White Sox

White Sox believe Alex Avila 'has potential to improve us'

avilahayes.png

White Sox believe Alex Avila 'has potential to improve us'

Though Alex Avila’s bat has never matched the breakout levels he produced in 2011, the White Sox think he can be an upgrade at catcher.

Even as injuries have slowed him down from a campaign that earned votes for the American League’s Most Valuable Player, Avila has continued to be a threat against right-handed pitchers.

Looking for offensive improvement on a catching tandem that struggled last season, the White Sox signed Avila on Wednesday to a one-year, $2.5 million-deal. While he’s only hit .210 the past two seasons, the White Sox have their eyes trained on Avila’s .345 on-base percentage against righties in that span.

“Even though the numbers have declined a little bit, he still does possess the ability to get on base and provide some power against right-handed pitching,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s not as strong as when he was totally healthy a few years ago, and hopefully not as strong as it will be in the next several years in his career. But there are some skills he does possess, even when he was struggling.”

[RELATED: White Sox acquire Tommy Kahnle from Rockies]

Health figures to be the biggest key to the equation.

Over the past four seasons, Avila has only surpassed 120 games once. In 2015, he was limited to 67 games after going on the disabled list from May 8-July 2 with a bone bruise in his left knee. Avila also is believed to have suffered up to three concussions in 2014 as a result of foul tips hitting his mask, though he played 124 games that year.

But Avila, who has a career .345 OBP, including .358 versus righties, is worth the risk. They don’t expect him to turn in a .295/.389/.506 slash line with 19 homers and 82 RBIs like he did in 2011, when he finished 12th in the MVP vote. But last season, White Sox catchers were 17th in the majors with a .656 OPS.

Tyler Flowers, Geovany Soto, who signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, and Rob Brantly also combined for a .280 OBP against right-handers, which ranked 23rd among catching combos.

Hahn said the White Sox are satisfied with Avila’s health after running him through tests and investigating his medical history.

“Our doctors are very optimistic about where he is right now,” Hahn said. “Obviously there’s a little bit of a health risk with any guy, much less someone who is coming off injury issues the last couple years. But it is one of the areas -- knock on wood -- that we’ve been pretty good at in terms of keeping guys healthy and getting them on the field.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox won’t try to determine playing time for Avila and Flowers until closer to spring training when the roster has been finalized. But Avila’s game calling and catch-and-throw abilities won’t hurt his chances. Over the past two seasons, Avila has thrown out 33.8 percent of stolen base attempts and he’s at 29 percent for his career.

He also was the starting catcher for a team that reached the postseason in four straight seasons (2011-14) based largely upon the dominance of its pitching staff. The combination of the two -- along with Avila’s strong leadership qualities -- has Hahn comfortable the White Sox will improve.

“Part of the reason Alex had appeal to us is he had a set of well-rounded catching skills and ability,” Hahn said. “He potentially can help us from an offensive standpoint. Again, get him completely healthy and maintaining that health and using him properly in terms of matchups is part of that. But he certainly has potential to improve us there offensively while at the same time making us solid defensively.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Memories of Old Comiskey Park

1018_comiskey_park.jpg
AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Memories of Old Comiskey Park

For many White Sox fans, Comiskey Park was their introduction to White Sox baseball when they were young. Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey, and Chris Kamka share their memories of the old ballpark. Among them: Chuck talks about seeing Al Cowens charge Ed Farmer on the mound in 1980 creating a bench clearing brawl, Ryan tells the story about catching a Mike Greenwell foul ball, Chuck talks about being there for the 1983 All-Star Game, they discuss the final game ever played there and read favorite memories sent in by White Sox fans.

You can listen to the whole thing right here, or in the embedded player below.

8:26 - Chuck talks about seeing Al Cowens charge Ed Farmer on the mound in 1980 creating a bench clearing brawl.

10:11 - Ryan tells the story about catching a Mike Greenwell foul ball.

12:49 - Chuck talks about being there for the 1983 All-Star Game

15:11 - The guys talk about the final game ever played there.

16:44 - The guys read favorite memories sent in by White Sox fans.

Subscribe:

'White Sox to the Letter'

markbuehrle.jpg
AP

'White Sox to the Letter'

Inspired by Ogden Nash’s 1949 poem “A Lineup for Yesterday”

 

A is for A.J.

Once punched in the face

If strike three ain’t caught

He’ll steal first base

 

B is for Baines

Who’s known to speak gently

When asked if he’ll homer

He said, “Evidently!”

 

C for Comiskey

The old baseball yard

When it was torn down

I took it quite hard

 

D is for Donkey

I mean Adam Dunn

He’d strike out or walk

Or hit a home run

 

E is for Eloy

He isn’t here yet

Though an All-Star career

Is still a good bet

 

F is for Fisk

The incomparable Pudge

From his perch behind home

Not an inch he would budge

 

G is for Gold

G is for Glove

Aparicio is

Who I’m thinking of

 

H is for Hawk

Unforgettable voice

Stretch! Dadgummit!

And don’t stop now boys!

 

I for Iguchi

Second base man

Won World Series

Returned to Japan

 

J is for Jackson

The legend still grows

A home run or touchdown

Only Bo knows

 

K is for Kopech

Speed, he has plenty

He’ll pile up strikeouts

In two thousand twenty

 

L is for Luke

Old Aches and Pains

Hit .388

That record remains

 

M is for Mark

As in Mister Buehrle

When he takes the mound

The game will end early

 

N is for no-no

Wilson Alvarez, Humber

Two by Mark Buehrle

Too many to number

 

O for Orestes

Miñoso’s real name

Not in the Hall

And that’s a real shame

 

P is for Paulie

He gave it his all

At the championship rally

Gave Jerry the ball

 

Q for Quintana

Kept coming up short

Only because

Of no run support

 

R is for Richie

But please call him Dick

A dangerous man

When he’s swinging the stick

 

S is for shoes

Which were not worn by Joe

In 1919

Please say it ain’t so

 

T is for Thomas

Amazing career

He went to the Hall

And brewed Big Hurt Beer

 

U for Uribe

He played everywhere

When the ball left his bat

Hands waved in the air

 

V is for Veeck

He knew how to sell

Fireworks, promotions

And Eddie Gaedel

 

W is for William

Or Bill; He was Beltin’

So hot was the corner

Third baseman was Melton

 

X is for Fox

At least the last letter

Among second basemen

Nobody was better

 

Y is for Yolmer

He has sneaky power

The master of giving

A Gatorade shower

 

Z is for Zisk

And others I missed

Unable to fit

In my White Sox list