White Sox

Quentin loses Little League, wins Player of Week

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Quentin loses Little League, wins Player of Week

Monday, April 4, 2011Posted: 4:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

KANSAS CITYHe may have lost the video game battle with fellow Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn, but Carlos Quentin edged out his brawny teammate on the field, being named the first American League Player of the Week this season for his opening weekend outburst vs. the Cleveland Indians.

Quentin went 6-11 in three starts over the weekend, getting on base at a .583 clip and slugging 1.091 for an outrageous 1.674 OPS. While the White Sox mostly pummeled Wahoos pitching, slugging at a .459 clip, only Dunns eight total bases approach Quentins tidy dozen in Cleveland. Through three games, Quentin leads the AL in batting average (.545) and is tied for the lead in doubles (three) and RBI (seven).

Like that of many of his teammates, Quentins hitting approach to start the season has been ideal, driving the ball deep into the opposite-field gap.

His five RBI on Opening Day were the most by a White Sox player since Sammy Sosa also tapped in five in 1991, while Quentins seven RBI in the first two games of the season were the most for the White Sox since Minnie Minoso also had seven, in 1960.

After his Opening Day slugging, Quentin was typically low-key and sober, noting that he was just trying to keep his groove going and not over-thinka key impediment to his success in the past: Hitting is a thing you dont talk about too much because when its going well, you want to leave it as it is.

In winding up his brief remarks on Friday, Quentin rather hilariously noted, as only Q can, in unintentionally deadpan fashion: Im ecstatic. We won.

After a 2-4, two-double, two-RBI chaser on Saturday, Quentin opted out of a postgame interview, instead competing with Dunn on the visiting clubhouses classic Nintendo system. First up was Super Mario Kart, in which Quentin severely underperformed, immediately burning all of his speed boosters and spending more than one race driving counterclockwise (the wrong way). White Sox teammates Dunn, Matt Thornton, and John Danks had several laughs at Quentins expense, while the Cleveland clubhouse attendants were in near-tears listening to the clubs running commentary on Qs prowess behind the wheel.

After the massacre, Quentin opted for a game I can win, Little League Baseball. Dunnpossibly playing possumclaimed to be unfamiliar with the workings (how do I bunt? What, no bunting?) but, according to Dunn the next day and corroborated by the chuckling of Brent Lillibridge, the new White Sox slugger upset Quentin in their Little League game, 4-2.

On Sunday, Quentin was a mere 1-3 off of Justin Masterson, with an infield hit to third in his first at-bat. His second time up, Quentin walked and advanced to second on an A.J. Pierzynski single. When Alexei Ramirez popped out on his sacrifice bunt attempt, both Quentin and Pierzynski were caught far off base and became victims of the first triple play turned vs. the White Sox in 33 seasons.

Both general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen have called a successful year by Quentin as the most important component to a White Sox playoff appearance. After several attempts by both men to get Quentin to stop over-thinking and ease up on himself, Guillen finally gave up in spring training, saying he will just let Carlos be Carlos and stop trying to change him. So far, so good.

The weekly honor is the second of Quentins career. He was named the AL Player of the week for June 21-27, 2010 as well.

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

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

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AP

Michael Kopech hasn't had a good June, but that hasn't changed White Sox optimism regarding top pitching prospect

It wasn’t long ago that the question was: “Why isn’t Michael Kopech pitching in the major leagues?”

The question is now firmly: “What’s wrong with Michael Kopech?”

The new script is of course a reflection of how quickly opinions change during a baseball season, when “what have you done for me lately?” tends to drive the conversation more than looking at the entire body of work.

But the body of work doesn’t look too awesome for the White Sox top-ranked pitching prospect these days. He carries a 5.08 ERA through 14 starts with Triple-A Charlotte. But it’s the recent struggles that have folks second guessing whether he’s ready for the big leagues.

The month of June hasn’t gone well for Kopech, who has a 9.00 ERA in four starts this month. That features two especially ugly outings, when he allowed seven runs in two innings and five runs in three outings. But for a guy who’s got blow-em-away stuff, it’s the walks that are of the utmost concern to box-score readers: He’s got 21 of them in 16 innings over his last four starts. That’s compared to 20 strikeouts.

