White Sox

White Sox shortstop Jimmy Rollins praised by ex-Dodgers teammates

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White Sox shortstop Jimmy Rollins praised by ex-Dodgers teammates

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Corey Seager may have been able to offer a better description of Jimmy Rollins’ feet versus his face early in camp last year.

Though he was thrilled to share the Camelback Ranch clubhouse with one of his heroes, who was signed in part to mentor him, the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie shortstop admits he was a little intimidated by Rollins’ presence. Only 20 at the time and one of baseball’s top prospects, Seager waited several days for Rollins to introduce himself out of respect for the veteran.

Upon hearing that White Sox prospect Tim Anderson expects to be star struck when he meets Rollins -- who Monday signed a minor-league deal with the White Sox -- Seager could relate. Seager also has genuine excitement for Anderson, his 2014 Arizona Fall League teammate, and what lies ahead for him in the coming weeks with Rollins, a former National League MVP and three-time All-Star.

“I couldn’t even introduce myself to him,” Seager said. “It was that surreal that you couldn’t physically make yourself talk to him.

“I walked past him multiple times with my head down. You saw that guy on a pedestal and then he’s in your clubhouse. He’s beside you, he’s taking ground balls with you. It’s a very, very great thing.”

Seager, who eventually took over as the Dodgers’ starting shortstop late in the season, isn’t alone in his praise of Rollins. Though Rollins -- who joined Los Angeles in 2015 after 15 years in Philadelphia -- may have been frustrated by the worst offensive season of his career (.643 OPS), former teammates said he delivered on many other levels.  

“He was everything that was advertised coming in,” said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. “Great leader, great clubhouse guy, hard worker. Just had a lot of fun. He took on every role, veteran, mentor, everything.”

[RELATED: White Sox young shortstops eager to work with Jimmy Rollins]

Third baseman Justin Turner spent four seasons with the New York Mets and had a pretty good idea about Rollins from his Phillies accomplishments alone.

A World Series winner in 2008, Rollins has produced 49.3 f-Wins Above Replacement. He won the MVP in 2007 when he scored 139 runs, had 212 hits, including 88 for extra bases, and earned the first of four Gold Glove awards.

“Just his presence alone makes everyone around him better,” Turner said.

But Turner may be even more impressed by Rollins’ work ethic and drive. And he’s certain the drive is why Rollins bypassed a chance to play at home with the San Francisco Giants, where he would have been a super utility man. Turner knows Rollins would love to win the White Sox starting job and show the rest of the league he has plenty of baseball left.

“He is still a good baseball player,” Turner said. “He still has a lot to offer and brings a lot to the table. It didn’t surprise me at all that he kind of shook off the backup stuff to be the everyday guy, and there’s no doubt in my mind he can still play shortstop every day.

“You see the work and the preparation and how they go about their business. It’s no wonder he’s accomplished everything he has.”

[MORE: Adam Eaton hopes to build off 2015 rebound campaign]

Seager believes he took full advantage of having Rollins in camp.

He followed him everywhere, asked questions. Seager said Rollins taught him everything, from how to act in the clubhouse to where to position himself on tags at second base. There’s also the benefit of being within close proximity of Rollins to see just how hard he works to maintain. As Seager puts it, he knows where Rollins has set the bar and what he’d need to do himself in order to reach and maintain that level.

All it took was that first introduction.

“It was weird,” Seager said. “I mean, I watched him my whole life.

“He finally came up to you and was a normal human being.

“He has put in his work, he has put in his time, he’s done that to be able to be at the level at he is still. It’s one of those things that you can take a lot from it, you can learn a lot from it. It’s all about how much you want to learn.”

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Seven walks last year, now Lucas Giolito goes back to Wrigley as one of baseball's best

Looking for another example of how far Lucas Giolito has come this season? Look back to last year’s Crosstown series.

Giolito pitched in games on both sides of town, but the start he made against the Cubs at Wrigley Field was emblematic of his woeful 2018 season. He actually earned the win in that game, but he walked seven batters and threw three wild pitches. By the time he exited, his season ERA was nearly 7.00.

