White Sox

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

Usually when a pitcher walks six batters in one game, it’s an outing to forget.

Not the case, though, for Tyler Danish, who will always want to remember what went down Saturday on the South Side.

After making three relief appearances last season, Danish made his first big league start in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the visiting Detroit Tigers. And despite issuing a sextet of free passes, he allowed a goose egg on the scoreboard, earning his first major league victory in the White Sox 3-0 win.

“That's great. I mean you dream as a kid to pitch in the big leagues,” Danish said. “To get my first win in my first career start was special. I'm glad my mom was here, I'm glad she got to enjoy that. It was a very special day, something I'll always remember.”

Danish got into some early trouble and looked like he might’ve been heading for the same type of sky-high ERA that he put up in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it call up in 2016, when he turned in a 10.80 earned-run average in 1.2 innings. He walked three batters in the first inning Saturday, escaping thanks to a double play and a bases-loaded ground out to end the inning.

Twice more he had multiple runners on base, but he got out of those innings unscathed, too.

“He was throwing enough strikes that with the sinking action, he was able to get that ground ball in the first inning, the double play,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “Then most of the game he was still staying down in the zone. He was missing but just missing off on the fringes of the plate.

“I think he was very composed. The first couple of innings he was a little accelerated but he slowed down. In the end we wanted to make sure he was ready to go out and finish it.”

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Despite the walks, Danish impressed. In addition to throwing five scoreless innings, he allowed just three hits and struck out seven Detroit hitters. Danish became the first White Sox pitcher to throw at least five scoreless frames and give up three or fewer hits in his first big league start in nearly a decade. The last guy to do it was Lance Broadway in September 2007.

“I definitely was nervous in the first inning. I was expecting it,” Danish said. “I came in and tried to pitch as well as I could with that. But I did settle in after the first couple innings and just started breathing a little more. I felt comfortable and the bullpen did a great job, the defense did a great job.

“I think a little bit of nerves. Obviously you don't want six (walks) every game, but I thought I made good pitches when I needed to. Now, go and enjoy this thing and tomorrow we'll be back again.”

Even though offense was hard to come by, the White Sox hitters managed three runs against an otherwise dominant Michael Fulmer. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year yielded just six hits through his first seven innings of work, the lone run in that span scoring on a bases-loaded double play in the fifth.

The White Sox got to Fulmer slightly more in the eighth with runs scoring on a Leury Garcia triple and a Jose Abreu broken-bat bloop single. Fulmer still finished with fewer than 100 pitches thrown in his eight innings, recording every out for Detroit.

The White Sox bullpen was perhaps the most impressive unit of the game. Chris Beck, Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson threw four scoreless innings and struck out nine hitters, including eight straight at one point.

Luis Robert hits home run while falling down during White Sox intrasquad game

Luis Robert hits home run while falling down during White Sox intrasquad game

They say Luis Robert can do it all.

Who knows how often he'll be called upon to hit a home run while falling down, but it turns out he can do that, too.

Robert lifted a Carlos Rodón pitch out of Guaranteed Rate Field during Saturday's intrasquad game on the South Side. While it was happening, or perhaps immediately afterward, he fell over and landed on the other side of home plate.

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Worrywarts have no need to panic, he got right up, picked up his batting helmet and trotted around the bases. The next inning, he returned to his spot in center field.

So instead of a terrifying moment, the White Sox rookie delivered a kooky — and frankly, kind of amazing — highlight for the ages.

And so his legend grows.

Robert has already been the player to command the most fan interest during "Summer Camp" workouts. He heads into his first big league season as the most hyped White Sox prospect in recent memory, topping the excitement levels generated by the debuts of Eloy Jiménez, Michael Kopech and Yoán Moncada.

All that buzz comes after he thrilled minor league crowds last season with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field. That jam-packed toolbox has evaluators labeling him as the best of the White Sox collection of talented youngsters, and he's already being talked about as the game's next superstar.

