White Sox

What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

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What to watch for in the BP Crosstown Cup opening series

Heading into this weekend's installment of the BP Crosstown Cup at Wrigley Field, Cubs Talk blogger Tony Andracki and White Sox Talk blogger JJ Stankevitz break down what to watch for in the next three games:

JJ: Well, the White Sox haven't won a series since sweeping Seattle from April 20-21. Since then, they're 0-5-3. In the last few years, pitching has carried the White Sox against the Cubs, but this year, that doesn't seem to be the case, right?

Tony: Yeah, thats true, but part of the reason the Sox pitched so well against the Cubs was because they were led by Mark Buehrle, whose dominance of the NL included the Cubs. He is no longer a part of this serious, however. Pitching definitely a key for the Cubs, though. The starting pitching on the North side of town has been unbelievable this year, while the bullpen has leftquite a bit to be desired. There are so many guys in the White Sox offense struggling to hit their weight, so the Cubs starting trio of Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Jeff Samardzija could dominate. But then again, if the Sox are able to get into the Cubs bullpen

JJ: That's the key here. Dempster and Samardzija have been outstanding, and the Sox have really struggled against lefties before beating up on a wild CJ Wilson Thursday. The good news for the Sox is that Dayan Viciedo looks like he's starting to come around, but he may sit the first two games in favor of Adam Dunn -- who absolutely has to be in the lineup -- in left field. Also, don't sleep on Gordon Beckham having a big series -- while the numbers don't show it, he's shown more signs of life at the plate in May than you may think. Who's someone on the Cubs who could be primed for a big series who we may not expect?

Tony: Ian Stewart and Alfonso Soriano. Everybody will be focusing on the Cubs' 1-2 punch of Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair. But Stewart has shown signs of life lately and has looked rather comfortable at the plate for the most part over the past week or so. Part of his problem is just how unlucky he's been. He just keeps hitting balls hard, just right at defenders. As for Soriano, he may be in one of those stretches he gets into from time to time. He is no longer at the point where he can single-handedly carry a club, but he can still be a driving force behind guys like Castro and LaHair. The advantage the Cubs hold in this series at Wrigley is the White Sox will have to play Dunn in the field and lose out on one of their everyday bats. Is that a good or bad thing for the South Siders?

JJ: Dayan Viciedo has eight hits in his last 16 at-bats with three home runs and only one strikeout, so I suppose parking him on the bench for Friday and Saturday's games isn't a good thing. But it's far more important to keep Dunn in the lineup against Dempster and Samardzija, and I imagine Viciedo will get to pinch-hit at some point in both games he doesn't start. The problem here is that the White Sox lineup may have to generate quite a bit of support for the starting rotation, namely John Danks, who has really struggled this year. Philip Humber finally put together his first good start since throwing his perfect game and Gavin Floyd was torched by the Angels on Tuesday, so maybe those two guys are toss-ups, too. For a lineup that's struggled to score at times this season, a bad start by any of those guys could be big trouble for the Sox. But then again, the Sox have historically been outstanding in interleague play, so maybe this is all overblown. Got a prediction for the series?

Tony: Yeah, I see the Cubs taking two of three games in this series. I think they'll win both the Samardzija and Dempster starts, but lose the game Maholm starts. Dempster is finally going to get his first win of 2012, at the hands of the crosstown rivals. I think all three games will be close, though. As you said the White Sox offense has been struggling of late so a bad start could doom the team, but the same can be said for the Cubs all year. This Cubs team will fight tooth and nail, but their offense just isn't a powerhouse, even if they have been swinging the bats better of late. What are you thinking for this series?

JJ: I like the pitching matchups for the Cubs, plus as I said earlier the White Sox haven't won any of their last eight series. I'll say they win the opener behind a good outing from Philip Humber, but won't be able to get to Samardzija or Maholm in the next two games. That being said, I'm looking forward to a few new chapters in this series being written. Everyone remembers the Pierzynski-Barrett brawl, but how about Carlos Lee and Jose Valentin walking off against Courtney Duncan and El Pulpo? Or Pierzynski belting a grand slam into the teeth of a stiff wind five years ago at Wrigley? Or Ray Durham hitting a 14th-inning walk-off single? Those are just a few from a South Side perspective -- what are some of your favorite moments?
Tony: June 20, 2008. That's what stands out the most. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez went back-to-back in the seventh off Octavio Dotel and then A-Ram hit a walk-off shot in the ninth. Cubs won 4-3. I was at the game with my mom and sisters wearing homemade shirts that said "Friends don't let friends be Sox fans" haha. Seriously. I remember going nuts during the seventh, and then jumping out of my seat the very second A-Ram made contact. I knew it was gone right away. I'll also always remember the Zambrano freak-out on Lee as well as the Milton Bradley incident in which he lost it on Lou Piniella. And of course, The Fight. That's one of those infamous "Where were you when..." type of moments in Chicago history.

