White Sox

Sonny Gray leads Athletics past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

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Sonny Gray leads Athletics past Carlos Rodon, White Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. — The White Sox offense still hasn’t worked out all the kinks.

Even though he wasn’t at full strength, Sonny Gray didn’t help matters, either.

The All-Star pitcher and two relievers did enough Wednesday night to send the White Sox to a 2-1 loss in front of 16,468 at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rescheduled after a bout with food poisoning, Gray combined with John Axford and Ryan Madson on a six-hitter to outduel Carlos Rodon. Rodon took the loss even though he only allowed two earned runs and six hits in seven innings and struck out six.

“He’s a damn good pitcher,” White Sox catcher Alex Avila said of Gray. “I asked him, ‘How are you feeling?’ and he said, ‘Not too good.’ It didn’t seem that way.”

[BOX SCORE: Athletics 2, White Sox 1]

The White Sox only had one inning with multiple baserunners and three legitimate chances overall against Gray, who originally was scheduled to pitch Monday’s opener against Chris Sale.

Austin Jackson doubled to start the third inning, advanced on an Adam Eaton grounder and scored on a Jimmy Rollins sac fly that got the White Sox within 2-1.

Jackson also put together a nice at-bat in the fifth inning against Gray with Avila on second. But Jackson lined out to second base on the 10th pitch and Avila was caught leaning for an inning-ending double play.

An inning later, Gray walked Todd Frazier with two outs to put two on for Melky Cabrera. But Gray won again as Cabrera hit a short chopper in front of the mound for the final out.

Gray allowed a run and three hits with four walks in seven innings. He struck out five only two days after he required three bags of fluids during a trip to the emergency room.

The White Sox, who snapped a 10-inning scoreless stretch on Tuesday night, also stranded the tying run in the eighth and ninth innings against Axford and Madson. Through three games, the team has a .297 on-base percentage.

“We were chasing some stuff away,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He had good movement on that when he needed to. Caught us being aggressive and wasn’t throwing strikes when we were looking for strikes. He probably wasn’t feeling that great, but he’s still a very talented pitcher and he has great stuff.”

Rodon settled down after a shaky start.

He allowed runs in the first and second inning before he retired 17 of the last 22 he faced.

“He looked great,” Avila said. “He was effectively wild today. At times he didn’t have the best command, but was able to make enough pitches and get enough strikes to where they were still swinging.”

Oakland swung early against Rodon with first-inning singles by Billy Burns and Khris Davis to put runners on the corners. Jed Lowrie’s sac fly only three batters in made it a 1-0 game.

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Then in the second, Mark Canha drove a 91-mph fastball from Rodon on the outer half out to right field for an opposite-field home run and a 2-0 lead.

But Rodon — who allowed 13 earned runs in his final 7 2/3 innings this spring — found a rhythm. He ended the second inning with strikeouts of Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien and gained steam. Only two more runners reached scoring position in Rodon’s final five innings.

Whereas Rodon walked six batters in his last start in Oakland (last May 15), free passes weren’t an issue on Tuesday. The left-hander continued a trend he began last August of limiting his walks, issuing only one in seven innings. He threw strikes on 61 of 99 pitches.

Still, Rodon desire more from his first start.

“(Canha) hit that ball good,” Rodon said. “I didn’t think it was going to get out. It surprised me. There was some power in it. Then I settled in there and threw well.”

“I like winning. That’s part of it when sometimes things don’t go your way, and that’s baseball. They put the bat on the ball and made things happen early. They made it happen early. I just wish they wouldn’t have.”

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.