White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez has bolstered back of White Sox rotation

Miguel Gonzalez has bolstered back of White Sox rotation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Overshadowed in a weekend’s worth of bungled games is the fact that Miguel Gonzalez has strengthened the back end of the White Sox rotation.

Signed to a minor-league deal on April 3, Gonzalez has delivered the kind of consistency the White Sox have hoped for from the fifth spot in the rotation. He only has one win to show for it because of two blown saves, but Gonzalez has a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts with an average of 5 2/3 innings per turn. While the White Sox continue to explore outside options, including San Diego’s James Shields, Gonzalez has to have them feeling more secure about the guys behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

“He’s come in and given us a chance,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Every time he pitches, it seems like we have a chance to win that game. (Friday) it started out a little rough and after that he did a very good job of getting us to the seventh and doing his job. He looks in control as well as mannerisms and his personality, it's his stuff. He’s not walking people, he’s not getting himself in trouble, making guys swing the bat.”

Gonzalez has made five starts for the White Sox and has a 4.50 ERA. He made one start April 25 and went back to Triple-A Charlotte. But after returning, Gonzalez has since remained in the rotation each of the last four turns.

Whereas Gonzalez walked five batters in a May 15 contest, he has since walked none in 12 1/3 innings and struck out 13. Gonzalez has been happy to have consistent work and to be able to make adjustments in between starts with pitching coach Don Cooper.

“I’m getting to feel a little better with all my pitches, command and changing speeds,” Gonzalez said. “We’re doing the best we can to minimize the damage and that’s what it’s all about.”

Unsure what they’d receive from Mat Latos or John Danks, the White Sox saw a fit in Gonzalez, who was waived by the Baltimore Orioles in late March because his velocity hadn’t returned and if he were kept they owed him $5 million. Rick Hahn said that Gonzalez’s velocity began to return late in spring and they liked the potential of a pitcher who went 30-21 with a 3.45 ERA from 2012-14 before he struggled last season.  

Essentially, the White Sox didn’t see Gonzalez as a scrap heap project.

“We knew that even when it happened to him at the end of spring training,” Ventura said. “That was our first conversation of guys that you’ve either played against or you see and think something’s there and can help you. He was definitely that guy.”

MLB rumors: Marcus Stroman a potential White Sox target come free agency?

MLB rumors: Marcus Stroman a potential White Sox target come free agency?

In this jumbled-up baseball calendar, it shouldn’t be surprising that free-agent rumors are starting to fly before the 2020 season has even started. In May.

Free agency could be one of the many things that looks way different than we’re used to due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With teams expected to see a steep decline in revenue without paying customers in the stands this year, free-agent spending could take a hit.

But there are certain to be free agents, nonetheless, and after a busy round of free agency last offseason, could the White Sox be active again? That will depend a great deal on how a 2020 season plays out and whether it exposes any needs as the team attempts to make its leap into contention mode.

Already, though, they’re being speculated as a team that could jump into the bidding for free-agent-to-be Marcus Stroman, starting pitcher for the New York Mets.

Jim Bowden, the former general manager now working for The Athletic and CBS Sports, said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the White Sox ended up as one of the teams, along with the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels, with interest in Stroman when he hits the market after the 2020 campaign.

Now, the White Sox just inked Dallas Keuchel to a big free-agent contract last winter and hope they can fill out the rest of their rotation with some of the high-ceiling arms at both the major league and minor league levels.

Lucas Giolito figures to have a rotation spot on lockdown for the foreseeable future after emerging as an All Star and the ace of the staff in 2019. The team has high hopes for Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, who have made only a combined 18 big league starts. Reynaldo Lopez remains an option if he can solve his issues with consistency, and Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert are all on the mend from Tommy John surgery and could factor into those starting-pitching plans.

RELATED: Top 20 MLB Draft prospects: Who will White Sox pick at No. 11?

The 29-year-old Stroman, though, could offer some more security — and certainly some more big league experience — should those unknowns stay unknowns once the White Sox get to the offseason. His results have fluctuated somewhat from season to season. He was excellent for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017, with a 3.09 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 33 starts, winning a Gold Glove and finishing in the top 10 of the AL Cy Young vote. The following season, in just 19 starts, his ERA was up over 5.50.

But last season, he bounced back again, making the All-Star team thanks to a sub-3.00 ERA in 21 starts with the Blue Jays before being dealt to the Mets, where he posted a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts.

Bowden pointed out that the Mets likely wouldn’t being willing to pay Stroman, much like they let Zack Wheeler walk last offseason. The White Sox attempted to bring Wheeler aboard on a big-money free-agent deal, but he turned down their richer offer to pitch closer to home with the Philadelphia Phillies.

If the White Sox were interested in Stroman, they might be smart to run it by star shortstop Tim Anderson. The two had a tiff of sorts during a 2017 game, with Anderson stepping out of the batter’s box during an at-bat, ruffling Stroman’s feathers and leading to some on-field jawing that caused the benches to clear on the South Side.

“Just the way he carried himself, I felt like I felt disrespected,” Anderson said. “I had to do what I had to do. Just, when I stepped out when he was going slowly, he said a few words. I kind of let it go, and then after he struck me out, he mumbled something else.

“He’s going to try to throw me off, so why not step out and try to throw him off? It was one of those things, I stepped out and he just complains and cries like he always does. That’s what it led to.”

But winning has a way of dissolving any bad blood, and if the two ended up teammates on a team with the ability to win a division and compete for a World Series, it seems something like that could be easily forgotten.

Depending on how things shake out this year, and what state the starting rotation is in come winter, maybe Stroman could be a consideration for Rick Hahn’s front office.

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Royals' Brad Keller expected boos from White Sox fans but heard 'crickets'

Royals' Brad Keller expected boos from White Sox fans but heard 'crickets'

White Sox fans aren’t too fond of Royals pitcher Brad Keller, not after he intentionally hit Tim Anderson post-bat flip last season.

In the weeks following the bat flip, the plunking and the benches clearing, Keller caught tons of heat from South Siders on social media. But he was surprised he didn’t get a more negative reaction the next time he came to Guaranteed Rate Field.

Keller drilled Anderson on April 17 and pitched at the corner of 35th and Shields a month later, May 28. He was expecting White Sox fans to let him have it. But apparently he didn’t hear much.

“I get tagged in everything (on social media,” Keller said during an appearance on The Charity Stripe podcast. “I got called every name under the sun after that, cuss words that I didn't even know what they were. They were just ripping me to shreds.

“But what was so funny is when we went back to Chicago, I didn't get booed, I didn't get called anything when I ran out to the mound. Nothing happened. For them being so passionate and loyal on social media, there was nothing at the game. I was expecting full-on (cursing and screaming). I was ready for it.

“In the visitor's bullpen (at Guaranteed Rate Field), there's a bar like underneath us just to the right. There's like a screen. You can't see in it, but they can see you. I was fully expecting, because everyone's drunk down there — it's kind of a sick place to watch a game — I was fully expecting for people to just wear me out. And there was crickets.

“One dude said one thing, and the girl he was with smacked the shit out of him, like I could hear it from the bullpen. It was hilarious. So I was fully expecting everything to come out. Nothing really happened.”

RELATED: Tim Anderson and the Royals stir up baseball's never-ending debate: 'You want him to not do that? Get him out'

Now, while this is almost sure to rev White Sox fans’ engines even more for the next time they’re able to greet Keller on the South Side, it also serves as a nice lesson in treating your fellow human beings with respect, especially online. Keller didn’t get the same treatment at the park he did on social media because the things people say on social media are things they’d rarely say to someone’s face. And that’s as good an indication as any that they shouldn’t be said at all.

Keller, too, could maybe use a reminder, not for what he said but what he did: throwing a projectile at another person because he didn’t like the way he celebrated. It goes all ways.

However, such lessons are unlikely to completely spare Keller the next time he pitches in front of fans at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Under Major League Baseball’s proposed altered schedule for a shortened 2020 season, the White Sox would face the Royals 13 times. That’s fewer games than during a normal season, but it’s a much greater percentage of the schedule. Almost 16 percent of the White Sox games would come against the Royals.

But it’s also expected that those games will be played in empty stadiums. So Keller will likely hear those same “crickets” if he pitches on the South Side this season.

As for 2021? It will probably be a little louder.

 

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