White Sox fans know that 2019 has been the complete opposite for Giolito, and he rides into his Wednesday-night start on the North Side as one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Just like Eloy Jimenez’s game-winning home run Tuesday was the best snapshot of the White Sox rebuilding progress to date, putting last year’s start at Wrigley next to where Giolito is heading into this year’s start at Wrigley is the best snapshot of his amazing transformation.

“It was survival mode,” Giolito said Tuesday. “Now I feel like I’m on the attack. When I take the ball, I have full confidence in myself that I will come after you with really good stuff, changes in velocity and movement. Last year I went out not knowing what I had that day.

“I don’t want to walk seven, like I did last year here. I got the win somehow. The offense and defense bailed me out a ton. This year I’m much different. I’m all about filling up the zone, attacking hitters. That’s pretty much the M.O.”

The difference has been obvious to anyone who watched Giolito struggle last season to the tune of a 6.13 ERA (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), a 1.48 WHIP (the highest among baseball’s qualified starters), 118 earned runs (the most in baseball) and 90 walks (the most in the American League). This season, he’s been dominant, on an incredible run that’s made him as good a Cy Young candidate as you’ll find. He’s got a 2.22 ERA right now, best in the AL, with 95 strikeouts in 81 innings.

Over his last eight starts, Giolito has a 0.94 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. Opposing hitters are batting just .149 against him during that span.

The dude’s on fire, a near lock to be an All Star, and perhaps most importantly, he’s totally changed his long-term perception in the minds of White Sox fans. They groaned during the walks and the runs and the wild pitches last year and cast him out of their projected future rotations. Now they’re cheering a guy who looks capable of leading that rotation of the future.

What a difference a year makes.

If those White Sox fans are anything in number and volume like they were Tuesday night, when they made Wrigley Field sound like Guaranteed Rate Field after Jimenez’s homer in the ninth, then Giolito can expect a rocking atmosphere as he looks to keep the good times rolling — and make a Crosstown moment worth remembering this time.

“I want to give the fans a show as much as I can,” Giolito said. “I like to see we’re filling up our ballpark with more White Sox fans, more people starting to pay attention. Just want to continue on that train. Our team is playing really hard and we’re happy to be here.

“My goal every time I pitch is to win, so not too much changes. But it's going to be a lot of fun, I'll say that. I'm looking forward to it.”

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New No. 5 prospect in baseball Luis Robert wins MVP at Southern League All-Star Game

New No. 5 prospect in baseball Luis Robert wins MVP at Southern League All-Star Game

Eloy Jimenez deserved every bit of the spotlight Tuesday night for his broken-bat, game-winning homer in the ninth inning on the North Side. But he wasn't the only star of the White Sox rebuild doing big things.

Down in the minors, Luis Robert continued his huge season with MVP honors at the Southern League All-Star Game.

Robert is the newly minted No. 5 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline's just-updated rankings, and he celebrated by adding a new piece of hardware to his growing collection. He went 2-for-3 in the Southern League All-Star Game with a double, a triple, two RBIs and a run scored. Not bad for a day's work on one of the biggest stages at the Double-A level.

Robert, of course, has just torn up minor league pitching so far in 2019. In 60 games between Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, he's got a .353/.403/.630 slash line, 12 home runs, 44 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 18 doubles and 18 stolen bases. After playing in only 50 games in 2018 while battling various thumb injuries, Robert has obviously shattered the numbers from his first season of pro ball in the United States. And there's still a bunch of baseball left this season.

While the White Sox have been in no rush to move their highly touted prospects along faster than they need to during this rebuilding process, Robert's been so hot at the plate all season, he might warrant another jump before the season's through. As for when fans could see him playing big league games on the South Side, it doesn't seem at all ridiculous at this point to suggest he could be on the Opening Day roster for the 2020 season.

As for those rankings, Robert effectively replaces Jimenez as a top-five prospect for the White Sox. Jimenez graduated from prospect status and provided his biggest moment as a big leaguer Tuesday night against the Cubs, the team that traded him to the White Sox. Now all eyes are on Robert as he continues to move through the system. And he's not alone. The White Sox boast three of the top 18 prospects in the game, per MLB Pipeline's new rankings, with Robert at No. 5, Michael Kopech at No. 16 and Dylan Cease at No. 18. Nick Madrigal isn't too far behind, either, at No. 40.

The future is very bright on the South Side.

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