White Sox

Prospect Jacob May gives White Sox glimpse of skillset

Prospect Jacob May gives White Sox glimpse of skillset

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Several past injuries have helped Jacob May avoid speculating on a big picture that became much more interesting with the December trade of Adam Eaton.

Limited to 83 games in 2016 after suffering abdomen strains on the left and right sides, May wants to show the White Sox he’s able to bring his highly-energetic approach to the field every day.

Of course he heard about it when Eaton was shipped to the Washington Nationals for three minor-league pitchers. The trade opened a starting spot in the White Sox outfield. But May – who went 4-for-5 with two runs scored in a 13-7 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on Saturday – doesn’t want to let a distraction prevent him from accomplishing his goals.

“I go out there every day and try to play hard and show off my athleticism,” May said. “I think that’s what I kind of bring to the table, a little bit of speed and I feel like that can help any team. Any time I can go out there and make a big play on defense or steal a base, that’s ultimately my goal to be that guy in the major leagues. So I feel like that and still obviously have a lot more to show. I have to show them I can stay consistent.”

A third-round draftee in 2013, May is hitting .357/.386/.548 in 44 plate appearances and four steals in his second big league camp. He produced an .882 OPS with four stolen bases in 44 plate appearances last spring and looked as if he’d given the White Sox something to ponder when it was time for September promotions.

Then the two disabled list trips happened.

A season earlier, May was limited to 101 games after a concussion sidelined him for seven weeks. May’s 2014 campaign also ended a few weeks early because of a bruised right pinky.

“He’s missed some time because of it,” said former player development director and current third-base coach Nick Capra. “But we’ve seen small sample sizes of what he can do along the way. He’s got tools and he knows how to play the game.”

May is currently ranked the No. 18 prospect in the farm system, according to MLB.com. Scouting analysts project May to be more of a fourth outfielder than a starter. But with Charlie Tilson set to begin this season on the DL, May has put himself in the mix of players who potentially could travel north with the White Sox when they head to Chicago in 11 days. Peter Bourjos is thought to be the front-runner for center field with May and Adam Engel in the mix.

“(May is) an excellent defender, can swing from both sides of the plate,” said manager Rick Renteria, who was ejected in the third inning for arguing balls and strikes. “He’s been trying to get on base by bunting to both sides. He’s trying to see the landscape of how they try to play him.

“He can do a lot of things. We can move him around from center to left to right. Just his ability to try to get on base. Him just being himself is what I’m looking for him to do.”

May believes he’s displaying his skillset by focusing on himself and not focusing on any decisions he doesn’t have a say in. Even though the Eaton trade caught his eye, May knew not to pay too much attention after a series of “frustrating” injuries.

“I definitely got text messages with people letting me know that,” May said. “But it still didn’t change anything whether I make the club or not. If the Chicago White Sox want me in the big leagues than ultimately they’ll bring me up there. Eaton is an amazing player and he’s really good and it’s tough to lose somebody like that on the club. But it’s part of the business. It’s not going to change my mindset. I came in here last year with the same mentality, determined to make an impression on the coaching staff. When my time comes it comes.”

Starting pitcher Carson Fulmer had a tough time Saturday against the Dodgers. He allowed three runs and five hits in four innings. Jake Petricka also allowed two runs while Zach Putnam gave up three.

The White Sox also said that relief pitcher Juan Minaya is out indefinitely with an abdominal tear. Renteria said Minaya would rest for the next few weeks, which would hurt his chances of breaking with the club. 

Gio Gonzalez still hoping to throw 'at least one pitch' for White Sox

Gio Gonzalez still hoping to throw 'at least one pitch' for White Sox

Forgive Gio Gonzalez if his short-term goal is pretty basic.

"I just want to throw one pitch in a White Sox uniform. At least one pitch," he said Tuesday.

Gonzalez, 34, has waited 16 years for that one pitch. And he’s still waiting.

Originally drafted in the first round by the White Sox in 2004, he was traded twice – once for Jim Thome in 2006 and once for Nick Swisher in 2008 – by the organization. His reunion with Chicago came last December, when he signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the team.

Then a shoulder injury struck.

And then a global pandemic.

“It's sad to say I did that have that depression, kind of like, am I ever going to get to wear this wonderful uniform in this city that drafted me and get to pitch, finally, an inning with them?,” Gonzalez said.

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Tuesday signified a step closer to making that pitch a reality. For the first time since he was drafted by the White Sox, Gonzalez returned to the home bullpen in left field to throw.

“It was funny, today, after a bullpen session, I was telling (executive vice president Kenny Williams and pitching coach Don Cooper), the last time I threw off this mound was in 2004 (because) when you get drafted, you get to throw a bullpen for the team that drafted you,” Gonzalez said. “I had that little moment with Kenny and Coop and I told Coop, 'The last time you saw me, I was a young kid and I had a lot of maturing to do when you had me, and now I'm an older gentleman with a little bit of mileage in my arm.’ I think it was worth the wait.”

Now Cooper and everyone else with the White Sox are hoping that mileage still allows Gonzalez to throw in actual games during this shortened 60-game season. A shoulder issue prevented Gonzalez from getting much work in during spring training and it’s now apparent that he wouldn’t have been available had the season started on time. Gonzalez said he spent the hiatus getting physical therapy in Pinecrest, Fla., where he lives.

“The staff there really took care of me, really helped my shoulder kind of get to where it needs to be now. From where I started to now, I think I've made a dramatic change,” he said.

But he’s still not 100 percent.

