White Sox

White Sox: Micah Johnson settling into life in the majors


White Sox: Micah Johnson settling into life in the majors

Micah Johnson's first four games as a major leaguer have been a mixed bag.

The offense, billed as Johnson's strength, has been there: He's 3-for-9 with a double. The defense, which was billed as perhaps his weakest attribute, is coming along. His aggression, though, has probably stood out the most, albeit in a negative way. He's been picked off twice, including while attempting to steal in Friday's home opener against the Twins.

It's all part of adjusting to life in the big leagues.

“Just the speed of the game, the cleanliness of the game. Guys are smart, guys are intelligent," Johnson said of his first impressions of the majors. "Yesterday a guy did an inside move first pitch after I stole second when he made contact, something I’ve never seen before. Good move, tip my cap to the guy. He did his job, guy’s just executing. They’re smart up here. So it’s good, it’s a chess match. It’s definitely different, that level.”

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That aggression is something that will need to be reined in a bit, or at least more strategically deployed. White Sox manager Robin Ventura knows that it's all a part of Johnson's game but that there's also learning to be done regarding game situation and who's coming up behind him.

“There’s a definite line between being aggressive and learning," Ventura said before Saturday's game. "But we are talking about a young player that is aggressive and been aggressive for a while, and you’re learning in the big leagues, there’s some guys with some spin moves and some savvy on the mound to be able to hold you. They’re aware of you, they’re aware that you’re there. I think even with him, you’ve got the kind of guys that are coming up behind you that with the way we haven’t scored runs, you don’t necessarily need to force it right there or something needs to break loose. He had a nice bunt to show that kind of speed. Early on, I think he’s being ultra aggressive on the field once he gets on the bases.”

As for the defense, it's something Johnson continues to work on. Fortunately, he's got a resource just a short walk across the clubhouse in Gordon Beckham. Beckham is back with the White Sox after a short stint with the Angels last season, and he said he's been talking with Johnson, providing advice to the team's second baseman of the present and future after he served in a similar role for the past several years.

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“He’s doing good. He’s working hard on it, and we have a lot of conversations about it," Beckham said. "If I see something I think he should hear, something like that, I’ll pipe in. But he’s doing a good job, he’s working hard. Joe and him are doing a good job making sure they get all their work in. I’m happy with what he’s done so far. And I think he’ll only continue to improve when he gets more comfortable.

“I think we’ve got a mutual thing going there. I told him to come to me if he has questions. And I told him, ‘If I see something I feel like you need to hear, I’m going to tell you.’ Because I want him to be as good as he can be. If he had an Achilles’ heel, it’s the defense, I guess, in terms of what he can work on the most. We talk about stuff like that. It’s just to make him better.”

The big leagues are certainly a different animal for Johnson, though the 24-year-old said that it is still baseball. That's true, but he also realizes this is the top rung on the game's ladder.

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“There’s some good challenges, there’s going to be things you’re not used to, adjustment periods and different stuff," Johnson said. "But just like when you go up any level in this game, there’s going to be different things you have to learn on the way. But I learn on the fly quickly.”

Johnson was again in the starting lineup Saturday, batting ninth, which is what he's done exclusively this season. But though it's not the most glamorous spot in the lineup, it's one that Johnson will happily hold. His job has nothing to do with putting up numbers, just putting up "W's."

“Just to get a win, find a way to help the team win that day. That’s pretty much it, that’s my job," Johnson said. "I’m in the nine-hole, it’s my first year, my job is to find a way to help the team win, not try to do too much, not try to put pressure on myself. If they need me to bunt a guy over, bunt a guy over that day. That’s my job.”

Mayor Lightfoot shows her White Sox fandom in video encouraging social distancing


Mayor Lightfoot shows her White Sox fandom in video encouraging social distancing

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is a White Sox fan. 

This information was revealed in a clever video her office released on Twitter Monday evening, encouraging residents to "stay at home, save lives." 

Lightfoot plays different characters in the video, like "The Analyst," where she discusses data, "The Baller," where she spends time in a kitchen making a basket in a hoop on a refrigerator, "The Voice of Reason," where she convinces people on the phone to stay home, and more.

But the truth of her sports fandom is revealed at the two-minute mark, when Lightfoot, as "The Fan," is wearing a White Sox jersey on a couch watching a game and declares, "Tell you what, if my White Sox win, you gotta stay home."

The video cuts to the final out of the 2005 World Series. Sox win. The Mayor cheers. Fandom confirmed. 

Mayor Lightfoot might be happy to know NBC Sports Chicago will re-air that deciding Game 4 as part of our "White Sox Classics" in June. 

At the end of the video, she made a call to action as "The Realist." 

"The truth is, 40,000 hospitalizations will break our healthcare system," Lightfoot said. "Stay home. Save lives." 

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: 'Pulling an El Duque' before 'pulling an El Duque' was a thing


White Sox 2005 Rewind: 'Pulling an El Duque' before 'pulling an El Duque' was a thing

Months before “pulling an El Duque” was a thing, Orlando Hernandez was getting out of bases-loaded jams all over the place.

