White Sox

White Sox move Alexei Ramirez to No. 2 in lineup

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White Sox move Alexei Ramirez to No. 2 in lineup

MINNEAPOLIS -- Robin Ventura has decided the White Sox offense could use a little variety.

With his offense in the bottom third of the American League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, the White Sox manager moved Alexei Ramirez up into the second spot on Thursday night and dropped everyone else down a slot. A notoriously slow starter, Ramirez -- who mostly has batted sixth or seventh in 2015 -- enters a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins with a .194/.235/.274 slash line and nine RBIs in 68 plate appearances.

“It hasn’t really jelled just yet,” Ventura said. “So something to mix it up. It’s not a major change. Kind of mix it up. Alexei has done well in the past batting second, you try to give him a jumpstart in there at the top of the lineup and see what happens.”

Ramirez has batted second 361 times, including 133 times the previous two seasons. He’s hit more in the two-hole than anywhere else in his career and believes he knows how to handle himself. He also expects to see better pitches now that he’s hitting in front of Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu, the team’s hottest hitters so far this season.

[SHOP: Buy an Alexei Ramirez jersey]

“I have to take more pitches, try to get on base and give the guys an opportunity to bat with men on base,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “I feel good in that spot because I have the opportunity to see more good pitches, more fastballs and more pitches to hit and I think that’s good for me and also good for the team.”

The offense is in desperate need of a jolt, the kind you might get from slamming a Red Bull. Through 18 games, the White Sox are averaging 3.44 runs per game despite the additions of Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. There could be any number of reasons from excess days off to cold weather to Ramirez and LaRoche both have poor April track records.

[MORE: White Sox hope Wednesday's surreal game is one-time event]

But there’s no time for excuses, Ventura said.

“We’ve kind of sputtered offensively and being inconsistent,” Ventura said. “For some reason it takes a while for some guys to get going. At this point it doesn’t matter. You have to find a way to kind of keep going and find something that works and go with it.”

Ramirez has a .277/.318/.400 line in the No. 2 spot and has stolen 35 bases. But his aggressive style and ability to put the ball in play has also led to him grounding into 49 double plays.

A.J. Reed, who played 14 games with the White Sox in 2019, retired

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USA TODAY

A.J. Reed, who played 14 games with the White Sox in 2019, retired

A.J. Reed, the one-time slugging prospect who made his way to the White Sox last season, retired earlier this month.

The news went unnoticed by many, though there it is on the International League's transactions page: Reed, a second-round draft pick in 2014, retired on March 4. He's 26 years old.

The White Sox picked Reed up on a waiver claim midway through last season, taking a flier on a guy who had no trouble racking up home runs in the minor leagues. He hit 34 of them playing at two levels of the Houston Astros organization in 2015, 34 more at Triple-A in 2017 and another 28 at Triple-A in 2018.

But Reed could never make it happen at the major league level, and that includes in the 49 plate appearances he got in just 14 games with the White Sox in 2019. He picked up only six hits, including one home run, and struck out a whopping 21 times.

Reed did manage a highlight in a White Sox uniform. He moved over from first base and pitched in relief during the ninth inning of an 11-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, retiring all three batters he faced.

He played his final game with the White Sox on Aug. 1 and spent the remainder of the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

In the midst of another rebuilding season, the White Sox were in position to take that sort of a low-risk gamble on Reed and see if they could help him discover something he couldn't at the big league level in Houston. Fans weren't happy watching him struggle at the plate, but that's life in the middle of a rebuild.

Thanks to breakout seasons from so many of their young core players and a busy offseason of big-name veteran additions, the White Sox don't figure to be in such a position again for the foreseeable future.

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Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Cliff Politte

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Cliff Politte

2005 was quite a year for late-round draft picks out of junior colleges in Missouri, especially Jefferson College.

That year, Cliff Politte had a career year and ended up with a new ring. Remember that guy?

Politte was born Feb. 27, 1974 in St. Louis. His father, Cliff, pitched in the Cardinals organization from 1959-65. The younger Politte captained the baseball and soccer teams at Vianney High School in St. Louis. In soccer, Politte was a midfielder and was part of two state titles.

