White Sox

No surgery for Morel; Hudson gets the start at third

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No surgery for Morel; Hudson gets the start at third

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com contributor

Third baseman Brent Morel received some good news Tuesday -- he does not need surgery. Time is all that is needed for Morels ailing lower back that forced the White Sox to place him on the 15-day disabled list.

The lumbar strain injury was originally believed to be a disk issue, which would have required surgery and a much longer stay on the DL.

This is really good news, Morel said prior to Wednesdays game against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field. This injury is never operated on, and can be controlled really easily in the training room. Its nothing long term, which is nice.

Morel, who hasnt played since May 17, had an MRI done May 10 that showed a bulging disk. But Morel said doctors reviewed the MRI when he wasnt responding to the treatment for the disk, and discovered that wasnt the problem.

The injury has nagged Morel since spring training, but he would not blame it for his poor start to the season. He is hitting .177 in 35 games with only five RBI and two extra-base hits (both doubles).

Im not going to say its affected me too much, Morel said. When Im in there I feel like I can play. I dont know how much correlation this has had.

After a few days of trying new exercises that will target strengthening the lower back, Morel said hell get back to hitting and go from there regarding his return to the lineup.

In the meantime, Orlando Hudson appears to be the choice to replace him at third. Hudson joined the Sox on Tuesday, and made a late-inning appearance in a 9-2 loss to the Twins, his former team.

Hudson is making his first career start at third in tonights game.

I have to make sure I catch the ball, and keep the pitcher on the mound, Hudson said. I dont want to be out there booting balls and throwing balls away. I want to keep the ball in front of me and make the play.

Hudson had an incident-free debut Tuesday. He entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, and later hit a single and scored Chicagos second run. He only fielded one ball, throwing out Jamey Carroll at first.

Part of that was to get him out there and get his feet wet, said manager Robin Ventura, who sported a Chicago Police Department cap as he addressed reporters before the game. The White Sox are honoring the CPD tonight for the work they did during the NATO meetings. (Hudson) looks fine over there. He came in and had an aggressive at-bat. Thats part of bringing a guy in. He wants to prove himself, and hes going to get that shot.

Despite his vast experience at third, Ventura said he doesnt plan to offer hands-on advice to Hudson on any of the intricacies of the position.

Im too old to go over there and tutor anybody, Ventura said, laughing.

As for Morel, Ventura, a former third baseman himself, said the injury isnt something to worry about too much.

Every third baseman has back problems, Ventura said. I had them. You learn to deal with them and take care of it. If it was something structural, that would be different.

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about James McCann's breakout season with the White Sox (1:15).

Then Chuck speaks with McCann about all the preparation he does for every game (9:20), why he'll never use a cheat sheet scouting report behind the plate like many catchers do (11:30) and what McCann has been badgering Lucas Giolito about since spring training (14:30).

Plus, why Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer have been so successful out of the bullpen (16:30), why McCann acts as a karaoke host on the team bus (17:40) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

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USA TODAY

Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

Things are about to get tougher for the White Sox. Much tougher.

The upcoming road trip features seven straight games against first-place teams, the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. Those two teams are, by their winning percentages as of this writing, the two best teams in baseball.

The much-bemoaned makeup of this season’s American League means seeing top-shelf competition is a rarity for any team playing outside the AL East. The Astros are a mile ahead of the rest of the AL West. The Twins have appeared, so far, as the only team capable of winning an aggressively weak AL Central. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays — three teams the White Sox have already seen one time apiece — will battle it out for the AL East crown all season long, but let’s be honest, they all seem safe bets to make the postseason.

The fact that the five teams likely to make the playoffs have already put themselves ahead of the competition and it’s not even Memorial Day is its own discussion topic as the rebuilding trend sweeps through the Junior Circuit. But for the 2019 edition of the Chicago White Sox, specifically, it just means that this week is not likely to be a good one.

In the 10 games they played against the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, the White Sox went 3-7. They were pasted by the Rays and Red Sox, who combined to outscore them 58-18 in seven games on the South Side, and they took two of three from the Yankees in The Bronx.

Of course, any expectations can be dashed in a small portion of a 162-game season. Cast your mind back to 2017, when the White Sox swept a three-game series from the soon-to-be world-champion Astros. The South Siders finished with 95 losses that season, but for three games in August, they had the champs’ number.

Will this week go similarly? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem likely.

The Astros are on fire, or at least they were before the Red Sox snapped their 10-game winning streak Sunday. That doesn’t change the fact that the Astros boast a plus-92 run differential that counts as the best in the game. Or their 3.43 team ERA (second in the AL). Or their .279 team batting average and jaw-dropping .353 team on-base percentage, both marks the best in baseball.

The Twins, the division rivals the White Sox will see for the first time in 2019 beginning Friday, aren’t far behind. That offense has been sensational, too, through the season’s first two months, owning baseball’s second best run differential (plus-77) and its second best team batting average (.270). No team in either league has hit more homers than the Twins, who have launched 87 of them in 45 games.

The White Sox, meanwhile, have a fragile, injury-affected starting rotation — after Sunday’s game, manager Rick Renteria did not share who’s starting Monday’s game — and a pitching staff with a 5.09 ERA that’s given up 68 homers this season. Sunday, Reynaldo Lopez made it through six innings of one-run ball, only for the White Sox bullpen to cough up a pair of two-run homers to the Toronto Blue Jays (one of baseball’s worst offenses) in the game’s final two innings. It was the sixth time this season the White Sox bullpen has allowed multiple home runs in a single game.

“Gulp” might be an appropriate reaction to hearing the White Sox have to go up against the Houston and Minnesota offenses seven times in the next seven days.

This isn’t to say the White Sox are merely a punching bag for these two giants of the American League right now. Certainly most of the teams the Astros and Twins have faced have suffered less than desirable fates. But the gaps between the rebuilding White Sox and this pair of contenders are not small.

The White Sox are trying to accomplish the same thing the Astros did, spending several frustrating years being patient during a rebuilding process only to come out the other side a perennial contender and World Series champion. These same Astros who are now bullying the rest of the AL lost a total of 416 games in the four seasons prior to their first playoff season in a decade in 2015. By the end of the 2017 campaign, they were world champions. That’s the template the White Sox are trying to follow.

But the White Sox aren’t to the mountaintop yet, and that might end up being painfully clear by the end of the upcoming road trip. It doesn’t mean their climb won’t get them to that same point, but don’t try to compare the 2019 White Sox to the 2019 Astros this week. That’s not the comparison that counts.

The Twins are a little different, having revamped their lineup over the offseason with free-agent acquisitions who have paid huge dividends. C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz (currently on the IL) have combined for 31 homers in 45 games. But homegrown guys like Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are all playing well, too. That quintet has accounted for 43 of the Twins’ 87 homers this season. That’s a strong core of homegrown young hitters, the kind of thing the White Sox hope to have real soon, the kind of thing that’s taking shape with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson off to good starts and Eloy Jimenez at the major league level (and likely to come off the injured list Monday).

The White Sox have obviously had their positives this season, and they’re clearly in a better place now than they were at this point last year (a 21-24 record after Sunday’s game compared to 14-31 through the first 45 games of 2018). But their rebuilding process hasn’t yet reached the point where they’re going to be trading blows with the two best teams in baseball.

There could be some surprises on this road trip. But they don’t figure to be easy to come by. Buckle up, here come the two best teams in baseball.

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