"I see or hear all of that stuff," Robert said through team interpreter Billy Russo earlier this week. "I try to not pay attention to that. I know what I can do, and sometimes if you hear all that stuff, you’re going to have more pressure on you. And that might not be good for you because there is more. It’s good if people say that, but I just try to not pay too much attention to it.

"My expectations and goals are always the same. Give 100 percent, always, on the field, help the team as much as I can and hopefully go to the postseason. And if I’m lucky enough, maybe win the Rookie of the Year. Those are my goals, and if I stay healthy I feel confident I can do that."

RELATED: White Sox rookie Luis Robert confident in 'pretty hot' start to his '20 season

Robert has some challenges in this most unusual of baseball seasons. While getting his first taste of major league pitching, he was expected to have a full six months to make any necessary adjustments. Instead, he'll have just 60 games. Jiménez showed how useful having an entire season can be, starting slowly during his rookie campaign in 2019 only to figure things out in time for a white-hot month of September. If Robert doesn't catch fire immediately, he might not have the time to adjust before the season's almost over.

But that's not worrying Robert too much.

"If, for whatever reason, I don’t start the season as hot as I know I can, I will do my best to make the adjustments as fast as I can," he said. "But of course that’s not my mindset right now.

"I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to start the season pretty hot and display all my talent. I will have to adjust as much as I can if I have any trouble."

After seeing what he did Saturday, maybe he's right.


2020 White Sox lineup: This looks like what it could be come Opening Day

2020 White Sox lineup: This looks like what it could be come Opening Day

Don't expect any confirmation from Rick Renteria. The White Sox skipper always tries to keep from revealing anything about his strategy. But this sure looks like as realistic an Opening Day lineup for the White Sox as any.

Here's how one of the two teams stacked up for Saturday's intrasquad game at Guaranteed Rate Field, and you can picture this being announced for the July 24 opener against the Minnesota Twins.

1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Luis Robert, CF
3. José Abreu, 1B
4. Edwin Encarnación, DH
5. Yasmani Grandal, C
6. Eloy Jiménez, LF
7. Nomar Mazara, RF
8. Danny Mendick, 3B
9. Leury García, 2B

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That looks pretty accurate.

The big question, of course, is whether Mendick will be swapped out for a healthy Yoán Moncada come the first game of the regular season. The White Sox placed their starting third baseman on the 10-day injured list Friday, not specifying why he was being sidelined. He hasn't made an appearance during "Summer Camp" workouts, which have been going on for more than a week at Guaranteed Rate Field.

No specifics regarding his health status meant no timeline for his return, either. But if we go simply by the "10-day" portion of the 10-day injured list, then Moncada could be ready to go before Opening Day. But another question then looms: After missing so much of "Summer Camp," how far would he be from game shape?

White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino took a stab at answering that question Saturday, but as with everything that comes with the 2020 baseball season, there are too many unknowns to make an accurate prediction.

"I don't know, to be honest with you," Menechino said. "I think 10, 15 at-bats to see where he's at. And then, probably, I'd say 20 at-bats to get him started in the right direction. As far as days, I don't know what he's able to do while he's not here.

"Listen, he's a great athlete, and I think it's going to be sooner rather than later for him. Once he sees his teammates playing, he'll want to get in there. And that might not be such a bad thing. If he's in shape and he's ready to handle the workload, I think he'll get in there pretty quick."

Let's say Moncada is ready for Opening Day. How would Renteria's lineup look then? Well, it's probably an easy swap of Moncada and Robert, moving the third baseman into the No. 2 spot in the order and bumping the rookie center fielder all the way down to the No. 8 spot. Renteria said earlier during "Summer Camp" that he's still planning on Anderson and Moncada being his 1-2 punch at the top of the order, something he's been talking about since spring training.

RELATED: What Michael Kopech skipping season means for White Sox in 2020 and beyond

While Robert has been discussed as having top-of-the-order potential, Renteria has asked for patience to allow Robert to get used to facing major league pitching. Someday, maybe. But if all his teammates are healthy, Robert might dip his toes into the big league waters near the bottom of the order.

