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Peavy's best outing yet?; Sale struggles again

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Peavy's best outing yet?; Sale struggles again

Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted 5:05 p.m. Updated 7:05 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. If there was a team Jake Peavy could have imagined having a smooth outing against, the offensively-challenged San Diego Padres might have been the one.

Both Peavy and lefty phenom Chris Sale were touched for three runs apiece, setting the foundation for the Chicago White Soxs 7-6 setback to the Fathers.

I felt OK, better than I expected, Peavy said. I made good progress today. Im excited about the direction I went in. Obviously I worked on some things, found some flaws out there in the middle part of the game, worked on some things, and stayed stubborn. I got good work in. It was a fun day. I climbed.

To a man, the White Sox agreed with Peavys assessment, that his six hits and a walk en route to three earned runs against two strikeouts was the best outing the righthander has had in his comeback.

It went very well, manager Ozzie Guillen said. The feedback from him in the dugout was the best I got from him in the three outings hed had. He was talking very positively. Today he was more aggressive than he was earlier. He let the ball go a couple of times. Im very happy with where he is right now.

Peavy threw the ball better than what his line says, said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who clocked a two-run homer in the sixth as part of a 2-for-4 day. In the last inning we were trying to work on specific pitches in a specific spot out of the stretch when there were chances to put guys away. Instead of doing that, we just kind of continued to throw the same pitch.

Peavy was off to another strong start, taking just seven pitches (six strikes) to get through the first in 1-2-3- fashion. With two outs in the second, Peavy gave up a walk to Cedric Hunter and a single to Mike Baxter, but got Kyle Phillips to fly out to left to end the threat.

The righthander also allowed two baserunners in the third, surrendering back-to-back singles to Jason Bartlett (who had whiffed on three straight pitches in the first) and Chase Headley, but escaped any damage. The White Sox took the lead in the bottom of the third on a solo home run from Lastings Milledge.

Milledge turning heads

Peavy started the fourth inning from the stretch, giving up a sharp single to left from Cameron Maybin. Hunter drove him in with a double to right, and Baxter got his second hit of the game off of Peavy, crushing a home run into the White Sox bullpen in right. Peavy then retired the next three batters, all on ground outs to second base.

Peavy finished with 67 pitches, 47 for strikes, over his four innings.

Sale relieved Peavy and gave up another three earned runs, pushing his spring ERA to 7.36.

Im not concerned about him, but Im disappointed a little bit, Guillen said. Not because he gave up three runsthats part of the game. He was missing spots. The ball was supposed to be in and it was away. He was a little out of whack today, thats all. Pierzynski also said Sale was just a little bit off in his outing.

The White Sox scored two more runs in the eighth on an Alexei Ramirez two-run blast, but couldnt tie the game.

The team is doing a lot better than the record 6-10-1 says, Pierzynski said. I feel that were good. Guys have been coming in and throwing the ball well. As it gets closer to Opening Day, the hitters get closer and closer. Thats what you look for as a player.

Ozzie on Sale

Guillen admitted his disappointment with Sales outing, but remains encouraged about his prospects.

We have to be patient with this kid, he said. A lot of people think hes Sandy Koufax, 30 years in the big leagues, but this kid just came out of college two weeks ago or, last June. Its a learning process. I talked to the pitching coach Don Cooper and hes going to have a sideline pitching session. Its not about stuff, but where you locate your stuff.

Roster trimming

Eight White Sox were moved out of the major-league clubhouse after the game. Triple-A Charlotte gains outfielder Stefan Gartrell, infielder Eduardo Escobar, and pitchers Anthony Carter and Freddy Dolsi. Double-A Birmingham adds pitchers Kyle Cofield and Nate Jones. Two other pitchers, Brandon Hynick and Miguel Socolovich, were simply reassigned to minor league camp.

Gartrell, we have to send him down, but this kid had a great spring training, Guillen said. Escobar played better than what people thought and opened a lot of peoples eyes. Were very excited about him and what he can do.

The White Sox roster now stands at 38 players: 18 pitchers, four catchers, 10 infielders and six outfielders.

Hopefully, its about 25 players but its never going to happen because of injuries and slumps, Guillen added. Its about 30 or 32 players, and players sent down have to be ready and prepared to help us in the summer.

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

White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

This AL Central race is going to be fun.

It looked like the Minnesota Twins might have blitzed right past the White Sox in the season’s first weekend, issuing a 14-2 clubbing on their way out of Chicago in the decisive third game of that series. The White Sox went on to Northeast Ohio and dropped the first two of that three-game set against the Cleveland Indians, and a 1-4 start threw some chilly Great Lakes water on the preseason thought of the South Siders running with the class of the division in this season’s 60-game sprint to October.

