White Sox

White Sox: Jeff Samardzija 'relaxed' as trade chatter picks up

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White Sox: Jeff Samardzija 'relaxed' as trade chatter picks up

A trade could happen at any time and Jeff Samardzija knows it after last season.

The disappointing White Sox are still on hold as to whether or not they’ll become sellers and the pitcher appears headed for free agency this offseason.

Without question, Samardzija would be one of the prized pitchers available as few teams are expected to become full-fledged sellers. But whereas Samardzija was always of the belief he’d be traded in 2014, he said he has been oblivious to the chatter this time around.

Samardzija, who was traded by the Cubs to Oakland last July 4, said he’s focused entirely on Thursday’s start against the Toronto Blue Jays, who are believed to be one of many potential suitors for his services.

[MORE: White Sox ace Chris Sale named to AL All-Star team]

“This time last year I was on the phone, listening to people and trying to get a bead on where I was going and what was happening,” Samardzija said. “And really this year I’ve been pretty relaxed about it, going about my business and July kind of has snuck up on me.”

Part of Samardzija’s nonchalance toward trade chatter comes from last year’s experience when he got too wrapped up in the process. Part of it could also be the signals he’s receiving from the White Sox, who have expressed interest in keeping him around long term since they acquired him from the A’s in December. Part of it could also be a team unwilling to give up on this season as they began Monday only 5 1/ 2 games out of a wild-card spot.

“We just have to get some sort of indication it's possible or not to sign him,” executive vice president Kenny Williams told USA Today. “We have to also see if it's realistic given our resources and the other obligations we have.”

Samardzija told USA Today a trade wouldn’t hurt the chances of him resigning with the White Sox were one to happen. He understands how a deal could help the team’s chances in the long run. But he also intends to keep his mind on the field instead of worrying about where he might land.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans]

“Being traded is no fun,” Samardzija said. “You have to start from ground zero. Being here at home has been a great experience and an unexpected one with where I was last winter. Obviously I love it. Like I said we’re going to keep fighting and keep winning.

“You prepare for (Toronto) and all the rumors are exactly that, they’re rumors. As long as you didn’t start them yourself, they shouldn’t matter too much. We’re going to keep pitching and whatever happens, happens.”

“Honestly I’ve been going about a five-day routine and you know you’re in a good place as a baseball player when you don’t know what day of the week it is or what month and it’s just another day.”

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.