White Sox

Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

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Manny debuts, Konerko the hero in White Sox win

Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
Updated 3:47 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

So, given all of the Manny Ramirez hullabaloo over the past week, is it OK that the Chicago White Sox apparently acquired him to stand in the on-deck circle and menace opposing pitchers into surrendering game-winning, three-run homers in the eighth inning?

For the second straight game and the second time in about 12 hours, Ramirez had the best seat in the house for such a blast. On Wednesday afternoon in Cleveland, it was Paul Konerko who launched a two-out, three-run bomb to lead Chicago to a 6-4 win and a series sweep of the Indians. It was Konerko's 12th home run this season hit after the seventh inning.

"Don't forget, I've had a real good run producer behind me all season long in Carlos Quentin," Konerko said in response to queries about the Manny Effect, as locker neighbor A.J. Pierzynski joked that his days of seeing a fat pitch in front of the team's newest slugger were over. "And besides, whenever I think too much about who's hitting behind me or what pitches I'll see, it screws me up."

Manny himself took questions in English after the game, indicating that he was indeed getting confortable (as evidenced by his animated jostling with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in the manager's office after the game) in his new clubhouse: "I'm just happy to contribute to a win here, and I'm looking ahead to a lot more."

Seemingly everything had pointed to a White Sox sweep of the Indians at this matinee in front of a few thousand Ramirez rubberneckers.

Indeed, the ballyhooed slugger was making his White Sox debut, but the factors lining up for Chicago were more numerous than that. Freddy Garcia, the team's fifth starter who nonetheless led the team in quality start percentage and traditionally pitches well in day games and vs. the Indians, took the mound. The game began some 14 hours after an emotional and dramatic win for the White Sox. And the team was searching desperately for a kick-start into a stretch-run September in which it must make up a game per week on the first-place Minnesota Twins.

Things started off well for Chicago, as the third batter of the game, Alex Rios drove a pitch 407 feet to left-center. And in the eighth, that other Ramirez, Alexei, blasted a solo shot to left field as an appetizer for Konerko's clout one out later.

In-between, there was little joy for the Chicago 9. In the third, Asdrubal Cabrera tied the game with a two-out single to drive in Larry Donald. In the next frame, Jordan Brown tapped Jayson Nix home to push Cleveland ahead. And in the fifth, the Wahoos tallied two more, one on a double-play ball struck by Cabrera, the other a two-out infield hit by Nix.

Garcia appeared to strain his back chasing a Nix infield hit in the fourth, although he stayed in to finish the frame, and both Guillen and the starter pronounced Garcia fit for his next start. The veteran was cheated out of a chance for the win, however; pitching just four innings and 60 pitches.

The White Sox added an Ozzieball insurance run in the ninth, with Mark Teahen singling and eventually scoring while being pushed ahead by an Andruw Jones walk, Ramon Castro sacrifice bunt and Alexei Ramirez sacrifice fly.

Chisox rookie phenom Chris Sale, who Guillen hours earlier had said he was now comfortable inserting in any situation, came on in the ninth, pitched through a minor rally and notched his first career save.

"You know Ozzie, he's not afraid to do anything," an obviously-proud Sale said. "Ramon came out to talk to me, slow me down, and we just broke it down to the basics from there."

The manager himself was delighted by the resilience and fortitude of his team, which shook off its August doldrums by completing the sweep. The skipper launched kudos toward everyone from the Ramirezes to Konerko, the bullpen, yeoman long reliever Tony Pena, Garcia, Sale, and anyone else we're unable to find room to let him thank in this cyberspace.

But after a much-needed day off in Beantown, a crucial three-game set with the playoff-contending Boston Red Sox looms.

"Every series - every game - is crucial," Guillen said. "We're fighting for our lives and there's no room for rest."

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

White Sox among a whole bunch of teams reportedly interested in Nathan Eovaldi

White Sox among a whole bunch of teams reportedly interested in Nathan Eovaldi

The White Sox have already been linked to the two biggest names on this winter’s free-agent market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. And now they’ve been mentioned as one of a host of teams interested in one of the top free-agent starting pitchers, as well.

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo listed the White Sox as one of the “early suitors” for Nathan Eovaldi. But they’re not at all alone, with Cafardo including the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants as other members of that group.

That’s a lot of competition.

It’s not terribly surprising to hear the White Sox have apparent interest in Eovaldi, as they’ve publicly stated starting pitching as a team need they’ll be addressing this offseason. They have two holes in their 2019 starting rotation thanks to Michael Kopech’s recovery from Tommy John surgery and James Shields’ departure. One way or another, the White Sox will have to fill those holes, though their financial flexibility gives them the option of going with a couple one-year fill-ins and waiting for their young arms to fill out the group in 2020, or adding someone for both the short and long terms.

Eovaldi would fall into the latter category after his breakout second half and postseason with the Red Sox, who acquired him in a midseason trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. After coming to Boston, Eovaldi posted a 3.33 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 54 innings. In the playoffs, he allowed only four earned runs over six appearances totaling 22.1 innings. That postseason run was highlighted by his six innings of one-run ball in the marathon Game 3 of the World Series.

All that success in a Red Sox uniform will likely get him a nice payday this winter, and perhaps that success is why, as Cafardo reported, Eovaldi “would love to stay in Boston.”

But it is worth noting that Eovaldi’s numbers prior to last summer’s trade were not nearly as wonderful. Before he missed the 2017 season while recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, he turned in a 4.42 ERA in 84 appearances, 81 of those starts, from 2014 to 2016 with the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees. His 8.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 were good showings in 2018, but during that three-season stretch, those numbers were 6.8 and 2.5, respectively.

With Eovaldi coming off a career season, however — a season that saw him throw harder than he has at any other point in his career, a Tommy John success story — it’s no shock that interest in high around the league. As is the case with any top free agent, the rebuilding White Sox would likely have to get Eovaldi to buy into planned long-term success versus the ability to win multiple championships right now.

But they’re apparently interested, another potential example of their seeming willingness to land a big fish this offseason.

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.