White Sox

For White Sox, retaliation a dish best unserved

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For White Sox, retaliation a dish best unserved

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011
Posted: 7:07 p.m. Updated: 7:29 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
CLEVELAND To a man, all the way up to manager Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox remain steadfastly against retaliation for four hit batsmen in Tuesdays doubleheader vs. the Cleveland Indiansthree in the final three innings.

When the question of what went through his head in the ninth after seeing Gordon Beckham drilled in the back and Alexei Ramirez nailed in the shoulder two batters later, knowing he would scale the mound to finish the game, reliever Chris Sale was unmoved.

Ive got a job to do, Sale said. Its a one-run ballgame. The last thing you need to do is be stupid. Obviously, we dont like our guys going down like that. I cannot afford to give them any free baserunners, especially in a game like that. You still want to win. At the end of the day, a win is most important.

Thats debatable enough, but the money quote comes as Sale got to perhaps what really went through his head when confronted with the notion of nailing a Wahoo.

I dont really do too well in situations like that, he admitted. I just go out there and give everything Ive got and try to do my job.

Beckham sends his regards, Chris.

As a hitter just four seasons ago, closer Sergio Santos might pack a little more nuance into his answer, and admittedly he struggled a bit with the notion of HBP impunity.

You have to look at the situation, the pitch, the count, and make a decision about whether someone is being thrown at intentionally, Santos said. Were not going to stand for that, but at the same time you cant go out and react emotionally. You take note of the count, the pitch, and make a determination from there.

Kudos to you, Sergio, says Alexei.

Paul Konerko was nursing a sore backhe was taking extended treatment after Tuesdays game and was not injured as a result of being plunked in the upper thigh in the seventh inningand was due for an off-day anyhow, which he enjoyed on Wednesday. But the Captain didnt seem too excited about the notion that numerous bruised batters wouldnt be avenged any time soon.

I was more upset about getting hit than actually getting hurt, Konerko said by way of explaining his outraged reaction to being hit by Indians reliever Zach Putnam. It didnt really hurt at all, just stung for a second. I dont want to get hit. Nobody wants to get hit I dont think any of them were intentional, but theres a cumulative thing that kind of adds up after awhile. So, well see how it goes.

You can hardly blame the White Sox pitching staff for mellowing down their ire when Konerko can hardly drum up outrage for being nailed.

Guillen maintained Clevelands innocence when asked again about his teams lack of retaliation on Tuesday.

If I knew 100 percent they were throwing at us, theres no doubt in my mind I would do something about it myself, Guillen said. I would let somebody know we have to control this, and thats it. But deep inside, I dont think they did it on purpose.

Guillen has calmed a bit over the years. When he came to the White Sox, he said his players should slide into second base hard enough to break bones. He infamously told former White Sox pitchers Sean Tracey and Jon Garland to hit batters, and both hurlers failed.

The jefes comments over the past two days would indicate hes gone soft, but not so, he insisted on Wednesday.

If players come to me to talk about retaliation, I will be more than happy to donate the money for any resulting fine and protect my players, he said. But Tuesday I didnt have anything telling me it was on purpose I played this game and Ive been in this game for a little while. You know when its on purpose.

Im not going to hit somebody just because. But if I have tohell, yeah.

Guillen ferreted out Josh Judys innocence despite hitting both Beckham and Ramirez in the space of three batters in the ninth due to his circumstantial sleuthing, such as seeing that Judy was unaware how many outs were in the inning.
"A beanball war would be fun.-- Ozzie Guillen.
However, when I posed more provocative proof of Judys guiltSouth Side Sox noting that Judy in fact had good control, hitting just one batter in 52 minor-league innings and none in nine for the Indians (and the unsaid facts that Judy has hit four White Sox in the past two weeks and that since the game where Frank Herrmann broke Beckhams hand last September, effectively ending his season, Cleveland has logged 15 White Sox HBPs while the White Sox plunked just six Indians)Guillen was nonplussed.

I dont think you are going to hit a guy up or down by one run, he said. It wasnt like we were kicking their butt. It was a close game.

The last time a White Sox pitcher defended a batter, it was Mark Buehrle last September, a game after Konerko was beaned in the face by Carl Pavano (also in that series, Delmon Young took a rather direct route toward A.J. Pierzynskis head while being tagged out at the plate). Would Buehrle wreak revenge for longtime teammate and friend Konerko on Wednesday night?