Hernandez etched his name into White Sox history — and into that statue that’s sitting outside Guaranteed Rate Field — with his relief work in Game 3 of the ALDS, coming on in a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation and getting three straight outs to preserve a one-run lead.

But he had some practice earlier in the season.

In the White Sox 3-1 win over the Twins on April 19, Hernandez faced not one but two jams with the bases loaded and less than two outs. And he escaped both of them.

Hernandez was stellar the first time he faced the Twins in 2005, giving up just one run and striking out five hitters in seven innings. Next time out didn’t go so hot, as he gave up six runs, four of them earned, on eight hits and four walks against the Indians.

This one was somewhere in between. He gave up 10 hits but no runs, thanks to getting out of a pair of unenviable jams.

In the second inning, the Twins led off with a double and a single. A steal of second and a hit batter loaded the bases with just one out. But Hernandez followed with a strikeout of Michael Cuddyer, and after falling behind Nick Punto, 3-1, he induced an inning-ending pop out.

Four innings later, the Twins strung together three consecutive one-out singles. Bases loaded, one out yet again. But Hernandez got Punto to pop out once more, and Shannon Stewart flew out as Hernandez pitched his way out of another doomsday scenario.

Neither overshadowed what was to come, Hernandez’s legendary performance on the playoff stage. But it’s not like he didn’t have practice in similar situations.

Earlier in #SoxRewind, we saw Jon Garland show his talents as an escape artist. But in 2005, no one compared to El Duque in that category.

What else?

— The eephus! This was the first El Duque start on #SoxRewind, so the first time we got to see him unleash the eephus. It didn’t work against Jacque Jones in the sixth. Jones ripped it into center for a base hit. But it sure was fun to watch Hernandez float that thing up there.

— As relayed by Hawk Harrelson during the broadcast, Hernandez giving up 10 hits in a scoreless outing was the first time that had happened for a White Sox pitcher in more than 20 years.

— Shingo time was running out. Luis Vizcaino and Dustin Hermanson kept the Twins off the board in a three-run game in the seventh and eighth innings, but on for the save in the ninth, Shingo Takatsu experienced the kind of early season trouble that got him yanked from the closer’s role. After getting the first out of the inning, he let the Twins score a run on back-to-back hits. Ozzie Guillen didn’t let Takatsu hang around, pulling him in favor of Damaso Marte, who retired the two hitters he faced to lock down the win. Takatsu’s final save with the White Sox came in early May, and he was released on Aug. 1.

— Torii Hunter was a defensive whiz in center field for the Twins, winning nine consecutive Gold Gloves, including one in 2005. If you forgot just how skilled he was out there, you got to see a couple reasons why he’s got such an impressive trophy case in this game. He used his hose to nab Scott Podsednik trying to score on a Carl Everett fly ball in the first inning, a terrific throw that helped keep this game scoreless for five and a half innings. He made a great leaping catch at the wall to prevent the White Sox from growing their lead in the sixth.

— Joe Crede extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a pair of hits, including a go-ahead double in the fifth inning. Crede’s streak ended up lasting 14 games. He hit .408/.442/.653 with eight extra-base hits and eight RBIs during that stretch.

— Brad Radke ended up getting knocked around the first time he faced off against the White Sox in 2005, giving up five earned runs. But for the better part of that outing, he kept the South Side offense quiet. Same thing in this one, where he ended up giving up three runs on 11 hits. But he hung around for eight innings — a complete-game effort in a loss — and logged a quality start. Radke had a 4.73 ERA in 36 career starts against the White Sox.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 14, 2005: Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer, but the White Sox couldn’t overcome the pair of crooked numbers the Indians hung on Hernandez and Neal Cotts. A four-run bottom of the first and a three-run bottom of the sixth added up to trouble. White Sox lose, 8-6, fall to 6-3.

April 15, 2005: Jon Garland was good, allowing just two runs in his seven innings against the Mariners. The bullpen faltered a bit trying to close things out in the ninth, but six White Sox runs — including homers by Jermaine Dye and Juan Uribe — were enough. White Sox win, 6-4, improve to 7-3.

April 16, 2005: Mark Buehrle was outstanding again, turning in one of the most impressive performances he ever had: a career-high 12 strikeouts and nine innings of one-run ball against the Mariners — in 99 minutes. He threw more pitches, 106, then the number of minutes played. Amazing. Adam Hoge waxed poetic on this one. White Sox win, 2-1, improve to 8-3.

April 17, 2005: A pair of first-inning homers by his old team wasn’t a good sign for Freddy Garcia, but the two singles that accounted for three runs in a busy fifth were what doomed his squad this day. White Sox lose, 5-4, drop to 8-4.

April 18, 2005: Everett hit a pair of home runs off Kyle Lohse, including a game-winning shot that broke a 3-all tie in the sixth. Everett’s power made up for an ugly fifth inning from Jose Contreras that featured runs scoring on a balk and a wild pitch. White Sox win 5-4, improve to 9-4.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Tuesday, when you can catch the April 20, 2005, game against the Tigers, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Big days (and big flies) for both Crede and Jermaine Dye.

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