“I think my shoulder has progressed almost 95 percent, which this break really did help in a way where I could rest my arm and kind of get it going,” he said.

It’s possible that Gonzalez will make up that last five percent in the next 17 days before the regular season begins, and with Michael Kopech not even in camp with the White Sox, it sounds like Gonzalez will be needed. But when asked if he would be OK coming out of the bullpen if necessary, two things were clear: 1) Gonzalez would prefer to start, and 2) there’s still some trepidation with the left shoulder.

“It's putting me in a tough spot. I'm coming from a shoulder injury, trying to get into a healthy season as far the 60 games for the guys and trying to get into a postseason for the team,” Gonzalez said. “I don't want to risk it by putting myself on a shorter day rest to kind of get more innings.”

That said, he understands that traditional pitching roles could be in flux during this wonky season.

“If the time comes down the stretch, I think so, but I think it's too early to ask for that kind of help, but we'll see,” he said. “You never know. I'd like to help as much as possible, but again, I have to make sure I take care of my arm before I decide to make those decisions.”

The good news? Gonzalez is talking like someone who plans on pitching for the White Sox soon. The bad news? The shoulder issue might not be completely behind him.

So as Gonzalez still waits for that one pitch with the White Sox, the White Sox will be hoping for a whole lot more.

 

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White Sox pitchers up for any role in short season: 'We want to win'

White Sox pitchers up for any role in short season: 'We want to win'

So how's this whole pitching thing going to work in 2020?

The baseball season has been squeezed down from its typical six-month marathon to a 60-game sprint to the postseason. The sport's been on hold for months, spring training abruptly halted back in March, with "Summer Camp" not starting up until the beginning of this month. Opening Day is two weeks from Friday, and the White Sox have more arms than they know what to do with.

Rick Hahn's fond of saying you can never have enough pitching, and certainly it's the truth, especially ahead of a season where the White Sox, nor any other team, can be certain of what they'll get from any one of their players. But with Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodón, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all able to be full-season additions after their various recoveries from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox have a much deeper group of pitchers — starting pitchers — than they were expected to have in March.

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The elements of the long layoff and the 60-game sprint, which certain players have described as potentially having a playoff atmosphere from Day 1, make it so Rick Renteria suddenly has a ton of options when it comes to managing his pitching staff. And the skipper himself, in the past no fan of new pitching trends such as the opener, has admitted that everything is on the table, including an expanded rotation or the art of "piggybacking," multiple starters pitching one right after the other in the same game.

It wouldn't be outlandish to expect creative deployments of the White Sox many arms. Wouldn't Kopech and his triple-digit velocity make a menacing late-inning option? Wouldn't opposing teams be shaking in their cleats if they finally chased Dallas Keuchel, only for Rodón to appear right after?

There are tons of possibilities, and the lines between starting pitcher and bullpen pitcher could get blurred in this most unusual of campaigns.

And another new variable for these White Sox could make things even more different: It's winning time on the South Side.

"We want to win. And in order for us to accomplish that, we have to be open to do whatever it takes to win every game," White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez said Tuesday through team interpreter Billy Russo. "We as the starters, I think we're open to help the team in any role or capacity the team needs us to pitch. I think we don't need to be heroes, we just need to do our job."

"This season's pretty unique, obviously, with a 60-game schedule. I think a lot of us are going to have to encompass different roles," Rodón said Sunday. "Plus, we have a surplus of arms that we'll get to use, and I think there's some creative ways we could go about using them. I think all of us are pretty willing to step into any role we can to help this team win. We have a chance just as much as anyone."

That "whatever they ask of me" attitude might not strike as super uncommon, especially when teams get into pennant races and the playoffs. But this season will feature a pennant race from Opening Day to the end of September. Fast starts will be essential, and any losing streak could derail everything.

If the White Sox are going to compete alongside the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians for the AL Central crown, they'll need to do it from the jump.

"It's just going to be 60 games, and we have to win right away," Lopez said. "We have to start winning from the beginning because we won't have any chance to regroup or get better as the season progresses. We need to start in a hot situation and just try to keep it."

"We have 60 games," Keuchel said, "and I figured we’re probably going to be in playoff-mode type of coaching, when you get five or six innings from the starters, depending on how good they’re doing, and you turn it over to the bullpen."

RELATED: White Sox said to have one of MLB's easiest schedules, but not so fast

If Renteria has plans to utilize his pitching staff in a drastically different fashion, he might not have settled on it just yet. "Summer Camp" is still just a few days old, and the White Sox are still figuring out what kind of shape their pitchers are in after the months-long layoff. Simulated games and live batting practice sessions are starting to happen, and the team will play its first intrasquad game Thursday.

And the players are in that same mode of discovery. They usually get a month and a half to work themselves from offseason shape to in-season shape. This year, they got the majority of the way down that road, then went home for three months, and now they'll get only three weeks before the games start counting.

It's far from a perfect setup, and what pitchers can or will do once the season starts remains one of baseball's myriad mysteries.

"It’s such a weird way to say this, but it’s almost like you have to come to work and figure it out as you go," Gio González said Tuesday. "And it’s tough because it’s putting everybody in a situation where no one — we’re trying to make the best of it, but this is all new to everybody. I don’t know what is going to happen, I don’t know how they’re going to start us or move the guys around. We’re just trying to get our feet under us."

The same can be said for everyone involved in putting on the Major League Baseball season right now.

As with the questions surrounding the season's viability itself, the question of how the White Sox will alter their pitching strategy won't be answered for a while longer.


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