It would surprise me, yes, but I cannot read Buehrles mind, Guillen said. Some people have to protect themselves, but if I see something I dont like, I wont wait for the next game. I would have told Sale, The first guy in the ninth has to go down. If the players think differently, they are grown people and have their own ideas. I have to respect that.

In fact, after some soft talk after the doubleheader on Tuesday, Guillen seemed to get more and more excited at the prospect of future fisticuffs with the Wahoos.

Im not the kind of guy who says wait for tomorrow, especially if were out of the playoff race, Guillen smiled. A beanball war would be fun.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

James Shields, Joakim Soria and some other potential midseason trade candidates for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields, Joakim Soria and some other potential midseason trade candidates for the White Sox

Another day, another quality start for James Shields.

The White Sox once more didn’t win a Shields start. Despite an increasingly good-looking season stat line, Shields can’t seem to rack up many wins, with just two to his name on the season. But of course, wins are not exactly the most important barometer in this rebuilding campaign.

Speaking of the rebuild, the White Sox are getting closer to the trade deadline, it’s about a month and a half away. And Shields’ continued success could have Rick Hahn’s phone ringing as July 31 creeps closer. After six innings and three runs in Sunday’s loss to the visiting Detroit Tigers, Shields has seven quality starts in his last 10 outings,

After last season’s struggles that ended in a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs surrendered, getting anything for Shields might’ve seemed a bit of a fantasy. But Shields has delivered, especially since the end of a rocky April.

“It’s very important to try to eat as many innings as you possibly can,” Shields said of his consistent efforts of late. “Early on in the season, we were ruining our bullpen by not going deep into games. My main focus is to go as deep as I possibly can. … Consistency’s the name of the game.”

Does it make him one of the most attractive names on the market? No, probably not. Is it going to fetch a highly ranked prospect? No, probably not. But it might fetch something, and in a season where guys believed to be afterthoughts like Dylan Covey and Daniel Palka are working their way into the conversation about the White Sox future, who wouldn’t want something added to this rebuilding effort?

And Shields isn’t the only White Sox player who could bring something back.

The bullpen was stocked with potential sign-and-flip guys over the offseason, and a few of those veteran arms have had good runs that could earn them a similar fate to the bulk of last year’s relief corps. Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard were all dealt away last summer. Could Hahn employ a similar strategy this season?

The bullpen hasn’t been quite as good as it was last year, which made all of those players attractive additions for contending teams around the league. But veterans like Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Bruce Rondon, Xavier Cedeno — guys who hoped to rediscover some old magic — could still draw interest.

Soria owns a 3.12 ERA. Avilan’s is at 3.10. Cedeno hasn’t given up a run in his six relief appearances. Rondon has shown blow-em-away stuff at times. It’s been a nice recovery for some of these sign-and-flip veterans.

“They’ve had an opportunity to get their chances to work on different things and become really effective performers,” manager Rick Renteria said of some of his veteran relievers prior to Sunday’s game. “I think Joakim has risen his level of game back what he was pre last couple years, I think he’s reinvented himself a little bit. He has an up-down breaking ball now, he’s continuing to attack the strike zone, he’s throwing 93 miles an hour with his fastball, he’s commanding the zone. He’s doing everything he can to be as good a closer as he was in the past. His history and his experience also allow him some confidence to be put in situations to close out ballgames.”

Soria could perhaps draw the most interest because closers are often in demand in July. But last year’s trade-a-thon showed that teams are willing to trade prospects away for relief help of any kind. Many of the return pieces in those deals might not get rebuild-loving prospect followers thrilled. Casey Gillaspie and Ryan Cordell haven’t exactly put their names at the forefront of the discussion about 2020 and beyond. But remember that Blake Rutherford came over in the deal that sent Robertson and Kahnle out of town (Todd Frazier went to the New York Yankees in that trade, too). So an acquisition that could improve the rebuild can most definitely happen, even with middle relievers.

There’s no guarantee that any of these guys, be it Shields in the rotation or any of the arms out in the bullpen, will get traded or even draw significant interest. But for a team in the White Sox position, you’d have to assume they’d be open to making a deal and getting something to add to this rebuilding process.

Eloy Jimenez reminds Frank Thomas of Vlad Guerrero, and more rebuild thoughts from the Big Hurt

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AP

Eloy Jimenez reminds Frank Thomas of Vlad Guerrero, and more rebuild thoughts from the Big Hurt

Here’s a comp that’ll get White Sox fans really excited. It’s a Hall of Famer saying that the organization’s top-ranked prospect reminds him of another Hall of Famer.