But the White Sox turned their 1-4 start around with a six-game win streak. And after a 2-0 nail-biter of a win over the Indians on Friday night that reshuffled the standings, the Pale Hose have now won their last five games against division foes, including a pair against these Clevelanders.

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The intensity’s been there all week. After a sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the first three of the White Sox four games against the Milwaukee Brewers had a distinct playoff-style feel to them, well pitched, closely decided contests that struck as the most intense games the White Sox have played in years.

Be it the compressed nature of this season’s schedule or the fact that these White Sox are finally equipped to compete for a division title, this is unlike anything that’s graced the South Side in some time.

“We're treating every game like a must-win,” White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease said Friday night. “These games definitely don't have the same feeling as Game 15 of a 162-game season. We're coming to the ballpark to win every day."

When it comes to the Twins, atop the Central standings with 10 wins — one of only two major league squads to hit double digits to this point, even with back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Royals — it seems the White Sox will have to win a few more home run derbies the likes of which we saw in that opening weekend.

But runs have been somewhat scarce for the White Sox after they scored a combined 20 runs and banged out a total of 35 hits in winning the final two games of that series last weekend in Kansas City. They’ve scored just eight times in their last four games combined. There’s more than one way to win a game, of course, and as injuries continue to make the White Sox dugout look like the Tune Squad bench late in that game against the Monstars, the South Siders have figured out a few others besides blowing up the scoreboard.

Friday night’s playoff feel brought the Indians’ sensational pitching staff to Guaranteed Rate Field, and Aaron Civale was just about as good as he was against the White Sox last week in Cleveland. He didn’t pile up the strikeouts this time, but he still pitched seven innings of one-run ball, the lone run he gave up coming home on a first-inning double-play grounder.

Cease, somewhat miraculously, countered with five shutout innings of his own despite putting nearly the entire city of Cleveland on base. He walked five guys, including issuing four leadoff walks, hit another and allowed a couple of hits. Thankfully for Cease and the White Sox, though, he also came up with multiple clutch, inning-ending double-play balls, and the defense was excellent behind him and a trio of relievers, the first two of which had as much trouble keeping the bases clear as Cease did.

You want playoff-style drama? Scatter the bases with potential runs every inning and watch the pitchers dance their way out of one jam after another.

RELATED: White Sox confident Eloy Jiménez will improve defense after outfield miscue

That’s not going to fly on a regular basis, obviously, but it sure made for some heart-pounding baseball, which is — as anyone who was pulling double duty with playoff hockey Friday night knows — fun.

“I can't expect those kinds of results if I'm going to have that many base runners all the time,” Cease said. “Fortunately, we were able to get out of here with a 'W,' but it's not something that's going to be sustainable. So I have to do a better job of getting ahead and not doing that.”

The onslaught of high-caliber Cleveland pitching continues the rest of the weekend, and who knows if the White Sox will be able to solve it as they barely did Friday. Zach Plesac, who stymied the White Sox with 11 strikeouts in eight shutout innings last week, is up Saturday. Then it’s a heck of a pitching matchup Sunday, with Lucas Giolito facing off against current AL Cy Young front-runner Shane Bieber, who’s struck out 35 hitters in his first three starts of the season.

That game ought to be another dandy, and with a frequently showcased rivalry between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals waved off this weekend, the White Sox will step into the nationally televised spotlight Sunday night, the perfect spot for such a pitching matchup and a division race that’s heating up like this one is. The White Sox swapped spots with the Indians on Friday, into second place and two games back of the Twins. The Indians are just two and a half games behind the division leaders.

“Both of those teams are very good clubs,” White Sox outfielder Adam Engel said of the Twins and Indians. “Two totally different makeups, they win games differently. We have a pretty balanced attack ourselves. It’s fun playing good baseball against good teams.

“The Indians, it seems like every time they come to town or we go to Cleveland, we are facing some pretty good arms. Makes it fun. You just have to stay disciplined, stay really focused in your work. It always feels like you’re going to be part of a good baseball game.

“Those are two tough teams, and hopefully we can keep playing them well.”

RELATED: Rick Renteria: Tim Anderson, not Luis Robert, will be White Sox leadoff man

Obviously, everything’s felt different this season. There are no fans in the stands, COVID-19 is constantly threatening the completion of the campaign, and a brief ramp up to Opening Day has made for a high number of injuries across the league.

But there’s a different feeling on the South Side, too, for much more positive reasons. This team has been talking about its high expectations for months, and they’ve got a roster that looks capable of living up to them. While an expanded playoff field gives the White Sox a pretty good chance of reaching the postseason, they’ve still got their eyes on the biggest prizes, and the first one of those is the Central crown.

