White Sox

No fooling, Sox loss sets record for April futility

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No fooling, Sox loss sets record for April futility

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 9:12 p.m. Updated: 10:15 p.m.

Associated Press

No. 9 hitter Robert Andino supplied some power, aggressive baserunning and a great play at shortstop to help the Baltimore Orioles send the Chicago White Sox to yet another defeat.

Andino's antics were pivotal in the Orioles 6-2 victory Saturday night, but manager Buck Showalter pointed to the work of reliever Mike Gonzalez as the key.

The hard-throwing lefty pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam with only one run scoring in the sixth. He struck out Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski to stop a potential big inning by the struggling White Sox, who've lost 14 of 17.

"Gonzalez was the star," Showalter said. "Big momentum swing with Dunn coming up there. I said, 'Let it loose, let it hang out, let's go.'

"He's always emotionally into it. Nobody is a robot that doesn't have emotions. Everybody pulls for him. (The offense) fed off his success as much as he did."

Leading 2-1, the Orioles tacked on four runs in the eighth, an inning featuring a passed ball and error on Chicago catcher Pierzynski, some daring baserunning by Andino and a two-run single by Vladimir Guerrero.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen missed the game, completing his two-game suspension for tweeting comments about an umpire after he was ejected three nights earlier in New York. Bench coach Joey Cora ran the team for the second straight game.

With or without their manager, the White Sox can't win and finished April 10-18 - the most losses in April in franchise history. They've dropped four straight.

"The league is not going to be feeling sorry for us or wait for us or nothing. We are going to have to play and play through it and start winning some ballgames," Cora said.

Baltimore's Chris Tillman (1-2), who had to skip his previously scheduled start because of a sore groin, had a 2-0 lead and was pitching well into the sixth when he gave up singles to Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin and walked Paul Konerko to load the bases with no outs.

Showalter went to the bullpen for Gonzalez, who struck out Dunn looking. Alex Rios then hit a fly ball to medium center field and Adam Jones made a strong throw to the plate that appeared to be in time to get Ramirez, but Orioles catcher Jake Fox couldn't hold the ball, making it 2-1. Gonzalez then fanned Pierzynski to end the threat.

Phil Humber (2-3), who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his previous start against the Yankees, had another solid outing, giving up three hits and two runs in seven innings.

"Our job is to gout there and go deep in the ballgame and keep us close and give our offense a chance," Humber said. "Right now we're not scoring a whole lot of runs, but I think that is going to turn around, I really do. I've got all the faith in the world in these guys. ... Hopefully it turns around for us pretty quick."

Andino led off the third with his first homer of the season - and seventh in parts of seven major league seasons - to put Baltimore up 2-0. The Orioles took an early lead when Brian Roberts doubled to lead off the game, went to third on a fly ball and scored on Humber's wild pitch, a low delivery that eluded Pierzynski.

"I wish I could take one pitch back, the one to Andino," Humber said. "Other than that pitch and not being there to cover home in the first inning that kind of bit us there. Other than that I threw the ball pretty well."

Andino also blunted a Chicago rally in the fourth when the White Sox had first and second and no outs. He made a diving stop on Rios' grounder behind the bag and started a double play with a nice flip to Roberts.

"He's been playing good shortstop," Showalter said.

Andino singled in the eighth off Matt Thornton and stole second. When Roberts struck out, the ball got by Pierzynski, who retrieved it and threw low to Dunn at first. Dunn caught the one-hop throw but his relay to the plate was too late to get Andino, who scored all the way from second.

"I came around third aggressive," Andino said. "He might throw the ball. In this game, anything happens.... Once I saw the ball hit the dirt, I made up my mind."

Nick Markakis followed with a single and Derrek Lee walked to load the bases before Guerrero delivered a two-run single past third. Luke Scott's sacrifice fly made it 6-1 and Thornton was booed as he left the mound.

Rios hit his first homer of the season in the ninth to make it 6-2.

NOTES

The Orioles have won four of their last five. ... Guillen said he watched Friday night's 10-4 loss on TV. He said that more difficult than from the dugout because he has to watch replays and can still hear the booing. He said he was in the parking lot and then went home Friday night. "It was painful to watch as a fan," he said. ... Dunn, who underwent an appendectomy and was 7 for 61 over his previous 17 games, got his first start at first base for the White Sox after serving for 20 games as a DH. He went 1 for 4 Saturday night. ... RHP Jake Peavy (shoulder) is scheduled to make his next rehab start on May 5 for the White Sox's Triple-A Charlotte team and throw 100 pitches. ... Orioles' DL update: SS J.J. Hardy (left oblique) hit off a tee, ran the bases and took ground balls Saturday. RHP Justin Duchscherer (left hip) threw 30 pitches in batting practice and said he felt great afterward. LHP Brian Matusz (back) threw 45 pitches in a side session Saturday and reported no problems.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.