White Sox

Konerko, Garcia lead Sox to fourth straight win

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Konerko, Garcia lead Sox to fourth straight win

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Updated: 1:30 AM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Another day, another win paced by a multitude of heroes from the Chicago White Sox.

The hottest team in baseball took its 17th of 21 with a 5-2 battering of the Los Angeles Angels, earning Freddy Garcia his ninth win in spite of a season-high five errors. The win moved the White Sox ahead of the Minnesota Twins into second place in the AL Central. The Detroit Tigers sit one game up in first place, rightfully shaking in their knickers.

That was the first time our defense didnt help us, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. But our staff overcame those errors. Were picking each other up.

Im just throwing strikes and keeping the ball down to keep it in the park, Garcia said. And we scored when we needed to.

The game was delayed for a second straight night by rain, this time the stoppage clocking in at two hours and 20 minutes.

The otherwise-unflappable Garcia admitted being affected by the delayhe was warm and ready to take the mound at 7:10, but the rains came just moments before game time. The veteran got out of a jam in the second after a single by Torii Hunter and a catchers interference call on a Hideki Matsui swing put runners on first and second with nobody out. But Mike Napolis hot smash to third was handled by Dayan Viciedo and transformed into an awkward but effective 5-4-3 double play. Matsui opted for Wiffleball rules on the play, simply running into second sacker Gordon Beckham as Bacon flipped on the double-play turn rather than Matsui sliding to take him out. Garcia fanned Juan Rivera to extinguish the threat, marking the rightys second straight inning ending with a K, en route to six on the game.

I still have to do my job, Garcia said of the start-stop delays that could have stymied his outing. I tried to relax and get ready. Thats all you can do.

Paul Konerko continued his campaign to be sent to Tuesdays All-Star Game in Pauliewood with a two-out, opposite-field double to score two in the third and spot Garcia a two-run lead. Konerko also doubled in the eighth, finishing with a 2-4 night.

It was a typically laborious outing for Garcia, who scattered five hits and one run over six innings, leaving six Halos stranded. Those six innings ate up 92 pitches.

I cant say anything more about Freddy, Guillen said. He knows how to pitch.

He just frustrates you, left fielder Juan Pierre said. Ive faced him enough times to know, its a quiet 0-3 or 0-4, but youre still heading back to the dugout unhappy.

Garcia could rest easy by the time his long night ended thanks to a crooked number his offense put up in the bottom of the fifth. Alex Rios singled and was pushed to second by an Andruw Jones walk and to third with a Ramon Castro sac fly. It was then that Dick Allen in Cuban threads, Viciedo, rocketed a double off the left-center wall, further underscoring his at-bats as must-see. Viciedos bullet plated Rios, and the masher came around to score along with Jones, when Power Packed Energy Wad Brent Lillibridgeindeed, with the late scratch of Carlos Quentin, Guillens designated hitter tonighttapped a soft single to center.

Its a matter of confidence, Lillibridge says of the dagger that ran Angels starter Joe Saunders. I know what I did wrong on his two earlier Ks, adjusted and swung at the right pitches.

J.J. Putz came on for the seventh (yawn) to protect the 5-1 lead and strung his (snooze) 21st straight scoreless outing (snore) with a one-two-three inning, complete with two strikeouts. (Putz now owns the second-longest streak of scoreless outings in White Sox history.)

In the bottom of the eighth, rookie Sergio Santos came on and made things a bit exciting with two straight walks, then a K before Hunter tapped a grounder to third that resulted in a double errorone from defensive replacement Omar Visquels fielding (his first error in 20 years, Guillen cracked), a second charged to Alexei Ramirez on the throw. The double gaffe tapped out Chicagos errors for the game at five, Erick Aybar scoring on the second error to trim the Chisox lead to 5-2.

The game was sloppy tonight, Lillibridge said. Normally, Id want to be out there in the field, but that was a weird, wild game. It just goes to show that things are really going our way.

Matt Thornton came in again to bail out Santos and the rest of the men in black, inducing a line-shot to center from Matsui and a sawed-off bat, weak liner to short from Napoli.

Bobby Jenks came on for a perfect ninth to earn his 18th save in 19 tries.

In a game where once again the list of Chicago Nine heroes was long, Garcia stood out as the wearer of the cape. But the hurler was nonplussed over the nine wins that have shocked Chicago.

