White Sox

White Sox must get back on track after wild week


White Sox must get back on track after wild week

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The team has already filed the paperwork, but how much Adam LaRoche’s retirement will affect the White Sox remains to be seen.

Club officials finalized LaRoche’s retirement on Friday afternoon as the saga surrounding the presence of his son, Drake, in the clubhouse added several more contentious chapters.

All-Star pitcher Chris Sale went off on executive vice president Kenny Williams, LaRoche said in a statement he retired because of interactions with Williams and manager Robin Ventura said he’d work to get back on track a clubhouse that closer David Robertson describes as dicey.

If that weren’t enough, Williams released a statement to politely disagree with his ace’s thoughts while chairman Jerry Reinsdorf issued another instructing members of the organization to no longer discuss the issue and instead worry about baseball.

So, yeah, you could say things have gotten interesting around what previously has been a focused and upbeat White Sox camp.

“It’s a story,” Robertson said. “It has turned into one. There is a lot going on here.

“We’ll see. It’s too early to tell right now. People are still feeling hot and heavy about this situation.”

[MORE: Chris Sale - White Sox ‘got bold-faced lied to’ on Adam LaRoche situation]

Friday was the capper to what has proven to be a volatile week at Camelback Ranch.

Williams had the final of several discussions with LaRoche on Sunday, which prompted the veteran to stay away home Monday.

LaRoche addressed the team and retired Tuesday morning. After a heated discussion between Sale and Williams, players protested by not taking the field for morning stretch. They also reportedly considered a boycott of Tuesday’s game -- “it was a very passionate couple of minutes,” Ventura said without confirming reports.

On Wednesday, word leaked that LaRoche’s “#FamilyFirst” Tweet regarded his son and how Williams asked for a reduction in the youngster’s schedule. Williams said he didn’t ban Drake LaRoche outright, but asked for a reduced presence at home and on the road.

LaRoche argued that point in a statement he issued Friday to explain his decision. Not only did he suggest he has an agreement in place with the White Sox about having his son around, LaRoche said Williams requested a “significant reduction” before he banned the 14-year-old altogether.

“Later, I was told not to bring him to the ballpark at all,” LaRoche said.

Not even 24 hours away from the facility -- the team didn’t play Thursday -- could temper the situation as evidenced by Sale’s 14-minute media session aimed at Williams’ involvement.

“It’s a sticky situation,” third baseman Todd Frazier said.

Sale accused Williams of lying about why the request was made to LaRoche and said the executive vice president’s actions had thrown a wrench into a spring that was off to a fantastic start. The left-hander said he doesn’t expect the issue to affect his play or the team’s goal of winning. But, Sale is concerned that the White Sox have to move on without “two big pieces.”

“We were rolling,” Sale said. “We had positive energy in here. Nobody saw anything as a distraction until all this happened. We just try to pick up the pieces, collect it all and put it back together and keep trucking.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ventura has seen his share of these moments before. He was a member of both New York clubs and also played in 1994 when baseball had its last work stoppage. The fifth-year manager has also experienced Sale’s passionate side before and understands the range of emotions his players have experienced this week.

“I’ve been part of a couple of sit-ins,” Ventura said. “It’s not like I haven’t seen it. But that’s part of baseball. It can get passionate and heated.

“It’s always raw any time a guy is released or retired. I’m dealing with that more than any of the other stuff.”

Now the trick is for the White Sox to turn the corner and rediscover the feel they’ve had this entire spring. Outfielder Adam Eaton expects the team will band together. He likes how they’ve supported LaRoche and how they responded Tuesday.

Ventura thinks the club is capable of it, too, even as they navigate a murky situation.

After all, the clubhouse is already unified. It’s just up to Ventura and his coaches to point them in the right direction.

“That’s my concern, to get them focused right back on track and ready for the season so everybody has their job to do and get out there and be ready to do it,” Ventura said. “They’re going to be all right. They’re a tough group. One thing is for sure, they’re together, 100 percent.”

G-Elite-O: Lucas Giolito turns in his best outing of the year by silencing Twins

G-Elite-O: Lucas Giolito turns in his best outing of the year by silencing Twins

"Lucas G-Elite-O."

That shirt was visible while Lucas Giolito's younger brother, Casey, was being ... I guess you would call it "interviewed" by Bill Walton last week in Anaheim.

The T-shirt is right. The White Sox most definitely have an elite arm on their hands.

The elder Giolito brother, the All-Star pitcher and ace of the South Side starting staff, has bounced back from his post All-Star break bump in the road and returned to the dominant form that made him a Cy Young candidate in the first half.

Wednesday he turned in what was probably his finest performance of the season to date, silencing a Minnesota Twins team that lit him up for seven runs less than a month ago. This time through the menacing Twins lineup, Giolito tossed nine shutout innings, allowed just three hits, walked no one and struck out 12 batters. It was his third straight start with double-digit strikeouts, and he's got 36 of them in those three outings.

He was downright filthy Wednesday, keeping quiet a lineup that leads baseball in home runs and torched White Sox pitching for 14 runs just hours earlier on Tuesday night.

