White Sox

LIVE: Royals open up big lead on White Sox

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LIVE: Royals open up big lead on White Sox

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:22 a.m.
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(AP) -- A preseason favorite to win the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox are instead limping to the finish.

The reeling White Sox look to avoid a fifth straight loss and prevent the Kansas City Royals from their season-high fifth consecutive victory Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

Chicago (73-75) was a manageable five games back of first-place Detroit on Aug. 30, but has since lost 10 of 15 while the Tigers have won 12 in a row to build a 13 12-game lead.

The White Sox did not seem to show much fight while being outscored 25-9 in a three-game sweep at the hands of Detroit this week. Chicago blew a three-run, ninth-inning lead and lost 6-5 in 10 innings Wednesday.

"Their fight left three days ago. I don't care what they say," disgruntled White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's not frustrating; it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing because we should have won this."

All-Star first baseman Paul Konerko believes the team's underachievement has finally taken a mental toll.

"When you grind for seven months and kind of get to a point where you know you can't get to where you want to get to it just happens," Konerko said. "People are human. Everybody is going out trying to do a job. Unfortunately at this point that's what it's become, a job."

September has been rough for Konerko, who had two hits and two RBIs on Wednesday but is 7 for 36 with one homer in his last 10 games. However, he has batted .326 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 11 games versus Kansas City in 2011.

Scheduled White Sox starter Mark Buehrle (11-8, 3.58 ERA) is 1-0 with a 4.74 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season but has allowed 15 runs and 18 hits over nine innings while losing his last two starts overall. The left-hander gave up seven runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-4 loss to Cleveland last Friday.

"It was another one of those days," Buehrle said.

Kansas City's Mike Moustakas is 0 for 5 versus Buehrle, but 8 for 19 with three RBIs in his last five games. The rookie third baseman had three hits and drove in two runs as the Royals (64-86) completed a two-game sweep of Minnesota with a 7-3 win Wednesday.

Fellow rookie Eric Hosmer is batting .350 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in his last 25 games. He's 10 for 31 versus Chicago this season but 1 for 6 off Buehrle.

Jeff Francis (5-16, 4.88) takes the mound for the Royals in what is expected to be his final start before he is shut down for the season. He is likely to exceed 180 innings just two years after undergoing shoulder surgery.

"I've proven I'm healthy and even though I'll miss my last two starts, I feel good and I feel strong enough that I could make them," Francis told the Royals' official website.

The left-hander looks to avoid a third straight losing start after he allowed five runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 7-3 defeat at Seattle last Friday. He's 0-1 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts versus Chicago this season.

The Royals are 6-5 in the season series, but the White Sox have taken the last two meetings.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Will Nick Madrigal make Opening Day roster? White Sox say he has 'a few more things to prove'

Will Nick Madrigal make Opening Day roster? White Sox say he has 'a few more things to prove'

What’s the White Sox plan for second base in 2020?

Depends on when you ask.

“If we sat here today,” general manager Rick Hahn said during his pre-SoxFest press conference Thursday, “it would be some combination of Leury Garcia, Danny Mendick and Nick Madrigal.

“Ask me again on March 25.”

Presumably, Hahn and manager Rick Renteria will be asked many more times between now and then.

It doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult question to answer if we’re talking about the bulk of the 2020 campaign, as Madrigal — ranked as one of the best prospects in baseball — figures to be the guy at second base for a majority of the season. But with just 29 games played at Triple-A Charlotte last year, the White Sox might not be as ready for him to make the leap to the bigs as the fan base seems to be.

“He's got a few more things to prove,” Hahn said. “I think that when we go through trying to be as objective as possible thinking about where he is developmentally, he hasn't necessarily answered all the questions we have for him at the minor leagues.

“But we're going to go in with fresh eyes and a fresh approach in spring training and see where he's at and in all probability make an assessment there.

