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White Sox fall five below .500 with loss to Twins

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White Sox fall five below .500 with loss to Twins

MINNEAPOLIS — Welcome to the week where nothing goes right.

Whether out of their control or of their own making, the White Sox haven’t been able to get on track despite all their offseason additions.

The offense didn’t do enough damage in key spots on Saturday afternoon and the Minnesota Twins did as they downed Hector Noesi and the White Sox, 5-3, in front of 30,551 at Target Field. After trailing by two early, Minnesota rallied to grab the lead by the fifth and handed it over to the bullpen, which shut down the White Sox, losers of four straight.

Whereas six days ago the White Sox were on the verge of .500, two cancellations and a second four-game losing streak of the young season later, the fans’ groans about manager Robin Ventura and his 8-13 club have begun to grow louder.

“We have to keep some balls in the yard,” Ventura said. “We need something to fall through when we get a lot of guys on. We had some opportunities that we are not cashing in on. Eventually it’s going to happen.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox still determining how to use Carlos Rodon]

They need something to go right on a road trip that has included a riot, cancellations, an odd blowout loss at Camden Yards and three deflating losses to the Twins.

What began as a promising Saturday turned quickly against Noesi, who at times looked like he hasn’t pitched since April 21.

The White Sox scored three runs in the first three innings against Twins starter Ricky Nolasco. Micah Johnson and J.B. Shuck each had RBIs, as did Avisail Garcia in the third to grab a 3-1 lead.

But Noesi gave up a solo homer to Trevor Plouffe in the bottom of the second and a two-out, two-run homer to Torii Hunter in the third as a leadoff walk of Jordan Schafer proved costly. The Twins scored two more times in the fifth against the combination of Noesi and Carlos Rodon, who came on in relief with runners on the corners and one out. It’s the second time Rodon has taken over for Noesi in a tight spot. In both, Noesi’s inherited runners scored.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Slider the focus of Jeff Samardzija's bullpen session]

Rodon threw a nasty 2-2 slider to Joe Mauer, who didn’t chase the next two offerings to walk and load the bases. Plouffe then singled to left to drive in one run, and Kurt Suzuki made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly.

“It’s a little more comfortable,” Rodon said. “I had a plan. I was trying to get Mauer out and he took a good slider for a walk. I didn’t really want to give in, but I’m also trying to make a good pitch. ... Good at-bat for him.

“I felt good coming in, I just wish I would have got one of those guys out and kept it 3-3.”

Rodon pitched three scoreless innings to keep the White Sox within two runs, but it didn’t matter as Nolasco and five relievers shut the offense down.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Ventura has addressed White Sox as individuals and as group]

A group that hitting coach Todd Steverson said Sunday has been average to a tick below started well against Nolasco. The White Sox had at least two men on in each of the first three innings and scored three times as Johnson had an RBI groundout in the second inning and Shuck’s two-out single drove in another to make it 2-0. Garcia, who flew out to deep right with two on in the first and to deep right-center field with two on in the eighth, singled in a run in the third to make it 3-1.

But several aggressive plays turned outs on the base paths and an Adam LaRoche double play in the middle slowed their momentum. So did reliever Aaron Thompson, who delivered 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

The White Sox had 12 men reach base but didn’t score again after Garcia’s RBI single in the third.

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“You have to hit the ball in the right spot,” Garcia said. “The Twins are playing well, and everything they hit is a base hit. We’re hitting the ball at people, and we can’t do anything about it, so hopefully everything gets better tomorrow.”

It can’t be much worse than it has this week.

The White Sox moved to 8-9 last Sunday with a pair of victories over the Kansas City Royals. Since then, they faced cancellations on Monday and Tuesday and were outscored 20-4 combined on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, two Twins pitchers combined for a six-hit shutout in a 1-0 decision. Saturday, the White Sox couldn’t make the big pitch or get the timely hit.

“That’s the way it’s going right now,” Ventura said.

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Michael Kopech's arrival shows White Sox and a rebuild-loving fan base what progress looks like

Tangible, visible, hit-you-over-the-head obvious signs of progress have at times seemed hard to come by for the rebuild-loving legions watching the White Sox on a nightly basis during this developmental 2018 campaign.

That’s not to say there haven’t been tons of positives throughout the organization. Those who sprung for the MiLB.TV package have been able to see every Eloy Jimenez home run, and people around the baseball world found out just how fantastic Dylan Cease has been when he represented the organization at the Futures Game.

But the inconsistencies of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, the strikeout-heavy first full major league season from Yoan Moncada and the early season demotion of Carson Fulmer have left those watching the big league team praying for some sign that things are improving.

