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."

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.