White Sox

Tyler Saladino's homer helps White Sox snap seven-game skid

Tyler Saladino's homer helps White Sox snap seven-game skid

NEW YORK — Tyler Saladino delivered a sweet — and long overdue — sound to the White Sox on Tuesday night.

The shortstop capped off a career game with a two-run homer in the eighth inning as the White Sox rallied from four down and snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the New York Mets in front of 32,781 at Citi Field.

Saladino’s homer off reliever Hansel Robles lifted the White Sox to their first win since the opening game of a May 23 doubleheader. He reached base a career-high four times as he also singled, walked twice and stole two bases. David Robertson capped off four scoreless innings from the bullpen with his 13th save.

“It’s huge,” Saladino said. “Losing, especially losing up here, that’s tough. It’s tough on everybody. It weighs on you a little bit. You definitely lose a little bit of sleep. But getting the win, I mean it’s a boost of morale.”

They needed the boost in the worst way.

Losers in six straight series, the White Sox appeared headed for a seventh as Mets starter Steven Matz dominated them early. They trailed 4-0 through five innings. The White Sox showed a much-needed sign of life with a three-run rally off Matz in the sixth.

Several days after manager Robin Ventura addressed them following a loss to the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox completed their comeback off Robles and two Mets relievers in the eighth.

“It can look bleak,” Ventura said. “You’ve got a guy like Matz pitching the way he’s pitching and you can just lay down but they won’t do it.

“You’re down 4-0, I think a lesser group rolls over and just gives up and they won’t do that.”

With one out and Melky Cabrera on first after a leadoff walk, Saladino fouled off three straight Robles fastballs before he ripped a 2-2 heater out to left field for a two-run homer to put the White Sox ahead for good. Saladino — who also had a three-run homer in Saturday’s loss at Kansas City — briefly looked into the visiting dugout as he rounded third.

“I’m just so pumped for the guys to take the lead,” Saladino said. “You got to give it to them. This is a team and everybody is pulling for each other. Every time you do something good, everybody is there ready to high five. It was just a team hit right there. Felt really good for the guys rounding third.”

The White Sox continued to apply pressure in the eighth as Robles walked pinch-hitter Jimmy Rollins and stole second, the team’s fourth of the game. Adam Eaton also walked again and Brett Lawrie jumped on the first pitch from Logan Verrett for a two-out RBI single and a critical insurance run.

Matz had the White Sox stymied in the early going. He induced nothing but grounders in the first few innings and didn’t allow a hit until the third. Matz, who entered with a scoreless streak of 14, cruised through the fifth inning, too.

But trailing 4-0, the White Sox finally broke through in the sixth inning.

Jose Abreu singled off the glove of James Loney and Todd Frazier crushed a two-run homer to left-center field, his 16th. After Avisail Garcia grounded into a double play, Saladino kept the inning alive with a walk. He easily stole second and third base before Navarro chased Matz when he singled just over the shortstop’s glove to get the White Sox within 4-3. Matz allowed three earned runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three.

Pitching on seven days rest, White Sox starter Mat Latos didn’t have it easy in the early innings.

He allowed two unearned runs before yielding a two-run homer in the third to fall behind 4-0. But Latos finished strong, retiring eight of the last 10.

He handed it off to the bullpen, a group that allowed 14 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in Kansas City. The group took a big step in the right direction as Zach Putnam, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones all put up zeroes to get the ball to Robertson.

Robertson said Ventura merely implored the team to keep fighting, something it displayed in each loss at Kansas City before the bullpen’s meltdowns.

“That’s the way our whole team has been thinking,” Robertson said. “We’ve been playing hard, and things just haven’t worked out. If we hit well we didn’t pitch well, and if we pitched well we didn’t hit well. You just need things to work out for you and today they did.”

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.”