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Ozzie's sweep remedy: Erase season, start over

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Ozzie's sweep remedy: Erase season, start over

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m. Updated: 3:40 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
DETROITSigns abound in the Chicago clubhouse that White Sox havent given up on the season and are still enjoying the game theyre paid to play.

And yes, that goes beyond the potboiler quotes about fighting hard, taking one day at a time, and the team inevitably catching fire again.

Adam Dunn remains calm in the face of an OPS careening down dangerously close to his body weight. Omar Vizquel celebrates his 44th birthday with a cake and a dance around the clubhouse. Lefty compadres John Danks and Mark Buehrle are teasing one another over any volume of minutiae.

But after reaching their worst start in 10 years (8-14) after another spiritless loss to the Detroit Tigers, 3-0, its getting harder to believe theres a break in the clouds that threaten, in just April, to blot out Chicagos season.

Nothing works, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I continue to plug those guys in the lineup. Hopefully they come out of this. The only way you come out of this is playing otherwise theres nothing you can do about it. It seems like every day a rerun, seeing the same at-bats and it seems like everybody we face is pretty nasty. But you have to get ready for the next day because you cant control what happened today, only tomorrow. My faith and hope is still very high and Im still very optimistic about this ballclub; we know were going to hit. As a group were not very strong right now. We try to figure out what we try to do about it but nothing is going well for us.

I couldnt tell you what is wrong, said Matt Thornton, who threw a scoreless eighth to keep Chicagos recent strong bullpen run going. There are numerous aspects of the game that go on, from defense to starting pitching to bullpen to hitting to situational hitting and theyve all been missing in the past few days. At least one major one is always missing in each game. Thats why were dropping so many. But were way too talented: Look at guys track records on this team, and we have a lot of guys with a lot of success in major league baseball. Its a matter of getting everyone on a roll and going.

The White Sox were again no-hit for the first three innings, something thats happened in all three games in Motown. Bengals starter Max Scherzer climbed to 4-0 by keeping the Chisox hitless through four and by surrendering just four through eight innings, racking up seven Ks against three walks in an efficient 103 pitches.

Danks stopped a streak of subpar starts from Chicago, although he was just a step past mediocre by allowing 11 baserunners over six innings. The Chicago ace remains winless through his first five starts.

We lost, Danks said in response to a question about hurling a stronger game this time out. It was a battle, no doubt. I found myself in some pretty tight jams, in the fourth inning, especially, when Im just thinking damage control at that point. Its one of those games where you go out and battle the best you can and give us a chance to win. Unfortunately, Scherzer is pretty darn good. You just have to move on.

We arent going to dwell on it. We know its early. We arent helping ourselves digging ourselves a hole. At the same time, theres plenty of time and plenty of talent on this team to think we are out of it just yet. We are going to battle and try to win every game we can and go from there.

The White Sox are suffering through a deep freeze that gets worse by the day. In Detroit this weekend, they mustered just three runs. With runners on base, the White Sox were 2-26, including an 0-9 series with runners in scoring position. Chicago has been held scoreless for 20 straight innings.

After the game, Guillen joked about the meaninglessness of a pep talk at this juncture of the season: What am I going to tell them? But it was a comment that came before the game that might be a strong statement of support, and one he has already shared with the likes of Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham.

I worry about them mentally, yes, he said. Players, in general, when they see the beginning of the season and look up at the scoreboard, they have 40 at-bats and see .090, they start to panic. I dont care how strong you are mentally or how much you care or not, you will think about it. The only thing you can do is former White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak told me: Erase the season and start over.

Peavy lightens the load

Dont take Jake Peavys temporary detour into journalism as a sign that his rehabilitation took a bad turn in the Comerica Park bullpen on Sunday.

Peavy, who hid behind a crowd of reporters to ask Danks, What about those two walks?got a nonplussed response from the chill Texas lefty.

One was intentional, he answered. That doesnt count.

I was just trying to lighten the mood, Peavy smiled, moments later. John pitched hard. It could have been worse or better. Scherzer was a little bit better today. We are going to grind through this and win or lose together.

Of course, the main focus with Peavy postgame was how his 40-pitch bullpen session went. And by all accountsgrunts, snorts, and allthe intensity was quite a bit higher than any bullpen Ill ever throw, and went very well.

I felt good, he said. Im excited to move forward. Ill throw another bullpen in Yankee Stadium and go ahead and go out on assignment on Friday to Charlotte. I felt nice and free today, nothing painful that I felt the other night. Thats exciting.

