White Sox

White Sox reward Jacob May with starting job after all-out performance

White Sox reward Jacob May with starting job after all-out performance

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The biggest benefactor of the Peter Bourjos trade is Jacob May, who is set to take over as the White Sox starting center fielder.

The White Sox completed a deal on Tuesday that sent Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations or a player to be named later.

The move not only assures May that he'll be on the Opening Day roster, but the White Sox prospect should see significant playing time with Bourjos out of the picture. Manager Rick Renteria said May's all-out play this spring earned him the opportunity to play at least five days a week. May went 2-for-4 with a run for the White Sox in a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium on Tuesday.

"I don't think it does us any good to bring up a young person like that and just sit him," Renteria said. "He would have to be a person that's going to end up playing a significant amount of time in center field.

"Jacob really ran with (the opportunity) a little bit. Defended really, really well, had some good at-bats."

A third-round pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2013, May has a strong baseball bloodline. His grandfather Lee May blasted 354 home runs in an 18-year career and his great uncle Carlos May was a two-time All-Star for the White Sox. May received congratulations from both on Tuesday morning.

But Jacob May entered camp below Charlie Tilson and Bourjos in the pecking order. Tilson was expected to get the first shot to be the starter until he experienced setbacks in his rehab, which opened the door for May. May said he used his underdog status as motivation and dazzled the White Sox with an array of nice catches and plus speed on the bases. A switch hitter, May entered Tuesday's contest hitting .339/.361/.525 with six extra-base hits and four steals in 61 plate appearances.

"I had nothing to lose," May said. "Honestly I came into this spring feeling personally as a darkhorse in this whole thing. Not someone that is really talked about a lot, which is fine with me. I don't really care about that stuff. It gave me a little chip on my shoulder. People didn't expect too much from me. I know the organization knows what I'm capable of doing, which is all that really matters."

May's performance made the White Sox comfortable enough to move Bourjos. He said initially heard from friends and family after word of the Bourjos deal spread late Monday night. But May didn't officially find out until he was pulled into Renteria's office on Tuesday morning and was informed of his new status.

Though May said the news is bittersweet because Bourjos mentored him this spring and became a friend, he couldn't help but smile.

"It's still kind of a little bit of mixed feelings," May said. "He's one of your friends and a teammate...

"I mean, my whole life I've been dreaming about this. Since I was a little kid, I've been around locker room and around players. It's a little surreal."

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Ozzie Guillen had a famous saying about A.J. Pierzynski that you’ve probably heard before.

"If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."

It would be hard for any player to match Pierzynski’s reputation, who was (and continues to be) beloved in Chicago but was booed and despised in almost every other MLB city.

And yet, here comes Tim Anderson.

“When you play against him, you kind of want to fight him all the time,” White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday.

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Keuchel has experience playing against Anderson and now he is teammates with him, seeing a different side of the White Sox shortshop that won the American League batting title last year.

“He’s definitely misunderstood,” Keuchel said.

Comparing Anderson to Pierzynski isn’t exactly apples to apples. Pierzynski’s reputation was a little more convoluted, while Anderson just likes to have fun with general disregard for baseball’s outdated “unwritten” rules. His bat flips catch the attention of much needed younger sports fans, yet also seem to trigger just as many old-school players around the league. Just ask Royals pitcher Brad Keller.

RELATED: Why Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Keuchel now has the perspective of being on the same team as Anderson and he means well when he says the opposition wants to fight his new teammate.

“That's not necessarily a bad thing, because you see the passion he plays with, you see how much he loves the game,” Keuchel said. “It definitely gets under your skin, which can help him.”

The former Astros and Braves pitcher even had examples.

“I remember a few times where we'd be going over the scouting report and (the report said) you can go in this area if you're ahead of the count, or if you're behind in the count, you can go in this area,” Keuchel said. “And then all the sudden I'm going in those areas and he's pulling a groundball double down the line and I'm just dumbfounded. But now I see where he's at. His mindset, the way he's trying to be more knowledgeable about the game about his at-bats.”

The White Sox hope Anderson picks up where he left off last season, and he’s showing early signs of that, even delivering a signature bat flip – er, throw – in an intrasquad game. But at this point, Anderson has earned the right to flip, even if opposing pitchers hate it.

“That's where you get the true professional,” Keuchel said. “You put the talent with the mindset and the knowledge to get better and you're sitting pretty, you're sitting with a batting title, you're sitting with respect around the league. I think he's going to be a force to reckon with and someone who some of the younger guys can even learn from.”

