White Sox

White Sox open camp a changed team

650494.png

White Sox open camp a changed team

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If theres a word to describe White Sox spring training in 2012, thats easy.

Different.

The manager is different.

Jake Peavy feels different.

Chris Sale even looks different. Sort of.

It looks like he put on a pound or two, joked AJ Pierzynski. Hes at 150 now.

Speaking of weight, the 20-ton boulder that the 2011 team carried last year is officially gone, currently residing in Lakeland, Fla., spring training site of the Detroit Tigers, who are picked by everyone on the planet to win the American League Central -- quite possibly in a landslide.

For the White Sox to change that, the results will have to be much different when the two meet face-to-face. The Tigers owned the series last season, winning 13 of 18 games, outscoring the White Sox 111-to-62.

It wasnt so much that we lost to them. They embarrassed us numerous times, Matt Thornton said frankly. They hung 18, 14, I dont even know what the numbers were.

Actually Matt, youre correct on both. They scored 18 and 14 against the White Sox in separate games. Safe to say those losses have stuck in Thorntons mind.

You walk off the field and youre embarrassed about it, and it kind of hangs around all off-season for you, added Thornton. Theyre the favorites right now, they have a great team, and I look forward to facing them.

So what kind of team can the Tigers and the rest of the American League expect to see from the White Sox?

I think you have a lot of young hungry guys, a lot of veterans that want to prove themselves again, and show that we can still do it, and that were better than people think, said Jake Peavy, who arrived at spring training feeling like the Jake Peavy of old as opposed to an old Jake Peavy. Hes now 19 months removed from his experimental latissimus dorsi muscle surgery.

This is the first time Ive been like this in quite a few springs, just to come in and not have to answer injury questions, and questions I didnt even know how to answer because nobody had ever done what I had done, Peavy said.

If Kenny Williams could change the past, and make things different, hed likely go back to the end of 2005 and try this all over again. One playoff appearance and one playoff victory in seven years is not what he or anybody expected after they paraded down LaSalle Street as World Series champions.

Sitting in a golf cart, watching Robin Ventura take the field for his first practice on Thursday, Williams reflected on how his team got to this point, failing to meet expectations, not just last season, but the last several combined.

I said it the day that I was assigned to this position, I wanted to win a couple World Series titles during the time that I had, however long that was. That hasnt happened, Williams said. At this point it is a disappointing run for me personally.

To change his fortunes, certain things will need to be -- different. Comeback seasons by the likes of Peavy, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham will have to occur. The pieces are there. But will they all come together?

Its a question everyone is asking, including Williams who, despite the predictions of gloom and doom on the South Side, remains optimistic about his teams chances.

We look at the players on the field, and a lot of teams cant say, If this happens, this happens, and this happens, we can be right in there, Williams said. As long as we can look out there and you can dream and you can imagine the positive things happening, thats not a bad place to be. There are a lot of GMs that I talk to that dont have the luxury to dream like that.

Inside the White Sox clubhouse, a couple lockers down from Paul Konerkos sits a vacant locker that reads Lost and Found. Its reserved for misplaced clothing and equipment, but might as well be a symbol to what has happened to the White Sox.

In 2011, they were lost.

In 2012, will they be found?

Every year in baseball we expect the unexpected.

And this year is no different.

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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

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."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.