As for the scar tissue around his reattached latissimus dorsi muscle that caused him to snap his prior start on April 18 some 75 pitches short, Peavy was all smiles.

The intensity was high today, Peavy said. I needed to find out if I turned the ball loose, if I was going to feel what I felt. I cant say Im going to start without giving it a test run. We certainly did that today and the scar tissue checked out OK.

Peavy feels particularly helpless these days, unable to help the Chisox snap out of a funk that threatens to scuttle their season before May.

READ: Peavy throws side session, on track for next rehabilitation start.

Im excited to get back out and just obviously feel bad sitting here talking to you guys about this when team is going the way its going, he said. I just try to keep the boys as positive as we can and be a cheerleader for next couple of days, and go out and rehab and get back here and help as soon as I can.

Oddly enough, after talking to teammates like Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, who have also had significant arm surgeries, Peavy is starting to believe that the serious surgery he suffered last July could have a sunny effect overall.

We had to take it for a test run and find out if the irritation and scar tissue was still an issue, he said. We might have freed the tissue up a little bit Maybe this thing will work beneficially in the long run.

For now, Peavy is dealing with shifting his focus from a sort of homecoming start in Chicago later this week to another round of rehab in Charlotte. Peavy is all smiles and trying to play it cool, but inside hes ready to jump out of his stirrups.

Hopefully setbacks are behind us, he said. I look forward to getting back out to Charlotte once again. Hopefully, its one of the last times.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Magic, buzz and something crazy: It's time for the White Sox to win

Magic, buzz and something crazy: It's time for the White Sox to win

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox are rebuilt.

No, the rebuild isn’t officially over. You’ll have to wait for after the parade for that. And it’s true that there are plenty of question marks on this roster.

But for the first time in a long time, the White Sox are preparing for a season with expectations. Big ones. The manager set them early, saying he’d be disappointed if his squad didn’t reach the postseason. There hasn’t been October baseball on the South Side in more than a decade. But that’s not stopping anyone in silver and black from realizing that things are different now.

“It’s definitely a little different,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “It’s more relaxed and we know what we want. We know what we want this spring training versus last spring training. We kind of knew what we wanted, but now we know what we want and we see it. We just have to put the work in and go get it.

“I get a winning vibe, all positive and winning vibes. Everybody knows what we are here to do. We are here to win a championship, and we are here to take it all.”

Everyone at Camelback Ranch is talking about expectations. And whether they’ve voiced their intent to just play better baseball, make the playoffs or win the World Series, there’s one common conclusion: It’s time to win.

The losing has not been fun during the last three rebuilding seasons. The White Sox lost a combined 284 games in 2017, 2018 and 2019, with contending often taking a backseat to development in anticipation of the transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode.

But a host of breakout campaigns from young, core players in 2019 laid the groundwork for Rick Hahn’s front office to make a slew of veteran additions this winter, adding to that core All-Stars like Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Gonzalez.

It all adds up to realistic postseason expectations on the South Side. And a feeling that those losing days are firmly in the rearview mirror.

“I think it's just about time for us to start winning,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “It's just that time for us to start winning games and start to be relevant.

“The team that the front office put together, we're going to be able to do it. We have to be united. We need to be strong in good times and bad times if we want to be successful this season. With the guys that we have right now, that's something that's doable. That's our goal.

“I think expectations are high because we all know that this is the time for us to win.”

Certainly Abreu would love to experience that. He hasn’t been a part of a winning team in his major league career, part of six sub-.500 seasons on the South Side. But his love for the organization kept him in a White Sox uniform as he briefly hit free agency this winter. He’ll be wearing those colors for at least another three years thanks to a new deal. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he never wears any others.

But you don’t have to have sweltered through the dog days of this rebuild to express your excitement for 2020. Something had to lure all those free agents this winter. Grandal, Keuchel, Encarnacion, Gonzalez, they all liked what they saw. Now they’re a big part of why there is such electricity running through White Sox camp.

“It seems like they want to do magic this year and for years to come now,” he said. “I look at it now as, let's keep competing as much as we can and see it from there. The buzz is in the locker room. We are excited. We do want to play, and I think this is the year we're going to push for it.

“They went out and got some guys that wanted to make something happen this year, and I think we have the team to do it. If you’re someone in Chicago watching the White Sox, this is a team to watch, and we’re excited to see that we can put it together.”

It truly does seem that Hahn’s front office did go out and get everything that was missing from this roster, which featured as impressive a collection of young talent as you’ll find but lacked experience, especially winning experience. Even 33-year-old team leader Abreu has never played in the postseason.