If Im 100 percent and feel good, this is what I can do, Garcia said. People can say whatever they want, theyre surprised or something. But I know what I can do.

Still, his manager and biggest fan, Guillen, is delighted by the turn of events.

If you had told me that Freddy would have nine wins in the first half, wed be in first place, Guillen said. Well, were almost there.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

When will Nick Madrigal reach the majors?

That, now that Luis Robert's path to an Opening Day roster spot has been cleared by a big-money contract extension, is the most pressing of the prospect-related queries facing the 2020 White Sox, a team that, it should be noted, will be turning its focus away from the minors and toward playing big league baseball in October for the first time in more than a decade.

Not unlike Robert, Madrigal shredded minor league pitching in 2019, playing at three levels and showing just how successful his elite bat-to-ball skills can make him as an offensive producer. He stepped to the plate 532 times and struck out only 16 times.

There's a reason even Rick Renteria is already calling the 22-year-old "Magic."

The general feeling seems to be that Madrigal will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, though with the waiting game apparently over on the South Side and the intent to win as many games as possible, perhaps a strong showing at spring training will see Madrigal starting at second base in the March 26 opener.

That's a question better answered after the White Sox have been in Glendale for a few weeks.

But Madrigal's goal is clear.

"I definitely want to be in Chicago as soon as I can," Madrigal said earlier this week at the team's hitters' camp out in the desert. "I know they have a plan for me one way or another, but I think that’s the ultimate goal: being in Chicago and winning with that team.

"I know this offseason there’s been a lot of moves, and I’m excited to be a part of that, hopefully, in the near future. The ultimate goal is winning. There’s nothing else at this point."

Madrigal might not have blown the doors off the minors like Robert, who finished with a 30-30 season, but he wasn't fazed by climbing through the system. Madrigal put up good-not-great numbers in nearly 50 games at Class A Winston-Salem but exploded for a .341 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage in 42 games at Double-A Birmingham before batting .331 and reaching base at a .398 clip in 29 games at Charlotte.

That he didn't even reach 30 games in a Knights uniform could signal that the White Sox might prefer a little more seasoning, but he didn't see any problems facing the pitching at Triple-A.

“Honestly, it wasn’t too different at all. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before," he said. "There were some older guys in the league, more consistent arms. I thought it wasn’t anything too different.”

Madrigal's earning high praise all over the place, rated among the best prospects in the game. He's earned rave reviews for his ability on both sides of the ball, picked by team executives (in an MLB Pipeline poll) as having one of the best hit tools and gloves of any player in the minor leagues.

There still might be some skepticism, or perhaps mere curiosity, as to how Madrigal's skill set will translate to the major leagues. Players like him, who focus on making contact and putting the ball in play, are becoming rarer in today's game, which sees a focus on power and launch angle and an acceptance of strikeouts. His manager, one of "Magic's" biggest fans, isn't too concerned about Madrigal finding success once he finally makes the jump to the bigs.

"Watching him swing the bat yesterday, I'm amazed at his bat-to-ball skills. It's incredible," Renteria said Wednesday from Arizona. "He's actually filling out a little bit more. All these guys, we've seen them for the last four years, they're growing up. And even though Magic just joined us last year, you can see a difference in him, physically speaking.

"I think his skill set, in terms of his bat-to-ball skills, as he continues to develop, you may see a ball leave the ballpark here and there. But the fact he can put the bat on the ball and manage the barrel as well as he does, he'll be able to find holes. Continuing to improve upon and cleaning his swing path, staying through the ball a little bit more and still being able to use all parts of the field, his skill set will play. He'll find a way to get on base at a high rate through probably contact and eye recognition, pitch recognition."

Rick Hahn has said that he expects Madrigal to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign, so even if he doesn't make the 26-man roster out of spring training, keep your eyes peeled for a Madrigal sighting not too deep into the baseball calendar.

This is a matter of when, not if. So the walk-up music folks at Guaranteed Rate Field better start getting ready. Will it be "Magic Man" by Heart? Or "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra? "Do You Believe in Magic" by The Lovin' Spoonful is, of course, also acceptable.

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Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

White Sox fans suddenly have reason to stop focusing on the minor leagues.

