White Sox

White Sox see Chris Sale sliding back into ace form

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White Sox see Chris Sale sliding back into ace form

ARLINGTON, Texas — Holding a six-run lead after two innings, Chris Sale was able to comfortably dissect a Rangers lineup that plated 15 runs against the White Sox the night before.

Sale’s seven-inning, 13-strikeout masterpiece propelled the White Sox to a 9-2 win over Texas Wednesday night at Globe Life Park. The 26-year-old left-hander didn’t allow a run and scattered three hits and two walks over his start, and retired the final 14 batters he faced — nine of them on strikeouts.

His ERA dropped to 3.27 with his Wednesday outing, and over his last four starts he has a 53-to-five strikeout-to-walk ratio. For the first time in his career, he's struck out double-digit batters in three consecutive starts. This is the Chris Sale the White Sox had penciled in atop their rotation heading into spring training, not the guy who gave up 14 runs over two starts and 8 1/3 innings in late April and early May.

Manager Robin Ventura said Sale’s spate of ineffectiveness could’ve been the product of him missing most of spring training with a fractured ankle, though Sale said he wasn’t sure if that was the case.

“I couldn’t tell you, I try to go out there and pitch (well) every time,” Sale said. “Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason but you get in grooves and try to ride it.”

[MORE: Cabrera, White Sox not hitting panic button on season-long slump]

It’s likely no coincidence, though, that Sale’s recent surge has come as he’s throwing more sliders.

In his first five starts, Sale only threw his slider about one in every 10 pitches, according to TexasLeaguers.net. And only one in every 10 of those sliders generated a swing and a miss, while 30 percent of them were put in play.

Over his last five starts, including Wednesday night in Texas, Sale has thrown sliders on about 18 percent of his pitches. And 22 percent of those sliders have generated a whiff — over double the rate he had in his first five starts.

His fastball and changeup have been improved in terms of swings and misses, too, but the slider has seen the most noticeable improvement.

“I worked on it in bullpens, flat ground and stuff like that,” Sale said. “It wasn’t just really that good of a pitch early on, so just try to mix it in as much as I can and still not trying to overthrow it.”

[NBC SHOP: Get your Chris Sale jersey right here!]

Rangers megaprospect Joey Gallo bore the brunt of Sale’s improved slider, flailing at it for two strikeouts before going down swinging on a changeup in his third at-bat. Sale temporarily halted the Gallo hype machine, which was turned on Tuesday with a home run and four RBIs in his debut and re-started when the 21-year-old ripped a 410-foot home run off Zach Duke in the ninth inning Wednesday.

Sale and catcher Tyler Flowers don’t want to over-use the slider, but facing a Rangers lineup where most of the power hit left-handed — Shin-Soo Choo, Mitch Moreland and Gallo — it was a reliable out-pitch.

And it helped Sale take another step toward putting those early-season mishaps behind him.

“We all know it’s there,” Ventura said, “and I think he’s getting that feeling back.”

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

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AP

Podcast: Dylan Cease raves about the White Sox farm system

Coming to you from Washington DC, we speak with Dylan Cease who competed in the MLB Futures Game along with his Birmingham Barons teammate Luis Basabe. 

Cease talks about the White Sox loaded farm system, what players have impressed him the most, where he gets his composure on the mound and more. 

Check out the entire podcast here:

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the prospect who got away: White Sox fans, read this at your own risk

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the prospect who got away: White Sox fans, read this at your own risk

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fernando Tatis, Jr. is one of the brightest future stars in the game. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, one spot behind Eloy Jimenez.

He’s a five-tool shortstop slashing .289/.359/.509 at Double-A San Antonio with 15 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 85 games. He’s bilingual, charismatic, the kind of guy who could be a face of a franchise.

And two years ago, he was property of the White Sox.

That was until they traded Tatis, who was only 17 at the time, to the Padres for James Shields. Tatis had yet to play a single game in the White Sox farm system, so it was tough to predict his future. However, speaking with Tatis before he competed in the MLB Futures Game on Sunday, the trade was definitely a shock to him.

“I was surprised. It was weird. For a kid that young to get traded, I had never heard of it. When they told me that, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Tatis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

No front office is going to bat 1.000, and when it comes to Tatis, this is a trade the White Sox would love to have back.

But first, more perspective.

In June of 2016, six months before the White Sox started their rebuild, they were 29-26, a game and a half out of first place. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a healthy Carlos Rodon anchoring their rotation, they felt that with the addition of Shields, they could compete for the division.

Unfortunately, perception didn’t meet reality. Shields struggled on the mound with the White Sox in 2016 and 2017. His numbers have improved considerably, and he could return the White Sox another prospect if he’s dealt before the trade deadline. However, it’s unlikely they’ll receive a player with the potential that Tatis has right now.

“(The trade) was about getting a good starter so they could get to the playoffs. I understood. I know this game is a business,” Tatis said.

Before the trade occurred, Tatis looked into his future and saw a day when he’d be the White Sox starting shortstop.

“Yeah, that was my goal when (White Sox director of international scouting) Marco Paddy signed me,” Tatis said. “We talked about it when I started and that was the goal.”

His goal now is to make it to the major leagues with the Padres.

“I’m pretty close. I want to keep working. When they decide to call me up, I’ll be ready.”

As for his former team, he’s impressed with the talent the White Sox have assembled.

“They’re building something special. They have really good prospects. I wish the best for them.”

You can’t help but wonder what the rebuild would look like if Tatis was along for the ride. He’s the one who got away.