Enter the newcomers. Grandal and Encarnacion have appeared in each of the last five postseasons. Keuchel’s been to the playoffs in four of the last five years. Gonzalez played in three of the last four postseasons. New reliever Steve Cishek went to the NL wild card game with the Cubs in 2018.

They have no plans of stopping those streaks.

“Once you get a little taste of the playoffs, that's why you play, is to get that feeling,” Keuchel said. “As much as you want to replicate it in the regular season, for guys who have no playoff experience, I think the regular season is that feeling. But there's another feeling to it that pushes you and wants you to be a better player.

“I told Rick Hahn this, I said four out of the last five years I've made the playoffs, and I don't expect any of these three years (during his contract with the White Sox) to be any different.”

A lot of things will have to go right for the White Sox to make a rapid ascent to the top of the baseball mountain. As mentioned, there are question marks. What will the team get from Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez a year after some ugly results? Will Michael Kopech be the pitcher who was promised prior to his Tommy John surgery? What will Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal do in their first tastes of the major leagues? Will Anderson and Yoan Moncada stay productive if their good luck diminishes? Will Nomar Mazara unlock the potential the White Sox see in their new right fielder?

It all has to work out for the White Sox to compete for the division title and a World Series championship. But isn’t that the case with every team?

This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. Viewing the upcoming season through rose-colored glasses is a February tradition on par with Presidents Day mattress sales.

But the White Sox have good reason to be excited, good reason to be talking playoffs for the first time in so long. That light at the end of the tunnel that Hahn has been talking about for a while now isn’t just visible. It’s bathing these young White Sox.

Of course, they have to prove they can do it. But all this talk? Don’t roll your eyes. It’s not at all crazy.

The White Sox are saving the crazy for the field.

“We have a chance to do something crazy,” Anderson said. “That’s what everybody is talking about, right? So why not own up to it and set the bar high, go to the playoffs and win the championship. That’s the goal, right?

“We didn’t come here to work for nothing. We come here to win championships and make it to the playoffs. That’s no secret. Everybody knows we are here to win championships.”

It’s time to get nuts.

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Zack Collins won't be surprised if he starts the season in Triple-A

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USA TODAY

Zack Collins won't be surprised if he starts the season in Triple-A

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After getting a taste of the majors last season, Zack Collins is here in spring training wondering when he’ll make it back.

Looking at the two All-Star catchers next to him in the clubhouse in Yasmani Grandal and James McCann, Collins says he won’t be surprised if he’s the odd man out when the White Sox break camp at the end of March.

"To have my first full season in the major leagues as a once-a-week player, pinch hitter is probably not the best thing for me," Collins said, "and it’s also tough to go back down to Triple-A, obviously, and to bring to reality that maybe that’s the best thing for me. At the same time, things happen, trades happen, injuries happen. I don’t wish anything on anybody. You just got to keep working hard and prove that I should be in the big leagues and continue to go."

With teams able to carry an additional player starting this season, some clubs will use the 26th spot for a third catcher, which on the surface could benefit someone like Collins. But he doesn’t see it that way.

"A lot of people think the 26th man is going to help me out. I’m not really sure about that, because you have a first baseman (Jose Abreu) who signed an extension, a new DH who came in, a veteran guy (Edwin Encarnacion), and then two veteran catchers," Collins said. "I don’t know if I’m going to go up to the big leagues to play once a week or something like that. Obviously, that’s a big question right now. It’s going to be pretty interesting to see. I guess we’ll have to wait and see."

Right after the White Sox signed Grandal, you might have assumed that the 2016 first-round pick, pegged as the White Sox catcher of the future, would have been upset about the team locking up the veteran catcher with a four-year deal.

Quite the opposite.

"The first thing I did was text (Grandal) and congratulate him," Collins said about his fellow University of Miami alum. "Seeing a guy coming from Cuba, moving here, going to the same college as me and the success that he‘s had is always great. Nothing but the best for him. I’m learning a ton from him. It’s only going to be good for me."

Collins has also developed a connection with McCann, who despite losing his No. 1 job to Grandal, is helping the younger Collins grow into his role as a major league catcher.

"A huge thing for me is relationships with pitchers. Being a younger guy, having a veteran staff is kind of tough and telling guys what to do. One piece of advice that McCann gave me was that when I’m behind the plate, I’m a leader no matter how old I am. That’s what I need to learn for myself and continue to grow,” Collins explained.

What will that growth look like for Collins in 2020 — and where will that be? Time will tell.

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