White Sox

Robin Ventura hopes to mix up White Sox lineup with Jose Abreu in second spot

Robin Ventura hopes to mix up White Sox lineup with Jose Abreu in second spot

Fans have clamored for him to hit second, but Jose Abreu simply doesn’t care where he Robin Ventura lists him on the lineup card.

A day after he dropped Jimmy Rollins out of the two hole, the White Sox manager moved Abreu up from his customary third spot to second for Friday’s contest against the Kansas City Royals. Ventura didn’t commit to how long he’d try Abreu in the spot, but said the move is in hope of jumpstarting both his slugger and the team’s offense, which is in a little rut. It’s the 35th time Abreu has batted second with the previous 34 coming last season. The team went 15-19 in those games.

“We did it last year, mixed it up a little bit, Ventura said. “He seemed to handle it fine. You’re just moving guys around. Offensively we’ve been in a rut.”

Though Abreu only is nine RBIs behind baseball’s league leader (Robinson Cano, 36), he’s yet to have a lengthy hot streak. There’s no question that Abreu hasn’t been himself. Normally a beast with runners in scoring position (he has a .976 career OPS), Abreu is hitting at a .265/.361/.286 clip with no homers and 18 RBIs in 61 plate appearances this season. The first baseman said before Friday’s game he doesn’t mind where he bats and that he feels fine and hasn’t changed his process.

“I’ve been feeling good,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Step by step, I’ve been feeling better. I know I have to keep working hard. I’ve been feeling very good. It’s a work in progress. It’s a long season, but I’ve been feeling very good.”

Abreu entered Friday hitting .290/.338/.478 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 148 plate appearances batting second. Leadoff man Adam Eaton would seem to be the biggest beneficiary as he expects to see more fastballs. But Eaton said not much changed with Abreu behind him in the lineup last season.

“You’re in scoring position at first base,” Eaton said. “I don’t know if there’s a huge difference. I’ll approach it the same.”

Ventura suggested he likes how Abreu’s use of right field could come into play with Eaton on base. Perhaps the White Sox hope that getting Abreu to hit it to the right side will get him back on track. Either way, Ventura doesn’t intend to ask Abreu to do anything different when he mans the position.

“I just want him to go play,” Ventura said. “There’s times to take pitches, he’s probably taken too many at this point. I’m not sitting there putting any parameters on what he has to do just because he’s hitting in the two-hole. It’s just mixing it up and a letting him go out and he uses the other side of the field very well, I think that’s part of it as well.”

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.