White Sox

Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

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Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
Updated 12:18 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spent Monday dancing, gladhanding, and otherwise earning thousands of dollars for his charity. Judging by his vocal rasp on Tuesday, he was jigging late into the night, spinning through one of his favorite days all summer.

But one night later, with the bane of Guillens existence in town to begin a three-game visit, the manager watched his troops suffer yet another fall-from-ahead loss to the Minnesota Twins. The 9-3 setback pushed Minnesota seven games up with 18 games remaining, and little short of a rampant case of vertigo speeding through the Target Field clubhouse will stand in the way of a second straight division title for the Twins.

Losing is tough to swallow every timeyou go as hard as you can go but sometimes you come up empty, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. I wish we were in first, but I dont feel like weve given them anything, theyve just taken it. Theres some peace with that. Sometimes you just get beat.

The manner of victory was anything but peaceful, however.

As per norm, the Piranhas drew first blood with a Delmon Young solo shot to lead off the fifth, chased by a two-out single from Denard Span, scoring J.J. Hardy. Cutting against recent form that being a 6-21 post All-Star break record vs. Minnesota since 2008 the White Sox came right back, posting two runs in the bottom half on an Alexei Ramirez single.

In the sixth, the White Sox pushed ahead 3-2 in typically inefficient form, A.J. Pierzynski turning a gift-wrapped, bases-loaded, no-out opportunity into a run-scoring double-play.

A couple times we had men on third base or bases loaded, no outs or one out, bases loaded, we score only one run, Guillen said. That was the difference in the game. We got a lot of opportunities and good chances, but we couldnt get the big hit.

Sometimes you have a runner at third base with no outs and youre not going to bring him in, sometimes hes going to be on first base with two outs and you bring him in, said designated hitter Manny Ramirez, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and five left on base. Thats part of the game.

Turning such potential bounties upside down into frowns was certain to turn tragic, and sure as soft serve, Minnesota stormed back with two in the top of the seventh, as Guillens favorite new Piranha, Danny Valencia, singled in a run and then scored one batter later, when Hardy doubled high off the wall in left-center.

The Chisox had their own chance to counterpunch in the seventh, loading the bases on singles by Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre and a walk to Alex Rios. But with the sacks packed and just one out, Konerko and Manny Ramirez were whiffed by Jesse Crain.

Im swinging the bat great and I did everything I wanted to do in the at-bat, Konerko said. Crain beat me. I can live with that. Thats the way it is.

Not content with a 5-3 lead, the Twins proceeded to slap a wicked little critta of a crooked number up on the board in the eighth, beginning with a run-scoring double from Jason Kubel, chased by J.J. Putzs walk to Valencia forcing in a run, and trumped altogether by a three-run error-ruled-double off the glove of Rios.

Chicago starter John Danks wasnt his sharpest, logging seven innings and giving up nine hits and four earned runs. Ultimately he paid for the effort by getting slapped with his 11th loss of the season.

I felt like I had enough stuff to get us a better result, said the self-critical southpaw. Give the Twins credit, theyre playing well right now. But I had plenty of stuff to give a better effort, and I let us down.

Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano wasnt sharp, but he pitched well enough to improve to 14-7, scattering six hits and three earned runs over six innings.

With futility vs. the Twins continuing to reign, to say there is urgency pulsing in the White Sox skipper is an understatement.

I dont know if the playoffs are impossible, but its going to be tough, Guillen said. Everybody is fighting right now, today we just came up short. We all know how important the next two games are. Hopefully well play better tomorrow than we did today and we win the next two games. Theyre going to be very big for us, huge.

The improbable and fuzzy math that equates to a White Sox division title was a topic of discussion in the clubhouse as well.

The White Sox have to win not only the next two, Ramirez calculated, but we have to win every game.

Were through the wall right now, Konerko said with regard to Chicago having its back against the wall. Before the series, you know coming back is tough and that you have to probably sweep. But now you just continue to play hard. You keep battling until they tell you that you cant battle any more. When the uniform goes on, you give it everything you got, whether youre 20 games out or seven.

