White Sox

Sox Box: What's your (batting) order?

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Sox Box: What's your (batting) order?

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011
3:10 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
All right, its been long enough, time to dig through the mail for the inaugural CSNChicago.com White Sox mailbag. Feel free to e-mail me questions for future inclusion here at bballantini@ComcastSportsNet.com or on Twitter @CSNChi_Beatnik.

The lineup is set, with just third base to be decided in spring training. Has Ozzie given any thought to how his batting order will look? Michelle, Orland Park

Guillen was asked that question many times at SoxFest, and shared a humorous story about working on six or seven different lineup cards during a recent dinner with his wife, Ibiswho thought he was ignoring herand being advised on his best batting order by a nearby diner eavesdropping on his labor.

Guillens rough lineup, as outlined in January, went something like Juan PierreGordon BeckhamAdam Dunn at the top of the order, Paul KonerkoAlex RiosCarlos Quentin in the middle and A.J. PierzynskiAlexei RamirezBrent Morel or Mark Teahen at the bottom.

Its a tricky proposition, mixing three lefties (operating on the assumption that Morel will start at third base) well into what is expected to be a loaded offense. The assumption that Beckham will flourish in the No. 2 hole is almost entirely dependent on him picking up where he left off during an incendiary second half (pre-hand injury) in 2010, by no means a given. There simply isnt an ideal No. 2 hitter on the White Sox, other than reserve infielder Omar Vizquel.

Unless Bacon asserts himself right from the start of spring training, Id bump speed and on-base percentage up in the order, rolling out something like PierreRiosQuentin up top, DunnKonerkoPierzynski in the middle and RamirezBeckhamMorel at the bottom. Yes, Rios had a grand total of zero sacrifice hits last season, but tell me you didnt want to tear your hair out every time Guillen ordered a sacrifice with Pierre on firstisnt the point of having Pierre on base that you dont have to give away an out to get him to second? Rioss run-producing potential, heralded by Guillen, is hardly different than Ramirezsand the Missile isnt in the mix to hit third or fifth. Rios in the No. 2 spot gives you a second leadoff hitter and makes the best of an awkward situation.

Want a stealth candidate for the No. 2 hole? Its Morelprobably not anytime soon, but his production in the minors indicates a player who has the tools to sport a solid stroke in the second spot.

The White Sox are filled with closer options but no one is proven, like Bobby Jenks. Whos going to close this season? Ethan, Park Ridge

Jenks was a proven closer who manned the role for five entire seasons for the White Sox, making any of the potential closer controversy looming for the team during that time moot. And for all the peripheral stats that pointed to a career-worst season for Bad Bobby in 2010, his 87 save percentage was on par with his career average, and only in 2006 was his rate better than 90. Most significantly, that 87 rate was better than any other White Sox pitchersapparent closer favorite Matt Thornton was at 80, new Arizona Diamondbacks fireman J.J. Putz was at 43 and possible closer Sergio Santos converted just one of three saves. Newcomer Jesse Crain was a closer throughout his minor-league career and has fireman tools, but has produced a poor save percentage in his major-league career to date as well. Yes, Chris Sale was four-of-four in late-season save chances, but his role (starter vs. bullpen) is sketchy at the momentyou cant expect a 21-year-old to start for a month, then take over the closer role, at least without being forced to by anything short of an utter implosion at the back end of the bullpen.

It takes a certain mentality to flourish as the anchor man of a bullpen. Thornton by all appearances has the makeup to closewhile he did blow two of 10 save chances last season, none came after June 8, and he was a perfect three-of-three in September, as the default closer while Jenks was sidelined.

While Id prefer to have Thornton continue in the setupoccasional closing role where he has flourished for years in favor of inserting Sale as the closer for 2011, such a move will still create instability as the bullpen adjusts to losing Sale to the rotation in 2012 (if not sooner). So the best bet as of Groundhog Day pegs Thornton as the 2011 closer.
Why dont the White Sox and Cubs ever play on the same day? Id love to see a Chicago baseball doubleheader. Rich, Northbrook

It doesnt happen often, but there is always at least one game a year where the White Sox and Cubs cross paths within the city limits. This season, the teams overlap for an entire weekend series in August, as the White Sox host the AL pennant-winning Texas Rangers and the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals for another routine bloodbath. On Friday, the Cubs lead off at 1:30 p.m. and the White Sox follow at 7:10. On Saturday, the Cubs play at 3:10 and the White Sox have a postgame fireworks start of 6:10. And on Sunday, the White Sox finish their series at 1:10 while the Cubs are listed as TBD, indicating a probable Sunday night baseball game.

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

Charlie Tilson plays in Detroit for first time since getting injured in his MLB debut

Charlie Tilson plays in Detroit for first time since getting injured in his MLB debut

For over two years, Charlie Tilson was starting to look like his own version of "Moonlight" Graham, the player made famous in the movie "Field of Dreams" because he played in one major league game and never got to bat.

The White Sox traded for Tilson just before the trade deadline passed in 2016. Two days later he made his big league debut with the White Sox in Detroit. He got a single in his first at-bat, but left the game with an injury and missed the rest of the season. Tilson also missed all of the 2017 season and his MLB future was starting to come into question.

Back healthy, Tilson started this season in Triple-A Charlotte and hit .248 in 39 games when he got called up to replace Leury Garcia, who was placed on the disabled list. On Thursday, Tilson returned to a big league field for the first time in more than 20 months. He went 0-for-3 in a loss to Baltimore.

Friday marked a return to the site of Tilson's big league debut and the injury that made it such a brief stint. Tilson has now played three big league games, over the course of nearly 21 months, and two of them have been in Detroit.

Tilson went 1-for-4, meaning both his hits are in Comerica Park. The White Sox lost 5-4 after giving up three runs in the bottom of the eighth.

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.