Wednesday's performance went hand in hand with his other shutout of the season, when he kept the Houston Astros from crossing home plate back in May. That night he was also excellent, but with fewer hits and walks allowed and more strikeouts against the Twins, I'll give the title of best outing of the year to Wednesday's.

Perhaps more impressive than anything, though, has been Giolito adding to the theme of this resurgent season, bouncing back when trouble has struck. It's the general transformation that's taken him from the highest ERA among qualified starters in 2018 to an All Star this season. Both Giolito and catcher James McCann have noticed one of the biggest differences being that early damage in games doesn't rattle him like it did last season. And now we have Giolito erasing a less-than-ideal stretch to return to dominant form.

Giolito's ERA was down to 2.22 after six innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees on June 14. In the seven starts that followed, his ERA exploded to 3.52 thanks to a 6.38 ERA in those seven outings. He gave up 26 runs and 39 hits in those 36.2 innings. He's responded phenomenally, with a 2.12 ERA in his last six starts, a stretch that's featured 53 strikeouts and just nine walks in 34 innings. His season ERA stands at 3.20.

For any who might be skeptical that this is the pitcher Giolito will be for years to come, that's a pretty good sign.

In general, there seems to be a good deal of skepticism surrounding how the White Sox rotation will fare in 2020, and much of it is plenty warranted. Michael Kopech will be coming off Tommy John surgery with just four major league starts under his belt. Reynaldo Lopez has been mostly excellent since the All-Star break but had a miserable first half. Dylan Cease has struggled from a results standpoint in his brief big league tenure, with a 5.93 ERA in eight starts. And until the White Sox start making moves this winter, we don't even know who will occupy that fifth spot.

But Giolito is doing his best to show that he can be relied on to be a force at the top of that rotation. Performances against two of the best teams in baseball, the Astros and Twins, have been the biggest exclamation points on that statement to date.

It wouldn't be surprising, though, to hear that "reliable" isn't enough for him. It's not "G-Reliable-O," after all.

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In interview, Jose Abreu says Jerry Reinsdorf told him he'll never play for another team

In interview, Jose Abreu says Jerry Reinsdorf told him he'll never play for another team

The evidence that Jose Abreu will be back with the White Sox after his contract ends at the end of this season has been ample throughout 2019.

Here's some more.

In an interview with the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen, the slugging first baseman said that White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has told him that he will play for the White Sox for the remainder of his major league career.

"Jerry, several times, has told me and my family that I am not going to wear a jersey other than a White Sox jersey," Abreu told Van Schouwen. "I believe him. I believe in his word. And like I said, I’m very happy with and loyal to this organization. Hopefully everything is going to pan out."

That's the latest example of the mutual admiration between Abreu and the White Sox. Abreu has spent much of 2019 talking about his love for the organization and his desire to stay with the team as it makes the transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode. Likewise, White Sox brass continuously talks about how much Abreu means to the team, not only as a productive hitter but as a mentor for the team's growing group of young players.

“The impact that I don’t think he really knows that he has is how hard of a worker he is,” James McCann said last month at the All-Star Game in Cleveland. “He’s a superstar. He’s a three-time All Star, he puts up unreal numbers, he’s setting organizational records. But you wouldn’t know that based on the way that he acts, the way that he goes about his business, the way that he works. He’s the first one in the cage, he’s in the weight room every day, he leads by example.

“So for me, the impact that he has is when a young kid shows up there and thinks he’s made it and then looks at this guy over here who’s busting his tail day in and day out. That’s only a good thing. It helps the culture. It helps the clubhouse realize, ‘Hey, we’ve still got to work.’”

While general manager Rick Hahn has made it clear that it's unlikely Abreu would get a new deal before the end of the season, with the White Sox preferring to take care of such business in the offseason, he's also said that it's "very likely" Abreu will be around for the good times after experiencing nothing but losing records in his six big league seasons with the White Sox since coming over from Cuba ahead of the 2014 campaign.

Abreu's resume is undeniably terrific, a three-time All Star with consistent levels of production that made him just the third player in major league history — along with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols — to start his big league career with four straight seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs.

He's also red hot at the moment, with a .325/.382/.613 slash line to go along with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 20 games this month. And that's before he started Wednesday's game with three hits. He's on pace to smash his career high for RBIs, up to 96 of them on the campaign as of this writing. After a pair of freak injuries last season that limited his production in 2018, Abreu has played in every White Sox game but one this season.

The White Sox have repeatedly mentioned their love for Abreu as a mentor and role model for all the organization's young players, and it's clear that they hold him in the same esteem as players who have their numbers retired and have statues built at Guaranteed Rate Field. Reinsdorf presented Abreu with a specially made ring when Abreu hit for the cycle in 2017.

Abreu has returned that love over and over again in his comments, and it seems like a new contract between the two parties is inevitable.

"I’m telling you guys that if the White Sox don’t sign me, I’m going to sign here anyway. I’m going to sign myself here," he said last month. "I’m going to be here, believe me. I’m going to be here.

"I don’t want to miss this, I don’t want to miss what is coming, and I’m going to be here."

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