White Sox

With Manny on deck, Pierzynski clubs Sox to victory

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With Manny on deck, Pierzynski clubs Sox to victory

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 11:36 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND Even when Manny Ramirez isnt in the game, his aura has an effect on the biorhythm of every contest he creeps near.

What else accounts for the perplexing twist this series between Mannys new club, the Chicago White Sox, and his first franchise, the Cleveland Indians, took on Tuesday night? Namely, that a mere day after the two clubs combined for 16 runs on 35 hits, leaving 28 runners on base over 11 innings, the coupling erupted for just five hits over the first six innings.

And moreover, please do explain how his mere presence in the on-deck circle can inspire a first home run in months, a gamewinner at that?

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski played the hero (and the spoiler, as Ramirez was on deck waiting to make his White Sox debut) in the top of the ninth, clocking a three-run homer deep to right to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory.

Its been so long since I hit a home run, I kind of forgot what to do, Pierzynski joked. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was telling me when I was on deck that we need a run, and fast, because we were running out of reliever options.

Im not going to say A.J. hit a home run because of Manny, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Its unpredictable, but when you see Mannys presence, hitting in front of Manny gives you a look at better pitches. You have to be careful with the guy in front of Manny. Youve got to throw strikes because you dont want to face him.

Pierzynski actually had a perfect explanation for his sudden burst of game-winning power, his first home run since July 9.

I told Manny that I finally got some protection, said the backstop.

While acknowledging Pierzynskis heroics and the looming threat that is "Manny Being Manny," the games biggest hero was the exquisite Edwin Jackson. The Chisox starter threw 8 23 innings, giving up three runs and six hits while walking just one batter and striking out 11.

As a starter you want to go as far as you can, no matter if the bullpen is fresh or if its beat up, said Jackson, who threw 129 pitches. You want to be on the field as long as you can, or until you cant go any longer. Thats just the mindset Ive taken out there.

Edwin Jackson is the story of the night, Pierzynski said. We really wanted him to finish that game. We needed that effort, with our bullpen kind of used and abused with the extra-inning game here, and the games last weekend with the New York Yankees. For him to go out and pitch the way he did, he was amazing.

Bobby Jenks came on for his 25th save, shaking off a rough Monday outing by coaxing Cleveland center fielder Michael Brantley into a tapout to the mound with the winning run on first base.

Thats when you have your heart in your throatyou dont know what to do, Guillen said. Jackson was throwing too many pitches. We called the bullpen and Bobby said hes ready to go, and Lino Scott Linebrink and Sergio Santos were ready to go as well. I went with my best betmy closerbut as a manager when you hear your players volunteer when theyre very beat up, you know what type of players you have playing for you.

I was happy for Bobby to come in and get that last out because hes had some troubles here the last few times, Pierzynski said. So that was huge.

The game certainly didnt seem to be angling toward the dramatic, nor the celebratory, for Chicago. In fact, over the first six innings, left fielder Juan Pierre had the clubs only two hits, extending his stretch of hitting safely to 34 of his last 36 games.

It took until the bottom of the seventh for the scoreless deadlock to expire, as Shelley Duncan clocked a 1-1 slider from Jackson deep to left, putting the Wahoos up 1-0. The White Sox came right back in the top of the eighth to tie, as Mark Kotsay walked, Brent Lillibridge pitch-ran for him and was sacrificed to second by Alexei Ramirez, and Mark Teahen came through with a single to center, tying the score.

Meanwhile, Jackson kept mowing through the Indians. Although his club could only muster a tie in the eighth, the wily righty chased that game-tying effort with a 12-pitch bottom of the eighth in which he struck out the side, topping out at 99 mph on a fastball to third victim Shin-Soo Choo.

Its just a matter of attacking the strike zone and executing pitches, said Jackson, whose ERA jumped to 1.47 in winning his third game in five White Sox starts, his KBB increasing to an astronomical 5.63.

With momentum behind them, the White Sox mounted a rally in the ninth with a leadoff walk and stolen base for Alex Rios. After a poor at-bat from Paul Konerko ended in a K and Carlos Quentin walked, Pierzynski stepped to the plate and Ramirez hit the on-deck circle to pinch-hit. But the newest White Sox sat his fanny right back down after Pierzynskis three-run shot, leaving his Chicago debut for another day.

Everything worked out well for us, Guillen said. Manny was on the on-deck circle, and all of a sudden we hit a home run. Its good, we didnt have to use him today, and hell be in the lineup tomorrow. Manny is excited to play, maybe because he hasnt played for two months. It seems like hes very comfortable here and hopefully we make his stay with the White Sox very comfortable. The players seemed to welcome him very well. Our dugout was the same. Nothing changed.

On Wednesday, the Manny Era in Chicago begins, as the White Sox attempt to sweep the Wahoos and pull closer to first place - as they remain four games back of the Minnesota Twins. If a standing ovation in the on-deck circle and mind-melding a pitcher into tossing a three-run, game-losing homer to the batter in front of him is any indication of his powers, that Manny Era is going to be one heck of a trip.

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

A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

Hitting has not been the biggest problem for the White Sox. But even after a win to kick off this week's series against the Baltimore Orioles, they're still under .500 and in fourth place in the aggressively weak AL Central.

There's a ton of baseball left, and their spot in the standings on April 22 indicates nothing about where they'll be at the end of September. But the issues that have cropped up in the early going — many of them having to do with what's gone on on the pitcher's mound — have signaled that another losing season in the thick of the ongoing rebuilding process wouldn't come as a great shock.

That point being established, there's still been more to smile about in the early going this season than there was perhaps in the entirety of the 2018 campaign, what Rick Hahn described from the beginning as "the toughest part of the rebuild." That turned out to be prescient, with the White Sox losing 100 games. This year, the early season emergence of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and, to a lesser extent, Eloy Jimenez have made it so there are exciting reasons to pay attention to what's going on on the South Side, all the while making for a lineup that can push across a good deal of runs.