Enter Michael Kopech.

The news that the team’s top-ranked pitching prospect, one of the top 15 prospects in baseball, will make his major league debut Tuesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field must have seemed like an oasis in a 31-games-below-.500 desert when it was announced Sunday afternoon.

It’s sure to make for an even more hyped atmosphere than the one that greeted Yoan Moncada last July, when the No. 1 prospect in the game made his debut in a White Sox uniform. And while the architects of this rebuilding effort know the inner workings of the organization like no outsider ever could, they’re going to be part of that atmosphere Tuesday, too, part of a celebration of progress coming to the South Side.

“As focused as we have been, the front office and even White Sox fans, on the future and progress we feel we’re making, we’ve also been tested,” general manager Rick Hahn said on a conference call Monday morning. “We’ve talked about, going back to last offseason, this would very likely be the most difficult year of the rebuild and the patience this year would require would be a challenge for all of us. So I do think it’s important to try and enjoy these moments along the way where you do see that progress.

“We can talk all we want about how we’re only in Year 2 and that it is going to take time and there is a bright future ahead of us, but we’re all human, we’re all sports fans, we all want to see progress along the way. That has nothing to do with the timing of making a move like this, but when a move like this does occur and when the developmental reasons line up accordingly, we all should take a moment to enjoy the progress and excitement that comes.”

Those paying close enough attention knew what Hahn cautioned prior to the beginning of the season, that this was going to be the hardest part of the rebuild. Tom Petty said it first, to be fair, that the waiting is the hardest part, and that’s what 2018 was always going to be for the White Sox, a waiting game. The incredible amount of talent Hahn brought into the system needed time to develop, and in many cases it still does.

And so during that waiting came what fans and observers have seen on a nightly basis at the major league level. For the young players who are still slated to be key pieces of the team’s long-term plans, we’ve seen growing pains and the continued development that comes in the bigs. In certain cases, we’ve seen players who are fighting to make themselves a part of the long-term plans and players who simply won’t end up being a part of those long-term plans.

But few players are expected to have as a big a starring role as Kopech, hence the excitement surrounding his promotion. He’s tantalized with his last seven starts at Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 1.84 ERA with a ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio — 59 punch outs and only four free passes — over his last 44 innings.

While fans have been clamoring for promotions — be it of Kopech or top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez — for months, it’s taken this long into the season for a big one to come to the major league team. That, too, has all been part of the plan. Hahn mentioned multiple times throughout the year that how the team handled Giolito and Lopez a season ago could be a kind of template for how they handled Kopech this season. And while all three are different pitchers dealing with their own developments, Kopech will make his debut one day away from the one-year anniversary of Giolito’s White Sox debut.

In the end, though, Kopech’s promotion is the manifestation of the patience Hahn said everyone involved with this organization — him and his own front office included — had to practice this season. The White Sox waited until they knew Kopech was absolutely ready. They didn’t make a promotion to better a team that wasn’t contending for a playoff spot or to please an antsy fan base hungry to see progress happen as soon as possible. Baseball players constantly say that it’s all about execution. Well, Hahn and the White Sox executed their plan exactly how they wanted.

“Outside noise or emotion or even passion or excitement for seeing the rebuild progress has nothing to do with our decisions in terms of the timing of promotions,” Hahn said. “Each of these decisions are motivated by what’s best in terms of putting both the organization and the individual player in the best long-term position to reach their potential.

“We knew the 2018 season would be a challenging one and one in which we were going to have to not fall prey to outside influences or the influence of outside factors beyond what’s best for the organization and what’s best for our players’ long-term development. It’s going to require patience. I think you’ve seen that we’ve exhibited that this season, and we’re going to have to continue to do that throughout the coming weeks and months.

“The short-term gratification that would come from eliminating white noise or promoting a high-profile player just isn’t worth it when you consider the long-term benefits that come from us just showing the requisite patience that is required to put these guys in the best long-term position to succeed.”

Now it’s time for Kopech to execute his own plan and meet the huge expectations he has for himself and that Chicago has for him.

But for those watching the big league team, this is the hit-you-over-the-head sign of progress you’ve been waiting for, a tangible sign that the rebuild is moving forward.

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: White Sox call up Michael Kopech

With the big news that Michael Kopech is coming to the majors, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about the decision by the Sox to bring up their top pitching prospect and the excitement that Kopech will bring to the team and the 2018 season.

Kevan Smith discusses what kind of stuff Kopech has and what it was like catching him in the minor leagues. Plus, they talk about Paul Konerko’s unforgettable day in the booth with Hawk Harrelson.

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