White Sox

White Sox ace Chris Sale continues his staggering run of success

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White Sox ace Chris Sale continues his staggering run of success

Chris Sale’s raw numbers over his last four starts are astounding, starting with a 1.17 ERA over 30 2/3 innings with 49 strikeouts against four walks. For comparison, former White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle — certainly not a swing-and-miss pitcher — has 17 fewer strikeouts over 11 starts covering 72 1/3 innings with Toronto this season.

Opposing hitters have a .157 batting average and .455 OPS against Sale in those four starts, in which the White Sox are 3-1. Any concerns over Sale’s slow start have dissipated into an ocean of swings and misses.

Sale’s had a few dominant four-start stretches over his career — like last year’s 31 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 38 K, 3 BB stretch from July 4-26 — but he’s previously racked up double digit strikeouts in consecutive starts only twice in his career. Sale’s strikeout totals in his last four games: 10, 12, 13, 14.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Chris Sale strikes out 14 as White Sox top Astros]

Whether it’s fair or not, whenever the lanky left-hander piles up strikeouts like this it’s going to elicit comparisons to Randy Johnson — the flamethrowing, svelte lefty who won five Cy Youngs and will enter the Hall of Fame this summer.

“What he’s throwing up there numbers-wise is impressive and he’s right up there with all those guys,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You’re really seeing, and in the way he’s finishing it. He’s right up there with Johnson -- we do that because he’s left-handed but he’s right up there with any of those guys.”

What’s keyed Sale’s dominant stretch has been an ability to generate plenty of swings and misses with both his offspeed pitches.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Carson Fulmer hopes to follow Chris Sale's path]

When opposing hitters swing at Sale’s changeup over his last four starts, they’re whiffing at one in every two of them. His slider has been nearly as good: His whiff/swing percentage is 46.5 percent, according to Brooks Baseball.

White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, though, said there’s a more subtle reason to the gaudy swing-and-miss rates beyond a pair of offspeed pitches working to perfection.

“I’d say (Monday), we only threw two or three pitches that we missed that were over the plate,” Flowers said. “Other than that, when he misses he’s missing in good spots — in off, away off, down, even a couple of them over the middle yesterday he got up in the zone. That’s a big part of it. … Instead of just throwing in a general area, he’s trying to hit that exact spot or miss in, or hit that exact spot and miss away.”

As long as Sale continues to scythe his way through opposing lineups with his blazing fastball, wipeout slider and excellent changeup he’ll draw those comparisons to The Big Unit. Ventura remembers what it was like to face Johnson — against whom he had 15 strikeouts and only two extra-base hits in 45 plate appearances — and said getting on base against him often came down to guessing right.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Here in 2015, that’s something Flowers and Sale have worked on lately, trying to get the 26-year-old to be more unpredictable with his pitches to make that guessing game even more difficult.

“It's not easy,” Ventura said. “… You pick something and hopefully it's right and if it's not you're not going to have a very good chance to hit it.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.