White Sox

Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

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Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

Saturday, March 19, 2011Posted: 3:30 p.m. Updated: 7:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHOENIX - In spite of looking weak and tossing his initial game warmups lightly to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy made just one big mistake in his start Saturday's vs. the Oakland A's.

That mistake came in the third, when Ryan Sweeney coaxed the first three-ball count from Peavy (3-0) and on 3-1 clocked a two-run homer to left-center.

Peavy left the game with two outs in the sixth, trailing 3-0. He threw 83 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Sweeney had led off the game with an infield single that could well have been judged an error on shortstop Alexei Ramirez. But Peavy coaxed a 4-6-3 double play from Daric Barton and then finished the inning by retiring Josh Willingham on a pop to right.

Willingham's at-bat was delayed when first base umpire Bill Miller doubled over as if in danger of becoming ill. Perhaps he caught the same flu bug Peavy has been battling for the past few days.

Peavy looked stronger in the second, getting DH Hideki Matsui to ground out to first. Lastings Milledge got a bad jump on a fly to right, but recovered enough to make a diving catch.

Peavy's best exchange came vs. sixth batter Mark Ellis, a three-pitch strikeout. Peavy appeared to throw his first curve and slider for a strike.

Prior to Sweeney's clout to give Oakland a 2-0 lead, Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded to first, Landon Powell singled sharply to right-center, and Eric Sogard flied to center. The third ended with Barton grounding out to first.

In the fourth, Peavy got Willingham to fly out to center after the left fielder battled hard. Then the righthander surrendered three singles in the next four hitters, with Kouzmanoff tapping home a run with a first-pitch safety to center to push the Oakland lead to three.

That knock pushed reliever Sergio Santos out of the dugout to begin warmng up. Peavy escaped the fourth after coaxing a flyout from Powell.

The hurler trotted back out for the fifth and retired the A's in order, on three fly outs. His last three batters came in the sixth, as Peavy surrendered a single to Willingham, then finished strong despite pitching on fumes, punching out Conor Jackson and Matsui on what the pitcher described as "a major league curveball."

Peavy was in line for the loss after giving up seven hits and three earned runs, while striking out three and walking none.

The hurler admitted he was "aching all over" after the outing and said he felt his velocity was higher in this start and he got stronger as the day went on.

Peavy was optimistic in looking toward the future, discussing his plans to go home and attempt to eat (he hasn't kept any food down for two days), sleep 10-12 hours and will be shooting for a "a real major-league start" (around 100 pitches) his next outing, Thursday night against the Cubs.
Guillen names Thornton closer

After his Chicago White Sox dropped their rematch with the Oakland As in Phoenix, manager Ozzie Guillen named lefthander Matt Thornton as his closer.

I talked to Thornton, Guillen said. I said he would get the chance to be the closer A good percent of the time, he will be the guy Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence in him. He is the guy who can do the job better.

Thornton, who had eight saves in 10 chances in 2010 but was perfect as the teams de facto closer while Bobby Jenks was sidelined after Sept. 3, was in competition with rookie Chris Sale for the job. Sale has struggled with his location so far in Cactus League play; while he has just two walks this spring, his ERA is 6.48 and batters are hitting .351 against him.

Sale, we would have to put a lot of things on his shoulders, Guillen said. This kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.

Although Guillen has promised significant roster or lineup decisions for a few days now, he had no other news beyond naming his closer.
Fighting for the final spots
The manager did confirm that Mark Teahens offensive outburst this spring has secured his place on the roster, likely playing both third base and the outfield. Guillen indicated he would be getting Teahen would get some opportunities to be in the outfield before we break camp.

Reliever Gregory Infante had a poor outing, surrendering five earned runs in a ruinous eighth inning and pushing his spring ERA to 11.57, Guillen remained supportive, saying, He pitched well, I dont think he should feel bad. That happens to everybody in spring. I like the way he throws the ball. Everybody has a bad game.

Still, Infante has likely lost his hold on a possible last man in the bullpen position, a competition that is whittling down to Phil Humber, Josh Kinney, and Jeffrey Marquez.

In the three-way battle for the last spot on the bench, Lastings Milledge continued tightening his grip on the spot, going 1-3 with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout. He turned on the afterburners to cut off a potential double into the gap, but also got a poor jump on a flyball, forcing a diving catch, and was thrown out at third on a terrific Brent Lillibridge bunt because he failed to slide. Lillibridge executed that terrific bunt and played a solid center field, but was otherwise 1-4, leaving five men on base. Alejandro De Aza was 0-1 as a pinch-hitter, but his flyout was a ball that was drilled to left.

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

Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

White Sox fans suddenly have reason to stop focusing on the minor leagues.

Rick Hahn's front office has done an incredible amount of work this winter adding impact veterans to the team's young core, and because of it, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side. The summer figures to be spent focusing on what Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease are doing at the major league level rather than what the potential stars of the future are doing in the minors.

In other words, the future is here.

But it's worth noting that the White Sox still have some of the best prospects in the game. It's true that a few of the biggest names among that group won't be prospects for much longer. Luis Robert just got a high-priced contract extension that clears the way for him to be in the lineup on Opening Day. While Michael Kopech will be limited in some fashion as the White Sox manage his workload in his return from Tommy John surgery, it's hardly out of the question that he could be a part of the 26-man group that leaves Glendale at the end of March. And Nick Madrigal, Hahn has said, figures to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign after he reached the doorstep of the majors last year.

