White Sox

White Sox fall to Orioles in Miguel Gonzalez's return to Baltimore

White Sox fall to Orioles in Miguel Gonzalez's return to Baltimore

BALTIMORE — A potentially great homecoming for Miguel Gonzalez on Friday night was bamboozled by a rookie who had been promoted only a day earlier.

Fighting off an abundance of emotions, Gonzalez looked good against the team that released him only 13 months ago. But the Baltimore Orioles got a huge boost from Gabriel Ynoa, who pitched six scoreless innings in relief. Behind Ynoa the Orioles held off the White Sox 4-2 in front of 20,302 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Gonzalez was saddled with the loss despite allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings as Ynoa shut down the White Sox after entering in the middle of the first inning.

“Everything was going on in my head,” Gonzalez said. “This is where I started my career in the big leagues. The Orioles gave me my first opportunity. But now I’m with the White Sox, happy to be here and we’re doing a good job.”

The best effort of the night belonged to Ynoa, who was promoted on Thursday. He entered the game with two outs in the top of the first inning when the White Sox literally knocked Orioles starter Wade Miley out of the contest.

Jose Abreu hit the first of two direct shots back at Miley when he lined a ball 103 mph off the pitcher’s wrist for a single, one of three hits for Abreu. After several warmup tosses and a demonstration that he was fine, Miley was allowed to remain in the game. But he only last two more pitches before Avisail Garcia lined one 102 mph off Miley’s backside, which led to the veteran pitcher’s exit. Miley officially exited with a left wrist contusion.

Ynoa — who on April 7 allowed seven runs (five earned) and 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings to the White Sox Triple-A Charlotte squad — didn’t flinch as he made his warmup tosses, entered the game and retired Matt Davidson to end the first inning with two aboard. Ynoa retired 16 of the first 20 he faced and pitched well into the seventh inning.

Ynoa allowed six hits, walked none and struck out five while throwing strikes on 69 of 101 pitches. His biggest escape of the night came in the fifth inning with Baltimore ahead 2-0 when he got Abreu to chase a 2-2 slider for a strikeout with the tying run aboard. The White Sox also stranded a pair in the first and eighth innings, leaving 10 men on base overall.

“Yeah it throws a wrench into things, but nothing we aren’t used to,” Davidson said. “That was kind of a crazy first inning. Kind of slowed things down.

“(Ynoa) threw pretty good, made pitches when he needed to and we really didn’t put anything together. But nothing out of the ordinary.”

Friday was anything but ordinary for Gonzalez, who pitched in Baltimore for the first time since he was released last March. Gonzalez spent the first four seasons of his career with the Orioles and went 39-33 with a 3.82 ERA in 101 games. He last pitched at Camden Yards on Sept. 30, 2015 and brought a 17-14 mark with a 3.94 ERA in 46 games (43 starts) in Baltimore into the contest.

Two hours before the game, Gonzalez was locked in as he sat on the bench in the White Sox dugout during batting practice. The right-hander also received a nice ovation from his former home crowd when he was announced before the bottom of the first inning.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jose Abreu playing at a high level for White Sox after slow start]

Perhaps a case of nerves as well as an extra out courtesy of his defense’s inability to make a play led to a shaky first inning for Gonzalez. Shortstop Tim Anderson dove in front of Tyler Saladino, which resulted in a leadoff single for Seth Smith. Gonzalez then walked Chris Davis, allowed a single to Mark Trumbo and hit Jonathan Schoop with the bases loaded to force in a run.

But a fielder’s choice got Gonzalez out of the jam and he found a rhythm, retiring 11 of 12. Davis hit a solo homer off Gonzalez in the third to make it 2-0 but that was it. The right-hander retired the last six he faced and allowed six hits and two runs with a walk and five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

“Coming back at Camden Yards, the fans were happy to see me,” Gonzalez said. “Emotion. A little too much amped up. Settled down after that.”

The White Sox defense never quite settled in. Cody Asche couldn’t handle a Davis grounder that went for a one-out single in the eighth inning off Dan Jennings. After Joey Rickard doubled in a run to make it 3-1, an error by Anderson — his seventh — led to another run. The defensive misplays gave the Orioles enough room to hold off Gonzalez and the White Sox.

