White Sox

White Sox bring back Matt Albers with one-year contract

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White Sox bring back Matt Albers with one-year contract

Matt Albers threw the ball so well late in the 2015 season he became a trusted member of the White Sox bullpen.

But it was because of his performance, and the increased number of high-leverage appearances he made in September, that the White Sox believed Albers would pitch in a different uniform this season.

Instead, the White Sox have to be very pleased as they added to their bullpen depth by retaining the free-agent right-hander on Thursday with a one-year, $2.25 million deal. The club also holds a $3 million option for 2017 on Albers, who didn’t allow a run in his final 20 appearances and finished 2-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 30 games.

“It evolved for him,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “When he came back (from injury) he emerged as a guy that we really, really liked and really, really trusted in big moments in the seventh and eighth inning. I know he has the streak going.

“He finished really strong. He did a great job for us, and for me it’s a great addition. I thought he might have been gone, but he’s not and he’s going to bring those same qualities back.”

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Albers flourished at the end of the 2015 season.

After he missed three months with a broken finger, the result of an April brawl with the Kansas City Royals, Albers returned on July 19 and quickly assumed a key role in the bullpen.

Only eight days after he was activated, Albers — who began the season appearing in six straight losses — made the first of 10 high-leverage appearances over his final 24 games (41.7 percent). That included a stretch in September where Albers made six high-leverage appearances in 11 games and picked up six holds.

Prior to 2015, Albers’ previous best was 32.1 percent high-leverage appearances in 2009.

Aside from David Robertson in the ninth inning, the White Sox haven’t defined any bullpen roles for 2016. But it’s likely that Albers would start the season in the early setup role (sixth and seventh innings) with Nate Jones, Zach Duke, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka slated for the later innings.

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No matter what role Albers takes on, general manager Rick Hahn is happy to have the Houston, Texas, native back in the mix. With bullpens unpredictable from year to year, the White Sox are further insulated from an injury or a poor performance.

They also have a variety of pitchers. Whereas the 2014 squad was full of ground-ball relievers, this season’s group promises to have a nice mix of strikeout and sinkerball pitchers.

“Matt brings a different look and greater depth to our bullpen,” Hahn said in an email. “Robin (Ventura) and the staff trusted Matt in a variety of different roles over the course of the season, and he had success in all of them. We're glad he is back.”

Albers hasn’t allowed an earned run since July 31. Over that span, he went 23 1/3 innings, allowing an unearned run and 19 hits with six walks and 19 strikeouts.

While the team’s current bullpen doesn’t have the flash of the New York Yankees’ current group or Kansas City’s, Cooper is confident. He likes that Albers for his calm demeanor and pitch ability and because he induces grounders, a nice complement to the rest of the bullpen.

“We have enough talent out there to bridge things together, get people out and close out games,” Cooper said. “I do like our guys and think we can piece things together.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Zack Collins hits a pair of homers

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Double-A Birmingham

Zack Collins hit two home runs as part of a three-hit day. He drove in two runs, scored two runs and walked once in a 10-4 loss. Collins now has seven homers on the campaign with an ungodly .421 on-base percentage. He's batting .326 over his last 25 games. Eloy Jimenez had two hits and a walk, and Jordan Guerrero gave up four runs and walked five in four innings.

Class A Winston-Salem

The Dash lost both games of a doubleheader, 10-5 and 7-0. Luis Alexander Basabe, Alex Call and Gavin Sheets each picked up two hits on the day.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had a hit and scored a run in a 2-1 loss.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez had a hit in a 2-1 win.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.