They’ve played just 14 games. But it sure feels like a pennant race.

“I don’t remember ever really watching scoreboards so closely as a team through the first couple of weeks in the season,” Engel said. “We come in off the field and we want to see what’s going on around the league, or we’re announcing what scores are postgame for different teams. You control what you can control, and you want to win as many games as you can. But we’re all keeping our eyes on the scoreboard, and I’m sure it’s like that league-wide.

“Everybody kind of feels like they’re in it right now, and 60 games, this is going to be a heck of a season. I’m excited that we’re playing good baseball right now. Hopefully we can keep it going.”


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White Sox confident Eloy Jiménez will improve defense after outfield miscue

White Sox confident Eloy Jiménez will improve defense after outfield miscue

It bothers Eloy Jiménez that his defense has been repeatedly called into question.

Thankfully for him, he was busy playing last night and not scrolling through White Sox Twitter.

Without question, his latest misadventure in left field was a glaring one. He thought Christian Yelich’s fifth-inning fly ball Thursday night was heading to the warning track, he said Friday. Instead, it wound up near the foul line. The ball dropped past Jiménez’s outstretched arm, and he tumbled into the netting and into the seats as Yelich rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

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The highlight-reel nature of the play didn’t help. The fact that it tied the game and kicked off a four-run fifth inning in an eventual Brewers win over the White Sox was worse.

One embarrassing play in one game in one sophomore season can be forgiven. It’s the piling up of such misplays that is sticking in the minds of fans and observers, sparking questions about whether Jiménez can stick in left field long term.

Those questions are valid and those critiques are certainly allowed, manager Rick Renteria acknowledged after Thursday’s game and again before Friday’s.

But Jiménez admitted to being bothered by them and stuck to his pledge of defensive improvement he offered up back in January, when he greeted the idea of moving to designated hitter with a “f**k that.”

“It bothers me a little bit. But it’s part of this,” Jiménez said Friday. “People don’t think I can play defense. For me, it’s a challenge, and I know I can play.

“I’ve made a lot of progress because I work hard every single day. I try to be one of the best outfielders, not just one of the best hitters. I want to be a complete player and a nine-inning player.”

Certain fans will jump to the conclusion that they’ve seen enough, that improvement just isn’t happening. But it’s important to remember that improvement can take time. After all, Jiménez is just 23, with not a full season’s worth of major league games under his belt.

Just look elsewhere on the White Sox roster and see guys who overhauled their own games and corrected seemingly enormous issues. Lucas Giolito walked more batters than any pitcher in the American League in 2018. He was an All Star in 2019. Yoán Moncada struck out 217 times in 2018. He’s the best all-around player on the team right now.

Why can’t Jiménez make a similar jump if he keeps doing the kind of work he’s vowed to do?

RELATED: Rick Renteria: Tim Anderson, not Luis Robert, will be White Sox leadoff man

“Sometimes we make decisions a little prematurely on individuals,” Renteria said. “I could be wrong. I'm not perfect. For anyone in the arena that thinks I'm that egotistical, I'm not really. I'm not really. I'm more of an optimist as opposed to a pessimist, and I believe my optimism is what drives me to try to help these guys excel.

“I'm expecting that, over time, Eloy will fall into a good category on the defensive side. And if it doesn't, we'll find ways to continue to augment his playing time out there.

“We're going to continue to do what we can and try to help him become the best outfielder he possibly can be. He always walks by and I always tell him, ‘Nine innings,’ because he doesn't like coming out (of the game for a defensive replacement).

“He wants to prove to everybody that he can play that outfield position very, very well. He's a driven kid. Time will tell us, and hopefully we make the right decision with him.”

Jiménez is so important to the White Sox lineup and to their long-term goal of contending for championships on an annual basis, that there’s plenty of validity to the argument that continued misadventures in left field could threaten his ability to stick in that lineup. Already, he’s been hurt on misplays three times, costing him games each time.

But not only does Jiménez’s youth provide ample evidence that he’s not yet a finished product — even while he blasts balls out to center field with his thunderous bat — but there are simply not many other places to put him. First base is spoken for with José Abreu under contract for at least three more years, and designated hitter would figure to be claimed, for the long term, once Andrew Vaughn arrives from the minor leagues. Plus, if you move Jiménez, you’re looking at a hole in left field without an easy internal fix.

And so the White Sox will lean on Renteria’s optimism and the great strides they’ve seen from some of their other young stars as Jiménez continues to gain experience playing left field at the major league level.

And Jiménez will keep working.

“Great players have bad days,” he said, “so for me, I’m just learning from that and just forget about it and keep moving forward.”


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