White Sox

New approach has Adam Eaton continuing to thrive with White Sox

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New approach has Adam Eaton continuing to thrive with White Sox

NEW YORK -- Adam Eaton has already appeared in 147 games with another seven to go in the regular season.

Given his frantic style of play in 2014, when injuries limited Eaton to 123 contests, there was some question whether or not the White Sox center fielder could endure an entire season. But the combination of an improved workout program as well as maturity on his part has not only left Eaton merely standing at the season’s end, he has thrived.

The most noticeable difference for Eaton -- who has reached base in 16 straight after he singled and walked in a 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday afternoon -- is the reasons given for days off. Whereas last year it was about health, this season it’s for a better matchup or to give rookie Trayce Thompson a look.

“They haven’t been forced like last year,” Eaton said. “I feel like there were a lot of forced days where ‘You need to have a day to survive.’

“Days off haven’t been survival days, which is good.”

Eaton’s production has been even better.

Entering Saturday, Eaton was hitting .283/.355/.423 with 13 home runs among his 47 extra-base hits, 51 RBIs and 93 runs in 658 plate appearances.

He attributes it directly to his health and ability to stay on the field, which he believes is partly the result of an offseason plan developed for him by Allen Thomas, the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator.

Eaton had already begun his offseason program when the White Sox acquired him from Arizona in December 2014 and felt like he was in limbo. He tried to combine parts of the Diamondbacks’ program with some of Thomas’ suggestions and later realized that was incorrect.

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But last offseason, Eaton worked entirely on Thomas’ program, which features more heavy lifting than he previously did in Arizona.

“It’s really night and day between the two,” Eaton said. “He worked his magic in his plan and I followed it and it has paid dividends.”

Thomas said the team’s program is based on consistency and includes phases for endurance strength and power. He credits Eaton for adhering to a much different program than he was accustomed.

“He followed our offseason part of our strength and conditioning program to a tee,” Thomas said. “Commend only him for putting the work in and the diligence to stay with the program and give it a chance.”

Eaton has done the same with the team’s message to dial it back a little on the field in the name of preservation.

Whereas he played in 2014 like his hair was on fire, running into outfield walls at full speed and trying to beat out routine ground balls as if his life depended on it, Eaton has taken a more measured approach this season.

“He’s able to throttle it back at times better than he did last year because it was all out or not at all,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s kind of found that sweet spot being able to know when to turn it on and there’s time when he can slow it down a little and not be able to have to use everything to get be able to play the game.

“There are smarter ways to do it and I think he’s progressed and learned how to do it.”

Eaton said part of his motivation in 2014 was to make a good impression on the White Sox. The outfielder clearly did as the club gave him a five-year, $23.5-million extension in March. But the extension came with another request from management to be smarter on the field.

“You put your body through some extra abuse that doesn’t need to be there,” he said. “I’m still trying to work out kinks in the offseason as well as in season in understanding when to run into a wall and when not to. I’m still learning on a day-to-day basis.”

Eaton considers it all part of the process. He’s “decently pleased” by his performance this season, but wishes he had gotten off to a better start. Still, Eaton’s proud of the resiliency he showed after a stressful first five weeks and hopes to improve from the experience.

“I learned you don’t make or break a year in a month-and-a-half,” Eaton said. “There’s things I need to work on, continue to work on, get better and the week after the season I’ll reflect and make a plan for myself in the offseason and go from there.”

A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

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USA TODAY

A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

The White Sox are not playing in the World Series. A 100-loss season will do that.

But just because the South Siders aren't playing doesn't mean White Sox fans shouldn't pay attention to the Fall Classic. There's plenty to take from this matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that applies to South Side baseball past, present and — most importantly — future.

Chris Sale

The guy who will throw the first pitch of the 2018 World Series is one of the greatest White Sox pitchers of all time.

Sale's been grabbing headlines the last few days for an alleged belly-button ring, but the only body part of his that matters come Tuesday night is his left arm. Since the White Sox traded Sale away in the deal that kick-started the rebuild, he's been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, putting up a 2.56 ERA in 59 regular-season starts, with 545 strikeouts in his 372.1 innings. He's made five postseason appearances with the Red Sox and hasn't fared quite as well, the overall numbers ugly thanks to a seven-run outing against the eventual-champion Houston Astros last year. But this fall, he's given up just four runs and struck out 14 batters in 10.1 innings.