Originally, Politte signed to play baseball for Memphis State, but the team wouldn’t agree to his wish to play outfield as well as pitch, so he ended up at Jefferson College.

Drafted by Cardinals in 54th round of 1995 MLB draft, Politte’s spot in the Jefferson rotation was filled by Mark Buehrle, his future White Sox teammate. Politte would pitch in the same game as Buehrle for the White Sox 38 times, including twice in the 2005 World Series.

The 54th round pick ended up the 1997 Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year, going 15-2 with a 2.22 ERA for Prince William (High-A, Carolina League ) and Arkansas (AA). He made the Opening Day roster in 1998.

It was quite a story for Politte to make his first MLB start at Busch Stadium for his hometown Cardinals. He got a no-decision but had a strong effort, going five innings, allowing two hits and a run against the Dodgers. The first hit he allowed was to his future teammate, Paul Konerko; his first strikeout was of former Rookie of the Year Todd Hollandsworth.

Politte earned his first career win in his next start, a 12-11 slugfest at Coors Field. At the plate, he connected for his first career hit on April 23 – off another future teammate, Dustin Hermanson. In eight games in 1998 – all starts - he finished 2-3 with a 6.32 ERA in his first taste of major league action.

The homecoming didn’t last all too long. Politte was traded with Jeff Brantley and Ron Gant to the Phillies for Ricky Botallico and Garrett Stephenson on Nov. 19, 1998. Politte shuttled back and forth between the Phillies and the minors from 1999 through 2001, along the way making what would be his final eight career starts (all in 2000).

In 2002, after making 13 appearances with the Phillies, Politte was sent north of the border to Toronto, in exchange for lefty Dan Plesac. With the Blue Jays, Politte collected his first career major league save July 24 at Baltimore, and finished 2002 with a 3.67 ERA in 68 combined appearances with Philly and Toronto.

Politte had a run as Blue Jays closer in May 2003 where he racked up nine saves. He struggled with inconsistency, finishing the year with a 5.66 ERA to go along with 12 saves, and became a free agent at season's end. He inked a deal with the White Sox on Jan. 7, 2004 – a one-year deal with 2005 club option.

Politte’s first season with the White Sox went well enough even though it ended early. A 4.38 ERA was a little better than league average – it was a high run-scoring environment at a hitter’s park. He got into 54 games and collected 19 holds, but an emergency appendectomy on Sept. 1 cut his season short. 

Politte was a key cog for the 2005 White Sox, quickly settling into his role as setup man. Heading into the All-Star break, he had a microscopic 1.02 ERA, second in the majors among all pitchers with 30 or more innings. Only the great Mariano Rivera (1.01) was better. But not even Mo could match his 0.736 WHIP at the time. Politte strung together 20 straight scoreless outings from May 29 to July 17.

He finished the regular season with a sterling 2.00 ERA with 23 holds. He was one of only a few major leaguers to hold both lefties (.182) and righties (.181) under a .200 average. Politte even collected an RBI hit on June 8 at Colorado – something no White Sox reliever had done since Terry Forster in 1972.

Politte made four postseason appearances, tossing a scoreless frame in Game 1 of the ALDS, then collecting a hold in Games 2, 3 and 4 of the World Series. In total, he allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings. He finished 2004 with an appendectomy. He finished 2005 with a World Series ring.

Politte’s luck ran out in 2006. Regression hit hard, as he posted an 8.70 ERA in 30 appearances before the Sox released him on July 20. He signed on with the Indians for 2007 and the Cardinals for 2008 but never made it back to the bigs.

Vianney High School retired Politte’s No. 10 in 2008, and in 2010 both Mark Buehrle and Politte were inducted into the Jefferson College Athletic Hall of Fame. Not bad for guys selected in the 38th and 54th rounds, respectively.

Nowadays, Politte is a sales manager and estimator for Pipe and Ducts Systems in St. Louis.