White Sox

White Sox react after Adam LaRoche speaks about retirement

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USA Today Sports Images

White Sox react after Adam LaRoche speaks about retirement

MINNEAPOLIS — He broke his silence about retirement on Wednesday and while Adam LaRoche has apparently been in some dangerous places, he’s in a comfortable one now.

While the White Sox were surprised to learn Wednesday that last offseason LaRoche wore a hidden camera and worked undercover in Southeast Asian brothels in hopes of rescuing underage sex slaves, reliever Zach Duke knew about his long-time teammate’s work revealed in an ESPN The Magazine story.

Duke said Wednesday he has remained in contact with LaRoche, who abruptly retired from the White Sox last month.

He also said that LaRoche is at peace with the decision to retire early and forgo a $13 million salary. In the story, LaRoche told former teammate Blaine Boyer, who also participated in the undercover work, that he didn’t know how he could return to baseball after all that he had witnessed.

“He’s in a good place,” Duke said. “I knew eventually (LaRoche) was going to move on. But I didn’t expect it this soon. But where he’s at, his perspective on life, it’s a decision he was comfortable with.”

[MORE: Matt Albers continues to excel in tight spots for White Sox]

The White Sox are pleased with how they’ve handled the situation within the clubhouse after a tenuous week that included players speaking out against management and also weighing whether or not to boycott a game.

Aside from the March 18 statement he issued, LaRoche hadn’t spoken out until the interview he granted ESPN last month. LaRoche not only revealed he has no plans to file a grievance with the Major League Baseball Players Association, but also his work for The Exodus Road, which on its web site describes itself as a “growing nonprofit which focuses on bringing strategic solutions to the counter-trafficking movement.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura didn’t know about LaRoche’s offseason activities until he read the story — “it was news to everybody,” he said. Meanwhile, general manager Rick Hahn said he’s pleased with how his team has moved on and didn’t want to discuss whether or not the first baseman had violated his contract.

“At this point, I don’t think there’s really any benefit to rehashing old stories,” Hahn said. “We’ve made a point of saying we’ve turned the page as an organization. The clubhouse has made it clear they turned the page both with their words as well as how they have performed on the field. At this point, the most important matter at hand for us is beating the Twins tonight and that’s where everybody’s focus in that clubhouse is right now.”

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Duke played alongside LaRoche on the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals and the White Sox. He said LaRoche’s interest in working for Exodus Road had increased over the years and he’s now a member of the organization’s board. Even though he knew how dangerous his work was, Duke said LaRoche is committed to the project.

“The brothels are run by some pretty bad organizations, so you can get yourself in some hot water real quick,” Duke said. “It’s something for him that has come on in the last couple of years. He’s grown deeper in his faith with God and he’s so compassionate for other people.

“It’s definitely a passion of his. It’s something that everything he touches seems to do real well because he seems to put a lot of work into it. He’s having a great effect on a lot of people.”

Duke agreed with Ventura’s assessment that players are unified and focused on the field. As Ventura noted, “it’s not personal,” players just needed to worry about baseball. Duke said he’ll continue to keep in contact with LaRoche, who told ESPN he and his family intend to travel indefinitely on the West Coast, including perhaps Alaska.

“It’s one of those situations where we’ve been forced to move on and Adam made his decision,” Duke said. “He’s happy, so we’re finding a way to move on.”

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

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.