Sale's status as one of the game's best hurlers is a reminder of a couple things for White Sox fans watching him wear differently colored Sox this fall: 1. why they liked him so much in the first place, and 2. what kind of price it took for Boston to get him. The K Zone can be reborn, if only briefly and in the comfort of White Sox fans' own homes, for Sale's appearances in this World Series. But more importantly to the future of the South Side franchise, Sale's continued excellence is a reinforcement of the potential of Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the two biggest names in the return package. It took those guys and their incredibly high ceilings to get a pitcher as good as Sale, and that's still a good sign for the White Sox future.

This is how you rebuild

The Red Sox have a reputation as one of baseball's biggest spenders, but their roster is rife with the fruits of player development, something the rebuilding White Sox are trying to yield in their contending team of the future.

Boston has a couple big-ticket players in David Price and J.D. Martinez, but they're two of just four free-agent signings on the Red Sox World Series roster. Meanwhile, a whopping seven were drafted by Boston, including the entire starting outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and likely AL MVP Mookie Betts. The left side of their infield is a pair of international signings in Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, so that means five of the Red Sox starting nine position players (five and a half if you count Christian Vazquez, one half of the Red Sox catching tandem) have never known another organization.

The Red Sox might not win this World Series, but their roster makeup isn't dissimilar from the last two teams that hoisted a trophy, the Cubs and Astros, who boasted their own groups of homegrown stars. And here's something you might not realize: Boston had back-to-back last-place finishes in the AL East in 2014 and 2015, during which they rid themselves of veteran contracts and earned a couple high draft picks. They made the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft for all that losing. The result? Benintendi.

And so it's another October with a team proving that the tear-down-and-rebuild method can work wonders. White Sox fans might not be rooting for the Red Sox this fall, but their victory would be another for the rebuilding strategy — and should give plenty of hope to South Side fans envisioning their own group of homegrown stars leading a championship run one day.

Manny Machado

The World Series will allow White Sox fans to do a little bit of scouting on some free agents that the South Siders could pursue this winter, and there's no bigger name in that category than Machado, the Dodgers shortstop expected to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history this offseason.

Many a Twitter-using White Sox fan have had Machado on their wish list for years, though that number might be declining following some of Machado's words and actions during the NLCS. He didn't run to first on a grounder, then ignited a PR disaster by saying hustling wasn't his "cup of tea." He interfered with a pair of double-play turns by sticking his hand up while sliding into second base (the same play that, during a Crosstown game last month, ended with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson screaming at umpire Joe West). And Machado most notably dragged his foot over Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's leg in a play Aguilar's teammates called dirty after the game.

So with all that in mind, Machado and his extreme amount of talent — he's at the end of a career year that saw him slash .297/.367/.538 with 37 homers and 107 RBIs during the regular season — will be on the game's biggest stage for all to see. That includes his future team, whichever that might be. Those White Sox fans still hoping he lands on the South Side to help kick the rebuild into overdrive can watch this World Series to see just how good he is with the bat and with the glove. On the latter, should the White Sox be willing to rearrange their infield for Machado, who is insistent on playing shortstop despite his two Gold Gloves at third base? Watch and see.

Other free agents to be

But Machado's not the only player in this matchup who'll be hitting the free-agent market this winter.

Before either of these teams punched their tickets to the Fall Classic, I wrote about a pair of pitchers who will be free agents this offseason and who could make sense for the White Sox, and lo and behold they're both going to make starts in this World Series. Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to get the ball for the Dodgers in Wednesday's Game 2, and though yet to be announced, we'll likely see Nathan Eovaldi go for the Red Sox when the series shifts to Los Angeles.

Rick Hahn said the White Sox will be looking to add pitching this offseason, and Ryu and Eovaldi will both be available. Either would be an upgrade in a South Side rotation that led baseball in walks this season. Eovaldi walked just 20 guys all year, 12 in 54 innings with the Red Sox and only eight in 57 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays. That's compared to a season strikeout total of 101, for a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ryu, meanwhile, walked only 15 batters in his 82.1 innings, compared to 89 strikeouts. His ERA was a pencil-thin 1.97, significantly lower than Eovaldi's still quite good 3.81 number, which was 3.33 after the midseason trade from the Tampa. Could either one be a future White Sox starter? Maybe.

Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is also heading to free agency and could be of interest to White Sox fans who don't see a future closer among the team's crop of young relievers. He's going to cost a lot, though, a seven-time All Star with a 1.91 career ERA and eight straight seasons of at least 31 saves (40-plus in five of those).

Other bullpen guys who will be looking for jobs this winter: Joe Kelly of the Red Sox (one earned run allowed in 5.1 innings this postseason) and Ryan Madson of the Dodgers (one run allowed in 6.1 innings this postseason).

Oh, and Dodgers Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw could be a free agent, too, if he opts out of his current contract. The White Sox would figure to be quite a longshot to lure him away from Southern California, but if Kershaw were to go somewhere else, that could shake up the whole market and open up other possibilities for teams like the White Sox. Something to keep in mind.

The next important trend

The World Series and the postseason in general have been ground zero for some of the game's latest sweeping changes in recent years.

Specifically, the emphasis on relief pitching has dominated the last couple Fall Classics, and teams like the Brewers and Rays showed how good a team can be while leaning as heavily on the bullpen as any team ever has. While this World Series might not feature teams practicing "bullpenning" to those extremes, the relief corps again figure to play starring roles. If that happens, how does that impact the White Sox rebuild? Does a heavy focus on starting-pitching depth need to shift to a bigger focus on relief-pitching depth? Or do the lists of future free-agent relievers become of greater interest than players at any other position?

Or perhaps an entirely new trend is born this fall that the White Sox will have to react to while constructing their teams of the future. You won't know unless you watch the World Series.

Sox Drawer Q&A: Joe Girardi, Enoy Jimenez and Chris Sale's 'infected' belly button

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USA TODAY

Sox Drawer Q&A: Joe Girardi, Enoy Jimenez and Chris Sale's 'infected' belly button

We made it above 60 degrees in Chicago today: A cause for celebration and another edition of the Sox Drawer. Questions from White Sox fans range from Joe Girardi to Enoy Jimenez (yes, Enoy) to Chris Sale’s “infected” belly button. Here we go.

Q: Jon Heyman tweeted out earlier that Joe Girardi pulled out of the Reds managerial search because he wants to wait a year for the Chicago job. Do you think he’s talking about the Sox? — @piratedwight

CG: I don’t know if the report is true or not, but what I do know is that Girardi grew up a Cubs fan and he later played for the Cubs. Put those two together and I’d assume he would love to manage them in the future. Something to consider: The main reason Yankees general manager Brian Cashman gave for firing Girardi in 2017 was that he felt he had trouble communicating and connecting with the young players. For a young, rebuilding team like the White Sox, that might be a red flag. Granted, that’s the Yankees' side of the story. Personally, I don’t think he’s interested in managing the White Sox.

Q: Who do you want the Sox to draft with the 3rd pick? Do some research. — @Frankie_OConnor

CG: If you look at most mock drafts right now, you’ll see high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. going first, followed by Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman (Nick Madrigal’s teammate) and Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers. Rutschman’s stock went way up because of his play in the College World Series, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player. Langeliers won a Gold Glove in 2018, named the best defensive catcher in Division I. He nailed 70 percent of would-be base stealers. Umm, I’ll take that.

The White Sox took Zack Collins with the 10th overall pick in 2016. White Sox scouting director Nick Hostelter always says “take the best player available.” Would they draft another catcher with their top pick again? Possibly.

You know what, why don’t we hear from Hostetler himself? I asked him to describe the talent level at the top of next year’s draft.

“Overall the ‘19 draft has a little bit of everything up top,” Hostetler said. “There are some interesting high school bats and arms, as well as some college bats and a few college arms that are intriguing. I’m not sure there’s a clear top five at this point, but as we’ve seen in past years, the guys sitting at the top of all the lists and mock drafts today usually change come the first Monday in June.”

In other words, let’s talk again in June. The best part about this? The White Sox will be in position to grab a very talented player for their future.

