White Sox

Pitchers duel falls Beertowns way

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Pitchers duel falls Beertowns way

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
4:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The marquee matchup of Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle vs. Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke lived up to expectations -- at least as much as expectations count when both pitchers are making their Cactus League debuts.

Both hurlers had scoreless efforts, with the deciding run in the game coming on a Rickie Weeks RBI single in the top of the third, driving home Wil Nieves. White Sox long reliever hopeful Phil Humber took the loss after giving up four hits and the games sole run in two innings of work.

Brandon Boggs, logging the entire game at DH, stroked a two-run single off of White Sox reliever Chris Sale to finish the scoring in Milwaukees 3-1 win. The White Sox mustered just five hits on the day, two by veteran corner infielder Dallas McPherson.

I felt really good for early in the spring, said Buehrle, who struck out one and tossed an efficient 24 pitches in his two innings of work. Its only two innings, but physically, with location, everything was there. I say it every spring, but I hope I feel this good on Opening Day.

With so little to speak on, Buehrle then directed a mock-tirade at his offense.

I am pretty ticked off, Buehrle said, laughing. We had our big boys going. All we need was one freaking run, and we couldnt even score it. A little bit of run support, guys, lets go.

Leadoff hitter Lastings Milledge was one bright spot in an otherwise mellow Chicago offense, opening the game with a crisp single down the right-field line and later paid for that safety plus having hit two of his four home runs last season vs. Milwaukee by taking a ball off his left bicep in his next at-bat.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was excited about the play of rightfielder Dayan Viciedo, both at bat and in the field. The Tank got the game off to a great start for the White Sox with a swift running putout on a deep Weeks flyball.

That was a very tough play, Guillen said. The ball was right on the line, the first ball hes seen in spring training. That was a good read.

In the sixth, Viciedo nailed Edwin Maysonet at third base on a Craig Counsell single in the sixth.

He was great. Im very happy about what he did out there, Guillen said. The good thing about it was that he threw Maysonet out. To me, its more important where the balls going and how he throws it than getting the guy out. He threw right to the cutoff man, and it was a good thing, the guy was out. Also he had good at-bats, hit the ball pretty good in two at-bats.

Tank Working Overtime

Guillen was quick to spread credit around for Viciedos strong debut on Tuesday.

I have to give credit to Daryl Boston and Bainesy Harold Baines and Devon White, Guillen said. They have been working with Viciedo every day. One thing about Viciedo, he has matured a little bit Viciedo worked very hard with Devo White for a couple of days in Miami. To be around JP Juan Pierre helps. Pierre is a workaholic, and he continues to work.

A big factor in Viciedos growth, according to Guillen, is simple: Viciedo came ready to play this spring.

Viciedo came into camp in shape, ready to play, Guillen said. Before, the last two spring trainings, we had to fight with him. Its not easy to come to spring training and have to lose weight. All of a sudden you get tired and your bodys not acting the same way.

Im a Tumbler

As if to underscore the aggressive defensive play manager Ozzie Guillen espouses, both Lucas Harrell and Brandon Short made diving attempts in Mondays Cactus League opener. Harrells assist came on a belly flop off of the mound, and he laughed in recollection on Tuesday.

It was kind of like tackle the baseball. Harrell said with a wild smile. I thought it was going to be an easy play, but then I had to turn on the jets. Just a routine play. Afterward, I felt pretty good about myself. I take a lot of pride in fielding my position. Youre just helping yourself out by getting the outs.

Short appeared to be very proud, and a bit bashful, for having an impressive debut, walking and scoring a run in addition to his diving catch in left to rob Jerry Sands in the eighth: It felt very good to start off that way. It was a tough play, it had a little topspin on it, and he hit it pretty good.

Dunn Lets Start

At 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first two Cactus League games, Adam Dunn is off to a customary sluggish start. But the great thing about Dunn is that, as a veteran with extremely good nature, hes chronically inoculated against overthinking a slow start.

If I stressed out about it, Id have been out of this game years ago, Dunn says. The beginning of the season is always toughwell, I say always, Im going to try this year to change that, gol-lyIm not going to set myself up and say Im going to start slow, but whispers good chance.

Guillen is likewise unworried about Dunn.

