White Sox

White Sox hopeful Adam LaRoche can end on high note

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White Sox hopeful Adam LaRoche can end on high note

SEATTLE -- There are no easy solutions nor is there a quick fix.

Adam LaRoche will earn $13 million in 2016, which means the White Sox won’t designate him for assignment and an offseason trade seems unlikely.

LaRoche is here and for that reason he and the White Sox are caught in a balancing act over the final quarter of the season.

Even though they’ve slipped again in the American League wild-card standings and face nearly impossible odds, manager Robin Ventura has maintained a “focus on winning tonight” attitude that has resulted in LaRoche not playing. At the same time, the White Sox are determined to get LaRoche back on track -- even if it’s mostly with 2016 in mind. So while they intend to give younger players at-bats over the final 43 games, the White Sox know it would behoove them to also help LaRoche -- who has a .210/.298/.345 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 420 plate appearances -- figure this out.

“Given he’s part of what we have going on next year you do want to see him end on a high note and going into the offseason have some confidence and be on the upswing,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “There’s still time for that to happen. He (was) in there (Thursday), but for the last couple days he wasn’t because Robin felt it wasn’t the right matchup. He knows that’s totally in his discretion to set it up the way he sees fit.”

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The White Sox saw LaRoche as a good fit for the middle of the their lineup when they signed him to a two-year, $25-million deal last November. So far LaRoche has struggled, whether it’s his new role as a designated hitter or facing an entirely new catalogue of pitchers in the AL.

Ventura has done a good bit of juggling, especially over the last month, sitting LaRoche for several days at a time. While LaRoche’s bat speed and swing aren’t seen as an issue, his plate discipline has been -- he’s struck out in 28.6 percent of his plate appearances this season.

That has left Ventura to constantly shake up the lineup. Earlier this week, LaRoche -- who said Wednesday he would have benched himself months ago -- didn’t start in three straight games and was relegated to pinch-hitting duty.

“You keep moving things around and see what happens,” Ventura said.

Several times already the White Sox have given LaRoche a few days to work out the kinks in the batting cage. Last month in Boston, LaRoche said he began to feel a little bit better as he went to a wider base in his stance. But that didn’t take.

[MORE: White Sox interested in moving arms this offseason?]

He received a few more days off earlier this month and continued to experiment.

Though he grounded into a game-ending double play on Wednesday, LaRoche followed with one of his best games in months onThursday and is hopeful he’s had a breakthrough. Not only did LaRoche have just his second multi-hit game since July 8, including a booming two-run homer to right center, he also felt like he was seeing pitches better.

The White Sox would love for LaRoche to build off Thursday’s effort. Not only would it help their extremely limited chances this season, but a rebound from LaRoche could do wonders for the veteran’s second season with the White Sox.

“I felt better at the plate,” LaRoche said Thursday. “It has been a while. So that was good.

“I got some borderline pitches that I saw good. Seems like the majority of this year, I’ve been chasing a lot of those pitches that are just off. It was better.”

“It would be nice to build off of that. I’ve had some of these days where I’ve felt really good and come back out and not have it for a few days. So it’s a positive to see some pitches better. I wasn’t chasing today.”

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

Manager Rick Renteria said after Wednesday's win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles that he couldn't comment on the reports. Castillo played in Wednesday's game, during which the news broke.

"For me, those at this particular moment are rumors," Renteria said. "MLB is the one that is in charge of that type of stuff. Until they release anything officially I can’t really comment on that."

The veteran catcher, slashing .267/.309/.466 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games this season, was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in both the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news now and in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition change for those two pitchers?

Omar Narvaez would be the logical choice to take over as the No. 1 catcher. As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

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