White Sox

Viciedo the hero in White Sox walk-off win

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Viciedo the hero in White Sox walk-off win

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010
Updated 1:23 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

As table fan gives way to space heater, the Chicago White Sox season segues from 2010 competition to 2011 audition.

One problem: No one seems to have informed the Pale Hose, who have now won five of six after a thrilling, bottom of the ninth, 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night. Rookie Dayan Viciedo, pinch-hitting for veteran Mark Kotsay, was the hero, stroking the game-winning single with one out.

I had to take a risk, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Kotsay struggles vs. left-handed pitchers, and Dayan was the only guy left who could play first base.

Juan Pierre had initiated the final-frame rally by roadrunning a one-out single to short and then stealing second and third on successive pitches by Dustin Richardson. Omar Vizquel jumped on the first pitch he saw after four pickoff attempts on Pierre and a pitchout, riding the ball deep to right but not out of the reach of right fielder J.D. Drew.

I was frustrated that I didnt get a chance to steal during Omars at-bat, Pierre said. Richardson showed me his move, and once I got second, I knew I could be aggressive right away and get third.

Pinch-hitter Mark Teahen fiddled as Pierre burned, walking on four pitches and knocking Richardson off the mound in favor of Matt Fox.

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek knows, one little mistake with me on third and the game is over, Pierre said. He made two great blocks as it was, both of them saved the game. After two in the dirt in the first three pitches, they knew they couldnt throw a pitch with too much bite.

The result was Fox throwing his flattest pitch of the at-bat with the count at 2-2, a slider that slid right into Viciedos bat. The rookies liner snuck past a diving Daniel Nava, unleashing a wild celebration on the field.

Dont give me an assist, Pierre said, smiling. Give all the credit to Viciedo.

Chris Sale got the win, with two innings of scoreless, two-hit, three-K effort in relief of White Sox starter Edwin Jackson.

You always want to come out and get a win like that, said Jackson, who spread seven hits and three earned runs over seven innings. That was a good, old-fashioned battle. Thats what makes the win exciting.

Were always excited to win, especially in a walk-off, Pierre said. Were professionals, so we have an obligation to play hard, but thats what were about. Were still fighting, and thats the most important thing.

The Red Sox struck early, with Jed Lowrie opening the scoring in the second with an RBI double that plated Adrian Beltre. In the next frame, Drew clouted an opposite-field home run, and one out later, Beltre belted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Victor Martinez.

Faced with a 3-0 deficit, the Chisox came back, courtesy first of a predictable round-tripper from Carlos Quentin, a two-run clout off Red Sox starter John Lackey. Now, predictable may seem a displaced modifier for a home run, but consider that Q now sits at 8-for-13 with four homers in his career off the righty after a 1-for-2 performance against him on Tuesday.

David Ortiz pushed the Carmines lead back to two runs with a solo clout in the sixth, and the White Sox took back that run when Brent Morel singled in Quentin (on third after a hard single to third off Lackey, what new). But with runners on first and second with one out, Pierre barely beat out his double-play grounder and Vizquel tapped out to third, extinguishing the threat.

But in the very next frame, Manny Ramirez tapped out an interminable number of fouls before drawing a walk, earning praise afterward for a great at-bat from Guillen, who had called Ramirez awesome before the game.

Brent Lillibridge pinch-ran and stole second base, scoring the tying run on Paul Konerkos double into the right-field corner.

That was the biggest hit of the night, Guillen said.

But after A.J. Pierzynski advanced Lillibridge to third on a grounder to second, Quentin popped out (O Lackey, John Lackey, wherefore art thou?). Alexei Ramirez walked, and Andruw Jones stepped up on his bobblehead night and looked at a called third strike, ending the threat.

Lackey battled hard enough for a win, gutting out six innings and stifling the White Sox on two runs off three hits. For a couple of innings, he was in a position to get it.

We did a great job vs. Lackey, Guillen said. We made him throw what, 100 pitches in five innings actually 98?

Jackson had a similar effort, pitching efficiently and striking out six against just one walk.

Another great outing for him, Guillen said.

Sales second career win was no cherry-pick, as he threw 33 pitches and whiffed three over two innings. All three of Sales Ks were on swinging strikes, first on an 82 mph slider erasing Darnell McDonald and last on an 85 mph slider to Nava to end the ninth. In between was a phenomenal, ninth-inning punchout of the veteran Varitek, who worked the count to 3-0 before Sale annihilated him with four straight, choice-cut fastballs, topping out at 97.

Sale once again did a tremendous job, Guillen said. Hes unbelievable.

On a night where young stars like Sale and Viciedo stole the spotlight from the veterans, the senior Chisox were proud to see the future playing out a little early. Jackson cited the value of the young White Sox getting a taste of pressure situations, while Pierre made specific mention of Viciedos work ethic before games and how satisfying it was to see that hard work translate into game success.

