White Sox

White Sox designate Conor Gillaspie, return Matt Albers to 'pen

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White Sox designate Conor Gillaspie, return Matt Albers to 'pen

Robin Ventura called it a tough decision, but in need of bullpen help, the White Sox designated third baseman Conor Gillaspie for assignment ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the Royals, returning relief pitcher Matt Albers from his rehab assignment.

“It’s always a tough decision, especially when you’ve got a kid like that where you know what he’s capable of,” Ventura said of Gillaspie. “You know he’s a much better hitter than what those numbers indicate. That’s what makes it tough.”

Gillaspie hasn’t been the only White Sox hitter to struggle this season, well evidenced by the team’s last-place rank in the American League in scoring. But Gillaspie was far from the type of season he had a year ago, when his .282 batting average ranked second among qualified AL third basemen.

In 58 games in 2015, Gillaspie hit .237 with a .276 on-base percentage and a .640 OPS. He hit three homers and drove in 15 runs. In 2013 and 2014, Gillaspie combined to play 264 games for the White Sox, and he posted career highs in batting average and on-base percentage (.337) last season.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox draw positives from trio of comebacks in loss]

But Gillaspie’s poor play of late — as well as the team’s general lack of an offensive spark — meant the White Sox replaced him at third with rookie Tyler Saladino, who’s 7-for-23 in his first six major league games. Saladino has started the last six games dating back to last weekend’s Interleague series at Wrigley Field. Gillespie hadn’t started since July 9.

The White Sox also were in need of another relief pitcher in a bullpen which has had a big workload in the first two days back from the All-Star break, pitching a combined 12 2/3 innings during Friday’s doubleheader and Saturday’s 13-inning affair.

“I think with (Saladino) coming in here and showing what he can do, you need another arm and that becomes the move. It doesn’t make it any easier,” Ventura said. “It’s always a tough one to make a move like that. But we know he’s capable of much more.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Taxed White Sox bullpen earns praise, blame in loss to Royals]

Gillaspie’s departure opens the door for Saladino as the team’s everyday third baseman, which Ventura dubbed him Sunday. Ventura’s been happy with Saladino’s approach at the plate and his defense, especially. That was on full display Saturday, when he made a series of nice plays during the 13-inning game.

“We’ve been impressed. He’s been able to make some adjustments. On the field, you look at him and he fits in anywhere. There’s not really a position that you could put him at that he wouldn’t look very comfortable at. That’s just in his DNA of being a baseball player. On that part, you like what you see,” Ventura said. “Every time you look at him, he’s just dirty. In a good way of just being a baseball player. He’s always in the middle of something.

“You’re happy to give that opportunity to a kid like him that we’ve seen for a few years. You’ve watched him over the last couple years, but you know that he fits in somewhere, he can do something for you.

“The value that (Saladino) has defensively is tremendous. He’s a guy you can put at a lot of different places, he’s going to be a plus defender at any of those places. For us, if you’re not going to score a ton of runs, you better be able to catch it.”

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Albers joins a bullpen that’s been short on arms for a while. The White Sox opted to go with one fewer reliever for that aforementioned Cubs series on the North Side of town, and with the All-Star break and a Monday off day providing plenty of time off, they decided to plan to keep it short through this series with the Royals.

But Friday and Saturday altered those plans, and Albers is back with the team for Sunday after an extended time away. Albers started the season with the team and pitched in four games in April before going down with a finger injury.

Albers made a total of eight minor league appearances with Double-AA Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte during his rehab assignment, allowing six runs on 10 hits — including a pair of home runs — in 11 2/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked just one.

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

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USA TODAY

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

The White Sox future at third base is a pretty big unknown.

Jake Burger is only a year and a half removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the double Achilles tear earlier this year has not just derailed his 2018 but thrown his entire future, and with it the White Sox future at the hot corner, into question. How will the injuries affect Burger's timeline to the majors? How will it affect his ability to play third base?

Those questions and the seeming lack of any other high-end third-base prospect in the White Sox system have made it seem rather obvious that the rebuilding White Sox third baseman of the future currently isn't a part of the organization.

