White Sox

New faces rally White Sox to first win of season

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New faces rally White Sox to first win of season

All the new additions to the White Sox roster this offseason had expectations pretty high.

So when the team opened the season with four consecutive losses, frustration set in among fans in pretty rapid fashion. You could tell that when the boos started raining down on Jeff Samardzija in the second inning of Saturday’s game against the Twins.

But by the time it was all said and done on the South Side, it was all those new additions that made the big plays en route to the White Sox first win of the season, a 5-4 comeback victory over the division-rival Twins.

Samardzija — arguably the biggest of those offseason acquisitions — struggled early, surrendering four runs in a nightmarish second inning to put his team in an early four-run hole. He gave up five hits in the frame, run-scoring knocks coming off the bats of Chris Herrmann, Shane Robinson, Danny Santana and Brian Dozier.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen's troubles a thing of the past]

But then came the response, triggered by a solo home run from Adam LaRoche in the bottom of the inning. And two batters after Avisail Garcia’s ground-rule double, Conor Gillaspie drove in another run with a base hit.

“I think it gave everybody a little deep breath,” Samardzija said of LaRoche’s home run. “I think the fans, the coaches, the players ... when he hit that pitch out everyone got a little excited and then shoulders relaxed a little bit and we went from there.

An inning later, Melky Cabrera scored on an RBI infield single off Garcia’s bat. And the comeback was completed with Geovany Soto’s solo shot to lead off the bottom of the fourth.

Samardzija settled down and kept the Twins silent for the rest of the day following his ugly second inning, retiring 14 of the last 17 hitters he faced en route to a seven-inning performance in his second start in a White Sox uniform.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Micah Johnson settling into life in the majors]

“He kind of got a little bit away from the strike zone, he was leaving a couple pitches up. But after that, we saw how he settled down,” Soto said. “His fastball’s there, his off-speed was sharp again. It was a blast after that.

“I feel like early (in his career) when he was trying to be a starter, he’d get to a rough patch and really didn’t know how to compose himself and make some pitches. But I think now after a couple years, he’s grown into a great starting pitcher. He knows what he’s doing out there. He has a great feel for all his pitches. And like you saw today in the second inning, he got rocked a little bit and he went out and he pitched seven innings.”

In the bottom of the eighth, with the game still knotted at four, pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck dumped a single into left field to score Alexei Ramirez and give the White Sox the lead.

“We were really excited,” Soto said. “It was really an exiting time. ... Gave us the lead into the ninth. I’m not going to lie, it was an awesome feeling to get that run into the ninth and see our closer close a game and get a ‘W.’ That was pretty cool.”

And David Robertson finished things off with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, earning his first save by striking out all three hitters he faced.

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Though they would have liked the first win of the season to come earlier in the week, the White Sox got exactly what they wanted when this new-look version of the team was constructed during the winter. The new guys came through: LaRoche, Soto, Samardzija, Robertson, Shuck. Even Zach Duke pitched a scoreless eighth and picked up his first win in a White Sox uniform.

“It’s nice,” manager Robin Ventura said. “These guys, it’s been tough for four games, but especially J.B. coming in there. Duke had the eight, Robertson the ninth. There are a lot of new faces for our fans to see, guys that really competed today. It’s tough when you are down 4-0 to be able to fight back and grind it through like that.”

That’s Rick Hahn’s offseason work paying off in a big way, albeit for the first time in this young season.

“Obviously, everybody knows it hasn’t been the start that we wanted,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes, you’re that hyped and you’re so excited you press a little too much and everybody wants to come out and have a great showing for the fans and show them what we’re all about. We’ll get there eventually. We need to come out and show what we can do. I think we saw all facets of the game today. We saw some great defense — obviously with Melky and Alexei there in the fifth for me and throughout the game. The bullpen pitched great, and we put a bunch of hits on the board and scored some runs. It was a great game for the team, and (I’m) just happy to be part of it.”

So the panic can cease. The White Sox won’t be going 0-162.

A.J. Reed, who played 14 games with the White Sox in 2019, retired

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USA TODAY

A.J. Reed, who played 14 games with the White Sox in 2019, retired

A.J. Reed, the one-time slugging prospect who made his way to the White Sox last season, retired earlier this month.

The news went unnoticed by many, though there it is on the International League's transactions page: Reed, a second-round draft pick in 2014, retired on March 4. He's 26 years old.

The White Sox picked Reed up on a waiver claim midway through last season, taking a flier on a guy who had no trouble racking up home runs in the minor leagues. He hit 34 of them playing at two levels of the Houston Astros organization in 2015, 34 more at Triple-A in 2017 and another 28 at Triple-A in 2018.

But Reed could never make it happen at the major league level, and that includes in the 49 plate appearances he got in just 14 games with the White Sox in 2019. He picked up only six hits, including one home run, and struck out a whopping 21 times.

