they certainly should chase Cole, who would count as the biggest free-agent splash in team history and do a heck of a lot to vault the team out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. But Hahn is hoping that whichever players he lands this winter can do that, along with the team's talented young core, and there are plenty of starting-pitching options out there not named Gerrit Cole: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and maybe even Stephen Strasburg. It's an impressive list of possibilities, one that remains impressive for the White Sox even if they fail to meet any imaginary Golden State requirement from Cole.

Even as Cole readies to face off against the Yankees in the ALCS, attempting to go 19-0 since he lost to the White Sox on May 22, his role as the star of the hot stove season is already beginning.

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