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

James Shields, Joakim Soria and some other potential midseason trade candidates for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields, Joakim Soria and some other potential midseason trade candidates for the White Sox

Another day, another quality start for James Shields.

The White Sox once more didn’t win a Shields start. Despite an increasingly good-looking season stat line, Shields can’t seem to rack up many wins, with just two to his name on the season. But of course, wins are not exactly the most important barometer in this rebuilding campaign.

Speaking of the rebuild, the White Sox are getting closer to the trade deadline, it’s about a month and a half away. And Shields’ continued success could have Rick Hahn’s phone ringing as July 31 creeps closer. After six innings and three runs in Sunday’s loss to the visiting Detroit Tigers, Shields has seven quality starts in his last 10 outings,

After last season’s struggles that ended in a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs surrendered, getting anything for Shields might’ve seemed a bit of a fantasy. But Shields has delivered, especially since the end of a rocky April.

“It’s very important to try to eat as many innings as you possibly can,” Shields said of his consistent efforts of late. “Early on in the season, we were ruining our bullpen by not going deep into games. My main focus is to go as deep as I possibly can. … Consistency’s the name of the game.”

Does it make him one of the most attractive names on the market? No, probably not. Is it going to fetch a highly ranked prospect? No, probably not. But it might fetch something, and in a season where guys believed to be afterthoughts like Dylan Covey and Daniel Palka are working their way into the conversation about the White Sox future, who wouldn’t want something added to this rebuilding effort?

And Shields isn’t the only White Sox player who could bring something back.

The bullpen was stocked with potential sign-and-flip guys over the offseason, and a few of those veteran arms have had good runs that could earn them a similar fate to the bulk of last year’s relief corps. Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard were all dealt away last summer. Could Hahn employ a similar strategy this season?

The bullpen hasn’t been quite as good as it was last year, which made all of those players attractive additions for contending teams around the league. But veterans like Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Bruce Rondon, Xavier Cedeno — guys who hoped to rediscover some old magic — could still draw interest.

Soria owns a 3.12 ERA. Avilan’s is at 3.10. Cedeno hasn’t given up a run in his six relief appearances. Rondon has shown blow-em-away stuff at times. It’s been a nice recovery for some of these sign-and-flip veterans.

“They’ve had an opportunity to get their chances to work on different things and become really effective performers,” manager Rick Renteria said of some of his veteran relievers prior to Sunday’s game. “I think Joakim has risen his level of game back what he was pre last couple years, I think he’s reinvented himself a little bit. He has an up-down breaking ball now, he’s continuing to attack the strike zone, he’s throwing 93 miles an hour with his fastball, he’s commanding the zone. He’s doing everything he can to be as good a closer as he was in the past. His history and his experience also allow him some confidence to be put in situations to close out ballgames.”

Soria could perhaps draw the most interest because closers are often in demand in July. But last year’s trade-a-thon showed that teams are willing to trade prospects away for relief help of any kind. Many of the return pieces in those deals might not get rebuild-loving prospect followers thrilled. Casey Gillaspie and Ryan Cordell haven’t exactly put their names at the forefront of the discussion about 2020 and beyond. But remember that Blake Rutherford came over in the deal that sent Robertson and Kahnle out of town (Todd Frazier went to the New York Yankees in that trade, too). So an acquisition that could improve the rebuild can most definitely happen, even with middle relievers.

There’s no guarantee that any of these guys, be it Shields in the rotation or any of the arms out in the bullpen, will get traded or even draw significant interest. But for a team in the White Sox position, you’d have to assume they’d be open to making a deal and getting something to add to this rebuilding process.

Eloy Jimenez reminds Frank Thomas of Vlad Guerrero, and more rebuild thoughts from the Big Hurt

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AP

Eloy Jimenez reminds Frank Thomas of Vlad Guerrero, and more rebuild thoughts from the Big Hurt

Here’s a comp that’ll get White Sox fans really excited. It’s a Hall of Famer saying that the organization’s top-ranked prospect reminds him of another Hall of Famer.

