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.”

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.