White Sox

Sox Drawer: The Juan Pierre Early Bird Special

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Sox Drawer: The Juan Pierre Early Bird Special

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 7:48 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - Its 5:53 a.m., a pitch-black morning in front of the White Sox spring training facility. Look up in the sky, you see the moon. Across the barren parking lot, nothing but darkness.

Suddenly there are headlights in the distance, the same as yesterday and the day before. Rest assured, theyll be back again, same time tomorrow.

The car stops. A silhouette appears.

You guys are serious! says the voice.

Yes we are, just doing our jobs. But then again, so is he.

Most guys are nestled in their beds right now.

Probably, but not him. Not Juan Pierre.

One of the hardest working players in baseball, this is how his day begins every morning during spring training. Hes a man with an internal clock thats always ticking, ready to rock well before the rooster crows.

Its just a routine. Something I follow and believe in. Its kept me around this long, says the speedy White Sox outfielder, who stole a career-high 68 bases in 2010, his 11th in the big leagues and first on the South Side.

Nothing stops Pierre from his early morning ritual. Well, except for one thing: The front door.

Juan is here so early, its locked. He walks around the building where he spots a training intern who lets him inside.

In a couple hours, Pierres teammates will be flooding the White Sox clubhouse, talking, laughing, prepping for the day ahead. But right now, its just Juan, me, a CSN cameraman, and possibly a nearby cricket.

Pierre goes to his locker and takes out his favorite workout shirt. Its black and grey camouflage with the words Beast Mode written across the front.

Its a mind-set, Pierre says. Never use any excuses no matter what. Trust me, I would like to be sleeping right now, but I know the sacrifice I have to make to remain in this game. Thats what the Beast Mode stands for in a nut shell.

By 6:15 a.m., Pierre is in the White Sox gym, on the bike for a 10-minute warm-up.

Gotta get the legs loose.

In walks Allen Thomas, the White Sox Director of Strength and Conditioning. Hes one of the best in the business, and marvels at Pierres work ethic.

This is my 16th year doing this, and Ive been around a lot of great players who love to train. Juan is a step above, Thomas says. Sometimes a lot of athletes like to do this for attention, but this has been a part of his regiment since he stepped into a baseball uniform. And he doesnt miss. You can put him on a timer, its like clockwork.

Four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) Thomas puts Pierre through a high-intense workout, one that would probably make your everyday gym-goer lose his lunch in the first five minutes.

I push him, because I know what he has in the tank, Thomas says.

This quickly becomes apparent as Pierre shuffles through a speed ladder with resistance bands attached to his waist. An exercise normally used by NFL cornerbacks, Pierre flies through the rope ladder to strengthen his legs and feet to prepare him for his number-one job: stealing bases.

Everything we do in here has a purpose, says Pierre. (Allen) always tells me why were doing it, and relates it to baseball terms. Thats what separates A.T. from the rest of the strength coaches.

After that theres stretching, free weights, ropes to emulate his swing and work his core. Theres a grunt here, a grunt there. Sweat here, sweat everywhere.

By 7 a.m., Juan is back at his locker for a quick breather. Like a minute.

Pretty intense, Pierre describes it. That went well, but its only phase one of the day.

Whats next?

The cage. Gotta go hit in the cage. I got my stamina with weight training done. But if you cant hit, you cant play.

With the sun starting to peek across the horizon, Pierre walks over to the outdoor hitting cage holding a battered piece of wood that could probably use its own walking stick. Its a black Louisville Slugger that Juan practices with, and has hit so many times, the paint has been completely wiped off the barrel.

As you can see its worn out, right where you want it to be worn out, Juan says as he points to its sweet spot. Ramon Castro and those guys hide it from me, and tell me to get a new bat. Im like old school, if I find something I like, I use it until the wheels fall off.

Is there a name for that bat?

I call her Old Faithful. Shes been with me the last three years, so Im going to ride her out until she breaks.

Most major leaguers live for the home run. Juan knows better. For a guy who has gone deep only 14 times in his major league career, hes all about the line drives.

Thats what I like to pride myself on, or survive, because all my fly balls get caught. I might have one fly ball that dont get caught a year. You cant have a whole bunch of teams full of Konerkos and Dunns. Their job is to drive me in, my job is to get on base.

Juan goes through a hitting drill hes done thousands of times, placing a pair of tees side by side with a ball on top of each of them.

Im going to come right over the top of this ball and hit the one in front of it, he explains. If I hit the back one, that means Im getting underneath it, which I dont want to do. This drill definitely helps me.

He begins.

Im always out here with a purpose.

Smack!

This is just preparation to do what I have to do to survive.

Whack!

I hit one good in the cage, I say Oh, yeah, thats a home run!

Cuhh-rack!!!

By now, the sun has arrived, just in time for the end of Juans workout. Birds are chirping, cars are rolling in. The day has begun.

But not for Juan. He treats the day like he does first base: making sure hes got a nice, big lead on it, and when youre not looking... hes gone.