“The kid Eloy (Jimenez), I’ve really watched him a lot. He’s a tremendous (player),” Frank Thomas said. “He reminds me of a young Vlad (Guerrero) that can cover the whole zone and use the whole field. I’m interested in seeing how he progresses.”

Eloy a young Vladdy, eh?

Don’t tell actual young Vladdy that — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ranked one spot ahead of Jimenez on MLB Pipeline’s list of the best prospects in baseball — but that’s one heck of a comp for a player that White Sox fans are already immeasurably excited about.

Thomas was back on the South Side on Sunday to join Hawk Harrelson in the broadcast booth for the latter’s sendoff season. He spoke a lot about what Harrelson meant to him and the White Sox, but he also answered questions about the team’s ongoing rebuild. Thomas has kept a close eye both in his roles as an analyst for FOX and someone who will always be invested in this team.

“It’s Chicago, and we’re used to winning,” Thomas said when he was asked if the White Sox needed to undergo such a process. “You normally get away with this in a smaller market, but you’ve got to understand they’ve taken their time with it. They wasted a lot of money for a five-year period trying to continue to be successful the way we were in the past and it wasn’t working.

“The game has changed. The game has totally changed. It’s a different ballgame now. It’s all about the youth. … The hardest part they’re going to have, though, is figuring out who’s going to be here and who’s not going to be here because over the next couple years they’ve got so many young talented players in Double-A and Triple-A that someone could actually force some of these guys out. It’s going to be a hard decision what they’re going to have to do.”

That’s the good problem Rick Hahn and his front office would like to have.

While fan buy-in to the rebuilding effort has been tremendous, there are some who will continue to question the willing suffering through losing seasons at the major league level while the contending team of the future develops in the minor leagues. But if you look at the teams that have won and played in the World Series in recent seasons — and even seasons long past — the process almost seems mandatory if you want to reach that level.

“It is,” Thomas said. “I’ve watched it firsthand. I first saw it with Cleveland when I was playing. Cleveland did it. Then you saw the Royals do it. You saw Houston do it, and they’re tearing it up with that youth. There’s been some other teams that have had a lot of success with it, too. I think Billy Beane has been great with it in Oakland for many, many years. They just haven’t had the luxury of keeping it together and going for the World Series, but he continues to create young superstars and basically trading them off for whatever the organization needs.”

Thomas, the greatest hitter in White Sox history, was also asked about the greatest hitter on the White Sox right now, Jose Abreu. Abreu’s future is the topic of much conversation surrounding this team, what with his contract running out at the end of the 2019 season, just when the White Sox hope to be fielding a perennial contender.

Abreu has been remarkably consistent — and one of just three players ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first four seasons — but Thomas thinks there’s a side of Abreu we still have yet to see.

“I just don’t think we’ve seen the best of him,” Thomas said. “That’s because it’s a youth movement and the protection’s been up and down for him in that lineup. I’ve seen him be inconsistent at times, but I think he’s a much better player than that. But I understand when you’re not winning every day and it’s not as motivating because losing’s tough on everybody. But the guy’s an incredible player, an incredible hitter.

“I think the next couple of years we’ll see the best of him if he’s still here. I think this guy has a chance to be one of the great ones.”

With one last question about the modern-day White Sox, Thomas was asked about manager Rick Renteria, who he raved about. But with Renteria’s recent history with the Cubs, when he was replaced with Joe Maddon right before the North Siders started their phase of contention, he has yet to be the manager of a team with expectations. The plan is that he soon will be, and Thomas is interested to see what happens when that becomes the case.

“I think he’s done a hell of a job. I really like Ricky a lot,” Thomas said. “But who knows what they’re going to do in the future. When this team becomes what they think it’s going to be, either you get it done or you don’t. That’s just what it’s going to be. That’s the way Jerry’s handled it for many, many years.

“We’ve had some decisions that weren’t all happiness at times, but it’s about winning once they get their team here. I hope it’s Ricky because he’s done a hell of a rebuild job with the Cubs, he did a hell of a rebuild job here. It’s just time for him to get a good team out on the field and see what he really can do. I’m hoping he gets a chance of having a full team to put out there for 162 games and see what he can do.”