“I don't think we have him, by any means, written in pen as the Opening Day second baseman at this point, if that's what you mean. But could he change our minds? Yeah.”

Madrigal just might do that. After all, the bat-to-ball skills that continue to be described as “elite” are still there. He struck out just 16 times — 16 times! — in 532 trips to the plate between three levels of the minor leagues in 2019. He’s had his defense talked up as Gold Glove caliber since the White Sox selected him with the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft. All the rave reviews are still there.

Considering the alternatives are two guys who seem to be ticketed for reserve status, at best, in Garcia and Mendick, it’s no shocking thing to suggest that Madrigal is probably the organization’s best second baseman. But during this rebuilding process, the White Sox have been consistently patient with their prospects, an approach that has maddened fans at times. But Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez arrived at the big leagues eventually, and a big-money extension for Luis Robert has cleared his path to an Opening Day roster spot a year after he set the minor leagues on fire.

“We still want him to get more at-bats,” Renteria said of Madrigal on Thursday. “I want to see him out there defensively. He can catch the ball. We already know that he's a heady player. I think we want him to still have the at-bats this spring to see big league play, more big league pitchers.”

And so you can begin to envision an Opening Day lineup without Madrigal in it as he continues to polish off the final stage of his minor league development in Charlotte. That means Garcia, likely, as the Opening Day second baseman and the main option there until the White Sox deem Madrigal ready for the major league stage. Mendick will probably earn a roster spot, as well, and he might see more time than expected should Renteria opt to utilize Garcia’s versatility in the outfield on any sort of regular basis.

While there are plenty of guys out there on the free-agent market that might strike as better options than those two — and the White Sox might not be done making smaller additions before Opening Day — it might also not make the most sense to pay for someone who will be backing up Madrigal in a matter of weeks or a couple of months. Just something to consider.

Anyway, Madrigal’s really going to have to blow the doors off the Cactus League, it would seem, if he’s going to be starting alongside Robert & Co. in the March 26 opener against Kansas City. But until he and the White Sox get down to Arizona, the answer can’t be more certain than “maybe, but probably not.”

But, hey, feel free to ask Hahn again come March 25.

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More moves? Nicholas Castellanos? 'Heavy lifting' over, but White Sox might not be done

More moves? Nicholas Castellanos? 'Heavy lifting' over, but White Sox might not be done

More? Really?

No, White Sox fans, you’re not being greedy if you’re looking for Rick Hahn’s front office to keep adding to the roster. But maybe pause just a bit to congratulate the general manager on an offseason well done.

Hahn has added an incredible amount — and in an incredible amount of time, considering the way some baseball offseasons of recent vintage have played out — to a White Sox team that lost 89 games last year and 100 games the year before that. Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Steve Cishek and Gio Gonzalez have come to the South Side, bringing playoff experience and veteran know how to a young group that, despite that lopsided record, broke out in a big way in 2019.

It’s all added up to realistic playoff expectations for the first time in a long time.

But continuing to add is what playoff teams do. So no, it’s not outlandish to suggest that more pieces might make sense, especially with certain markets still boasting plenty of options for teams searching for more depth and more oomph to make a seven-month run at a championship.

But Nicholas Castellanos? That’s probably not going to happen.

“We're probably done with any major acquisitions,” Hahn said during his pre-SoxFest press conference Thursday. “The reality of our day-to-day is that we're still, down the hall, debating various potential smaller additions, and there's still the occasional trade idea or free-agent signing that picks up a little steam. So never say never.

“The nature of the job is you always feel like there's one more addition you can make, so I'm probably never going to stand up here and say we're finished. But in reality, I think the safe assumption is the bulk of our heavy lifting for this winter, at least, is over.”

Castellanos — who feasted on White Sox pitching as a member of the division-rival Detroit Tigers — is still out there, and right field is still a much discussed position for the South Siders.

