White Sox

White Sox prepared for rare straight doubleheader

White Sox prepared for rare straight doubleheader

Straight doubleheaders are a rare find in baseball’s current landscape, which makes Monday’s back-to-back White Sox-Cleveland Indians games feel like a throwback to an era when Ernie Banks made “let’s play two” a baseball catchphrase. 

The second game of Monday’s doubleheader will begin at 7:10 p.m. or 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1, providing players little time to cool off and regroup from the first half of the day. But manager Robin Ventura doesn’t see any mental issues arising from having these two games be played without much of a break in between. 

“I think guys, if they know it going into it, it’s not as big a deal,” Ventura said. “But if you just sprung it on them, that’d probably piss them off a little bit.”

The White Sox called up right-hander Tommy Kahnle as their 26th player for Monday’s doubleheader, with the reliever available for both games. The team will have to make a roster move after Game 1 to place right-hander Erik Johnson on the 25-man roster for Game 2, which he’ll start. 

Because Johnson isn’t the 26th player on the roster — which is allowed for doubleheaders — he won’t necessarily be sent back to Triple-A after Monday’s second game. Ventura said a decision on Johnson’s role, either as a major leaguer or back in the minors, will be figured out later. 

Jose Abreu returned to the White Sox lineup for Game 1 after getting Sunday off and is hitting fifth. The 29-year-old first baseman, prior to Monday, never hit below fourth in the White Sox order in his three-year major league career. 

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was one player Ventura said likely won’t play in both games — he started at shortstop in Game 1 — while Dioner Navarro (Game 1) and Alex Avila (Game 2) will almost certainly split time behind the plate. 

Right fielder Avisail Garcia is expected to be in the White Sox lineup for Game 2 after sitting out three of the team’s last four games. While the 24-year-old has hit better this season, he has just one hit in his last 13 plate appearances. 

The biggest key for the White Sox, though, will be getting a good chunk of innings out of Game 1 starter Mat Latos. The White Sox don’t have an off day until June 2 and are in a stretch of 11 consecutive games against the second- and third-place teams in the American League Central. 

“That can always be a difficult proposition when you know you have at least 18 innings to fill,” Ventura said. “You want your guys to go deep into games. The biggest disaster comes when a guy doesn't make it out of the second or third. You're going to fill innings all day."

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen offers his solution to PED use in baseball

Ozzie Guillen is not one to shy away from having a strong opinion about something.

On NBC Sports Chicago’s Baseball Night in Chicago show on Tuesday, Guillen gave his view on how Major League Baseball can stop the usage of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Major League Baseball, you want to cut this thing down?” Guillen said on the show. “You cancel the contract to this kid. Then you’re going to see that. You get caught one time, you’re banned from baseball, then you’re going to stop with that. Because if you’re going to make $200 million and lose $11 million? I’m going to do it.”

Guillen is going off the idea that a player who used PEDs to get a big contract only loses part of it when he eventually gets caught and suspended. Canceling the rest of a contract takes away some of the financial incentive to use PEDs.

“If you get caught when you are young and you try to survive in the game, well, I don’t agree with them, but you can survive in this game that way,” Guillen said. “You know how hard it is right now. How Major League Baseball is on the top of this thing, day in and day out. They’re not going to play around with this thing.”

Marlon Byrd, who was twice suspended for PED use, was also on the show and talked about his PED suspensions.