White Sox

Step in right direction has Brett Lawrie back after frustrating injury

Step in right direction has Brett Lawrie back after frustrating injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After a lot of time and effort and pain and consternation, Brett Lawrie has no doubt that last season’s injury woes were all because of the shoes.

The White Sox second baseman said Saturday morning that he traced the root cause of a series of leg injuries that bothered him for several frustrating months to the use of orthotics.

Returning to the White Sox after signing a one-year deal worth $3.5 million in December, Lawrie declared himself fit for action before the team’s first full-squad workout. He hit .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 384 plate appearances last season but didn’t return to the field after he hurt himself on July 21.

“It’s getting better,” Lawrie said. “It’s definitely in a position where I can be on the field and help my team. I have to continue working out and continue do what I’m doing to allow me to go out there and help the boys.

“It was definitely frustrating because I’m trying to get back on the field. If it’s not necessarily anything I can do in the training room, and it’s in my shoes, there’s not much I can do about it.

“I took them out of my shoes, and I’ve felt better since. But the position they put me in, it’s been tough, but we’re getting there.”

Then-manager Robin Ventura initially described Lawrie’s injury as tricky within a week of the first occurrence. No description could have been more accurate.

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Over the course of all the treatment, team officials looked at the knee, hamstring, calf — pretty much everything in the region. They prescribed rest and tried everything to no avail. Lawrie started his rehab assignment on Aug. 13 and played in three straight games before issues began to surface again. He played in two more games, batting twice in each on Aug. 17 and Aug. 20, before the assignment ended and he returned to Chicago still in search of answers.

It wasn’t until October that Lawrie determined the issue was orthotics, an over-the-counter shoe insert used to provide better arch support and balance. Lawrie had never used them before last season.

“It changes your whole biomechanics and I’m a powerful guy,” Lawrie said. “I use my feet and I use the ground to move, so if I’m using parts of my body that I shouldn’t be using and it’s using the smaller things that aren’t allowing the bigger things, then I’m in a dangerous spot, a dangerous place. That’s exactly what happened.” 

“I’m glad we caught it sooner than later. Now we can move forward.”

Lawrie doesn’t blame anyone. He’s more interested in worrying about the future than the past. Ands he wasn’t the only one frustrated by the lack of answers as Lawrie worked with team athletic trainers and doctors for months trying to determine the cause.

“It’s not anyone’s fault,” he said. “Everyone is trying to find the X on the map.”

But he’s discovered the answer and has his body back in the form required to provide the White Sox with constant energy.

“No doubt,” Lawrie said. “Why would it be anything but that? That’s me. Once I’m on the field I am able to be myself again and that stuff will come out. That’s just who I am.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: The fallout from Welington Castillo's suspension

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The fallout from Welington Castillo's suspension

Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the shocking news that Welington Castillo has been suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enchancing drug, putting the White Sox catching position in quite the precarious position.  You’ll hear reaction from Rick Hahn and Ricky Renteria, Castillo’s apology, the options the White Sox have at catcher both inside and outside the organization, and what it means not only for Castillo’s future with the White Sox but what the team might do at catcher going forward.

For rebuilding White Sox, Welington Castillo PED suspension is 'a lesson we weren't looking to learn right now'

For rebuilding White Sox, Welington Castillo PED suspension is 'a lesson we weren't looking to learn right now'

This rebuilding season is all about “learning experiences,” as Rick Renteria is often quick to remind.

Now the White Sox have been taught a lesson they didn’t want to learn.

Welington Castillo, one of the few veteran leaders on this otherwise young, developing roster, was handed an 80-game suspension Thursday after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

It’s the antithesis of the culture and identity the White Sox are trying hard to create as they attempt to construct a homegrown contender: playing hard, playing the right way, Ricky’s boys don’t quit. Earlier this week, it was Castillo, oddly enough, who was benched by Renteria for not running to first base on a popup. Now Castillo has received another punishment, one far more severe and one that didn’t come from the White Sox organization.

“It’s disappointing. Surprising, disappointing and there’s a little bit of sadness,” general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday. “We know the type of guy he is, and he shows it, too, by standing up and accepting full responsibility for what he puts in his body, regardless of how he got it or why he did it.

“In some ways it’s a lesson for these guys about being diligent, and in some ways it’s a lesson about accountability. But ultimately, it’s a lesson we weren’t looking to learn right now.”

As Hahn mentioned, Castillo has apologized profusely. He talked with Hahn and Renteria after finding out about his suspension Wednesday night. He apologized to his teammates Thursday morning. And he released an apologetic statement through the MLB Player’s Association on Thursday.

“The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made,” the statement read, in part. “I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize.”

Hahn was quick to point out that Castillo’s transgression will have little to no effect on the organization’s rebuilding effort, and with catching prospects Zack Collins and Seby Zavala looking strong in the minor leagues, that’s not difficult to believe.

But there are several important things that Castillo was brought in this past winter to accomplish that could impact the White Sox situation past the next three months and into coming seasons. Castillo was acquired specifically to help a young pitching staff transition to the major league level. His experience as a veteran backstop was valuable to Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and the team’s other young arms at the major league level.

“One of the first things Welington said to (Renteria) and I last night is how large a part of the disappointment he has in himself, and the root of his regret to us, is that he understood that part of his role in the clubhouse is to be a role model and to help develop some of these players,” Hahn said. “For the next three months, he won’t be available to do that.

“Each player plays a certain role. In terms of what we’re trying to accomplish for the long term, this really is not going to have much of an impact at all. From a short-term standpoint, it’s going to stink. It’s disappointing in terms of the options that we’re running out there and our chances to win each and every night, and for the next three months these players won’t get the benefit of the wisdom that Welington brings.”

Additionally, Castillo’s contract — which includes a team option for the 2020 season — allowed the White Sox a safety net in the developments of Collins and Zavala. If the contention window is supposed to open in 2020, and if Collins and/or Zavala weren’t quite ready to be a major league catcher by then, Castillo could provide the answer at that position.

Should this suspension change the White Sox minds in that department, there’s a possibility of the team having a hole at catcher in the next couple years.

“He’ll be back here in late August after the 80 games are served, and obviously he remains part of our plans for 2019,” Hahn said. “He’ll have an opportunity to make an impact on these young players in a positive way going forward.”

And on top of it all, Castillo is a good player, a good hitter who was helping the White Sox offense. The wins haven’t been frequent, but without Castillo’s bat in the lineup for three months — he hit .333 in his last 15 games, while replacement Omar Narvaez has a .180 batting average this season — a season Hahn has described as “the hardest part of the rebuild” is bout to get harder.

Losing Castillo might not seem like the difference between a win and a loss on most nights, but the White Sox now face a downgrade at the catching position. And now the waiting game gets even more difficult while Collins and Zavala continue to develop in the minors.

“This is another example, as I’ve said from the start of this whole process, guys are not coming to Chicago because there’s a need in Chicago. They’re coming to Chicago because their development, we feel, is essentially complete at the minor league level and it’s time for them to accomplish what they can in Chicago,” Hahn said. “This catching situation is going to be no different, whether it’s Seby or Zack or (Kevan Smith) when he’s healthy. It’s going to be based upon how the long-term development of each of those players is best served, not necessarily by, ‘Hey, we need a catcher tomorrow in Chicago.’”

The White Sox will need a catcher for a lot of tomorrows while Castillo serves his suspension.