 

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Dallas Keuchel sees White Sox youth as double-edged sword in shortened season

Dallas Keuchel sees White Sox youth as double-edged sword in shortened season

Will the White Sox youth be a help or a hindrance in this unprecedented 60-game Major League Baseball season?

The team's newly added veterans see the youth around them as a double-edged sword.

"I feel like this team is going to go either really, really good or really bad to start," starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday, almost eerily echoing his new batterymate, Yasmani Grandal, who said almost the exact same thing a day earlier.

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Asked about how he expected the White Sox mostly young pitching staff to fare this season, Grandal said: "There isn't going to be a gray area. Sixty games is a very small window that we have to put everything together, so it's going to be either really good or it's going to be really bad."

"Either really good or really bad" would not fly as a 2020 slogan in a meeting with the White Sox marketing team. But it's suddenly become a theme.

Granted, these guys are predicting the unpredictable, and that's the point behind their words. An abrupt halt to spring training in March, a months-long layoff while baseball watched the COVID-19 pandemic and saw fruitless negotiations between the league and players' union, and now just a three-week ramp-up period before a two-month sprint of a regular season. It's never happened before. For all their confidence in their own personal readiness, no one seems to know what kind of game shape their competition will be in. All 30 teams were built for 162 games, making it impossible to guess how they'll perform in 60.

So excuse the White Sox newcomers for providing a couple different possibilities for how things could play out on the South Side when the season gets going in a week.

"It’s that sprint. It’s no longer that marathon where you can kind of get off to a shaky start or even kind of an indifferent start," Keuchel said. "I feel like this team is going to go either really, really good or really bad to start. I would like to think we are going to go really good to start. We have the youth, we have the talent.

"It’s just really who gets out to that hot start and kind of continues it. Nobody knows what that’s going to be like until we step on that field (July 24)."

RELATED: Yasmani Grandal getting younger White Sox ready for 'playoff mode' all season

OK, so that covers the unknown (some of it, anyway). How about what we do know?

The White Sox added some veteran help this winter, Keuchel and Grandal the two biggest names in a group that also includes Edwin Encarnación and Steve Cishek. And of course, José Abreu is back on a new three-year deal.

But the bulk of this roster — and the bulk of why the White Sox rebuilding effort looks ready to launch into contention mode — is made of youngsters who either broke out in a big way last season or have their breaking out still to come: Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Carlos Rodón, Nick Madrigal. The list makes for an exciting future.

But what does it do for the present? For that, we're going back to the unknown.

According to Keuchel, the youth provides a lot of positives, which White Sox fans can probably rattle off quite easily at this point. But if the 60-game sprint to the postseason is going to feel like a pennant chase from Day 1, well, the vast majority of these guys — Abreu included — haven't experienced that kind of thing before.

As important as Keuchel's World Series experience is, or Grandal's experience playing in the last five postseasons, or Encarnación's experience winning in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians, that can only go so far. The rest of the team has to play well enough to make it the rest of the way.

And so the guys who know what it takes aren't quite sure whether this White Sox team will be able to expertly handle such a thing under such weird circumstances. They're hopeful, sure, but they'd be lying if they said they were certain.

"I think in this situation that nobody really has ever been in, I think youth might help out with how we are going to be doing things," Keuchel said. "We've got speed. We’ve got everything we need to compete with every other team."

RELATED: Why the White Sox are ready to take the next step: Free-agent additions

But the youth also makes the other extreme possible, a pitfall a more experienced team might not need to worry about, so says the 2017 world champ.

"The more veteran presence, the more veteran team, I feel like is going to be really, really good or middle of the road to start," Keuchel said. "I think the young team, you are going to get really, really good or really, really bad. If we can detour from really, really bad to start, we have a really good shot of staying in it and making a run at the Central (or) a wild card spot.

"That’s the one area where youth does help is (you could have) potentially a really, really hot start because of the athleticism there. They are always fresh because they are so young."

Again, don't get Keuchel or Grandal wrong. They've been as positive about the outlook for these White Sox as anyone. Heck, they signed up in the offseason because they wanted to be a part of things moving forward.

But as good as Anderson and Robert and Giolito look in "Summer Camp" right now — not to mention Keuchel, who's been pretty great himself in the White Sox intrasquad games — there's nothing at all certain about the 2020 baseball season.

"Either really good or really bad." It's not a winning marketing slogan. But it might be as accurate a prediction as you're going to get right now.


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