White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez good again but White Sox fall to Royals

Miguel Gonzalez good again but White Sox fall to Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Miguel Gonzalez continues to look like he could be a valuable member of the White Sox rotation next season.

Gonzalez made his 10th quality start in 11 tries on Saturday night, but the White Sox offense couldn’t solve the Kansas City Royals’ Jason Vargas/Dylan Gee combination in a 3-2 loss in front of 34,805 at Kauffman Stadium. Vargas and Gee combined to allow two runs in 7 1/3 innings and outpitch Gonzalez, who has a 2.70 ERA dating back to July 1. Catcher Kevan Smith recorded his first major league hit when he singled in the fifth inning in the losing effort.

“Nothing you can do,” Gonzalez said. “It’s part of the game. It’s a game of inches. I made some good pitches. Really the fifth inning was the one that got me. I got a little tired, had to work a little bit more. Smitty did a really good job back there, I’m really happy for him, he got his first hit in the big leagues.”

Signed at the last minute for depth, Gonzalez has been anything but over the past 2 1/2 months. The addition of the cut-fastball has helped Gonzalez get inside on left-handed hitters more easily and makes him a viable option for the White Sox going forward.

Kansas City still did get to Gonzalez for three runs, including a pair in the decisive fifth inning. Alcides Escobar tripled to right to start the inning and scored on Hunter Dozier’s single to give the Royals a 2-1 lead. Eric Hosmer also singled in a run to put his team ahead by two.

But that was all Gonzalez would surrender in a 104-pitch effort. He allowed three earned runs and six hits in seven innings.

The only outing by Gonzalez since July 1 that wasn’t a quality start was on Aug. 11 when he left a start after only one inning with an injury.

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The White Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Melky Cabrera RBI single to center off Vargas, who pitched for the first time all season. Avisail Garcia appeared to have the White Sox in line for more, but Whit Merrifield made a diving stop on a two-out grounder to prevent a run-scoring hit and end the inning.

“We had opportunities,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That was a nice play up the middle. We had something rolling there. You would like to get a little more out of it, but defensively they are pretty good. That kid plays all over the place and he does a pretty good job.”

The White Sox wouldn’t mount another threat until the eighth inning. Two one-out singles knocked Gee out of the game and Joakim Soria took over. Garcia’s one-hopper with two outs took a strange bounce off third base and went for an RBI double as the White Sox got to within a run. But Soria retired pinch hitter J.B. Shuck on a grounder to short to strand the tying and go-ahead runs.

Wade Davis pitched a perfect ninth inning to close it out for the Royals.

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Tangible, visible, hit-you-over-the-head obvious signs of progress have at times seemed hard to come by for the rebuild-loving legions watching the White Sox on a nightly basis during this developmental 2018 campaign.

That’s not to say there haven’t been tons of positives throughout the organization. Those who sprung for the MiLB.TV package have been able to see every Eloy Jimenez home run, and people around the baseball world found out just how fantastic Dylan Cease has been when he represented the organization at the Futures Game.

But the inconsistencies of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, the strikeout-heavy first full major league season from Yoan Moncada and the early season demotion of Carson Fulmer have left those watching the big league team praying for some sign that things are improving.

Enter Michael Kopech.

The news that the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect, one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, will make his major league debut Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field must have seemed like an oasis in a 31-games-below-.500 desert when it was announced Sunday afternoon.

It’s sure to make for an even more hyped atmosphere than the one that greeted Yoan Moncada last July, when the No. 1 prospect in the game made his debut in a White Sox uniform. And while the architects of this rebuilding effort know the inner workings of the organization like no outsider ever could, they’re going to be part of that atmosphere Tuesday, too, part of a celebration of progress coming to the South Side.

“As focused as we have been, the front office and even White Sox fans, on the future and progress we feel we’re making, we’ve also been tested,” general manager Rick Hahn said on a conference call Monday morning. “We’ve talked about, going back to last offseason, this would very likely be the most difficult year of the rebuild and the patience this year would require would be a challenge for all of us. So I do think it’s important to try and enjoy these moments along the way where you do see that progress.

“We can talk all we want about how we’re only in Year 2 and that it is going to take time and there is a bright future ahead of us, but we’re all human, we’re all sports fans, we all want to see progress along the way. That has nothing to do with the timing of making a move like this, but when a move like this does occur and when the developmental reasons line up accordingly, we all should take a moment to enjoy the progress and excitement that comes.”

Those paying close enough attention knew what Hahn cautioned prior to the beginning of the season, that this was going to be the hardest part of the rebuild. Tom Petty said it first, to be fair, that the waiting is the hardest part, and that’s what 2018 was always going to be for the White Sox, a waiting game. The incredible amount of talent Hahn brought into the system needed time to develop, and in many cases it still does.

And so during that waiting came what fans and observers have seen on a nightly basis at the major league level. For the young players who are still slated to be key pieces of the team’s long-term plans, we’ve seen growing pains and the continued development that comes in the bigs. In certain cases, we’ve seen players who are fighting to make themselves a part of the long-term plans and players who simply won’t end up being a part of those long-term plans.

But few players are expected to have as a big a starring role as Kopech, hence the excitement surrounding his promotion. He’s tantalized with his last seven starts at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio — 59 punch outs and only four free passes — over his last 44 innings.

While fans have been clamoring for promotions — be it of Kopech or top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez — for months, it’s taken this long into the season for a big one to come to the major league team. That, too, has all been part of the plan. Hahn mentioned multiple times throughout the year that how the team handled Giolito and Lopez a season ago could be a kind of template for how they handled Kopech this season. And while all three are different pitchers dealing with their own developments, Kopech will make his debut one day away from the one-year anniversary of Giolito’s White Sox debut.

In the end, though, Kopech’s promotion is the manifestation of the patience Hahn said everyone involved with this organization — him and his own front office included — had to practice this season. The White Sox waited until they knew Kopech was absolutely ready. They didn’t make a promotion to better a team that wasn’t contending for a playoff spot or to please an antsy fan base hungry to see progress happen as soon as possible. Baseball players constantly say that it’s all about execution. Well, Hahn and the White Sox executed their plan exactly how they wanted.

“Outside noise or emotion or even passion or excitement for seeing the rebuild progress has nothing to do with our decisions in terms of the timing of promotions,” Hahn said. “Each of these decisions are motivated by what’s best in terms of putting both the organization and the individual player in the best long-term position to reach their potential.

“We knew the 2018 season would be a challenging one and one in which we were going to have to not fall prey to outside influences or the influence of outside factors beyond what’s best for the organization and what’s best for our players’ long-term development. It’s going to require patience. I think you’ve seen that we’ve exhibited that this season, and we’re going to have to continue to do that throughout the coming weeks and months.

“The short-term gratification that would come from eliminating white noise or promoting a high-profile player just isn’t worth it when you consider the long-term benefits that come from us just showing the requisite patience that is required to put these guys in the best long-term position to succeed.”

Now it’s time for Kopech to execute his own plan and meet the huge expectations he has for himself and that Chicago has for him.

But for those watching the big league team, this is the hit-you-over-the-head sign of progress you’ve been waiting for, a tangible sign that the rebuild is moving forward.

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: