White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez sharp in return as White Sox shut out Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez sharp in return as White Sox shut out Tigers

You wouldn’t have known Miguel Gonzalez missed nearly a month the way he pitched on Tuesday night.

Activated off the disabled list prior to the game, the right-hander kept the Detroit Tigers under wraps as the White Sox evened a three-game series with a 2-0 victory in front of 15,155 at U.S. Cellular Field. Jose Abreu continued his onslaught with two more hits, including a solo home run and Gonzalez allowed six hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the White Sox.

“I don’t know if you could expect much more out of him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Coming off the DL and against a lineup like this, he was sharp and breaking stuff getting enough of the plate to get guys swinging.”

Similar to Tuesday, the White Sox didn’t really know what to expect when Gonzalez joined them for the first time in April. Waived late in spring by the Baltimore Orioles, Gonzalez signed a minor league deal the day before the season began. He didn’t first pitch for the White Sox until later in April and didn’t become a full-time member of the starting rotation until May.

But with one year of team control to go, Gonzalez has almost assured himself a spot in next season’s rotation.

Prior to Tuesday, Gonzalez had only made a Thursday start at Triple-A Charlotte and several bullpen sessions since his went on the DL.

Yet the rust from a groin strain that sidelined him since Aug. 11 didn’t show against the Tigers, a team that had scored 30 earned runs off Gonzalez in 30 innings in his career.

He quickly got through the top of Detroit’s lineup with three grounders in the first and retired the first five men he faced. After pitching around jams in the third and fourth inning — he put two men on base in each — Gonzalez retired nine in a row. He struck out J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton with two aboard in the fourth and got Casey McGehee to fly out to end the inning. Gonzalez then retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings.

The White Sox brought Gonzalez back in the seventh inning, but pulled him after McGehee hit the second single of the inning. Dan Jennings recorded one out and walked another before Nate Jones struck out Cameron Maybin to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez allowed six hits and struck out four. In his last nine games, Gonzalez has a 2.38 ERA in 53 innings pitched with eight quality starts.

“The most important thing is trying not to do too much when you’re out there,” Gonzalez said. “It’s been a while since I’ve gotten off the mound and pitched a real game. Being able to control that and make my pitches was the biggest thing tonight.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Jones pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings. David Robertson pitched around a single and a walk in the ninth to convert the save.

Abreu gave Gonzalez a little breathing room in the second inning when he crushed a 2-2 slider from Matt Boyd — the ninth pitch of the at-bat — for a solo homer. The drive traveled an estimated 419 feet.

Boyd kept Detroit within striking distance with seven strong innings. The White Sox’ only other run came in the fifth inning when Omar Narvaez followed Jason Coats’ one-out double with an RBI single to make it a two-run game. Narvaez also walked.

It was enough to make a winner of Gonzalez, who improved to 3-6.

“You didn’t really know what to expect, but this was pretty indicative of how he pitches,” Ventura said. “He pitches to contact, moves it around the plate. I thought his poise and everything was outstanding.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rebuild advice from 3 Houston Astros All-Stars

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Rebuild advice from 3 Houston Astros All-Stars

With the White Sox in the middle of a rebuild, Chuck Garfien spoke with 3 Houston Astros All-Stars who explained how they went from a rebuilding team to World Series champions. Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman talk about how they dealt with losing, how they learned how to win, the importance of adding veterans to the young core, and how they kept hope alive during the rebuild.  Then later, Chuck spoke with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain trying to understand how he dominated the White Sox for so many years.

Jose Abreu didn't come to White Sox looking for leadership role, but he's the face of the franchise on the All-Star stage

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu didn't come to White Sox looking for leadership role, but he's the face of the franchise on the All-Star stage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jose Abreu didn’t come to the White Sox to be a leader. But that’s what he is as he took his spot among the best in baseball at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

Abreu is the face of the South Side baseball club and he’s had a stellar-enough first four and a half seasons in Major League Baseball to earn the distinction of a starter in the Midsummer Classic. But Abreu, unsurprisingly, doesn’t look at himself as one of the best in the game. He looks as himself as a hard-worker.

“I don’t believe that I’m the best,” Abreu said through a team translator on Monday. “I’m just a person who likes to work hard every day and try to do my best.”

That humility is nothing new to folks who follow the White Sox on a regular basis. And neither is talk of Abreu’s work ethic, the admiration of everyone involved with the team and a constant talking point from Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all Abreu’s teammates.

Abreu has become as important for his off-the-field roles as he has for his on-the-field production for this rebuilding White Sox team. He’s been described as a role model for all the young players in the organization, whether they’re on the big league roster right now or coming up through the system.

“None of them have told me that yet,” Abreu joked. “But I know that. It’s definitely a compliment, and I take it as something that makes you feel good, something that makes you keep moving forward and to keep trying to help the guys to improve and get better as a team. You feel like that is a big honor, that people think that way of you.”

As good as he feels to be held in such esteem, Abreu didn’t set out to be one of this team’s leaders when he came to the United States. And to be honest, he might not be in his current position if it weren’t for the team’s rebuilding effort. Abreu is one of the few veterans on this team.

“That was something that happened. I didn’t look for it,” Abreu said. “I was always trying to help people and trying to give advice to help people to improve. But I never tried to be a leader. If people say that because of what I do, that’s good, but that’s not something that I’m trying to force or something that I say, ‘I want to be a leader.’ No, that’s not who I am. I am just the kind of person who likes to help people, who likes to give advice.”

Abreu is seemingly the definition of what the White Sox want their next winning roster to be full of. And whether it’s the special relationship he has with fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada or the role-model status he holds in the eyes of his other teammates, both current and future, he’s helping the White Sox develop those kinds of players.

Oh, and he’s generally — though this season has seen an extended slump and atypical numbers — one of the most consistently productive hitters in the game.

Who wouldn’t want all that as the face of the franchise?

“It’s all a blessing. I can’t ask for anything else,” Abreu said. “I’m a true believer that if you work hard, good things are going to happen. That’s why I work hard every day, I try to do my best, I try to improve every day and just to be a better person. Not just a better player, but a better person.”