White Sox do not expect Mayor Lightfoot's travel order to impact MLB season

White Sox do not expect Mayor Lightfoot's travel order to impact MLB season

Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency travel order Thursday that requires travelers visiting Chicago from states experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases to quarantine for two weeks.

By the end of the month, a certain group of travelers — Major League Baseball teams — are scheduled to visit Chicago to play games against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Likewise, the White Sox will be traveling to play road games in other states, as well, from which they will eventually return.

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But the White Sox say they aren't expecting the new order to impact their upcoming 2020 season.

"Based on our current understanding, we do not expect this to impact our operations as presently planned," a White Sox spokesperson told NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday.

Currently, no states that are home to Central Division teams from either the AL or NL are impacted by Mayor Lightfoot's order. But as has become extremely apparent, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can change things quickly, and there's no knowing which states might be impacted come Opening Day or at any point during the two-month baseball season.

At the moment, the mayor's order, which goes into effect Monday, applies to visitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Landing on that list involves a specific metric. Per the city's website, "a state will be designated if it has a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average."

Major League Baseball is imposing a geographic schedule to minimize travel for teams during the shortened, 60-game season. Teams will only play their division rivals and teams from the same geographic division in the other league. The White Sox will play their four AL Central rivals and the five teams from the NL Central.

As of the mayor's order being issued Thursday, the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were not part of the travel order. But every one of those states except Missouri, as well as Illinois, is currently experiencing a week-to-week increase in the number of new cases. The number of new cases is also rising in Iowa, where the White Sox are still on schedule to play in the Field of Dreams game on Aug. 13.

The city has the ability to grant exemptions, though, and Major League Baseball's extensive health and safety measures could come into play. According to the city's website, "the Commissioner of Health may additionally grant an exemption based upon an organization’s or business’ testing and other control policies or in extraordinary circumstances, which warrant an exception from mandatory quarantine."

So the city has the power to let the MLB season, as it pertains to teams traveling in and out of Chicago, to operate as planned. It can allow the Cleveland Indians come to town, or allow the White Sox to return from a trip to Detroit, even if other travelers from Ohio or Michigan, for example, are mandated to quarantine for two weeks.

As mentioned, the evolving status of the pandemic and the response to it, not just in Chicago but across the country, can change everything in a hurry. Major League Baseball faces its own internal hurdles when it comes to safely getting the season off the ground and completing it.

But as the White Sox understand it, there might not be reason to believe Mayor Lightfoot would be throwing a separate wrench into the difficult task of playing the 2020 baseball season.


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Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

One of the most popular questions surrounding the White Sox, as they head into a season unlike any other, has lingered throughout the three-month layoff.

What kind of rookie year will Luis Robert have?

Things have obviously changed since March, when spring training came to an abrupt halt and everyone on the South Side had to wait indefinitely to see Robert play his first major league game. The wait is over, but Robert's first taste of the bigs will come in a shortened, 60-game season. The hype is still there, sure — and for good reason — but as past hyped White Sox prospects like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez have shown, it can take time to adjust to major league pitching and start playing up to expectations.

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Moncada went through a full season's worth of struggles in 2018, striking out 217 times before having a huge 2019 campaign and emerging as the team's best all-around player.

So when he shares confidence that Robert's going to do just fine in his rookie season, it might not be a bad idea to listen.

"He’s a young guy with a lot of talent. Everybody saw that during the spring," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Wednesday. "I think for him, the key is to just play his game, don’t feel pressure, and with the support of all of us, he’s going to be good. I’m very confident he’s going to have a very, very good season just because of the talent he has."

The talent is obvious. Robert garnered preseason expectations as a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors because he's a true five-tool threat who spent last season wowing minor league crowds with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field.

The hype is real.

“He can do it on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said back in February. “He’ll hit a 400-plus-foot home run one day, and then he’ll make a Superman catch in the outfield. It seems like he can do it all. Stealing bases every day. He’s definitely the complete package.”

But how will the unpredictable circumstances of 2020 affect Robert? How they will affect anyone remains a mystery until teams start workouts this week and start playing games a few weeks later. One thing we can calculate at the moment is time, and Robert won't have much of it to make any necessary adjustments.

We saw it take far more than 60 games for Jimenez to get used to the way big league pitchers were attacking him last season. He figured it out eventually, started launching balls over the center-field fence and had a torrid final month to his rookie campaign. Robert won't have the same luxuries in 2020.

RELATED: Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

But he will have resources, the same ones he was expected to be able to lean on before the pandemic wiped so much of the season off the calendar. Moncada has benefited so much from Jose Abreu's mentorship, and there's no doubt that Abreu and Moncada both will offer any advice they have to their countryman Robert.

"I passed through that process, and Abreu was there helping me through the process and that was very helpful," Moncada said Wednesday. "And I think for (Robert), it’s going to be the same. We’re going to be there for whatever he needs, for whatever questions that he has. That’s going to be very helpful for him. We’re always going to be there for him."

They'll just have to be there from six feet away.


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