White Sox

White Sox: Adam LaRoche crosses pitching off his 'bucket list'

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White Sox: Adam LaRoche crosses pitching off his 'bucket list'

After 12 years in the majors, one would think Adam LaRoche has almost done it all. But there was a first for the lefty in Friday’s 13-6 blowout loss to the Yankees. 

The veteran first baseman was tabbed by manager Robin Ventura to pitch the ninth inning of the game to save some bullpen arms. It was LaRoche’s’ first time on the mound in the majors, and he was thrilled to get the call.

[MORE: White Sox given rude awakening as Yankees dismantle Rodon in loss]

“I have begged every manager I’ve ever played for to let me go out there and pitch,” LaRoche said. “I’ve had three or four situations where, and they’ve all been tie games like in extra innings where we are running low, if we wouldn’t have scored I was going out the next half inning. Sure enough every time we’ve scored to go ahead. Been close, never got to do it. That’s been on my bucket list for a long time.”

LaRoche, whose father, Dave, was a major-league pitcher, pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 ninth inning and even struck out Yankees’ second baseman Brendan Ryan with some high heat that reached 85 mph. His son, Drake, was the most excited of all the people in the dugout. LaRoche’s first strikeout is now up there with some of his other favorite baseball memories.

“It is at this point,” he admitted. “Probably bigger because I’ve waited so long to be able to get it.”

[NBC SHOP: Buy an Adam LaRoche jersey]

The slugger hasn’t had the kind of year (.219/.352/.311, 9 HR, 36 RBI) he hoped for when he signed with the White Sox this offseason. His four-hit night was his first since 2012 but it wasn’t enough to keep the team’s momentum rolling over from a successful road trip. Yet his time on the mound put a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing day.

“You can rarely find something to smile about in a beating like that,” LaRoche said. “That kind of gave us all something to laugh about after the game and keep it loose. Baseball wise I haven’t had a ton to smile about this year anyway so that was nice to get out there on the mound and let it go like that.”

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.