Which is exactly what happened here.

Juan said thanks, good-bye, and disappeared onto the next thing on his non-stop agenda. Where did he go? Breakfast I think, the mans got to eat.

Where is he now? Not sure.

But I do know where hell be tomorrow at 5:53 a.m., and the day after that.

Back to do it all over again.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Yoan Moncada is Mr. Clean (up)

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Yoan Moncada is Mr. Clean (up)

Bill Melton and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on this edition of Baseball Night in Chicago.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Reported trade interest in White Sox relievers no shock, but is a deadline deal likely?

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USA TODAY

Reported trade interest in White Sox relievers no shock, but is a deadline deal likely?

The reported interest in White Sox relievers is not surprising.

The White Sox have some good relievers and don’t appear destined for a playoff race in 2019. Teams that do have the look of contenders can always use relief help. It makes all the sense in the world that those teams would look toward the South Side.

But this year is different for the White Sox. Yes, much like the 2017 and 2018 seasons — when Rick Hahn’s front office shipped away a hefty hunk of the team’s bullpen each summer — the schedule might not spin into October. But there have been so many positives during the first three and a half months of the campaign that it looks like next season’s schedule could.

The future is arriving fast, and if the White Sox see themselves as potential contenders in 2020, then maybe they could use their major league relievers more than they could use the prospects they’d get in exchange at this season’s trade deadline.

That’s this team's approach to this deadline in a nutshell, one heavily influenced by the contract situations of those aforementioned relievers.

According to The Score’s Bruce Levine, closer Alex Colome is “on the radar of most clubs” and there are multiple teams interested in late-inning man Aaron Bummer.

Again, not surprising. Colome has spent the majority of his first season in a White Sox uniform as a dominant closer and currently owns a 2.33 ERA to go along with his 21 saves, a total eclipsed by just eight other pitchers in baseball, only four of whom play in the American League. Bummer, meanwhile, has a pencil-thin 1.73 ERA and has given up just seven earned runs all season.

But whereas Hahn traded away the about-to-expire contracts of Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard in each of the last two summers — as well as the still-under-control David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in 2017 — Colome and Bummer are still under team control into 2020, a season in which the White Sox might want to include them in their plans for a contending bullpen.

In years past, it might’ve been about getting something for players who weren’t part of the team’s future plans. Now the trade candidates people are discussing are part of those plans, making it more unlikely that the White Sox would give them up.

Of course, the contract status alone does not completely eliminate the possibility of a deal getting done before the end of the month. Hahn always talks about the likelihood of such things with the caveat that an offer could come along that would knock his, well, socks off and a previously believed to be unimaginable thing suddenly could become reality.

But unlike being obviously sellers in 2017 and 2018 — two seasons in which they lost a combined 195 games — the White Sox are simply in a different situation now. Things are looking up, even if the win-loss record stands below .500, thanks to the first-half performances of Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, James McCann and Tim Anderson, not to mention the two relievers who could fill the roles of closer and setup man on a contending White Sox team next season. Add Luis Robert, Michael Kopech and Nick Madrigal to that mix — as well as any outside addition that might arrive this winter — and a potentially contending roster starts to take shape.

And if that’s what Hahn is building for the 2020 season, including Colome and Bummer would be wise, considering the alternative is doing his own round of relief shopping at this time next year.

There are other trade candidates to discuss that live outside the bullpen, but the overarching conclusion remains the same.

Abreu surely would garner the interest of many contenders out there, the first baseman on pace to set new career highs in home runs and RBIs. But he seems to be a big part of the White Sox plans moving forward, even if his current contract status has him heading to free agency at the end of the season. But he loves this team, and this team loves him. Some fans have pitched wild scenarios in which Abreu gets traded for a nice prospect package only to return via free agency this winter. But would those same fans have created similar scenarios involving Mark Buehrle or Paul Konerko? Because it sure seems the White Sox hold Abreu in the same esteem as those franchise icons.

What about someone like Leury Garcia? He’s been a solid presence at the top of the White Sox lineup all year. But he’s under team control past 2019, as well, and his versatility would certainly be a nice addition to Rick Renteria’s 2020 tool chest.

There potentially exist outside chances that a team would want to take a flier on a veteran like Ivan Nova (fresh off a complete game Monday night) or Jon Jay. But how much could reasonably be expected in return for a guy with an ERA north of 5.00 or a guy who’s only played in 20 games this season?

And so while reports of interest predictably generate excitement over potential moves, the White Sox are just not in the same position they’ve been in the last two summers, when moves were a necessity to set up the future. Now, the future is coming and coming quickly and it’s coming whether players on the current major league roster are traded or not. In fact, some of these trade candidates are part of the reason the future is coming as fast as it is.

The trade deadline always has surprises in store, so don’t completely sleep on Hahn and his front office. But don’t expect the same kind of moves we saw in 2017 and 2018.

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