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White Sox adapting to new second base sliding rules

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White Sox adapting to new second base sliding rules

The White Sox haven’t had to learn baseball’s new sliding rule the hard way, as was the case with the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros in the first week of the season. But they’re still figuring out how best to adapt to the Rule 6.01(j), which prohibits blatant takeout slides on double play balls in which the runner doesn’t make an attempt to reach second base. 

The rule, itself, is fairly clear. A runner must make a “bona fide slide” into second base, which means he begins his slide before reaching the bag, is able and makes an effort to reach the base with his hand or foot, is able to stay on the base after the slide and doesn’t change his path to initiate contact with the fielder.

Essentially, players have to break up double plays by sliding into the bag and not past it. The counterweight to the rule is that managers have the ability to challenge “in the neighborhood” plays in which the second baseman or shortstop drags his foot behind second base, but doesn’t touch the bag — a tactic commonly used in the past to avoid takeout slides.

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Most believe the rule isn’t too difficult to understand. But the problem comes in forcing players to not rely on the instincts they’ve been taught to have since travel ball or high school — to break up a double play by any means necessary. 

“It’s going to be tough on those bang-bang ones, instinctually, to make up your mind within five strides,” White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino said. 

Severe injuries suffered by Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung-Ho Kana and New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada put those takeout slides in an ugly spotlight last year, prompting the new rule. But its effects are felt beyond just changing how players slide into second base.

On Friday, Avisail Garcia — with a runner ahead of him on second base — was caught with too big a lead and was picked off first base by Indians catcher Yan Gomes. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Garcia didn’t have to have that aggressive a lead given he and his linebacker-esque frame couldn’t barrel into second base to break up a double play chance anymore. 

It may seem like players will become overly cautious leading off and going into second base due to the new rule, but Ventura said he’s not concerned about it. 

“Seeing what’s happened the last few games, it looks like everybody is still — their instinct is to still slide in like they used to,” Ventura said. “It’s hard when guy have been playing for 10-20 some years knowing they’re supposed to go after that guy and try to break it up.”

Saladino said there’s another aspect to the rule that changes things: Having to avoid sliding through the bag. In the past, when a player knew he’d be out on a double play, he could slide past second base and into the fielder without worrying about holding on to the bag because there was no chance of him being safe. Now, Saladino said, he has to think about holding on to the bag every time he slides into it.

“The one that worries me is if it’s crunch time and you really need to do something to try to distract or whatever with that defender, and then you’re only option is to hold on to the base — (I’ve) never done that before,” Saladino said. “You just slide through there. So holding on to the base, I mean, that’s a whole new move that we’re counting on our bodies to handle. That’s the one area that I’m kind of concerned with.”

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Saladino is on the other side of it as a shortstop, too. He never was a fan of being “in the neighborhood,” always choosing to tap second base as he moved to his left on double plays. He and other shortstops have to be more conscious of actually touching the base now, given replay can rule a runner safe if they don’t. But with that effort to hit the bag comes a knowledge that, if they are, a runner can’t slide late and past the bag to barrel into them. 

Contact at second base isn’t completely eliminated. Players can still slide to the left or right of the bag so long as they stick an arm or leg out to make an effort at being on the base. But through the season’s first week, there have already been two instances of games ending due to reviews of the new rule.

The Blue Jays lost to the Tampa Bay Rays when replay officials determined Jose Bautista intentionally reached his arm out and touched shortstop Logan Forsythe’s leg instead of going into the bag. A few days later, Colby Rasmus clearly slid late and beyond second base trying to break up a double play and was called for interference, handing the Milwaukee Brewers a win over the Astros.

There may be more high-profile instances of interference being called, some of which will inevitably come in a pennant race. And it may take a while for the White Sox and the rest of baseball to adapt to it. 

“All in all, it’s not the worst rule,” Saladino said. “But at the same time, it always comes down to the fact that we’ve done it one way for so long. It’s just going to be an adjustment.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 1

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 1

We asked you to ask us anything about the White Sox and you delivered in a big way. We got so many questions, we had to do two different podcasts! Among the questions here in Part 1: should the White Sox send Yoan Moncada to Triple-A? What players will be traded before the deadline? Who are some sleeper prospects in the minors? Will Jordan Stephens be called up before Michael Kopech? Should Juan Uribe be a team ambassador? What's our all-time White Sox team from 2000 to the present and many more.

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

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

The White Sox have a number of highly-rated prospects performing well in the minors and some of them will be on the move within the system in a matter of days.

General manager Rick Hahn talked to reporters ahead of Monday night's White Sox game in Cleveland, a 6-2 loss, and gave the news. Well, sort of.

He didn't include names, but he did say that "there will be many" promotions after the minor league all-star games for Double-A and both Single-A teams take place on Tuesday.

Hahn added that Chris Getz, the White Sox player development director, will address the media before the White Sox host Oakland on Thursday about the moves.

If the all-star games are a reason to wait, it's safe to think some of the players involved will be playing in those games. So who could be on the move?

Double-A Birmingham has six all-stars: Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Danny Mendick, Dane Dunning and Ian Hamilton. Jimenez is the name everyone wants to see on the move. He has torched the Southern League since getting off to a late start to the season due to injury. Hahn was asked about Jimenez, but didn't tip his hand as to whether he would be one of the promotions.

Dunning has been good in Double-A (2.78 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings), but was already promoted this season so he may not be on the move again.

Single-A Winston-Salem has five all-stars: Dylan Cease, Luis Alexander Basabe, Joel Booker, Bernardo Flores and Matt Foster. Cease, 22, could be due for a promotion with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. There's also that outfield logjam the Dash, which won the first-half division title, have had all season.

Other than Basabe and Booker, Blake Rutherford and Alex Call are also noteworthy prospects being forced to split time in the Dash's outfield. If Jimenez is moving up to Triple-A, one or two names from this group could be on the move to take his spot in Birmingham.

This would especially make sense if highly-touted outfield prospect Luis Robert, who was supposed to be in Single-A Kannapolis for a short period before joining the Dash, is ready to move up as planned. Robert is hitting .289/.360/.400 in 13 games with the Intimidators.

Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis were all off Monday. The various all-star games will take place Tuesday and the three teams will be off again Wednesday. The promotions could be announced Thursday ahead of Getz's scheduled media availability.