White Sox

White Sox have fond memories of Pedro Martinez

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White Sox have fond memories of Pedro Martinez

BOSTON — Few active White Sox players ever faced Pedro Martinez, but for Melky Cabrera those moments are some of his favorites.

Cabrera grew up about 15 minutes away from where Martinez did in the Dominican Republic and idolized the Hall of Famer, who had his number retired by the Boston Red Sox before Tuesday’s game. The White Sox outfielder said he looked forward to watching Tuesday’s ceremony in person.

“They were very special moments for me because like everyone has said, he’s 'Pedro Grande' and he’s one of the best from the Dominican Republic, and to be able to face him was exciting,” Cabrera said through an interpreter.

Cabrera went 2-for-8 with a walk against Martinez, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday alongside players Craig Biggio, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson.

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Designated hitter Adam LaRoche had the most plate appearances of any current White Sox, going 4-for-23. LaRoche caught Martinez at the end of his career when he threw 90-91 instead of 95. Give how difficult Martinez was to face then, LaRoche can only imagine how good he was at the start of his career.

“One game we had to go into the sixth inning before he threw a fastball,” LaRoche said. “I don’t know if he was doing it just to see if he could. He had two different kinds of changeups he was using and a curveball or slider and after like the second or third inning we’re thinking ‘OK, that must be his fastball today, he must be hurting or something.’ Then in the sixth he threw one at 90 or 91 or whatever and started using his fastball again. Sure enough he was shutting us down with basically a changeup and a real slow changeup. Just a creative mind and knew how to get guys out.”

Robin Ventura led the White Sox coaching staff with 21 at-bats against Martinez. His three hits are tied with Harold Baines, who faced Martinez 13 times. Joe McEwing went 2-for-3 against Martinez.

“It wasn’t fun,” Ventura said. “I probably helped him get there.

“He could throw anything at any time.”

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Cabrera has had a chance to get to know Martinez over the years and calls him a friend. He said he respects Martinez just as much off the field as from his playing days.

“He’s a great human being,” Cabrera said. “When he was on the field, he was outstanding. He was aggressive because that is his nature and because he liked to compete. But off the field he also was a great person. He’s humble. In the Dominican Republic, he’s an idol, and he was my idol also.”

Zach Duke went 0-for-2 against Martinez and Jeff Samardzija went 0-for-1. Bench coach Mark Parent went 0-for-5 against Martinez.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.