White Sox

White Sox need improved defensive play up the middle

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White Sox need improved defensive play up the middle

MILWAUKEE -- Chris Sale worked around it Tuesday but improved defensive play is critical if the White Sox hope to turn things around.

Sale took a group that ranks 29th in Defensive Runs Saved, according to fangraphs.com, mostly out of the equation with 11 strikeouts over eight innings as the White Sox topped the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 at Miller Park.

The best teams often boast strong defensive play up the middle as evidenced by the 2014 Kansas Royals, who earned an American League pennant behind the outstanding play of Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez.

[MORE: White Sox officially announce Carlos Rodon is part of rotation]

Led by 2014 Gold Glove finalists Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox -- who have 12 errors in their last nine games -- expected they would be much better than they have.

“That remains a point of emphasis,” general manager Rick Hahn said before Tuesday’s game. “We last talked about this stuff a week or whatever it has been, the performance has been better but it’s not where it needs to be and guys know that.”

So far, Eaton and Ramirez, as well as second baseman Micah Johnson, are all in the bottom third among qualified players at each of their respective positions in Defensive Runs Saved.

Ramirez entered Tuesday ranked 20th of 28 shortstops while at minus-2 runs saved while Johnson (minus-8) was last among 24 second baseman and Eaton (minus-6) was second to last. White Sox catchers also have six passed balls, which is tied for the most in baseball.

Ramirez committed his fifth error in the first inning of Monday’s loss and later didn’t knock down a single, allowing an extra run to score against Jeff Samardzija. He and Johnson also couldn’t convert later on what looked to be an easy double play on Adam Lind, instead settling for a fielder’s choice. Geovany Soto missed out on a potential caught stealing -- all of which could have helped Samardzija. Samardzija took the diplomatic approach and noted he shouldn’t have hung a slider to Carlos Gomez.

[MORE: Starting rotation's woes have hurt White Sox bullpen]

But, Samardzija added, “We definitely need to not make this harder on ourselves.”

The defense has clearly made this more difficult for White Sox starting pitchers, who haven’t been very good themselves. Jose Abreu’s misplay on a potential double play set up a six-run, first-inning rally against Samardzija in Baltimore. On Tuesday, Sale had to work around a first-inning error by Conor Gillaspie and a dropped throw by Johnson on a potential pickoff play.

Hahn expects Eaton and Ramirez to get back to their career norms.

Ramirez has gone through defensive ruts in the past, though the White Sox can’t sustain one from him much longer. The White Sox think Eaton’s slow start is attributed to the pressure he has put on himself early this season and believe he’s on the mend.

Though Johnson has struggled, Hahn said the team must try and develop their own young players if they want a sustained run of success. They have a potential option at Triple-A in Carlos Sanchez, who is a good defender and has hit well enough to twice be named player of the week. But the White Sox like the speed element Johnson delivers and aren’t yet willing to make a switch.

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

White Sox manager Robin Ventura is hopeful the improvement from all comes quickly so his pitchers don’t face more pressure.

“That has to clean up because we can’t expect pitchers to go out there and try to overthrow and try and do that,” Ventura said. “They can do it, but you don’t want it to feel like they have to do that to stay away from getting in trouble. So we’re going to have to be better.

“Everything goes together. You have to mesh it together to be able to feel confident with those guys going out there that they don’t have to be superhuman to get people out and get through it.”

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

The White Sox have a number of highly-rated prospects performing well in the minors and some of them will be on the move within the system in a matter of days.

General manager Rick Hahn talked to reporters ahead of Monday night's White Sox game in Cleveland, a 6-2 loss, and gave the news. Well, sort of.

He didn't include names, but he did say that "there will be many" promotions after the minor league all-star games for Double-A and both Single-A teams take place on Tuesday.

Hahn added that Chris Getz, the White Sox player development director, will address the media before the White Sox host Oakland on Thursday about the moves.

If the all-star games are a reason to wait, it's safe to think some of the players involved will be playing in those games. So who could be on the move?

Double-A Birmingham has six all-stars: Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Danny Mendick, Dane Dunning and Ian Hamilton. Jimenez is the name everyone wants to see on the move. He has torched the Southern League since getting off to a late start to the season due to injury. Hahn was asked about Jimenez, but didn't tip his hand as to whether he would be one of the promotions.

Dunning has been good in Double-A (2.78 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings), but was already promoted this season so he may not be on the move again.

Single-A Winston-Salem has five all-stars: Dylan Cease, Luis Alexander Basabe, Joel Booker, Bernardo Flores and Matt Foster. Cease, 22, could be due for a promotion with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. There's also that outfield logjam the Dash, which won the first-half division title, have had all season.

Other than Basabe and Booker, Blake Rutherford and Alex Call are also noteworthy prospects being forced to split time in the Dash's outfield. If Jimenez is moving up to Triple-A, one or two names from this group could be on the move to take his spot in Birmingham.

This would especially make sense if highly-touted outfield prospect Luis Robert, who was supposed to be in Single-A Kannapolis for a short period before joining the Dash, is ready to move up as planned. Robert is hitting .289/.360/.400 in 13 games with the Intimidators.

Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis were all off Monday. The various all-star games will take place Tuesday and the three teams will be off again Wednesday. The promotions could be announced Thursday ahead of Getz's scheduled media availability.

Zack Burdi is pitching off a mound again

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USA TODAY

Zack Burdi is pitching off a mound again

Zack Burdi was thought of as a college pitcher who could make the major leagues quickly after he was drafted in 2016.

The White Sox drafted him 26th overall that year and it appeared his quick rise through the minors was going to come true. Burdi reached Triple-A Charlotte by the end of 2016 and had a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 16 innings with the Knights.

However, he had Tommy John surgery in July and hasn't pitched in more than 11 months. The 23-year-old from Downers Grove is nearing his return and had video proof.

That's Burdi throwing off a mound, which means a rehab stint might not be far behind. Burdi may not getting into the full swing of things before the minor league season ends in early September, but this is a good sign for him being ready to go for spring training in 2019.

Before going on the disabled list, Burdi had a 4.05 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 17 walks in 33 1/3 innings with the Knights in 2017.