The free-agent lists White Sox fans are salivating over have some pretty intriguing names on them. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who wants to play shortstop but is a two-time Gold Glove winner at third, are free agents this winter. So are less-heralded guys like Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez, who counts third baseman as one of his many job titles for the Houston Astros. Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are free agents the following offseason. Those are big names, any one of which could be a cherry on top for the White Sox as they plan to shift from rebuilding to contending.

But what if the White Sox already have their third baseman of the future? What if he's already on the major league roster?

No, sorry, this isn't about Yolmer Sanchez. It's about Yoan Moncada, to which you might react thusly: "Wait a minute. Yoan Moncada is a second baseman! Learn to count your bases, Duber!"

My rarely utilized math skills aside, Moncada switching positions has been a bit of a talking point for a little while now, and it has far more to do with what's going on in the farm system than it has to do with Moncada's 2018 season in the major leagues.

The White Sox spent their first-round draft pick on a middle infielder in June despite having two supposed long-term pieces in Moncada and Tim Anderson already playing in the big leagues. Nick Madrigal's versatility on the infield was part of the praise the White Sox heaped on him after making him the No. 4 pick in the draft, but for a guy who's been discussed as a Gold Glove type of defender at either second base or shortstop, it kind of seems like that would be the best place to put him. Now, Madrigal's not exactly knocking on the doors of the major leagues, yet to play his first full season of pro ball, but the White Sox dubbed him the "best all-around player in college baseball" this summer, leading one to believe that his development could move along quickly enough to get him to the majors by the time that much-anticipated shift from rebuilding to contending happens.

If that's the case, either Moncada or Anderson would have to move, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the White Sox end up liking Madrigal at third or elsewhere, but he's playing middle infield in the minor leagues.

Anderson moving to the outfield was a favorite suggestion of White Sox Twitter after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors in 2017. He made 20 more in 2018 (fourth most in baseball), but his defensive improvement by the end of the season was one of the biggest positives to take from the 100-loss campaign.

"That’s the thing that really jumps out the most in terms of significant progress he’s made," Rick Hahn said of Anderson's defense during his end-of-season press conference last month. "He’s managed to capitalize on the athleticism we’ve always seen from him and convert that into being a potentially, frankly Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop based on what we’ve seen over the last few months.

"This is really a testament in the end to Tim Anderson’s work ethic. He knew it was an area that he wanted to improve, whether it was because he wanted to show people wrong or because he knew he wanted to make himself a stalwart at that position and eliminate the rumors about position change. He worked extraordinarily hard both with Joe McEwing and the things he did on his own, and the kid deserves a world of credit and I think it bodes very well for him continuing on the trajectory of becoming an impact shortstop."

It doesn't sound like Hahn is describing a guy who will be moving away from his position any time soon.

Moncada racked up a good deal of errors at second base in his first full season in the majors — 21 of them, to be exact, the third most in baseball — but Hahn and Rick Renteria both said they noticed improvement from Moncada in the field. But Moncada did tell the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen during the season that he would be willing to make a position switch if the team wanted him to do it.

Hahn got a similar question during his year-end press conference. Though the general manager wasn't directly asked if Moncada would make a position switch, Hahn said Moncada could defend well at other positions on the diamond and that if such a change were desired, the team would probably make it sooner rather than later.

"It’s conceivable if we made a decision as an organization to try him elsewhere that we would do it as soon as this offseason or next spring training, you’d see it in action," Hahn said. "I do think he has made a great deal of process at second base. I also think he has the athleticism also to be an above-average defender at other positions, too. It’s a subject for further conversation, but as he sits here today, I am pleased with the progress and the pitch-to-pitch focus and the athleticism, the arm strength and foot movement and his hands at second base."

White Sox fans aren't super high on Moncada being the savior of anything, not just third base, right now after his disappointing 2018 season: a .235/.315/.400 slash line and 217 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in major league history. But that's not souring the White Sox on his potential, and it's not changing what they think he can be.

By 2020 or 2021, perhaps Moncada's evolution as a big league ballplayer puts him on a similar level as some of the free-agent names mentioned above. Perhaps he's already playing third base by then with Madrigal on the major league infield, too.

The White Sox seem to have a hole at third base, with popular opinion being that it can only be filled by a marquee free agent. Maybe it does get filled this offseason — by a guy standing about 100 feet away.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.