Well, he reminds me a little bit of Jim Thome, Guillen said. This guy strikes out 100-plus, walks 100-plus, thats 250 times up without putting the ball in play, and still puts up a lot of numbers. How they do it, I dont know.

Fans eyes pop out over home runs, but ask Dunn, and he could care less about the long ball.

Its not so much the homers; getting on base is No. 1 with me, Dunn says. If I can keep my on-base average .380-plus, thats my No. 1 goal of the year. Getting on base is going to equal runs. If I get on 40 percent of the time, were going to score some runs.

Thats exactly the way Guillen says it, although the manager has penned a quiet wish for 50 homers from Dunn this season.

I dont expect anything different from Adam, Guillen said. Monday he scored one run. You get on base, youre going to give the team a chance to win. Thats why Im putting him at the top of the order, to give him more at bats and get him on base.

Dunn admits that last year, the Washington Nationals anemic offense forced him to change up his strategy. Tired of being stranded at second base, the slugger turned on his aggressivenessand wasnt much pleased with the results.

Last year was the first year I tried to swing a lot, and everything was about the same except my on-base, Dunn said. I feel like I wasnt on base last year. We needed to score runs in Washington. I dont know whats going to happen this year, but Im just going to let it freaking rip.

And dont fall prey to lowered expectations per Dunn, and the traditionally sluggish Chisox early attack.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I know I have struggled early in the past, so I dont panic and say holy expletive, Im hitting .150 in April. It sucks, but that only means theres some damage coming in May, June, July, and August. Its hard to be patient when everybodys panicking, but it just takes five good months, so you can have a bad one.

And if Dunn gets off to a hot start in April?

If I start out on fire, Ill freak, said the genial slugger. I dont know whatll happen--.400, here I come.

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

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

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AP

Will the White Sox make a big splash at the Winter Meetings?

SAN DIEGO — At the GM meetings last month in Arizona, White Sox vice president Kenny Williams teased that the team was going to do more business than usual.

We found out later that the White Sox met with Yasmani Grandal while out in the desert. And when the free-agent catcher got the richest deal in club history the following week, it was a sign the White Sox were serious about their intent to be aggressive and make some big splashes this winter ahead of a possible transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020.

The Grandal signing earned nothing short of rave reviews, but there’s still an awful lot on the to-do list for general manager Rick Hahn and his front office as the Winter Meetings get going here in Southern California. The White Sox have designs on adding a pair of starting pitchers to their rotation and landing an everyday right fielder. An everyday-type DH could also be in the cards, though Grandal’s arrival has at least provided a more realistic internal option in the form of a multi-player rotation. Bullpen help is never turned away.

Much of that could be addressed this week, with ample opportunities to cross those items off the list, even if in less headline-grabbing style. You’ll remember back to last year’s Winter Meetings, when the White Sox filled a hole in their rotation by trading for Ivan Nova.

But with no disrespect to Mr. Nova, most fans are waiting for a much bigger splash.

It’s what the White Sox tried to get done before they flew out to the West Coast. Just last week they reportedly made the highest bid in the Zack Wheeler sweepstakes, only for the 29-year-old free agent to take less money to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cries of “here we go again” from the fan base — still stinging from the way things played out with Manny Machado a winter ago — were quickly quelled by the financial details, and it sure seems there aren’t any more excuses for anyone to stick to the old talking point that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend. Wheeler’s deal, had he accepted it, would have broken Grandal’s weeks-old record for the most expensive contract in club history.

So will someone else actually take the White Sox money this week?

Certainly the possibilities are out there. Still searching for starting pitching, the White Sox could turn to Madison Bumgarner, who they’ve been connected to since Wheeler’s decision. The 30-year-old three-time World Series champ could play a Jon Lester type role in a different Chicago rebuild. Though plenty have expressed concerns over what effect his 1,948.1 combined regular-season and postseason innings will have moving forward. There are reasons to be skeptical, just as there are reasons to be optimistic.

If the White Sox don’t want to play at the tippy top of the starting-pitching market — they haven’t been heavily linked to either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — then Bumgarner is the biggest free-agent pitching splash out there. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are in a similar strata of this free-agent market, but perhaps neither would generate quite as much buzz as arguably the greatest pitcher in World Series history.

