White Sox

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.”

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.