"I still look at Timmy and Moncy being the 1-2 guys right now," Renteria said earlier this week. "I’ve played with a lot of different lineups in using different scenarios. But I have to be very mindful. As gifted and as talented as that young man (Robert) is — you all see the explosiveness and the gift that he has — I have to also be mindful in that everyone can see what he can do. I want to make sure he transitions into a place where he’s competing and put him in there in the best possible way to allow him to gain confidence in doing what he does.

"The question is: Will he ever be moved up through the lineup? ... As he continues to evolve, he’ll be a guy who can hit anywhere from 1 through 5. That’s the type of talent he has. Right now, he’s still barely breaking into the big leagues, and if his body of work in a short period of time starts to show us that, man, he can impact us in a significant way somewhere throughout the lineup, we’ll do that."

None of that would have been terribly difficult to predict, considering what Renteria has been saying for months. More mysterious was how the middle of the order would shake out after Abreu. Well, Saturday's intrasquad lineup might be the answer. And though Renteria will likely shake things up throughout the 60-game season based on pitching matchups, hot hands and everything else that regularly jumbles up baseball lineups, here's what to expect for Opening Day, assuming a ready-to-rock Moncada, that is:

1. Anderson, SS
2. Moncada, 3B
3. Abreu, 1B
4. Encarnación, DH
5. Grandal, C
6. Jiménez, LF
7. Mazara, RF
8. Robert, CF
9. García, 2B

Two more points before we go.

First, Lucas Giolito is the extremely logical choice to be the Opening Day starting pitcher. Renteria, again not wanting to reveal anything, would not even commit to trotting out the All Star and no-doubt ace of the South Side staff for that date with the division-rival Twins. But Giolito wants the assignment — something that comes with being the leader of the pitching staff, something else he wants to be — and it would be wildly shocking if he doesn't get it.

"I absolutely want that. The way I look at it being the ace of the staff, you are setting an example not just with what you are doing on the field but also taking a more vocal role, which I feel like I’m trying to continue to get the feel for that," Giolito said earlier this week. "That’s pretty much what I want. I want to be that leader of the pitching staff, taking the ball in the first game, kind of setting the tone."

RELATED: Aaron Bummer praises White Sox in all aspects, ready for team to 'catch fire'

Second, Nick Madrigal. It's a complicated situation for the highly touted prospect. If you'll dial your memory all the way back to September of last year, Rick Hahn said he expected Madrigal to be the team's second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 season. Well, the bulk of the 2020 season has since been wiped away by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fruitless negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players' union. White Sox brass said early this year and as recently as spring training that Madrigal had a little left to show in the minor leagues before he was deemed ready for the major leagues. Well, now there are no minor league games to play in, complicating things.

The White Sox have never said, nor will they ever say, that service-time considerations are part of their decision-making process when it comes to bringing players up to the bigs. But until it's negotiated away in a new collective-bargaining agreement, it remains a reality of the game. With service-time rules matching the squeezed-down schedule this season, the White Sox could gain another year of team control on Madrigal if his major league debut comes just about a week into the regular season.

But this most unusual of seasons presents further things to think about. Is it possible Madrigal stays away from the majors all year long? Keeping him away from a brief season could mean the White Sox could wait to start his service-time clock until not just next season but a couple weeks into next season — when they could be better positioned to contend for a title than in this weird season full of unknowns — extending their team control and their contention window even more. That doesn't seem super likely, but it's something to think about, at the very least.

Bottom line: García seems a safer bet to be the White Sox second baseman on Opening Day.

So there's the probable Opening Day lineup. Maybe Renteria throws another wrinkle or two in there, we'll have to wait and see. But this is what comes with entering contention mode: People suddenly care a great deal about what the lineup looks like. Get your pencils and scorecards ready for July 24.