White Sox

Todd Frazier ready to set a positive example for young White Sox clubhouse

Todd Frazier ready to set a positive example for young White Sox clubhouse

Todd Frazier experienced baseball's biggest stage with the Cincinnati Reds, from a gripping five-game National League Division Series loss to the San Francisco Giants in his rookie year of 2012 to that memorable 2013 Wild Card game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh that ended with the Pirates earning their first playoff victory in over two decades. 

But Frazier has also been on the other side of things, with the Reds slipping to 76 wins in 2014 and 64 in 2015. Between the end of the 2014 season and the 2015 trade deadline, the Reds dealt away veteran starters Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon, Mike Leake and, most notably, Johnny Cueto, to inject some youth into a team that had rapidly fallen behind the Pirates, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. 

As the Reds dealt away plenty of important pieces, Frazier was able to observe how the remaining veterans in the Reds clubhouse handled that swift pivot from contender to rebuilder. After the 2015 season, Frazier was dealt to the White Sox in a three-team deal, and about two weeks later, closer Aroldis Chapman was shipped off to the New York Yankees. 

So with the 30-year-old third baseman only having one year left on his contract and the White Sox focusing on acquiring and developing young talent, Frazier knows the drill. He's among the players the White Sox will likely attempt to trade between now and the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, but he has good sense of how to go about his business with his immediate future in limbo. 

"(It's) not awkward," Frazier said Friday at the Hilton Chicago for SoxFest. "I've been in that situation before. We know the business how it is, and it is what it is. I talked with Rick (Hahn) yesterday, everything looks pretty good. I probably still could get traded, you never know, that's just the way it goes. But my focus, right now, is on spring training and building relationships right now with the team."

Frazier is one of the most widely-respected clubhouse presences in baseball, which was part of the reason why the White Sox were so keen on bringing him into the fold a year ago (the 40 home runs he hit in 2016 were, of course, also important). As long as Frazier is still in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch and Guaranteed Rate Field, he'll be tasked with leading — both vocally and by example — a team full of inexperienced players who will be expected to contend down the road, but not immediately. 

"Don't try too much, don't try too hard," Frazier said of how he'll handle leading a young group of teammates. "If they've got questions, they'll usually come up and ask you and if you see a problem, nip it at the bud right there and we'll go from there. But I don't see any problems. These guys are great right now, I see a lot of focus.

"I saw some videos on some guys — I think (Michael) Kopech threw 110 on a crow hop, so I'd like to face him in spring training and see what he's got, a little challenge yourself kind of thing. Then we go from there." 

Frazier's approach is exactly what manager Rick Renteria wants out of his veterans, a group that includes outfielder Melky Cabrera (who has one year left on his contract) and closer David Robertson (who has two years left). While Hahn said it's hard to try to win while going through an organizational overhaul, Renteria doesn't expect that line to thinking to infiltrate the clubhouse on 35th and Shields. 

"Those guys are professionals because they're going to come out and play the game to win, to perform, to do what they're supposed to do on a daily basis," Renteria said. "Performance is the name of the game. But they have an understanding of the process that it takes to go ahead and have some of the successes they've had over the course of their career. Them just by example are going to be pieces for us for the younger players and you're hoping that sooner rather than later they become more acclimated to the big league level."

For Frazier, his teammates and plenty of White Sox coaches and front office personnel, SoxFest was a first opportunity to get to meet some of the players who could become franchise cornerstones in the future. Frazier came away impressed with his interactions with the likes of Kopech, Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada, and was upbeat about the potential that could be tapped from those players. 

"I think we got really good guys back from the trades, really mature guys," Frazier said. "I talked to a bunch of them already and told them, you might have to fill in a role right away. You gotta take the good with the bad, don't get down because you're going to get hit around, you're going to strike out, but you're going to be here for a long time. That's what spring training's for. I know (Don) Cooper's got the pitchers and (Todd Steverson's) got the hitters. We'll have a lot of meetings and show them the right way to play Chicago White Sox baseball."

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

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AP

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

Not too many players from the Chicagoland area make it to the Majors. Oak Lawn’s Rob Mackowiak did. And he even made his way to the South Side to play for the White Sox.  

After attending South Suburban College in South Holland, he was a 53rd round pick of the Pirates in 1996. That’s something that could never exist today. The MLB Draft capped at 50 rounds in 1998, then lowered again to 40 rounds for 2012.

Mackowiak, primarily an outfielder but also occasionally seeing infield duty, worked his way through the minors from 1996-2001. He suited up for the Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats, the Augusta (GA) GreenJackets, the Altoona (PA) Curve and the Nashville Sounds before debuting for Pittsburgh May 19, 2001 at PNC Park against the Brewers. His first career at-bat a strikeout against Ben Sheets. He collected his first career hit a few days later at Veterans Stadium off the Phillies’ Robert Person. His first home run came May 30th in Pittsburgh off the Marlins’ Braden Looper.