Q: After the most recent international signing of Eloy Jimenez’s brother, Enoy, do you think he could get close to the level of Eloy? Eloy wasn’t a known prospect until a few years ago, keep in mind. — @Dehhmac_

CG: In case you missed it, the White Sox signed Eloy’s 17-year-old brother to a baseball contract Sunday. Eloy posted a photo of him and his smiling brother wearing a White Sox hat and jersey.


By the way, if you do a Google search for “Enoy Jimenez,” Google will ask: “Did you mean Eloy Jimenez?” Even Google can’t believe it.

We don’t know too much about little Enoy. I say little because he’s tiny compared to his big brother. See the video we found on YouTube which was posted a couple of weeks ago. Enoy is wearing a White Sox retro tank top and a Charlotte Knights hat. If anything, he’ll fit right in at SoxFest. Seriously, he has some great baseball DNA, so he’s got that going for him. He’s an infielder. That’s about all we know. As MLB Trade Rumors put it, “scouting information on the younger Jimenez brother is virtually non-existent.”


Q: We know that Rick Hahn plays things close to the vest. In your opinion, do the White Sox view Matt Davidson as a viable two-way option? Personally, I'd like to see how he does in close games. — @emm528

CG: I know Davidson is quite serious about it. I’m not sure about the White Sox side of things. When I asked Don Cooper during the season about the possibility of Davidson having a more permanent role in the bullpen, he seemed skeptical about the idea. That said, if Davidson comes to spring training and impresses the coaching staff, they might be open to it. Davidson told me in September that he needs to train his body during the offseason so he could handle the workload as a pitcher. He just basically winged it in emergency duty last season. At one point after one of his appearances, he needed around two weeks for his body to get back to normal. It’ll be interesting to see if he can pull it off.

Q: You got to be by the dugout for most home games this year. What’s something that goes on in the dugout during a game that fans at home wouldn’t know? — @PeteCha56613119

CG: Davidson likes to throw gum at me.

Q: Chris Sale. Discuss. — @sccerlaw

CG: If you’re asking about Sale getting an infection from a belly-button ring, he was joking. Sale likes to have fun with the media. Remember in 2014, when he tried to work in a specific word during his postgame media scrums? He said things like juxtapose, acquiesce, capitulated, ruminate, amalgamation. Waiting to hear what his next Harvard vocabulary word was one of the highlights of a rough fourth-place season. Sale did miss his start in Game 5 of the ALCS because of an unspecified stomach illness. Keep in mind, he’s probably taking medication for an inflamed shoulder. But he says he’s 100-percent ready now for Game 1 of the World Series.

Q: If the White Sox win the World Series next year will you get a belly button ring? — @vlamas05​​​​​​​

CG: Sure.

Q: Why don't the White Sox have a museum in the park? About 1/3 of the league does and most of those teams have half the history the Sox do. — @Gnome89​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. For this one, I went right to the source and asked Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing.

“We used to have a small museum that fans could walk through which was attached to our team store," Boyer said. "Years ago, we converted that space as demand for a wider selection of retail products grew. We do have a museum-like historical display in the Magellan Scout Seats and have put many of the significant moments in our history on the columns leading to the sections on the 100 level. This past season we had a Negro League Museum traveling display in the Chicago Sports Depot.

"We continue to look for ways to display our history, and the Depot may very well be the best place, but, at this point, there are no plans for a permanent museum location.”

Q: Who do you see the White Sox going after in free agency this year? — @Grank2410​​​​​​​

CG: I wrote about my top five free agents last week. I don’t know for sure who the White Sox will sign, but I’d like to see them add a veteran hitter or two who have playoff experience, who know what it takes to win and can impart that on the young hitters.

Q: When will the Sox change their uniforms? — @ckottlarock​​​​​​​

CG: Personally, I’d wear the 1983 throwbacks for every game, home and away. But that’s just me.

Q: Can we please not get Machado? Can we get Nolan Arenado instead? — @drobaseball555​​​​​​​

CG: Rick Hahn, if you’re reading this, @drobaseball555 wants Arenado. Got it?

Thanks everyone for all of your questions. We’ll do it again next week.