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White Sox: Adam LaRoche embraces challenge of learning DH role

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White Sox: Adam LaRoche embraces challenge of learning DH role

He has struggled at designated hitter so far but that only makes Adam LaRoche want to embrace his new position even more.

Despite two days off to play first base in the absence of Jose Abreu, LaRoche is eager to improve as the White Sox DH. LaRoche -- who has hit five of six home runs this season while in the field -- has a .203/.338/.268 slash line and 11 RBIs in 148 plate appearances as the team’s DH. But rather than ask White Sox manager Robin Ventura to play him more often at first, LaRoche wants to improve at the spot on for which he signed.

“I enjoy it,” LaRoche said. “It’s different. It’s almost like a new challenge now because it has been a struggle. So now I want to do it even more just to prove to myself that I can figure this out.”

[MORE: John Danks' shutout propels White Sox to 6-0 victory

LaRoche knew he’d see more time at DH when he signed a two-year, $25-million deal with the White Sox in November. The club made it clear they wanted to keep Abreu in the field because he’s signed through 2019 and they believe he needs to keep playing to improve. Even though it’s a challenge, LaRoche understood it was coming.

“Somebody has to do it,” Ventura said. “And he knew that when he signed on, that was going to be his and that’s where he gets the mentality of he’s going to be able to handle it and do it. It’s a challenge for most guys that do it.”

Ventura said the key is to stay busy while in the dugout.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Houston trip jars Don Cooper's World Series memories]

“The biggest thing is to be occupied like you would be on the field, that your mind is occupied with what is going on in the game,” Ventura said. “When you stop watching the game and go in and do something else, your brain can go somewhere else. I’ve done it before and you try and stay engaged in the game like you would if you were playing in the field so you don’t feel as much like maybe you’re a third base coach, or you’re a guy in the video room and go back out and hit. You have to stay engaged.”

LaRoche stays busy by talking to his coaches and watching the game.

Depending on how he feels at the plate, LaRoche spends some game time in the indoor batting cages, having someone throw or flip or hitting off the pitching machine. He rarely watches video.

“For the most part just watching the game,” LaRoche said. “I think you see individual things you wouldn't see when you're out there consumed with the game. You just see little stuff and you're sitting next to the coaches half the time seeing their philosophies and different approaches. It's different.”

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One thing LaRoche has seen is that Abreu is a better defender than he expected. LaRoche praised Abreu for his soft hands and knows both need to be in the lineup for the White Sox to succeed. That’s why he’s so open to the challenge, though Ventura understands it’s always going to be difficult.

“Unless you’re just broken down and cant play in the field, there’s something physically wrong with you, not too many other guys just want to hit and not play the field,” Ventura said. “So it’s a challenge for Adam or anybody else on the team. And it is a position, and somebody has to do it.”

G-Elite-O: Lucas Giolito turns in his best outing of the year by silencing Twins

G-Elite-O: Lucas Giolito turns in his best outing of the year by silencing Twins

"Lucas G-Elite-O."

That shirt was visible while Lucas Giolito's younger brother, Casey, was being ... I guess you would call it "interviewed" by Bill Walton last week in Anaheim.

The T-shirt is right. The White Sox most definitely have an elite arm on their hands.

The elder Giolito brother, the All-Star pitcher and ace of the South Side starting staff, has bounced back from his post All-Star break bump in the road and returned to the dominant form that made him a Cy Young candidate in the first half.

Wednesday he turned in what was probably his finest performance of the season to date, silencing a Minnesota Twins team that lit him up for seven runs less than a month ago. This time through the menacing Twins lineup, Giolito tossed nine shutout innings, allowed just three hits, walked no one and struck out 12 batters. It was his third straight start with double-digit strikeouts, and he's got 36 of them in those three outings.

He was downright filthy Wednesday, keeping quiet a lineup that leads baseball in home runs and torched White Sox pitching for 14 runs just hours earlier on Tuesday night.

Wednesday's performance went hand in hand with his other shutout of the season, when he kept the Houston Astros from crossing home plate back in May. That night he was also excellent, but with fewer hits and walks allowed and more strikeouts against the Twins, I'll give the title of best outing of the year to Wednesday's.

Perhaps more impressive than anything, though, has been Giolito adding to the theme of this resurgent season, bouncing back when trouble has struck. It's the general transformation that's taken him from the highest ERA among qualified starters in 2018 to an All Star this season. Both Giolito and catcher James McCann have noticed one of the biggest differences being that early damage in games doesn't rattle him like it did last season. And now we have Giolito erasing a less-than-ideal stretch to return to dominant form.