He hit .266 in 83 games in 2001, then hit 16 home runs in his first full season the following year. 2003 started out rough, hitting .183/.280/.256 through 44 games before he was able to find his groove at Triple-A Nashville. When he returned to the Pirates on August 20, he went 4 for 5 with 2 home runs. From that point on, he hit a scorching .348/.400/.609 in 100 plate appearances to finish the season.

He had as good a day as you could possibly imagine on May 28, 2004. Early that morning, his son Garrett was born. Then with the hospital band still on his wrist, he headed to the ballpark for a doubleheader against the Cubs. In Game 1, he hit a walkoff grand slam off Chicago closer Joe Borowski. In Game 2 he came off the bench in the 7th inning and hit a game-tying 2-run home run in the 9th off LaTroy Hawkins. If that wasn’t enough, he came back to terrorize the Cubs once again the next day going 2 for 4 with a home run and 5 RBI. A three-game total of 4 for 10 with a double, 3 home runs and 11 RBI (with a walk). He was named co-NL Player of the Week from May 24-30, sharing the honor with teammate Daryle Ward. He finished the year hitting .246/.319/.420 but racked up career highs in home runs (17) and RBI (75). In 2005, his final season in western Pennsylvania, he rebounded with a .272 average and .337 OBP but took a step back in the power numbers (9 HR, 58 RBI).

In 2006 he joined the White Sox in a deal sending Damaso Marte to the Steel City and hit .290/.365/.404 – career highs in BA and OBP. His first home run in a White Sox uniform was a memorable one. On May 22, 2006 the Oakland Athletics visited US Cellular Field. It was the first time Frank Thomas played a game against his formal team, and the Big Hurt delivered with a pair of home runs. Oakland was poised to win the game with a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. After Jermaine Dye homered to cut the deficit to 4-2, Juan Uribe doubled which caused manager Ken Macha to summon his closer Huston Street. Ozzie Guillen countered by taking down Brian Anderson and sending up Mackowiak, who delivered a pinch hit 2-run homer to knot the game at four. Pablo Ozuna won the game for the Sox in the 10th with a walkoff bunt scoring A.J. Pierzynski from third.

What was a solid hometown run ended at the 2007 trade deadline when the Sox sent Mackowiak to San Diego for reliever Jon Link. He finished the season with the Padres and played 38 games with the Nationals in 2008 before being released in June. He tried to catch on with minor league stints with the Reds, Mets & Indians in 2008-09 but he never made it back to the show.  He did hit .323/.418/.545 with 14 HR in 82 games with the independent Newark Bears to finish 2009.

Rob Mackowiak’s 8-year MLB career featured a respectable .259/.332/.405 slashline with 64 home runs and 286 RBI in 856 games. In 197 games with the White Sox, he hit .285/.360/.411 with 11 HR and 59 RBI. After his baseball career Mackowiak briefly worked as the hitting coach for the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League). Later, he coached his son’s little league teams and worked as an instructor at Elite Baseball Training in Chicago.

A 53rd round pick. An unforgettable introduction to fatherhood. A Chicago Major League homecoming. Rob Mackowiak’s story is a special one.

Lucas Giolito goes to injured list, Sox bring Carson Fulmer and Ryan Cordell up from Triple-A

Lucas Giolito goes to injured list, Sox bring Carson Fulmer and Ryan Cordell up from Triple-A

Lucas Giolito will miss some time after straining his hamstring in Wednesday's game.

The White Sox placed the right-handed starting pitcher on the 10-day injured list ahead of Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. They also brought up relief pitcher Carson Fulmer and outfielder Ryan Cordell to take the roster spots of Giolito and outfielder Daniel Palka, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday night.

Giolito exited Wednesday's start after just 2.2 innings after tweaking his hamstring on a third-inning pitch. He was doing quite well in his second start of the season against the Kansas City Royals, with five strikeouts and no hits allowed before his early departure.

Giolito spoke with reporters Thursday morning in Detroit, saying the strain isn't too serious and that he expects to miss just one or two starts.

As for who will start in Giolito's stead, that remains to be seen. His turn in the rotation won't come until Monday's game that begins a series against the Baltimore Orioles. Fulmer arriving from Charlotte, however, points to Manny Banuelos being taken out of the major league bullpen to start in Giolito's place. Banuelos has had success as the White Sox long man so far this season, with a few effective multi-inning outings under his belt. Fulmer hasn't made a start since the White Sox moved him to the Charlotte bullpen last season but could serve as a replacement long man in the short term. This is Fulmer's second call-up this season, he was on the roster for one day earlier this month, pitching three innings of relief against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Meanwhile, Cordell arrives to take the place of Palka, who picked up his first hit of the season Wednesday after starting in a dreadful 0-for-32 slump. He was sent down after the game with the task of figuring things out at the Triple-A level. While the White Sox could have opted to slide Adam Engel into an everyday role in the big league outfield, it appears Cordell might get his shot at more frequent big league playing time. He was in the starting lineup for Thursday's game against the Tigers. Cordell made the Opening Day roster but only got six at-bats (homering in one and doubling in another) and was sent down to receive some more regular playing time, which he might now get in the majors.

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