White Sox

Still in Chicago, Jeff Samardzija sees White Sox as contenders

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Still in Chicago, Jeff Samardzija sees White Sox as contenders

After weeks of speculation that a Jeff Samardzija trade was inevitable, the 30-year-old right-hander is still here at U.S. Cellular Field, readying himself to start for the White Sox on Sunday against the Yankees.

Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline passed with the White Sox standing pat, choosing to hang on to Samardzija and continue a playoff push that gained legitimacy after a seven-game winning streak last month. Samardzija said he’s relieved to not have to uproot himself from Chicago for the second straight year and isn’t disappointed to currently be playing for a team that’s over .500 and closer to a playoff spot.

“I think we’ve always thought of ourselves as contenders,” Samardzija said. “I think we just need to go out and do what we’re capable of doing and that’ll take care of most of it. I love this team and think we have a great group of guys and we just need to keep playing like we’ve been playing.”

[MORE: White Sox place J.B. Shuck on DL, recall Scott Carroll for now]

Entering Saturday, the White Sox owned a 49-52 record and were three and and a half games behind a Minnesota Twins team that appears to be fading fast for the second American League wild card spot. But as winners of seven of their last 10 games, the White Sox went from probable sellers to possible buyers at the deadline, and instead of flipping their biggest trade chip for a few minor leaguers decided to keep Samardzija for a playoff push.

A year ago, the Cubs were clear sellers and shipped Samardzija to Oakland in a blockbuster deal that landed them top infield prospect Addison Russell. The A’s wound up blowing their lead in the AL West and Samardzija didn’t appear in a Wild Card playoff loss to Kansas City, leaving him with only one postseason appearance in his career (one inning of relief for the Cubs in the 2008 National League Division Series).

The White Sox are hardly guaranteed to make the playoffs this year, but manager Robin Ventura said he hasn’t seen Samardzija sulk over not going to a club that looks like a lock to play deep into October.

“I think if he doesn’t like his team there could be disappointment, but I haven’t sensed any disappointment from him,” Ventura said. “Even when he was pitching in Boston he was all for it and going. I haven’t seen any change from him being disappointed. He likes being here, he’s a competitor and I have no doubts or anything of sending him out there that he’s not going to be giving his best effort or committed to this.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Samardzija, a free agent after this season, won’t entertain any thoughts of his next move until he’s done playing this year. But the distractions that come with trade rumors are gone, and Samardzija said he’s relieved to get past the deadline and stick around Chicago instead of uprooting his life for two or three months.

“Yeah, it’s nice to not have to get all that help from my wife picking up and moving (to) a house here and there,” Samardzija said. “All the things that go with it, it’s tough. It’s definitely a big adjustment when you get traded. It’s nice to be able to take a deep breath and really get back to concentrating on that five-day routine and getting ready to pitch again.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.