“The kid Eloy (Jimenez), I’ve really watched him a lot. He’s a tremendous (player),” Frank Thomas said. “He reminds me of a young Vlad (Guerrero) that can cover the whole zone and use the whole field. I’m interested in seeing how he progresses.”

Eloy a young Vladdy, eh?

Don’t tell actual young Vladdy that — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ranked one spot ahead of Jimenez on MLB Pipeline’s list of the best prospects in baseball — but that’s one heck of a comp for a player that White Sox fans are already immeasurably excited about.

Thomas was back on the South Side on Sunday to join Hawk Harrelson in the broadcast booth for the latter’s sendoff season. He spoke a lot about what Harrelson meant to him and the White Sox, but he also answered questions about the team’s ongoing rebuild. Thomas has kept a close eye both in his roles as an analyst for FOX and someone who will always be invested in this team.

“It’s Chicago, and we’re used to winning,” Thomas said when he was asked if the White Sox needed to undergo such a process. “You normally get away with this in a smaller market, but you’ve got to understand they’ve taken their time with it. They wasted a lot of money for a five-year period trying to continue to be successful the way we were in the past and it wasn’t working.

“The game has changed. The game has totally changed. It’s a different ballgame now. It’s all about the youth. … The hardest part they’re going to have, though, is figuring out who’s going to be here and who’s not going to be here because over the next couple years they’ve got so many young talented players in Double-A and Triple-A that someone could actually force some of these guys out. It’s going to be a hard decision what they’re going to have to do.”

That’s the good problem Rick Hahn and his front office would like to have.

While fan buy-in to the rebuilding effort has been tremendous, there are some who will continue to question the willing suffering through losing seasons at the major league level while the contending team of the future develops in the minor leagues. But if you look at the teams that have won and played in the World Series in recent seasons — and even seasons long past — the process almost seems mandatory if you want to reach that level.

“It is,” Thomas said. “I’ve watched it firsthand. I first saw it with Cleveland when I was playing. Cleveland did it. Then you saw the Royals do it. You saw Houston do it, and they’re tearing it up with that youth. There’s been some other teams that have had a lot of success with it, too. I think Billy Beane has been great with it in Oakland for many, many years. They just haven’t had the luxury of keeping it together and going for the World Series, but he continues to create young superstars and basically trading them off for whatever the organization needs.”

Thomas, the greatest hitter in White Sox history, was also asked about the greatest hitter on the White Sox right now, Jose Abreu. Abreu’s future is the topic of much conversation surrounding this team, what with his contract running out at the end of the 2019 season, just when the White Sox hope to be fielding a perennial contender.

Abreu has been remarkably consistent — and one of just three players ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first four seasons — but Thomas thinks there’s a side of Abreu we still have yet to see.

“I just don’t think we’ve seen the best of him,” Thomas said. “That’s because it’s a youth movement and the protection’s been up and down for him in that lineup. I’ve seen him be inconsistent at times, but I think he’s a much better player than that. But I understand when you’re not winning every day and it’s not as motivating because losing’s tough on everybody. But the guy’s an incredible player, an incredible hitter.

“I think the next couple of years we’ll see the best of him if he’s still here. I think this guy has a chance to be one of the great ones.”

With one last question about the modern-day White Sox, Thomas was asked about manager Rick Renteria, who he raved about. But with Renteria’s recent history with the Cubs, when he was replaced with Joe Maddon right before the North Siders started their phase of contention, he has yet to be the manager of a team with expectations. The plan is that he soon will be, and Thomas is interested to see what happens when that becomes the case.

“I think he’s done a hell of a job. I really like Ricky a lot,” Thomas said. “But who knows what they’re going to do in the future. When this team becomes what they think it’s going to be, either you get it done or you don’t. That’s just what it’s going to be. That’s the way Jerry’s handled it for many, many years.

“We’ve had some decisions that weren’t all happiness at times, but it’s about winning once they get their team here. I hope it’s Ricky because he’s done a hell of a rebuild job with the Cubs, he did a hell of a rebuild job here. It’s just time for him to get a good team out on the field and see what he really can do. I’m hoping he gets a chance of having a full team to put out there for 162 games and see what he can do.”