White Sox

No Cactus League games for White Sox' Chris Sale until March 19

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No Cactus League games for White Sox' Chris Sale until March 19

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If there’s a benefit to Chris Sale’s foot injury last spring, the White Sox learned what their ace pitcher can do even with minimal game action.

Almost a year to the day (Feb. 27) after he broke a bone in his right foot that sidelined him for three weeks, the White Sox said Friday that Sale won’t pitch in any Cactus League games until mid-March.

The catch is that this time, Sale, who’s first set to pitch March 19, is healthy. Even though has was limited to two minor-league appearances last spring, the White Sox are confident Sale can perform in April even with minimal action against major leaguers. They’ve based their belief on Sale going 13-11 with a 3.41 ERA in 31 starts last season and leading the American League in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.73) and strikeouts (274).

“Last year he was throwing against A-ballers all spring because he hurt his foot,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “And then he comes out and he’s full bore for us and certainly did great. “We’re slowing him down a little bit.

“He’s just got a little different schedule.”

[MORE: Jimmy Rollins likes opportunity to 'fight for a position' with White Sox]

Cooper described most of Sale’s future scheduled work as “behind the scenes.”

Sale does have a second round of live batting practice on the docket Saturday. But from there he’ll mostly work in simulated games and perhaps take on another minor-league squad. He isn’t set to pitch in a Cactus League game until the White Sox host the Dodgers on March 19.

“It’s more of a controlled thing that we can get his work in and just make it earlier in the day as well,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”

Last week, Sale suggested he didn’t think the schedule was out of the ordinary, either.

Same as last offseason season, Sale said he started to work out earlier and throw later.

“Coop and I have bounced ideas off of each other with that for this spring training, kind of building up while we are here, but just maintaining strength and staying in the weight room,” Sale said.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, White Sox fans!]

The familiarity with Sale is the big key -- “If this was his first spring, we wouldn’t do it that way,” Cooper said.

The evidence helps, too.

The White Sox liked how Sale threw last April as he posted a 2.37 ERA in his first 19 innings en route to establishing a franchise-record for strikeouts.

“He did it last year,” Cooper said. “We need to get his innings and pitches up, I can tell you that. We’re going to do it in a lower leveraged, stressed kind of environment. Simulated games, stuff like that where we’re working on stuff -- his arm-side stuff, working on the opposite side, back door breaking ball and specific stuff on days as we go.

“We seem to do that every spring, but now it’s more by design. Why? Because we know him, we know how he goes and we’ll make the adjustment there.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Zack Collins hit two home runs as part of a three-hit day. He drove in two runs, scored two runs and walked once in a 10-4 loss. Collins now has seven homers on the campaign with an ungodly .421 on-base percentage. He's batting .326 over his last 25 games. Eloy Jimenez had two hits and a walk, and Jordan Guerrero gave up four runs and walked five in four innings.

Class A Winston-Salem

The Dash lost both games of a doubleheader, 10-5 and 7-0. Luis Alexander Basabe, Alex Call and Gavin Sheets each picked up two hits on the day.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had a hit and scored a run in a 2-1 loss.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez had a hit in a 2-1 win.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.