White Sox

Justin Morneau accompanies White Sox on road to familiarize himself with new teammates

Justin Morneau accompanies White Sox on road to familiarize himself with new teammates

CLEVELAND -- Justin Morneau accompanied the White Sox on this road trip so he can get better acclimated to his new teammates.

The veteran first baseman is with the White Sox as they begin a seven-game road trip against the Cleveland Indians on Friday. He started to hit off a tee on Monday and continues to feel good about his how rehab from a December elbow surgery has progressed.

Even though he still has plenty of tests to pass, Morneau wants to best prepare for a midseason transition onto a new team, including getting familiar with his new teammates.

“Joining a team in the middle of the year is difficult,” Morneau said. “You go through spring training and get to know each other a lot. You spend a lot of time together, so that’s kind of why I wanted to come on the road. Just feel a little more comfortable with my teammates. Feel like you are part of the team instead of off on your own doing your own thing. Hopefully I can help out in any way I can, even for my own sake to feel comfortable around the guys.”

Morneau said Friday it would be some time before he starts a rehab assignment. The team originally said it expects him to be ready around the All-Star break.

Aside from dry swings, Morneau hadn’t swung the bat until he began a program this week. He previously has taken grounders at first base and said his elbow feels good.

“I wouldn’t say that close,” Morneau said. “No, we are some time in July. Not sure yet. Gotta pass a lot of tests before then. But off the tee has gone well, next step will be flips and then batting practice on the field. There’s still a few weeks away.”

The 35-year-old hit .310/.363/.458 in 182 plate appearances last season for the Colorado Rockies despite feeling pain with each swing. He also won the National League batting title in 2014 when he hit .319. Morneau, who signed a one-year deal for $1 million last week, thinks he can still contribute and said he isn’t just here for fun and to mentor younger players — “If I wanted to do that, I would coach,” he said.

“There’s a presence in there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He can hit for power, he can hit for average. I think a lefty presence behind a righty bat lengthens our lineup. He’s a smart hitter as well. Playing against him the last few years you can see what he brings to the table. You didn’t want him coming up in big situations. He seems to get the barrel on it and do some damage.”

Morneau is happy to be in this situation, back in the clubhouse. He has to familiarize himself with his new teammates and figure out his niche.

But it’s exactly where he wants to be.

“There are a lot of guys who have been around,” Morneau said. “Mostly veteran group with a few young players that bring the excitement. It’s a close team. It’s what I missed while I was at home watching on TV.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: How the Adam Eaton/Todd Frazier fight helped start the White Sox rebuild

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: How the Adam Eaton/Todd Frazier fight helped start the White Sox rebuild

Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier might not be with the White Sox anymore, but their feud in 2016 helped pave the way for the White Sox rebuild and why the franchise is where it is today.

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Chris Kamka go over the events of that crazy, fateful 2016 season that caused the White Sox to eventually trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Eaton, Frazier and many others (1:10). It started with the Adam and Drake LaRoche saga during spring training (2:40) and the dysfunction that occurred after that (07:00).

How and why things unraveled after their 23-10 start and the fight in the clubhouse between Eaton and Frazier (13:00). The problems continued with Chris Sale cutting up the throwback jerseys and remains alive today with the latest fighting words on the field and in the press between Eaton and Frazier (17:20). Buckle up for this one.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

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USA TODAY

In Astros' dominance, White Sox fans might catch a glimpse of their team's future

It might end up an ugly week for the White Sox in Houston. But try to find some beauty in what this Astros team looks like. Because it's what the White Sox hope to look like, eventually.

While White Sox fans were likely staring with a frown at Brad Peacock mowing down their team's lineup and at a couple home runs absolutely blasted out of Minute Maid Park in the first of this four-game series Monday night, know that the inverse of that feeling is what the White Sox front office is hoping to deliver in the coming seasons.

The Astros, along with the Cubs on the North Side of Chicago, are the template for what the White Sox are trying to do with their ongoing rebuilding process. Houston experienced some hideous seasons on the way to becoming a perennial contender and a World Series champion in 2017, losing a combined 416 games in four seasons from 2011 to 2014. In 2015, the Astros made their first postseason appearance in a decade. Two years later, they were the world champs, and they remain an annual title contender and are currently the best team in baseball two years after that.

The first part of that should sound familiar, as the White Sox have lost a combined 195 games in the two seasons since this rebuild officially began. Things are better now than they were during last year's 100-loss campaign, but it's expected to be another season of more losses than wins and another season without a playoff berth on the South Side, which would be the franchise's 11th straight to end without a trip to the postseason.

The second half of the Astros rags-to-riches story is yet to come for the White Sox, who are still waiting for young players to develop at both the major league and minor league levels, still waiting for the entire core to assemble in the big leagues. That includes, right now, waiting for certain players to recover from serious injuries. That includes watching growing pains up and down the organization. It's not unexpected for such things to happen in the middle of a rebuild. But when mired in the losing years, they become constant sources of frustration for fans.

Just like no one in Houston looks back fondly on the 100-loss seasons of 2011, 2012 and 2013, it's unlikely South Side baseball fans will look back fondly on these loss-heavy campaigns. But it's part of the process, as maddening as that might be to keep hearing.

Fortunately, there are examples of what the end of the tunnel looks like, and the White Sox are up against one of those examples this week. The Astros are dominating the competition so far this season, their young core of sluggers and a few overpowering starting pitchers fueling the best team in baseball. George Springer and Jose Altuve might have been out of the lineup Monday night, but Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman were still on display. And none of those guys were the ones to blast home runs halfway to Oklahoma off the White Sox on Rick Renteria's otherwise successful bullpen day. Peacock was traded a few times before landing in Houston, and Justin Verlander and Geritt Cole were trade acquisitions, as well. All of those guys have made the Astros a formidable force once again.

The White Sox are likely going to have to make a few outside acquisitions, too, before they can finally reach baseball's mountaintop. General manager Rick Hahn says that's the plan. But the homegrown portion of those rosters of the future could resemble what the Astros have put together in recent seasons. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins. That's the planned core on the South Side. And Hahn has a number of young pitchers who could make up a fearsome rotation, too, in Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito. There are more names White Sox fans are familiar with who could play big roles, too.

That's a lot of talent, and while White Sox fans might remain skeptical until the wins start coming at an increased rate, the blueprint is there for those pieces to come together and create something special. The blueprint is what's across the field from the White Sox this week in Houston.

The Astros might cause some bad feelings for the White Sox and their fans over the next few nights. But if they look closely, they might catch a glimpse of the White Sox future if this rebuild goes where Hahn & Co. envision it going.

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