The point is, however, that the White Sox core is not done growing. Moncada, Giolito, Anderson and Jimenez all broke out in big ways in 2019, and the veterans added to that group could push the team into contention mode as soon as this season. But Robert, Kopech, Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn are set to join that core, too, expanding it to one the White Sox hope will power championship contenders for years to come.

The Athletic's Jim Bowden ranked Robert as his No. 1 prospect in baseball, picking the 22-year-old center fielder to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And that's no stretch after the way Robert lit the minor leagues on fire in 2019. Playing at three different levels, he slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 31 doubles, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. He's a true five-tool threat who receives rave reviews that peg him as potentially the best of all the White Sox young talent. MLB Pipeline is in the middle of rolling out their rankings ahead of the 2020 season, and we'll learn where Robert ranks on the site's updated list next weekend during SoxFest. But most recently, Robert was the site's No. 3 prospect in the game.

Kopech still has prospect status despite the fact that he made his big league debut in August 2018. That Tommy John surgery limited his major league experience to this point to just four games, wiping out his 2019 season. Whether he'll be the same elite pitcher that was promised prior to his surgery is one of several important questions facing the 2020 White Sox, but it doesn't seem to be deterring the rankers. Bowden has Kopech as the No. 11 prospect in baseball, and MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Kopech is said to still be capable of unleashing the blazing fastball that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. The big question now is how often he'll be able to use it, with the White Sox planning to limit him in some capacity. We'll have to wait until spring to find out exactly what those limitations look like.

Madrigal might not spend a long time at Triple-A Charlotte, expected to be manning second base for the big league White Sox for the majority of the 2020 season. But like they did with Moncada, Jimenez and Robert before him, the White Sox have no plans to rush Madrigal to the majors. Bowden has him ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the game, and we'll find out soon where MLB Pipeline has him among second basemen. We already know they think the world of his glove — which was touted as Gold Glove caliber by the White Sox the night they drafted him in 2018 — naming him the second baseman on their all-defense team (he won a minor league Gold Glove for his work last season, too). MLB Pipeline also polled general managers, scouting directors and executives across all 30 teams, and Madrigal's name popped up often, voted to possess the third best hit tool, the third best glove and the highest baseball IQ among all of the game's prospects. The guy struck out just 16 times in 532 trips to the plate last season, so he's obviously doing something right.

Vaughn is receiving similarly rave reviews this winter. Bowden ranked him as the game's No. 35 prospect, and MLB Pipeline might end up putting the White Sox most recent first-round pick even higher, naming him the top first-base prospect in baseball. A slugger whose bat earned high praise when he came out of Cal last summer, Vaughn might not reach the South Side in 2020 like the rest of the guys discussed here. But he does figure to have a similar impact when he finally does. He played just 52 games between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem after joining the organization, hitting a combined five homers at those stops. He's still swinging the bat that launched 50 homers and drove in 163 runs over three seasons in college. That aforementioned MLB Pipeline executive poll? In it, Vaughn was picked as having the second best hit tool in the game. The White Sox just gave Abreu a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the South Side through at least the 2022 campaign, but the 37-year-old Encarnacion could be here as briefly as one year (his contract has an option for 2021), potentially opening up a spot for Vaughn should everything go right in the minors.

And this is without even mentioning guys like Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever, who could all wind up playing important roles on the pitching staff.

So while there is plenty of reason for your minor league interest to wane — because meaningful baseball is expected to be happening at the major league level in 2020 — know that the White Sox farm system (at least the tippy top of it) is still worth salivating over. These guys should be on the South Side soon, only adding fuel to the fire Hahn has built this winter.

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Could baseball's sign-stealing scandal lead to a manager's job for Ozzie Guillen?

Could baseball's sign-stealing scandal lead to a manager's job for Ozzie Guillen?

Will baseball's sign-stealing scandal have a silver lining for a South Side legend?

Three teams whose managers were caught up in the scandal are suddenly without skippers just a month away from the start of spring training: the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. The Astros' practice of stealing signs and relaying them to players on the field during their championship season in 2017 led to the firings of A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, creating three high-profile job openings.

January managerial searches aren't common, for obvious reasons, and while any or all of the teams in the market for a new manager could go about it as a regular search — potentially sticking with baseball's trend of young, inexperienced guys at the helm — there's a good argument to be made that an experienced skipper would be best to slide into that position this late in the offseason calendar.

There has been no shortage of suggested candidates, but one was conspicuously absent from an extensive list discussed on MLB Network, an experienced manager with a World Series championship on his resume. And that former manager was happy to point out the omission.

Guillen hasn't managed since 2012, after his one-year tenure leading the Miami Marlins came to an end. But he obviously turned in a legendary managerial career on the South Side, guiding the White Sox to a World Series win in 2005 and winning nearly 700 regular-season games during his eight seasons as skipper.

While the always outspoken Guillen does not exactly fit the trendy mold of an inexperienced manager with a close relationship to the front office, he's undoubtedly been successful running a major league team. That experience could prove valuable for any of the three teams that have seen their cultures get blown up in recent days.

Swooping in at the last minute to provide a steady hand for an organization in crisis isn't the typical way to land a long-term gig, and people with personalities like Guillen's are disappearing from managerial roles and the game, in general.

But the Astros, especially, as well as the Red Sox and Mets, to lesser degrees, are capable of winning. Guillen knows a thing or two about winning, and these front offices might want to keep that in mind as they're looking to fill these surprise vacancies.

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