White Sox

Tigers bite back with additions of Infante, Sanchez

825101.png

Tigers bite back with additions of Infante, Sanchez

The White Sox may have gained a half-game on the Tigers Monday, but the current AL Central leaders came out of the day as winners despite their idle status. Detroit, in keeping with their going-for-broke strategy, dealt prized pitching prospect Jacob Turner, two other minor leaguers and a competitive balance draft pick to Miami for starter Anibal Sanchez, second baseman Omar Infante and the Marlins' competitive balance pick. In the short term, the deal is a major win for Detroit.

Kenny Williams has already made a pair of shrewd moves, acquiring Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and two fat wads of cash for fringe major-leaguers and low-level pitching prospects. Youkilis has already made a positive impact, while Myers should help out a fairly young bullpen down the stretch.

Detroit finally punched back on the trade market Monday, and while they may ultimately regret dealing away Turner, Sanchez and Infante, the deal will make the Tigers a much better squad for 2012.

Second base has been a gaping hole in the Tigers' lineup this season. The Brandon Inge experiment failed pretty quickly, and Ryan Raburn is hitting .172 in 208 trips to the plate. Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth have been the best of the bunch, but their successes (about a .215 batting average and a slugging percentage well below .300 between them) have been Pyrrhic victories at best.

Offensively, Infante is an upgrade even though he comes to Detroit with a .312 on-base percentage for Miami. But perhaps more importantly, Infante brings a plus glove to the Tigers' infield, an asset from which one of the baseball's worst defenses will certainly benefit.

But the real get in the deal for Detroit is Sanchez, a 28-year-old righty who's developed into one of baseball's more successful starters over the last two and a half seasons. Since the start of the 2010 season, Sanchez has a 3.69 ERA and the consummate FIPs to prove that number isn't a mirage.

The concern for Detroit regarding Sanchez is that he's untested pitching in the American League. That's a fairly common issue for pitchers coming from the National League to the circuit with a designated hitter, but given Sanchez's high strikeout and low walk rates coupled with fair success keeping the ball on the ground, he seems like a decent bet to continue his success in the different league.

Sanchez has the added benefit of moving to a field that plays similar to Marlins Park in Comerica Park -- he's not going from Petco Park to U.S. Cellular Field (although that transition wasn't why Jake Peavy struggled through his first few years with the White Sox).

As Drew Smyly hit a wall and then the disabled list, Detroit's fifth starters -- which included Turner -- struggled to keep opposing teams off the board. Sanchez gives the Tigers a legitimate No. 2 to back Justin Verlander, and if Max Scherzer, Rich Porcello andor Doug Fister (who may be the best bet of the three) can turn things around, the Tigers will have a formidable rotation for the stretch run.

The reality of late July is that the Tigers are, finally, looking like the club everyone thought they'd be back in early April. Adding Sanchez and Infante without subtracting from the major-league roster certainly makes the team stronger.

That doesn't mean the White Sox are doomed to a second-place finish. Ask anyone on the team, they'll say they're only concerned with that they can control. Detroit getting better, at least on paper, is out of their control.

Plus, the White Sox already have got better this season with Youkilis and Myers. Consider this Detroit's rebuttal.

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

white_sox_prospects_update.jpeg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

0522-james-shields.jpg
USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.