White Sox

Sox defense shines in spring training opener

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Sox defense shines in spring training opener

If the White Sox first spring training game of the year was any indication, they're going to have some fantastic infield defense this season.

That's not groundbreaking -- Alexei Ramirez should have won a Gold Glove or two by now, while Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel are promising young defenders as second and third base, respectively. And the sure hands of Paul Konerko don't hurt over at first base, either.

But Monday, the Sox put on a defensive showcase, with Beckham making more than a few strong plays, showing off good range and instincts as well as a strong arm. He threw out Dodgers speedburner Dee Gordon on a slow grounder to second (a play Gordon often beats out) and gunned down James Loney at the plate with a strong relay throw from the outfield.

The good defense didn't stop when Robin Ventura inserted the reserves, as Jim Gallagher made an outstanding over-the-shoulder diving catch at first base and Eduardo Escobar showed off some plus range at shortstop.

As good as Beckham was defensively, though, he looked just as lost offensively. It's the first game of the spring, so any concerns may not be warranted -- but he struck out twice, neither of which were good. He was late on a fastball in his first trip to the plate and was fooled by a breaking ball his second time up, with Bill Melton going so far as to mention that Beckham looked like he was in his own head. For someone who spoke all offseason about clearing his head, it wasn't a good start -- although, again, two at-bats is really no reason to be worried yet.

In better news, Jared Mitchell looked impressive in his first at-bat of the spring. He ripped a line drive up the middle that caromed off the second base bag, which he legged out for a double. Hopefully that's a good sign for the former first-round pick: He certainly didn't look hampered by the ankle that has bothered him for nearly two years now.

Dan Johnson made an early mark on his longshot case to join the White Sox bench, drilling a two-run homer in the ninth to account for half of the team's runs.

On the pitching side of things, Nestor Molina was knocked around, allowing five runs on seven hits, one of which was a long home run off the bat of Andy Van Slyke's kid. But he didn't walk anyone, and this early in the spring, that's cause enough to temper any freakouts.

And finally, Addison Reed had a nice battle with Matt Kemp in the fourth inning, ultimately striking out star outfielder with a pretty filthy slider. He missed with a few sliders in the sequence, but Kemp had no chance on the two he threw for strikes.

Heavy-hearted Lucas Giolito talks Kobe Bryant's impact, carrying on his legacy

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USA TODAY

Heavy-hearted Lucas Giolito talks Kobe Bryant's impact, carrying on his legacy

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant left a gaping hole in the heart of Los Angeles. It’s a pain that will never fully heal, a loss that still seems unfathomable one month later.

For LA native Lucas Giolito, who was basically born into the Kobe Bryant era in 1994, the Lakers superstar was seemingly everywhere in Southern California; on the basketball court, on the television and in the air that everyone breathed.

“I think he’s going to have one of the biggest impacts on that city, ever,” Giolito said in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “He was a staple. He was a part of the culture there. His presence as an athlete, as a pop culture figure in our city, it transcended basketball. He went on to win an Oscar.

“He probably had so many plans.” 

For most of the month of January, Giolito was working out at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Redondo Beach, Calif. with several other major league pitchers — his teammate Reynaldo Lopez and the Mets' Noah Syndergaard among them.

On Sunday morning, Jan. 26, Giolito awoke to a text from his friend about a TMZ article reporting Bryant had died in a helicopter crash.

“I’m like, ‘Nah. That’s bull****. There’s no way,” Giolito recalled.

Soon the nightmare the world was fearing became a reality. Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others had perished in the accident.

“The feeling in the gym the next day when I got back in the gym, all of the employees in there, they knew him personally. It was really sad," Giolito said. "It felt like there was a cloud over the city for a period of time. It reminds you how fragile life is. Take advantage of each day.

"I get really upset when I do think about his wife and his daughters that he did leave behind, especially with Gigi passing away as well. It’s hard to comprehend.”

One of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game was inexplicably taken from us, but inside the Mamba Sports Academy, Giolito found inspiration in the facility Bryant created.

“If I’m walking into this place he built," Giolito said, "I might as well have that type of attitude that he had, about how he went about his business very seriously, taking advantage of every opportunity. He left such a huge legacy. You just try to carry what you can forward.

“And it just sucks because it was just the beginning for him. The type of person he was. The dedication to his craft of basketball and the things he was going to do after basketball. Obviously, his legacy is going to live on in so many of us athletes, whether you play basketball, baseball, football, whatever.”

Monday night in Los Angeles, some 20,000 mourners will gather to celebrate the lives of Bryant and his daughter at a public memorial at the Staples Center. It will be another step in a long grieving process that has been slow to develop, especially in Los Angeles — where a pall continues to hang over the city.

“For the 2-3 weeks following (Bryant’s death), I’d be going about my day, just doing my normal thing, and it would just pop in my mind and then be like, ‘Damn,’" Giolito said. "I can’t think of a celebrity death that had that affect on me and so many of my friends, so many people in LA and around the world, honestly.

“He was 100 percent my favorite Laker. Just growing up in that area when they’re winning championship after championship. It was like, ‘Do you like Shaq or Kobe?’ I like Kobe.”

Bryant’s presence is felt here in Arizona, where the White Sox and Dodgers both share Camelback Ranch, their spring training facility. During his 20-year Lakers career, Bryant became a fixture at Dodgers Stadium. He watched games with Magic Johnson, he befriended Dodgers players and announced the starting lineup to a raucous Dodgers crowd before Game 4 of the 2018 World Series.  

Monday, the White Sox happen to face the Dodgers in Glendale (airing on NBC Sports Chicago at 2 p.m. CT). Giolito won’t be pitching; he’s about a week behind schedule, rehabbing a strained chest muscle. 

When he returns to game action, and for the rest of his baseball career, Giolito plans to follow what he learned from Bryant. He says the impact he made far exceeds basketball and sports. No matter what you do for a living, the Lakers icon left behind a toolbox everyone can use to succeed in life.

“The Mamba mentality, that’s very, very real. (Bryant) would talk at lengths about it," he said. "I would hear him speak about that in podcasts and interviews. That’s a very real, powerful tool that you can adopt and use. It really does improve your ability to navigate through life.

"It doesn’t matter what you do. You have that type of mentality; he showed it. He showed it on the basketball court. He showed it in everything he did and even beyond basketball in his business ventures afterwards. It doesn’t stop.” 

Nor will the love for Kobe Bryant. He was a king of a basketball player, a giant in life. The people he touched, like Giolito, will continue to be affected, for years and decades to come.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Kobe Bryant's impact on Lucas Giolito

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Kobe Bryant's impact on Lucas Giolito

Kobe Bryant and his daughter are being memorialized today. His impact has spread across cultures, countries and sports. One person who Kobe and his legacy impacted is White Sox ace and LA native Lucas Giolito, who discusses the mark Kobe's life has left on him.

(2:10) - Kobe was part of the culture in Los Angeles

(4:10) - Working out at the Kobe Academy days after Kobe passes

(6:40) - Kobe was Giolito's favorite Laker

(8:20) - Using Mamba mentality in everything you do

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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