White Sox

Keppinger expects leg will be fine

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Keppinger expects leg will be fine

Jeff Keppinger is in good shape now but admits earlier this offseason he was worried when an X-ray revealed a broken right fibula rather than a sprained ankle.

The White Sox newest addition said Monday he expects to be ready for spring training when the team reports to Glendale, Ariz. in just over two months. The walking boot worn by Keppinger -- who signed a three-year, 12-million deal with the White Sox on Monday -- comes off Tuesday and he will start his rehab shortly thereafter.

It especially wasnt a fun time, Keppinger said. I thought I rolled my ankle and sprained it. I was wearing flip flops coming down the stairs and just slipped and thought I could catch myself and just didnt land right. I come out of (the walking boot) tomorrow and get on my way with walking and get better so I should be all good shortly. It was pretty nerve wracking.

The competition for Keppinger was heavy this offseason.

The New York Yankees were one of many teams in pursuit of Keppinger, a .288 career hitter, who, along with Dustin Pedroia and Albert Pujols, is one of three hitters with more walks and extra-base hits than strikeouts since 2007. Keppinger is tailor-made for the White Sox as general manager Rick Hahn wants his offense to be less reliant upon the long ball next season. He wants his team to be able to score even when it doesnt hit home runs. Hahn said the White Sox were high on Keppinger from the start of the offseason but the broken leg cooled the chase, at least temporarily.

It actually probably slowed things down a beat so that us and the others clubs involved could get the medical records and post-op report and the follow-up report, Hahn said. It may have slowed things down by a week or two, but there certainly was a great amount of interest in him and we were there from there the start. Once we were comfortable with the prognosis on the fracture we were right there back in it and we were able to close something off down in Nashville last week despite the fact that there was a fair amount of competition.

Keppinger heads into spring as the White Sox third baseman, though he said the club hasnt informed him of where he will play or hit. With no more than 36 strikeouts in any of his eight seasons, Keppinger appears to be a strong candidate for the second spot in the White Sox lineup. Hahn received a good report on Keppinger from assistant GM Buddy Bell, who briefly managed him in Kansas City in 2006 and likes Keppingers makeup.

Jeff adds a valuable and different type of offensive player to our lineup, Hahn said.

Keppinger likes the idea of hitting second because of the different aspects to the offensive approach. Hes a career .288 hitter.

Sometimes you have to take pitches to allow the leadoff batter to steal, Keppinger said. Other times you have to just kind of give yourself up for the team and move guys over for the three hitter. I kind of like the challenges the two hole brings. Its kind of tough sometimes to do all those little things, but I pride myself in being able to get them done.

His first task, however, is to get his right leg back up to speed. Keppinger doesnt anticipate any problems.

That was what I told by the doctors, Keppinger said. Im about to be out of the boot and healed up and basically its just strengthening the leg back up. I should be good to go come spring. That certainly all matters based on how rehab goes but I dont imagine there being any tough parts of rehab that are a struggle for me. I just need to strengthen it back up and get the flexibility back in my foot.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.