Nomar Mazara has the everyday job out there right now after he was acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers during the Winter Meetings. But he hasn’t fared well against left-handed pitching in his big league career, and even Hahn has described him as a possible platoon candidate, something the general manager might be attempting to downplay these days, consistently talking up Mazara up as someone with untapped potential, which certainly could end up being the case.

“You need to look at the roster holistically. You need to look at everything and how it all fits together,” Hahn said when asked why Mazara is the superior option to some of the bigger names that were or remain on the free-agent market. “Mazara's 24 years old, he already has five years of experience in the big leagues, he's a left-handed power bat who does significant positive offensive contribution against at least right-handed pitching and that our scouts and coaches think there's more upside to. Given the control of a couple of years and the price points that he comes with, we think it's a nice fit within the other things that we wanted to accomplish on that roster.”

Regardless of how good Mazara might end up being, fans have adjusted their energy to lobbying for Castellanos, the pendulum of public perception swinging wildly from “the White Sox will never spend on free agents” to “look at the White Sox spending on free agents, they should sign every available player.” Hahn threw cold water on that idea Thursday, though dashing dreams of Castellanos isn’t the same as saying the White Sox are closed for business until the season starts March 26. It’s also unlikely to stop fans from bombarding the GM with Castellanos-related inquiries this weekend at SoxFest.

On the more realistic fronts, though, the White Sox could probably still use some starting-pitching depth, especially now that Dylan Covey is no longer part of the organization, a minor league free agent after he rejected an outright assignment to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday. While the rotation is in much better shape than it was when the 2019 season ended, thanks to the additions of Keuchel and Gonzalez, if one of the five pitchers expected to make up that starting staff when camp breaks gets hurt in April, who is there left to turn to?

Hahn reiterated Thursday that the team will wait until reaching Glendale, Arizona, to determine what the plan will be for Michael Kopech, considering the desire to limit him in some fashion as he returns from Tommy John surgery and the accompanying yearlong layoff. Ross Detwiler might be better served starting in Charlotte than pitching as the long man out of the White Sox big league bullpen. But the starting-pitching depth, while the team waits for Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert to recover from their own Tommy John surgeries, isn’t particularly populous past Detwiler.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that a minor league signing or two not unlike the Ervin Santana acquisition last spring would make an awful lot of sense. Just, you know, hopefully with better results than the ones Santana turned in last season.

It's also worth noting that the White Sox bullpen, while looking strong at the back end, doesn't have a long man in it. Someone who could eat up some innings and make the occasional spot start would figure to be of value.

How right field will shake out is still somewhat of a head-scratcher, though it seems with each answer about Mazara, Hahn is signaling an increased likelihood that Mazara will get everyday at-bats. That might douse the notion of a platoon partner unless proven necessary a few months into the campaign.

At second base, the general manager said that, at the moment, the answer is a “some combination of Leury García, Danny Mendick and Nick Madrigal” before instructing the inquiring reporter to “ask me again on March 25.” Madrigal’s chances at an Opening Day job aren’t looking favorable at the moment, pending him blowing the doors off the Cactus League. Does that mean there’s a veteran addition coming at second base? More likely, it means Garcia is your Opening Day starter, even if there’s a bounty of options on the open market.

So no, Hahn is probably not completely finished working the White Sox into the transaction log. A signing or a trade is hardly out of the question with still more than two months before Opening Day.

But those dreaming of yet another huge splash to add to a long list of them this winter might have to wait until … well, July, maybe?

Yes, fans ought to be pleased, too, with Hahn’s comments on adding at the deadline, should the White Sox find themselves in the playoff chase. He said they can do it.

“I do feel like we put ourselves in a position to have that type of flexibility,” Hahn said, “as well as it's been my experience here over the last couple of decades that when we've been in a position to truly win and add impactful pieces around the deadline, we've been able to find the wherewithal to get that done.”

If the White Sox have truly made the transition from rebuilding to contending — something we won’t find out until they start winning games and, you know, contending for things — then Hahn and his front office might never be done adding.

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