White Sox

White Sox downplay possible backlash from Sale/V-Mart incident

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White Sox downplay possible backlash from Sale/V-Mart incident

DETROIT -- The White Sox head into their first meeting with the Detroit Tigers believing that last season’s Chris Sale/Victor Martinez incident is in the past.

They expect no carryover from the extra curricular activities from their final meeting of 2014, when Sale hit Martinez with a sixth-inning pitch and benches emptied, though no punches were thrown.

“We’re here to play baseball,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said quickly when asked if expected any trouble. “You guys can carry on what you want, but we’re here to win a game.”

Things got heated last Sept. 24 when Sale struck Martinez in the left shoulder with a pitch in the designated hitter’s third plate appearance. Martinez stared at Sale as he walked to first base and Sale interacted, pointing toward center field as he had earlier in the game after he struck out the Tigers slugger. The benches and bullpens cleared but both teams left the field without further incident. After he left the game, Sale -- who didn’t comment on Friday morning -- made what appeared to be binoculars with his hands from the bench, a move Detroit players later mocked during a game-winning rally.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Carlos Rodon not as sharp in second AAA start]

Both Sale and his teammates denied that they suspected Martinez of getting outside help from anyone with binoculars.

“I think that was heat of the battle, in the game kind of thing,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We haven’t discussed it since that time.

“I think (it’s over). I guess we all will find out. To my knowledge, nothing has been brought up about it.

“I think that was the heat of the battle toward the end of a long a competitive season playing against each other, beating each other up. That was just part of it during that game.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans]

Locked in a tight pennant race, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was incensed that an opposing pitcher could potentially injure one of his players at a time when his own pitchers couldn’t retaliate for fear of a suspension.

Ventura, who spoke to Ausmus after that game and again over the winter, downplayed the possibility of any potential retaliation. Martinez isn’t in Detroit’s lineup on Friday and Sale is expected to start here on Saturday.

“We’re here to play baseball,” Ventura said. “Everybody else can scare up whatever they want.” 

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Update: Our Chuck Garfien found this video of Enoy taking some cuts with his big brother — all decked out in White Sox gear, too.

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.