Rick Hahn's front office has done an incredible amount of work this winter adding impact veterans to the team's young core, and because of it, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side. The summer figures to be spent focusing on what Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease are doing at the major league level rather than what the potential stars of the future are doing in the minors.

In other words, the future is here.

But it's worth noting that the White Sox still have some of the best prospects in the game. It's true that a few of the biggest names among that group won't be prospects for much longer. Luis Robert just got a high-priced contract extension that clears the way for him to be in the lineup on Opening Day. While Michael Kopech will be limited in some fashion as the White Sox manage his workload in his return from Tommy John surgery, it's hardly out of the question that he could be a part of the 26-man group that leaves Glendale at the end of March. And Nick Madrigal, Hahn has said, figures to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign after he reached the doorstep of the majors last year.

The point is, however, that the White Sox core is not done growing. Moncada, Giolito, Anderson and Jimenez all broke out in big ways in 2019, and the veterans added to that group could push the team into contention mode as soon as this season. But Robert, Kopech, Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn are set to join that core, too, expanding it to one the White Sox hope will power championship contenders for years to come.

The Athletic's Jim Bowden ranked Robert as his No. 1 prospect in baseball, picking the 22-year-old center fielder to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And that's no stretch after the way Robert lit the minor leagues on fire in 2019. Playing at three different levels, he slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 31 doubles, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. He's a true five-tool threat who receives rave reviews that peg him as potentially the best of all the White Sox young talent. MLB Pipeline is in the middle of rolling out their rankings ahead of the 2020 season, and we'll learn where Robert ranks on the site's updated list next weekend during SoxFest. But most recently, Robert was the site's No. 3 prospect in the game.

Kopech still has prospect status despite the fact that he made his big league debut in August 2018. That Tommy John surgery limited his major league experience to this point to just four games, wiping out his 2019 season. Whether he'll be the same elite pitcher that was promised prior to his surgery is one of several important questions facing the 2020 White Sox, but it doesn't seem to be deterring the rankers. Bowden has Kopech as the No. 11 prospect in baseball, and MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Kopech is said to still be capable of unleashing the blazing fastball that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. The big question now is how often he'll be able to use it, with the White Sox planning to limit him in some capacity. We'll have to wait until spring to find out exactly what those limitations look like.

Madrigal might not spend a long time at Triple-A Charlotte, expected to be manning second base for the big league White Sox for the majority of the 2020 season. But like they did with Moncada, Jimenez and Robert before him, the White Sox have no plans to rush Madrigal to the majors. Bowden has him ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the game, and we'll find out soon where MLB Pipeline has him among second basemen. We already know they think the world of his glove — which was touted as Gold Glove caliber by the White Sox the night they drafted him in 2018 — naming him the second baseman on their all-defense team (he won a minor league Gold Glove for his work last season, too). MLB Pipeline also polled general managers, scouting directors and executives across all 30 teams, and Madrigal's name popped up often, voted to possess the third best hit tool, the third best glove and the highest baseball IQ among all of the game's prospects. The guy struck out just 16 times in 532 trips to the plate last season, so he's obviously doing something right.

Vaughn is receiving similarly rave reviews this winter. Bowden ranked him as the game's No. 35 prospect, and MLB Pipeline might end up putting the White Sox most recent first-round pick even higher, naming him the top first-base prospect in baseball. A slugger whose bat earned high praise when he came out of Cal last summer, Vaughn might not reach the South Side in 2020 like the rest of the guys discussed here. But he does figure to have a similar impact when he finally does. He played just 52 games between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem after joining the organization, hitting a combined five homers at those stops. He's still swinging the bat that launched 50 homers and drove in 163 runs over three seasons in college. That aforementioned MLB Pipeline executive poll? In it, Vaughn was picked as having the second best hit tool in the game. The White Sox just gave Abreu a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the South Side through at least the 2022 campaign, but the 37-year-old Encarnacion could be here as briefly as one year (his contract has an option for 2021), potentially opening up a spot for Vaughn should everything go right in the minors.

And this is without even mentioning guys like Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever, who could all wind up playing important roles on the pitching staff.

So while there is plenty of reason for your minor league interest to wane — because meaningful baseball is expected to be happening at the major league level in 2020 — know that the White Sox farm system (at least the tippy top of it) is still worth salivating over. These guys should be on the South Side soon, only adding fuel to the fire Hahn has built this winter.

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