But it was the manager who was most proud of his charges, whether young or old. A week ago, he met with his club in Oakland to praise it for the run it made at the playoffs this season and to warn his charges against letting up at the finish line. Tuesday night, again, those players supported their skipper.

Im very lucky to have guys who will keep fighting, Guillen said. Theyre not going to give up. Theyre not going to give in. And when I have stood up and supported them, theyve backed me up.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

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USA TODAY

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

The White Sox bullpen did a splendid job Wednesday night.

A “bullpen day” against the Minnesota Twins’ high-powered offense had potential disaster written all over it. Instead, Ivan Nova and a parade of relievers held those Twins hitless through five innings and to just one run in a sweep-avoiding win.

It’s actually the second time a “bullpen day” went better than expected against one of the best teams in baseball, Wednesday’s effort joining the one back in May against the Houston Astros. The White Sox lost that night but gave up just three runs to the kings of the AL West.

While nearly every pitcher that trotted out from the visitors’ bullpen Wednesday night in Minnesota pitched well, it doesn’t mean that the White Sox will carry this exact unit into a 2020 season that could be one in which they make the long awaited transition from rebuilding to contending.

Certainly Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer have been among the many bright spots for the White Sox this season, and the retention of both at the trade deadline provides confidence in what the back end of the bullpen can be in a potentially contending season. But while the eighth- and ninth-inning jobs are easily projected, what does the rest of the White Sox bullpen look like heading into 2020?

While starting pitcher is definitely on the winter wish list for Rick Hahn’s front office, it would be no shock to see relief pitching get addressed, too. It’s hard to predict which of the tons of relievers could wind up in a White Sox uniform before the team heads to Arizona for spring training. But we can try to guess at the fortunes of the relief arms currently on the roster, many of whom appeared in Wednesday night’s game.

Late-inning arms for 2020

Even if the White Sox make no additions to their bullpen this winter, the back end is pretty easy to project.

Colome has one more year of team control after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last winter. He’s been allowing more base runners as the season has wound down — including a walk-off homer to Omar Narvaez, the guy he was traded for, last weekend in Seattle — but he’ll finish the campaign with excellent numbers, still having blown only one save. That’s the best save percentage in baseball. He’s got 124 saves over the last four seasons.

Bummer, meanwhile, has emerged from a host of internal candidates to grab a pretty tight hold on the eighth-inning job. He has a 2.31 ERA on the season with a week and a half to play, and he’s a guy who could be a back-end reliever and a potential closer for years to come.

As for other late-inning guys, Jimmy Cordero seems to be a diamond in the rough uncovered in season. He’s got a 3.34 ERA since joining the White Sox and has been an oft-used arm by Rick Renteria. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the White Sox put even more high-leverage situations on his plate next season.

Evan Marshall, too, figures to be back next season. He was another quality addition to the ‘pen, and he’s actually been better in the second half, with a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break compared to the still-very-good 2.86 ERA before it.

Is that a fearsome foursome at the back end of a contending bullpen? Certainly all four of those guys have been good to very good this season. The White Sox would probably express a great deal of confidence in that quartet, but adding another late-inning arm to that mix in free agency would make that confidence level even higher.

What do you do with these guys?

If those four are very likely to be in key spots in the 2020 bullpen, what about some of the guys’ whose futures aren’t so obvious?

Jace Fry threw 1.2 innings without giving up a run Wednesday, dropping his season ERA to 4.96. That’s not a very pretty number, and there have been stretches this season that haven’t been very pretty, either. In a five-outing span in late May and early June, he walked six of the 19 batters he faced and gave up four earned runs in just 3.1 innings. Over a 13-outing span in August and September, Fry gave up 12 runs in 10.2 innings, walking nine and giving up 13 hits to the 53 batters he faced. But the White Sox love Fry’s potential. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him a part of the Opening Day relief corps. But if the White Sox are in contention mode, how long could they afford his inconsistencies?

Kelvin Herrera is almost certain to be back in 2020, considering the White Sox inked him to a two-year deal last offseason. But he’s going to need to improve dramatically from what he did in his first campaign on the South Side. He’s got a 6.51 ERA right now in 53 appearances. That’s obviously not good enough, and the White Sox will be hoping for something close to the kind of guy who mowed them down when he was a key piece on those back-to-back World Series teams for the Kansas City Royals. Another season removed from the foot injury that ended his 2018 season early ought to help.

Have the White Sox seen enough of Jose Ruiz and Carson Fulmer? Again, these guys have upside the team is excited about. Ruiz can throw the ball pretty hard, and Fulmer is a former top-10 draft pick. But the results have not been good, to say the least. Ruiz has a 5.87 ERA in 39 games. Fulmer, who threw 2.1 scoreless innings Wednesday, has a 5.33 ERA in 18 big league appearances. If there are free-agent additions to be had, these two could be squeezed out of the picture. But for right now, the White Sox aren’t done with them just yet.