Giolito's ERA was down to 2.22 after six innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees on June 14. In the seven starts that followed, his ERA exploded to 3.52 thanks to a 6.38 ERA in those seven outings. He gave up 26 runs and 39 hits in those 36.2 innings. He's responded phenomenally, with a 2.12 ERA in his last six starts, a stretch that's featured 53 strikeouts and just nine walks in 34 innings. His season ERA stands at 3.20.

For any who might be skeptical that this is the pitcher Giolito will be for years to come, that's a pretty good sign.

In general, there seems to be a good deal of skepticism surrounding how the White Sox rotation will fare in 2020, and much of it is plenty warranted. Michael Kopech will be coming off Tommy John surgery with just four major league starts under his belt. Reynaldo Lopez has been mostly excellent since the All-Star break but had a miserable first half. Dylan Cease has struggled from a results standpoint in his brief big league tenure, with a 5.93 ERA in eight starts. And until the White Sox start making moves this winter, we don't even know who will occupy that fifth spot.

But Giolito is doing his best to show that he can be relied on to be a force at the top of that rotation. Performances against two of the best teams in baseball, the Astros and Twins, have been the biggest exclamation points on that statement to date.

It wouldn't be surprising, though, to hear that "reliable" isn't enough for him. It's not "G-Reliable-O," after all.

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In interview, Jose Abreu says Jerry Reinsdorf told him he'll never play for another team

In interview, Jose Abreu says Jerry Reinsdorf told him he'll never play for another team

The evidence that Jose Abreu will be back with the White Sox after his contract ends at the end of this season has been ample throughout 2019.

Here's some more.

In an interview with the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen, the slugging first baseman said that White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has told him that he will play for the White Sox for the remainder of his major league career.

"Jerry, several times, has told me and my family that I am not going to wear a jersey other than a White Sox jersey," Abreu told Van Schouwen. "I believe him. I believe in his word. And like I said, I’m very happy with and loyal to this organization. Hopefully everything is going to pan out."

That's the latest example of the mutual admiration between Abreu and the White Sox. Abreu has spent much of 2019 talking about his love for the organization and his desire to stay with the team as it makes the transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode. Likewise, White Sox brass continuously talks about how much Abreu means to the team, not only as a productive hitter but as a mentor for the team's growing group of young players.

“The impact that I don’t think he really knows that he has is how hard of a worker he is,” James McCann said last month at the All-Star Game in Cleveland. “He’s a superstar. He’s a three-time All Star, he puts up unreal numbers, he’s setting organizational records. But you wouldn’t know that based on the way that he acts, the way that he goes about his business, the way that he works. He’s the first one in the cage, he’s in the weight room every day, he leads by example.

“So for me, the impact that he has is when a young kid shows up there and thinks he’s made it and then looks at this guy over here who’s busting his tail day in and day out. That’s only a good thing. It helps the culture. It helps the clubhouse realize, ‘Hey, we’ve still got to work.’”

While general manager Rick Hahn has made it clear that it's unlikely Abreu would get a new deal before the end of the season, with the White Sox preferring to take care of such business in the offseason, he's also said that it's "very likely" Abreu will be around for the good times after experiencing nothing but losing records in his six big league seasons with the White Sox since coming over from Cuba ahead of the 2014 campaign.

Abreu's resume is undeniably terrific, a three-time All Star with consistent levels of production that made him just the third player in major league history — along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols — to start his big league career with four straight seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs.

He's also red hot at the moment, with a .325/.382/.613 slash line to go along with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 20 games this month. And that's before he started Wednesday's game with three hits. He's on pace to smash his career high for RBIs, up to 96 of them on the campaign as of this writing. After a pair of freak injuries last season that limited his production in 2018, Abreu has played in every White Sox game but one this season.

The White Sox have repeatedly mentioned their love for Abreu as a mentor and role model for all the organization's young players, and it's clear that they hold him in the same esteem as players who have their numbers retired and have statues built at Guaranteed Rate Field. Reinsdorf presented Abreu with a specially made ring when Abreu hit for the cycle in 2017.

Abreu has returned that love over and over again in his comments, and it seems like a new contract between the two parties is inevitable.

"I’m telling you guys that if the White Sox don’t sign me, I’m going to sign here anyway. I’m going to sign myself here," he said last month. "I’m going to be here, believe me. I’m going to be here.

"I don’t want to miss this, I don’t want to miss what is coming, and I’m going to be here."

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