Reed did manage a highlight in a White Sox uniform. He moved over from first base and pitched in relief during the ninth inning of an 11-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, retiring all three batters he faced.

He played his final game with the White Sox on Aug. 1 and spent the remainder of the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

In the midst of another rebuilding season, the White Sox were in position to take that sort of a low-risk gamble on Reed and see if they could help him discover something he couldn't at the big league level in Houston. Fans weren't happy watching him struggle at the plate, but that's life in the middle of a rebuild.

Thanks to breakout seasons from so many of their young core players and a busy offseason of big-name veteran additions, the White Sox don't figure to be in such a position again for the foreseeable future.

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Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Cliff Politte

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Cliff Politte

2005 was quite a year for late-round draft picks out of junior colleges in Missouri, especially Jefferson College.

That year, Cliff Politte had a career year and ended up with a new ring. Remember that guy?

Politte was born Feb. 27, 1974 in St. Louis. His father, Cliff, pitched in the Cardinals organization from 1959-65. The younger Politte captained the baseball and soccer teams at Vianney High School in St. Louis. In soccer, Politte was a midfielder and was part of two state titles.

Originally, Politte signed to play baseball for Memphis State, but the team wouldn’t agree to his wish to play outfield as well as pitch, so he ended up at Jefferson College.

Drafted by Cardinals in 54th round of 1995 MLB draft, Politte’s spot in the Jefferson rotation was filled by Mark Buehrle, his future White Sox teammate. Politte would pitch in the same game as Buehrle for the White Sox 38 times, including twice in the 2005 World Series.

The 54th round pick ended up the 1997 Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year, going 15-2 with a 2.22 ERA for Prince William (High-A, Carolina League ) and Arkansas (AA). He made the Opening Day roster in 1998.

It was quite a story for Politte to make his first MLB start at Busch Stadium for his hometown Cardinals. He got a no-decision but had a strong effort, going five innings, allowing two hits and a run against the Dodgers. The first hit he allowed was to his future teammate, Paul Konerko; his first strikeout was of former Rookie of the Year Todd Hollandsworth.

Politte earned his first career win in his next start, a 12-11 slugfest at Coors Field. At the plate, he connected for his first career hit on April 23 – off another future teammate, Dustin Hermanson. In eight games in 1998 – all starts - he finished 2-3 with a 6.32 ERA in his first taste of major league action.

The homecoming didn’t last all too long. Politte was traded with Jeff Brantley and Ron Gant to the Phillies for Ricky Botallico and Garrett Stephenson on Nov. 19, 1998. Politte shuttled back and forth between the Phillies and the minors from 1999 through 2001, along the way making what would be his final eight career starts (all in 2000).

In 2002, after making 13 appearances with the Phillies, Politte was sent north of the border to Toronto, in exchange for lefty Dan Plesac. With the Blue Jays, Politte collected his first career major league save July 24 at Baltimore, and finished 2002 with a 3.67 ERA in 68 combined appearances with Philly and Toronto.

Politte had a run as Blue Jays closer in May 2003 where he racked up nine saves. He struggled with inconsistency, finishing the year with a 5.66 ERA to go along with 12 saves, and became a free agent at season's end. He inked a deal with the White Sox on Jan. 7, 2004 – a one-year deal with 2005 club option.

Politte’s first season with the White Sox went well enough even though it ended early. A 4.38 ERA was a little better than league average – it was a high run-scoring environment at a hitter’s park. He got into 54 games and collected 19 holds, but an emergency appendectomy on Sept. 1 cut his season short. 

Politte was a key cog for the 2005 White Sox, quickly settling into his role as setup man. Heading into the All-Star break, he had a microscopic 1.02 ERA, second in the majors among all pitchers with 30 or more innings. Only the great Mariano Rivera (1.01) was better. But not even Mo could match his 0.736 WHIP at the time. Politte strung together 20 straight scoreless outings from May 29 to July 17.

He finished the regular season with a sterling 2.00 ERA with 23 holds. He was one of only a few major leaguers to hold both lefties (.182) and righties (.181) under a .200 average. Politte even collected an RBI hit on June 8 at Colorado – something no White Sox reliever had done since Terry Forster in 1972.

Politte made four postseason appearances, tossing a scoreless frame in Game 1 of the ALDS, then collecting a hold in Games 2, 3 and 4 of the World Series. In total, he allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings. He finished 2004 with an appendectomy. He finished 2005 with a World Series ring.

Politte’s luck ran out in 2006. Regression hit hard, as he posted an 8.70 ERA in 30 appearances before the Sox released him on July 20. He signed on with the Indians for 2007 and the Cardinals for 2008 but never made it back to the bigs.

Vianney High School retired Politte’s No. 10 in 2008, and in 2010 both Mark Buehrle and Politte were inducted into the Jefferson College Athletic Hall of Fame. Not bad for guys selected in the 38th and 54th rounds, respectively.

Nowadays, Politte is a sales manager and estimator for Pipe and Ducts Systems in St. Louis.