More walks than strikeouts is never a good thing, and it’s been a glaring bugaboo for White Sox pitchers at the major league level all season. Kopech wasn’t having that problem when this season started out. He struck out 68 batters and walked only 25 over his first 10 starts. But things have changed.

With director of player development Chris Getz on the horn Thursday to talk about all of the promotions throughout the minor league system, he was asked about Kopech and pointed to Wednesday’s outing, which lasted only five innings and featured four more walks. But Kopech only allowed two earned runs, and Getz called it a good outing.

“Last night I was really happy with what he was able to do, and that’s really in comparison looking at his last probably four outings or so,” Getz said. “He did have a little bit of a hiccup, getting a little erratic. He was getting a little quick in his delivery, his lower half wasn’t picking up with his upper half. The command of his pitches was not there.

“But last night, although the line is not the best line that we’ve seen of Michael this year, it was still a very good outing. He was in the zone, commanding the fastball. His body was under control. He threw some good breaking pitches, a couple of good changeups. He was back to being the competitor we are accustomed to. We are hoping to build off of this outing. I know he’s feeling good about where he’s at from last night and we’ll just kind of go from there.”

It’s important to note, of course, that the White Sox are often looking for things that can’t be read in a box score. So when we see a lot of walks or a lot of hits or a small amount of strikeouts, that doesn’t tell the whole story nor does it count as everything the decision makers in the organization are looking at.

Still, this is development and growth in action — and perhaps a sign that the White Sox have been right in not yet deeming Kopech ready for the majors. Kopech perhaps needs the time at Triple-A to work through these issues rather than be thrown into a big league fire.

As for how these struggles will affect his timeline, that remains to be seen. The White Sox aren’t ruling anything out, not promising that he’ll be on the South Side before the end of this season but certainly not ruling it out either.

“If he builds off of what he did last night, commanding his fastball, his breaking pitches continue to kind of define themselves, I think we’ve got a chance to see him,” Getz said. “He’s going to find his way to the big leagues. He’s going to be an impact frontline type starter. I’m very confident in that.

“Now just like a lot of great players, sometimes it’s a meandering path. And to say that he’s gone off track is not fair because it’s only been a couple of outings. I think he’s in a really good spot. If he builds off of this, I don’t think it’s unfair to think he’ll be up here at some point.”

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Dylan Cease promoted to Double-A as he continues to impress White Sox: 'He's more or less forced our hand'

Rick Hahn’s been saying it all year: The good ones have a way of forcing the issue.

Consider Dylan Cease one of the good ones.

The pitcher acquired alongside top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs was one of the more than a dozen players promoted within the White Sox farm system Thursday. He put up stellar numbers during the first half with Class A Winston-Salem and because of it is on his way to Double-A Birmingham.

While many rebuild-loving fans could’ve forecasted Jimenez’s rapid journey through the organization, Cease’s acceleration is one that even the White Sox are considering a “pleasant surprise.”

“There’s definitely been some pleasant surprises,” Chris Getz, the White Sox director of player development, said Thursday. “For one, I think Dylan Cease was a guy, heading into the season, his first full year with us, the focus was: every fifth day, a full season’s worth of innings. He’s more or less forced our hand.

“He's really come on, he’s pitching with four pitches, four plus pitches, he’s commanding the ball, very mature kid. And he’s certainly ready for the next challenge at Double-A.”

Cease turned in a 2.89 ERA in his 13 starts with Winston-Salem, striking out 82 batters in 71.2 innings. Considering he made just 25 starts above Rookie ball during his time in the Cubs’ organization, the dominance in his first taste of High A is quite the positive for the White Sox.

The team’s starting rotation of the future is a mighty crowded one, with roughly a dozen different guys competing for those spots: current big leaguers Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito; Triple-A arms Michael Kopech, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams; Double-A hurlers Cease, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning; and Class A pitchers Lincoln Henzman and Blake Battenfield, both of whom earned their own promotions Thursday.

There’s a lot of time before the White Sox have to settle on which five will make up that future starting staff. But Cease could be doing the work of making a name for himself, something that hasn’t been easy to do. With all the love he’s getting, he’s still the organization’s fourth-ranked pitching prospect. Heck, thanks to Jimenez, he wasn’t the top-ranked guy in his own trade.

But Cease is getting attention now, and if he keeps pitching like this, he could keep forcing the White Sox hand.