“(Gonzalez) did a great job,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “We gave him a few too many outs, actually. In the first, on the ground ball in the shift, kind of overplayed it a little bit. Other than that, he had to work through inning, giving up one run, working through all that traffic — really nice job. It was a couple of runs allowed, but not because he didn’t have a really good idea of what he wanted to do. I thought he was very effective. Again, you can’t give a club like that too many outs.”

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:

Talk service time all you want, White Sox have decided Michael Kopech is ready for the big leagues now

Talk service time all you want, White Sox have decided Michael Kopech is ready for the big leagues now

There were plenty of people who thought Michael Kopech was the White Sox best pitcher when the team left Glendale, Arizona, to start the 2018 season.

Whether or not the team shared that opinion, Kopech spent the next four and a half months as a minor leaguer.

The prevailing preseason thought was that it wouldn’t take the flame-throwing Kopech, who struck out 172 minor league hitters in 2017, long to breeze through Triple-A and arrive on the South Side. But it did.

A dominant beginning to the season was followed by a bumpy stretch in which his ERA and walk total consistently grew. But the last seven starts were terrific, and so Kopech’s call to the majors has finally come. He’ll make his big league debut Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins.

It’s news that will please many White Sox fans because it’s something they’ve been waiting all season to see happen. Ever since Sox Fest back in the winter, the No. 1 question has been: When will Kopech and Eloy Jimenez reach the bigs? Jimenez, the team’s top-ranked prospect, is still a minor leaguer for now, but Kopech is about to hit the South Side with a heck of a lot of fanfare. It’s a pretty tangible example of this rebuilding effort moving in the right direction.

The recent conversation among fans and media members, though, has centered around service time and whether the White Sox handling of Kopech and Jimenez would mirror how the Cubs handled Kris Bryant back in 2015, keeping a star prospect from the majors until a couple weeks into the following season to start the clock a year later and essentially add a year of team control to the end of his contract. A lot of Twitter-using White Sox fans have whole-heartedly bought in to such a strategy.

But general manager Rick Hahn has insisted all along that the only determination of when these guys would come up was that they hit all the developmental milestones the team wanted them to hit in the minor leagues. For what it’s worth, Hahn answered a question about service time earlier this summer, saying that it had nothing to do with keeping Kopech at Triple-A. That question was specifically in reference to when Kopech could become arbitration eligible, not a free agent even further down the road. But the response is an interesting one as a similar conversation keeps happening surrounding this team and these specific decisions.

“It was all baseball. It’s never been the arbitration three years from now. It’s been about baseball,” he said back in mid June. “Again, not getting too far down into Michael’s checklist of what we want to see him accomplish, but he hasn’t checked them all off yet. He’s had some real good starts. He’s getting closer, and it’s not going to surprise me seeing him here at some point in the not too distant future, but he’s not there yet.”

Several tremendous outings later, and Kopech is there now. The numbers have been unreal in his last seven starts: a 1.84 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only four walks in 44 innings.

Hahn also talked about how the team’s handling of pitching prospects Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito a season ago could be a kind of template for how it would handle Kopech this season. Both those guys were called up in August, just like Kopech will be in a couple days.

Just like Hahn’s season-long declaration that the fortunes of the major league team and of the players on the major league team had no bearing on when top prospects would be promoted, at the very least in Kopech’s case, the same seems to have been true about the issue of service time. Some might lament the fact that the White Sox didn’t wait on Kopech, and it’s not a point without merit, as a large number of injuries to top prospects this season robbed them of developmental time and perhaps shifted the timeline of the entire rebuild. Maybe. In the event that is a concern shared by the White Sox, the extra year might have made a difference down the road.

But as White Sox fans have seen first hand this season, there is development that needs to happen at the major league level, too. Giolito and Lopez gained valuable experience pitching at the end of last season. Those two, plus Yoan Moncada and other young players, have gone through growing pains throughout this year’s campaign. Kopech will face the challenges of the big leagues, as well, and the sooner he does, the sooner he can learn how to overcome them.

Hahn has said all along that the organization’s focus remains on the long term, and though there might be arguments out there that not waiting could potentially shorten the team’s window of contention many years down the line, Kopech’s promotion does an awful lot to open it in the first place.