White Sox

White Sox reverse course, send Micah Johnson to Triple-A

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White Sox reverse course, send Micah Johnson to Triple-A

In a surprising reversal, the White Sox have sent Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday.

The club, which is off today after it won the second of three games in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, announced the move two days after saying they would stay patient with their rookie second baseman despite his early struggles. Fellow rookie Carlos Sanchez, 22, is expected to join the team Friday on the road when it begins a three-game series against the Oakland A’s.

While Johnson has fared well at the plate, his defensive play and base running isn’t at the level the White Sox want.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox option 2B Micah Johnson to Triple-A]

“Obviously from an offensive standpoint, (Johnson) was contributing,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “But from a defensive standpoint, he wasn’t quite as consistent play-to-play as we needed him to be at the big league level and as we expect him to be in the future. He also had a couple of questionable baserunning decisions, which I think is a part of being young and things, much like the defensive side of things, will get ironed out with repetition.”

On Tuesday, Hahn gave Johnson, who has a .270/.333/.297 slash line in 83 plate appearances, a public vote of confidence, noting the club needs to produce its own talent on an annual basis to sustain success.

But in that night’s game, Johnson, who is last among 23 qualified second baseman with minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved, according to fangraphs.com, dropped a pickoff throw. He also ran into an out at third base, the third time he has run into one this season along with a pickoff and two times caught stealing in five tries. Tuesday’s performance came on the heels of a play Monday where Johnson and shortstop Alexei Ramirez didn’t convert what appeared to be an easy double play, which cost Jeff Samardzija an extra run in a 10-7 loss.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“We’re not going to show all our cards, or reveal that we’re going to make a change in the coming days,” Hahn said. “I don’t think that’s real productive to maximize a player’s performance. At the same time, we have consistent conversations with our players about where they sit and what we’re expecting. And while I’m sure Micah was disappointed with the ultimate decision, I don’t think he was surprised that it was a possibility or didn’t foresee it as a possibility.”

Though Johnson entered spring training as the favorite to win the starting job, Sanchez made himself a strong option as he produced a .425/.489/.425 slash line with six RBIs in 45 plate appearances. The performance was good enough to earn Sanchez a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Sanchez, who is thought of as a glove-first infielder, has proven he's a capable defender during his short time in the majors. He also carried over his hot start at the plate to Charlotte, where he hit 344/.368/.466 with two homers and 17 RBIs and was twice named the International League player of the week.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jose Quintana pushes White Sox to a much-needed 2015 first]

Sanchez, who already has 107 major league plate appearances is expected to take over as the starting second baseman while Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio stay in their utility roles, Hahn said.

“Carlos is going to bring a little bit more defensive consistency,” Hahn said. “Solid base running. He’ll be a tough out for us. He’s going to help stabilize that position.

“We do like the fact that he is a kid that got an extended taste last year and that at the start of the year he got beat out for his job, but as opposed to hanging his head, he went down and worked his tail off and obviously had a great amount of success.”

Hahn believes Johnson, 24, is capable of success in the majors. He compared the move to the demotions of Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede and said Johnson just needs more repetition.

“We still think (Johnson) has a very bright future and he’s going to have a long and successful big league career,” Hahn said. “There are just some elements of his game that we want him to work on consistently at the minor league level and get ironed out prior to having him back in Chicago.”

This is an interesting development, given what Hahn said Tuesday:

"There’s a balance. It’s important for us to build something sustainable to introduce our own young talent on a pretty much annual basis. The Braves did that on that long run of theirs, every year adding a homegrown piece that became a mainstay to their core as it evolved. That’s where we want to get to. We anticipate and hope we’re going to follow a model like that and have our own homegrown talent integrated in. At no point do we expect those guys to carry the load, so to speak. So our expectations for Micah and Carlos now in the rotation is on Day 1, you have to show up and you’re responsible for this. It’s a matter of performing up to their ability and showing progress and our ability to project out that they’re going to be the type of player their capable of being and they’re best served doing that at the big league level.

 

"It is a good problem to have. We’d much rather have options, especially at premium positions and Carlos is doing a great job. If and when the need arises in Chicago, we know that Carlos at the very least will provide quality defense and be a tough out. There’s some elements of Micah’s game you can’t replicate. The pressure he puts on a defense in the way he’s able to disrupt a pitcher’s rhythm which helps the hitters behind him when he’s on base. Which is why he’s here now and he’s the right guy."

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Joakim Soria knows he is turning into a valuable trade asset for White Sox

No one knows better than Joakim Soria that the more successful he is as the White Sox’s closer, there is an increased likelihood that the veteran right-hander will be headed out of town at some point.

Soria has not only solidified the back end of the bullpen, the 34-year-old has emerged as perhaps the Sox’s most valuable trade asset to a contending team in need of relief help.

Over this last 14 appearances, Soria has not allowed an earned run and has converted all seven save chances with five hits allowed, two walks and 15 strikeouts.

“My body feels good and my arm feels good,” Soria said before the Sox defeated the Athletics 10-3 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I come to the ballpark expecting to pitch and … I try to be out there and help this team win.”

While the Sox haven’t done a whole lot of winning of late—Sunday’s win was just their second in their last 11 games—when they are victorious it’s accompanied by a Soria save. With the Sox’s rebuild in full swing, Soria understands that general manager Rick Hahn won’t hesitate to flip him in a trade.

“Players say they don’t think about it but you have to think about it,” said Soria, who was acquired from the Royals on Jan. 4 in a three-team trade also involving the Dodgers. “When you have a family with three kids and a wife you have to be prepared for everything. But it’s not like I come to the field thinking about that. It’s just God’s plan and whatever happens it’s a business and you prepare.”

Soria has 215 career saves, including 162 in seven seasons with the Royals, but hadn’t been a full-time closer since notching a combined 24 saves with the Tigers and Pirates. With the Sox, Soria won the closing job over fellow veteran Nate Jones in spring training and has been nearly unhittable in recent weeks.

Over his last 13 2/3 innings pitched, Soria has held opponents to a .109 batting average and sports a 2.89 ERA for the season. He has issued five walks in 28 innings and is averaging 10.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

The two-time All-Star has settled in nicely in a Sox clubhouse featuring a mix of veterans and promising talents. Soria has to balance that with the knowledge he might not be around as the season progresses.

“It’s something I can’t control,” Soria said. “I have a really good relationship with these guys and the chemistry with this team is very good. I can’t think outside of the box because (a trade) hasn’t happened yet. You have to keep focused and be ready for today’s game.”