Where art thou, minor leaguers?

If you cast your mind back to last season, you’ll remember a bunch of young arms that looked like candidates for the bullpen of the future. For various reasons, those guys didn’t do much impressing in 2019.

Injuries are to blame in certain cases. Ryan Burr was one of the many White Sox pitchers to have Tommy John surgery this season, wiping out an audition of a 2019 season for him. Ian Hamilton was similarly knocked out for the year with a pair of freak injuries. He was hurt in a car accident during spring training and then suffered a number of grisly facial injuries when he was struck with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout at Triple-A Charlotte.

Under-performance struck, too. Caleb Frare only made 31 combined appearances between the majors and Charlotte, but he posted a 10.13 ERA at the big league level and a 7.66 ERA with the Knights. Thyago Vieira had a 10.29 ERA in six major league games and a 6.27 ERA in 39 games at Triple-A.

But all four remain on the 40-man roster, for now.

Then there are three other guys who were highly thought of a year ago who didn’t help their cases for a major league promotion. Zack Burdi, the former first-round pick, was routinely rocked pitching in only 20 games at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, with a 6.75 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Johnson had good numbers but only pitched 31.1 innings in 22 games. Zach Thompson had a 5.23 ERA in his 45 appearances with Brimingham and Charlotte.

None of that screams must-include pieces of the 2020 major league bullpen. A lot can change between now and Opening Day, as well as now and any later point in the season when reinforcements to the relief corps could still make a big difference. But as we stand here right now, it’s hard to say any of these guys will be in the Opening Day ‘pen.

Unlikely bullpen arms?

The other internal options for relief arms in 2020 might come from an unlikely spot: the starting rotation.

There are only five spots on the 2020 starting staff, and Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease figure to have three of them spoken for. The White Sox will make at least one offseason addition, speaking for a fourth spot. And despite a bumpy 2019 season, it would not be surprising to see Reynaldo Lopez in that rotation, too, come Opening Day.

That doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season, though. A contending White Sox team might not be able to put up with the kind of inconsistent results Lopez has delivered in 2019. Similarly, there’s a possibility Kopech could have to start the season in the minor leagues if the White Sox think he needs more time to work himself into game shape following a long layoff while recovering from his Tommy John surgery. Whether it’s multiple offseason acquisitions or simply Kopech returning and claiming a spot, Lopez might be squeezed out, in which case the bullpen would be a possible destination for him. The White Sox see him as a starter now, but there’s no reason that a squeezed-out Lopez, should it happen, couldn’t still help the team from the ‘pen.

Also, what becomes of other Tommy John recoverers when they return to full health? What happens if Carlos Rodon or Dane Dunning or Jimmy Lambert is available late in the year? Could they help in the bullpen even if they’re destined to be long-term starters? Maybe. It’s just speculation, but time will tell.

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Was Lucas Giolito's 2019 a fluke? One stat-based projection system says not at all

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USA TODAY

Was Lucas Giolito's 2019 a fluke? One stat-based projection system says not at all

The White Sox had a number of key players in the team’s young core show positive growth in 2019.

Despite heading toward what looks like another 90-plus loss season, the strides Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito made this season revitalized hope for the future of the White Sox.

In an early review of the White Sox season, FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski compared preseason projections to the nearly-finished product.

Giolito’s season, which ended two weeks early due to a lat strain, featured an All-Star Game appearance and improvement across the board. Giolito finished with a 3.41 ERA with 228 strikeouts and 57 walks in 176 2/3 innings. 

That level of performance wasn’t considered in the realm of possibility by Szymborski’s own ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), which predicts future production based on stats. Szymborski calls Giolito’s 2019 projection among the worst in the system’s history.

“ZiPS was a ginormous digital fan of Giolito as a prospect, but fell completely out of love in 2018, turned off as you would be if your dining companion on a first date mostly wanting to describe the details of their colonoscopy,” he wrote. “A Cy Young-level season from Giolito was past the 99th percentile; it was closer to the 99.9th percentile.”

A deeper dive into his numbers show no reason for regression either. Updated ZiPS projections for the next four years show the system has bought back into Giolito.

As the White Sox hope to take a next step forward in the team’s rebuild in 2020, most of the talk is about the team’s young players adding quality to the team and continuing to improve. For example, Eloy Jimenez is on track for a 30-home run rookie season, but still hasn’t consistently shown the all-around hitter most expect him to be. However, one big thing that can’t be taken for granted is players like Giolito, Anderson and Moncada at least maintaining their impressive 2019 seasons. At least there is reason for optimism that Giolito’s 2019 is no fluke.

 

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