Now imagine if Jose Abreu wasn't hitting below the Mendoza Line.

He's not anymore after a big night Monday, but the guy who's arguably still the team's best hitter when everything's right hasn't been right very often so far in 2019. That could be starting to change, though, and if it does, a lineup that's already a heck of a lot more threatening to opposing pitchers than it was at any point in 2018 could become even more fearsome, even more productive. And that leads to more wins, important not just for fans hoping for a surprise run at relevancy given the weak state of the division, but for a team building a lineup for the future that it hopes is scoring a whole bunch of runs in meaningful games in seasons to come.

Abreu went 3-for-5 in Monday night's 12-2 laugher in Baltimore, the White Sox bats looking even better with an opportunity to feast on Orioles pitching, which entered as the worst staff in the majors with a 6.21 ERA and owned a 6.37 ERA after Monday's blowout. But it's a three-game hitting streak for a guy whose average was down to .174 after Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. Since, he's 6-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs.

Maybe it's just a nice three-game stretch, boosted by a chance to swing against the big leagues' worst pitching staff. But it allows the White Sox to dream about a lineup made ever more dangerous by the regular production of a two-time All Star and one of the AL's reigning Silver Sluggers.

Again, offense has not been the main reason the White Sox are still underwater, from a win-loss perspective, at this point. They aren't exactly blowing the doors off the league when it comes to their offensive prowess, middle of the pack in baseball with 106 runs scored this season. But they entered Monday's game with a 5.44 team ERA, one of the four worst marks in the bigs. The bullpen's ERAs are still on their way down after short outings from the starting staff in the season's first couple of weeks forced them into unenviable situations. One run allowed in Monday's bullpen day should help with that. The team ERA shot down to 5.27 after Monday's game, still not enough to vault them out of the bottom six teams in the league.

But reliable versions of Anderson (who's still hitting over .400), Moncada and Jimenez are pieces this lineup didn't have last year, and they've been three of the best parts of it so far in 2019. Leury Garcia has been quietly productive if not flashy while doing it. James McCann, who hit a three-run homer to start the scoring in Monday night's rout, has put up good numbers in limited time while splitting catching duties with Welington Castillo. Even Ryan Cordell, only the team's starting right fielder for a few days, has shown promise with a couple homers already. There have been holes, of course, chiefly Yolmer Sanchez — who was still hitting under .100 on April 13 but is now batting .231 after a three-hit night Monday — and the sent-down Daniel Palka. Abreu and Yonder Alonso, in the middle of the White Sox order, have been unproductive, as well, while the younger guys have flourished around them.

But an Abreu turnaround — or, really, an awakening, considering how early it still is — would boost the numbers and make the lineup capable of even more on a regular basis.

It could also be another factor in the ongoing conversation about a potential Abreu contract extension. While Hahn has suggested it's unlikely that such a deal would be struck during the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see it come before Abreu is set to hit free agency once the 2019-20 offseason begins. The White Sox are such big fans of what Abreu does in the clubhouse and as a mentor for younger players that production might not play as big a role as it normally would. But obviously the consistency of that production in Abreu's first five big league seasons certainly helps. To keep that production going with a late-April awakening would be all the more reason to keep Abreu around for the transition from rebuilding to contending.

The White Sox lineup has been promising to this point. It could become downright potent if Abreu starts knocking the ball around as we all know he can.

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White Sox are considering five players for the third pick in the MLB draft

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USA TODAY

White Sox are considering five players for the third pick in the MLB draft

While more key White Sox prospects are making the jump to the majors and progressing through the higher levels of the minors, the farm system is still due to get another significant prospect.

That’s because the White Sox hold the third pick in the draft, which is six weeks away on June 3. This is the highest pick the White Sox have had since the team took Carlos Rodon No. 3 overall in 2014. Last year the White Sox had the fourth pick and took Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal.

Nick Hostetler is the White Sox director of amateur scouting, which means he is the face of the White Sox draft. In an interview with James Fegan of The Athletic, Hostetler said the White Sox have “dwindled our list down to about five” players they could take with the third pick.

So who could those five players be? This year’s draft class is position-player heavy at the top, which is something Hostetler later admits, but he did said there is “a pitcher still in our mix.” Given that, it sounds like four position players and a pitcher.

MLB Pipeline has six position players topping its rankings while Baseball America had batters occupying the top nine spots. Baseball America added that “four players seem to have put themselves into a tier among their own.” In that group is Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn and two high school shortstops, Bobby Witt Jr. and C.J. Abrams. FanGraphs and ESPN have the same top four in some order.

Rutschman was Madrigal’s teammate at Oregon State last year when the Beavers won the College World Series. He is the consensus top-rated prospect with Pipeline, BA, ESPN and FanGraphs all putting Rutschman No. 1.

After that things vary a little bit with Vaughn offering comical offensive numbers the last two years for Cal. He had a 1.350 OPS last year as a sophomore and has a 1.219 OPS so far this season.

Witt and Abrams are prep shortstops noted as good athletes. Witt’s father was the third overall pick in 1985. Abrams is known for his elite speed and went to the same high school in Georgia (Blessed Trinity Catholic) as former White Sox players Tyler Flowers and Matt Skole.

Finding out the pitcher Hostetler was referring to is trickier, although TCU left-hander Nick Lodolo is having a dominant junior season with 77 strikeouts, a 2.20 ERA and a WHIP just under 1 in 65 1/3 innings.

The draft is only six weeks away, but things can change quickly as these players wind down their season. Still, these are names that will continue to be named towards the top of the draft.

 

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