White Sox

Sloppy White Sox stymied by Cueto, Reds in Game 1


Sloppy White Sox stymied by Cueto, Reds in Game 1

The first game of Saturday’s White Sox-Reds doubleheader was full of odd occurrences early and sloppy play late.

En route to losing 10-4 to the Reds, White Sox starter Hector Noesi was knocked out of the game in the second when Billy Hamilton’s comebacker drilled him in the lower back, causing a contusion and day-to-day injury status.

“Yeah, it got him in a good spot, I guess,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It tightened up on him. At this point it’s just day-to-day.”

After the bottom of the second ended with Tyler Flowers and Micah Johnson striking out looking, hitting coach Todd Steverson was ejected — for the first time as an MLB coach, no less.

And Cincinnati’s lead could’ve been greater had it not made three outs at home plate. Brandon Phillips hit into a rare 2-3-2 double play to end the third, Avisail Garcia threw out Zack Cozart on a fly ball to end the fourth and Skip Schumaker was tagged out trying to score on a wild pitch in the eighth.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Reds starter Johnny Cueto was largely unhittable throughout the afternoon, allowing only a solo home run to Alexei Ramirez (the 100th of his career) before the White Sox plated three in the ninth charged to him. He threw 8 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Scott Carroll came in cold out of the bullpen in relief of Noesi and ate up 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits with two walks and one strikeout. Cincinnati got on the board in the seventh when Johnson couldn’t quickly fire Ramirez’s feed to first base for a shot at a double play, allowing Jay Bruce to score the first run. Schumaker followed with an RBI double, and the Reds tacked on a third run on Bruce’s groundout in the eighth.

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“Scotty came in and filled in great,” manager Robin Ventura said. “When Hector goes out, getting him on the line drive, you’re trying to steal some innings and keep it close and Scotty did a good job of doing that. And right there at the end we couldn’t throw some strikes.”

Ventura was alluding to Dan Jennings’ in the ninth-inning implosion in which he allowed four runs on RBI singles to Phillips and Schumaker, a bases-loaded walk to Kristopher Negron (who has a .111 batting average) and an RBI sacrifice fly to Hamilton. He was pulled after throwing 39 pitches, 19 for strikes, and Marlon Byrd ripped a three-run homer on Jake Petricka’s first pitch to cap a seven-run frame.

The White Sox finished the first game with two errors, three wild pitches and eight walks issued 

Eloy Jimenez has high praise for Luis Robert: 'He's going to be the next Mike Trout'

Eloy Jimenez has high praise for Luis Robert: 'He's going to be the next Mike Trout'

Last spring, Michael Kopech said Eloy Jimenez was the Babe Ruth of this generation. Jimenez returned the favor by calling Kopech this generation's Nolan Ryan.

Well, start blocking out a wing of the Hall of Fame for members of the 2020 White Sox, because we've got another comp for the ages.

Obviously, everyone's very excited to see Luis Robert hit the major leagues. Jimenez is cranking that excitement up to 11.

"Some people are going to call me crazy," he said Friday before SoxFest kicked off at McCormick Place, "but he’s going to be the next Mike Trout.

"He has five tools, and he plays hard like Mike Trout."

Well then.

Trout has long been considered the best baseball player on the planet, someone who's putting up hall of Fame numbers on an annual basis to the extent that folks wonder if he's the best to ever play.

Should Robert come anywhere close to that, White Sox fans will be quite pleased.

Certainly the praise is not entirely unwarranted, with Robert boasting a full toolbox of baseball skills. He's fresh off a 2019 campaign that saw him set the minor leagues on fire: a .328/.376/.624 slash line to go along with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 108 runs scored, 31 doubles and 36 stolen bases. Along the way he sent highlight after highlight back to his adoring public on the South Side, clips of him blasting balls into the Charlotte sky, making eye-popping catches and using his blazing speed to great effect.

The defensive skill ought to be especially intriguing to Jimenez, who's going to play next to Robert in the White Sox outfield. But while Jimenez's defensive improvement will continue to be a big focus in 2020, so will Robert's range in center field. Jimenez has a plan, though, if Robert tries to steal away any of his fly balls.

"I’m going to draw a line," Jimenez said with a smile. "If he goes over the line, I’m going to punch him. It’s going to be like that this year."

It was just the minor leagues, of course, but those descriptions aren't terribly dissimilar from the ones frequently assigned to Trout out in Anaheim.

You likely won't hear Rick Hahn or Rick Renteria comparing Robert to the best player in the game, not wanting to put too much pressure on the 22-year-old. Jimenez knows as well as anyone how difficult the transition to the majors can be, even for the most talented athletes in the world. He set the minors ablaze in 2018, only to experience growing pains as opposing pitchers attacked him like a proven veteran.

So seeing something similar from Robert would not be surprising.

"Last year, I was a little bit anxious," Jimenez said, "and I know he’s going to be, too.

"The first year of your contract, you play on Opening Day, it’s going to be a little bit tough for him, too. It’s not going to be (tough) just for him, it’s for anybody who makes the Opening Day roster. It’s a little bit tough because it’s different pitching, it’s different stuff and the pitchers are a lot better at this level.

"He’s going to need someone. But he’s got (Jose) Abreu, he’s got (Yoan) Moncada and he’s got me. So he’s going to be good."

One of the biggest differences between Jimenez's ascent to the major leagues and Robert's is that Robert is joining a White Sox team with playoff expectations. Between the young core that broke out in such a big way last season and all the newcomers Hahn's front office brought in this winter, the White Sox look ready to vault into contention mode. Robert's arrival is a factor in those expectations, too, so while it might seem like the spotlight can be lured away by other players, Jimenez said it will be tough for Robert to adjust to the big leagues in relative obscurity.

"When you have five tools," he said, "everybody’s going to have their eyes on you."

Well put.

If he truly is the next Trout, then he'll never lose that spotlight. Though playing alongside the next Ruth and the next Ryan, a couple fellow future Hall of Famers, ought to help.

That might sound a little crazy, as Jimenez well knows. But he's sticking to that comp.

"You will see."

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Dallas Keuchel apologizes and details Astros' sign-stealing controversy

Dallas Keuchel apologizes and details Astros' sign-stealing controversy

Dallas Keuchel met with media ahead of this weekend's SoxFest, and was asked about the recent sign-stealing scandal that's dominated the offseason. 

Keuchel was drafted by Houston in the 7th round of the 2009 Draft, and spent the first seven seasons of his career there. While with the Astros, Keuchel was one of the best pitchers in baseball, posting a 3.72 FIP and a 12.2% K-BB ratio during his time there. 

He was also apart of the 2017 team that now faces intense scrutiny for their use of technology in stealing signs during the World Series. While players have not faced punishment yet for the scandal, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were both suspended for a year without pay by MLB and then subsequently fired by the Astros. 

Keuchel signed a 3-year, $55 million contract with the White Sox back in late December.