White Sox

White Sox: Heads up play slowed down Junior Guerra's debut

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White Sox: Heads up play slowed down Junior Guerra's debut

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Junior Guerra’s defense helped speed things up for the 30-year-old rookie on Friday night. The White Sox pitcher took it upon himself to slow it back down.

After he took the mound in his major league debut, Guerra quickly gave up three straight hits and a run. But before the game got away from him, Guerra turned an unofficial double play en route to completing two innings. He allowed a run, four hits and had an intentional walk and two strikeouts.

[MORE: Adam Eaton vents frustration to White Sox coaches]

“It was a great experience,” Guerra said through an interpreter. “At this level, all is faster. I feel good. I thought I did good. It was my first time, and I think the next time will be better.”

An unofficial error by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who dropped Steven Souza Jr.’s pop up after he and Carlos Sanchez nearly collided, didn’t exactly welcome Guerra to the majors. Jake Elmore singled on the next pitch and Guerra allowed a run when Nick Franklin singled.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

But Guerra made a nice play to snag a comebacker by David DeJesus and he threw behind Elmore at third, to cut him down. Franklin tried to advance to third on the play and was thrown out. Guerra struck out Rene Rivera to end the inning.

“That play helped me a lot,” Guerra said. “I felt like the game was faster, and I couldn’t control it. And that play helped me to control the game, control the situation. I feel it calmed me.”

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Looking for another example of how far Lucas Giolito has come this season? Look back to last year’s Crosstown series.

Giolito pitched in games on both sides of town, but the start he made against the Cubs at Wrigley Field was emblematic of his woeful 2018 season. He actually earned the win in that game, but he walked seven batters and threw three wild pitches. By the time he exited, his season ERA was nearly 7.00.

White Sox fans know that 2019 has been the complete opposite for Giolito, and he rides into his Wednesday-night start on the North Side as one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Just like Eloy Jimenez’s game-winning home run Tuesday was the best snapshot of the White Sox rebuilding progress to date, putting last year’s start at Wrigley next to where Giolito is heading into this year’s start at Wrigley is the best snapshot of his amazing transformation.

“It was survival mode,” Giolito said Tuesday. “Now I feel like I’m on the attack. When I take the ball, I have full confidence in myself that I will come after you with really good stuff, changes in velocity and movement. Last year I went out not knowing what I had that day.

“I don’t want to walk seven, like I did last year here. I got the win somehow. The offense and defense bailed me out a ton. This year I’m much different. I’m all about filling up the zone, attacking hitters. That’s pretty much the M.O.”

The difference has been obvious to anyone who watched Giolito struggle last season to the tune of a 6.13 ERA (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), a 1.48 WHIP (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), 118 earned runs (the most in baseball) and 90 walks (the most in the American League). This season, he’s been dominant, on an incredible run that’s made him as good a Cy Young candidate as you’ll find. He’s got a 2.22 ERA right now, best in the AL, with 95 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Over his last eight starts, Giolito has a 0.94 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. Opposing hitters are batting just .149 against him during that span.

The dude’s on fire, a near lock to be an All Star, and perhaps most importantly, he’s totally changed his long-term perception in the minds of White Sox fans. They groaned during the walks and the runs and the wild pitches last year and cast him out of their projected future rotations. Now they’re cheering a guy who looks capable of leading that rotation of the future.

What a difference a year makes.

If those White Sox fans are anything in number and volume like they were Tuesday night, when they made Wrigley Field sound like Guaranteed Rate Field after Jimenez’s homer in the ninth, then Giolito can expect a rocking atmosphere as he looks to keep the good times rolling — and make a Crosstown moment worth remembering this time.

“I want to give the fans a show as much as I can,” Giolito said. “I like to see we’re filling up our ballpark with more White Sox fans, more people starting to pay attention. Just want to continue on that train. Our team is playing really hard and we’re happy to be here.

“My goal every time I pitch is to win, so not too much changes. But it's going to be a lot of fun, I'll say that. I'm looking forward to it.”

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New No. 5 prospect in baseball Luis Robert wins MVP at Southern League All-Star Game

New No. 5 prospect in baseball Luis Robert wins MVP at Southern League All-Star Game

Eloy Jimenez deserved every bit of the spotlight Tuesday night for his broken-bat, game-winning homer in the ninth inning on the North Side. But he wasn't the only star of the White Sox rebuild doing big things.

Down in the minors, Luis Robert continued his huge season with MVP honors at the Southern League All-Star Game.

Robert is the newly minted No. 5 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline's just-updated rankings, and he celebrated by adding a new piece of hardware to his growing collection. He went 2-for-3 in the Southern League All-Star Game with a double, a triple, two RBIs and a run scored. Not bad for a day's work on one of the biggest stages at the Double-A level.

Robert, of course, has just torn up minor league pitching so far in 2019. In 60 games between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, he's got a .353/.403/.630 slash line, 12 home runs, 44 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 18 doubles and 18 stolen bases. After playing in only 50 games in 2018 while battling various thumb injuries, Robert has obviously shattered the numbers from his first season of pro ball in the United States. And there's still a bunch of baseball left this season.

While the White Sox have been in no rush to move their highly touted prospects along faster than they need to during this rebuilding process, Robert's been so hot at the plate all season, he might warrant another jump before the season's through. As for when fans could see him playing big league games on the South Side, it doesn't seem at all ridiculous at this point to suggest he could be on the Opening Day roster for the 2020 season.

As for those rankings, Robert effectively replaces Jimenez as a top-five prospect for the White Sox. Jimenez graduated from prospect status and provided his biggest moment as a big leaguer Tuesday night against the Cubs, the team that traded him to the White Sox. Now all eyes are on Robert as he continues to move through the system. And he's not alone. The White Sox boast three of the top 18 prospects in the game, per MLB Pipeline's new rankings, with Robert at No. 5, Michael Kopech at No. 16 and Dylan Cease at No. 18. Nick Madrigal isn't too far behind, either, at No. 40.

The future is very bright on the South Side.

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