The White Sox could also get splashy in their quest to fill the vacancy in right field. Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna are the two biggest names on the free-agent outfield market, and either would slot into the middle of the White Sox order. Neither would make for an ideal defensive selection, considering Castellanos’ ugly defensive stats in right field (which might exaggerate that reputation) and the fact that Ozuna is a left fielder who didn’t play a lick of right during his two years with the St. Louis Cardinals. Both, however, could make a big offensive impact. Ozuna had a ludicrously good season playing for the Miami Marlins in 2017, while the White Sox are plenty familiar with what Castellanos can do after he bludgeoned them in recent seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox could potentially go off the board and chase someone outside of their stated positional needs, Hahn leaving everything on the table when he discussed his offseason approach at length last month. But neither paying a huge sum for Anthony Rendon nor coughing up prospects for Mookie Betts seems too likely at the moment. The fun thing about the Winter Meetings, though, is what seems likely or unlikely can change in an instant.

Speaking of trades, while Hahn signaled the White Sox have little interest in dealing their prized prospects for short-term gain, that market could provide opportunities for heretofore unmentioned splashes. Who knows if the White Sox have any interest in the biggest names being speculated about — Betts, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, etc. — but they’ve reportedly been chatting with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Joc Pederson. After supposedly trying and failing to get him in a trade last winter, his arrival on the South Side would probably be splashy enough, considering he had a career year at the dish in 2019 that included 36 home runs.

After last year’s Machado and Bryce Harper bonanzas, expectations have been raised. After the collective breakout of so many of the White Sox core players in 2019, expectations have been raised. The White Sox seem to have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020. Money allocated for free agents is one of those ingredients. While there’s more than one way to build a championship roster, including leaning heavily on the wealth of young talent already in the White Sox possession, those raised expectations have fans craving a splash.

So will the White Sox cannonball into the Pacific Ocean this week? Stay tuned.

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Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

The baseball offseason is moving at a quicker pace than recent years, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is among those happy to see that.

Hahn and the White Sox contributed to that quick start to the offseason by signing Yasmani Grandal on Nov. 21. He said he prefers that in an interview with Bruce Levine and Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score on Saturday.

Hahn also gave an update on the team’s offseason.

“We still have work to do, but at the same time we’re obviously quite pleased to have added Yasmani Grandal, much to no one’s surprise bringing back Jose Abreu and we’re intrigued by some of the talks we have going on right now,” Hahn said. “Obviously you can’t convert on everything, a point that was publicly driven home this past week, but at the same time we know that regardless of whether we convert on one specific target or not, there are still a lot of reasons to be excited based on the guys we currently have, much less what we may add in the coming weeks.”

The comment about being unable to convert on everything is surely a reference to Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hahn didn’t give any hints as to what the White Sox are working on, but he did say he prefers the speed of this offseason.

“We’d certainly prefer to do things sooner rather than later,” Hahn said. “That’s generally true regardless of the time of year.”

If Hahn wants to get things done quickly, it would make sense that the winter meetings could be a time of White Sox activity. Hahn wasn’t biting on that.

“There’s nothing magical about getting a deal done Tuesday at the winter meetings,” Hahn said. “It creates a little more buzz perhaps and fulfills some expectations within the fanbase and the media.

“A guy is not going to have any less impact on your team if you acquire him Dec. 20 vs. Dec. 12.”

Hahn also gave updates on various current players on the team:

  • Yasmani Grandal has been studying up on White Sox pitchers and how he can help the young pitchers develop.

“This guy’s No. 1 goal and No. 1 priority is to make the pitchers better," Hahn said. "He’s texting me two, three times a week still with stuff he had seen on our guys and conversations he’s had with our guys about how he thinks we’re going to be able to get them better in the coming months.”

  • Hahn was asked if the White Sox would add another middle infielder to provide cover until Nick Madrigal comes up. He didn't rule it out, but cited Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick as capable of helping out. Hahn has previously said he expects Madrigal to be up for most of the 2020 season.
  • Nothing new here, but Hahn said Michael Kopech will enter spring training "without restriction" and will have "some innings management" throughout the season. Kopech missed 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2018 season.
  • Carlos Rodon's timeline to return from Tommy John surgery hasn't changed. Hahn said they will re-evaluate him in April to see where he is after spring training. He is still tentatively expected to return in late July or early August.

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