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White Sox top Padres as Alexei Ramirez has emotional return

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White Sox top Padres as Alexei Ramirez has emotional return

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Veterans only occasionally are asked to go on road trips in spring training.

Alexei Ramirez requested this one.

The former White Sox and now San Diego Padres shortstop caught up with former teammates and coaches and received a warm welcome from the Camelback Ranch crowd on Sunday after he made the easy 18-minute drive over from Peoria, Ariz.

Ramirez went 1-for-2 with a walk on what he described as an emotional day.

Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier homered and Carlos Rodon spun three scoreless innings in an 8-1 White Sox victory.

“Really emotional,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “There were eight years of defending, 100 percent energy, eight years of being the first to show up and work hard every day. Going out and seeing all my teammates, seeing (bullpen coach Mark Salas), seeing Robin Ventura, seeing everyone. Yeah, it was emotional.”

Ramirez experienced ups and downs throughout a long offseason.

First came the bad news — the White Sox declined their $10 million club option on Ramirez in November. Then they made no attempts to sign him. Ramirez said the Padres’ one-year, $4-million offer was the only one he received this offseason.

Parting with the White Sox after eight seasons wasn’t easy.

“I was at my home when they called and said, ‘Thanks, but they weren't going to pick up my option,’” Ramirez said. “It hurt because I spent so much time in Chicago and formed somewhat of a family. At the same time, that's baseball. I'm in San Diego now and ready for that opportunity and am ready to go.”

But Ramirez had a chance to travel back home to Cuba twice in between his departure from the White Sox and joining the Padres in January. He had the chance to see family he hadn’t for eight years since he left. The second trip was part of Major League Baseball’s goodwill tour in December.

“It was really great,” Ramirez said. “After eight years, you can imagine.”

It’s just as easy to understand why Ramirez wanted to come see his old teammates in Glendale on Sunday. Ramirez headed to shallow center field about 45 minutes before first pitch to talk to Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu. Infielder Carlos Sanchez then raced over from the home dugout to join the conversation. Ramirez also received a nice round of applause from the announced crowd of more than 8,000 when he batted in the first inning. The shortstop briefly paused before he stepped in and waved to the crowd.

“There are too many memories to count, especially when I first got there in (2008) against Cleveland,” Ramirez said. “There are too many memories to mention. If I had to pick one, it wouldn’t do it justice.

“I’m extremely thankful, not just for me, but my family as well. Again, I want to say thanks. But in the end I’m just very thankful.”

Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

Yoan Moncada all in on Luis Robert, predicts big rookie season with White Sox

One of the most popular questions surrounding the White Sox, as they head into a season unlike any other, has lingered throughout the three-month layoff.

What kind of rookie year will Luis Robert have?

Things have obviously changed since March, when spring training came to an abrupt halt and everyone on the South Side had to wait indefinitely to see Robert play his first major league game. The wait is over, but Robert's first taste of the bigs will come in a shortened, 60-game season. The hype is still there, sure — and for good reason — but as past hyped White Sox prospects like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez have shown, it can take time to adjust to major league pitching and start playing up to expectations.

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Moncada went through a full season's worth of struggles in 2018, striking out 217 times before having a huge 2019 campaign and emerging as the team's best all-around player.

So when he shares confidence that Robert's going to do just fine in his rookie season, it might not be a bad idea to listen.

"He’s a young guy with a lot of talent. Everybody saw that during the spring," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo on Wednesday. "I think for him, the key is to just play his game, don’t feel pressure, and with the support of all of us, he’s going to be good. I’m very confident he’s going to have a very, very good season just because of the talent he has."

The talent is obvious. Robert garnered preseason expectations as a front-runner for AL Rookie of the Year honors because he's a true five-tool threat who spent last season wowing minor league crowds with a combination of tape-measure home runs, blazing speed and highlight-reel catches in center field.

The hype is real.

“He can do it on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side,” second baseman Nick Madrigal said back in February. “He’ll hit a 400-plus-foot home run one day, and then he’ll make a Superman catch in the outfield. It seems like he can do it all. Stealing bases every day. He’s definitely the complete package.”

But how will the unpredictable circumstances of 2020 affect Robert? How they will affect anyone remains a mystery until teams start workouts this week and start playing games a few weeks later. One thing we can calculate at the moment is time, and Robert won't have much of it to make any necessary adjustments.

We saw it take far more than 60 games for Jimenez to get used to the way big league pitchers were attacking him last season. He figured it out eventually, started launching balls over the center-field fence and had a torrid final month to his rookie campaign. Robert won't have the same luxuries in 2020.

RELATED: Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

But he will have resources, the same ones he was expected to be able to lean on before the pandemic wiped so much of the season off the calendar. Moncada has benefited so much from Jose Abreu's mentorship, and there's no doubt that Abreu and Moncada both will offer any advice they have to their countryman Robert.

"I passed through that process, and Abreu was there helping me through the process and that was very helpful," Moncada said Wednesday. "And I think for (Robert), it’s going to be the same. We’re going to be there for whatever he needs, for whatever questions that he has. That’s going to be very helpful for him. We’re always going to be there for him."

They'll just have to be there from six feet away.


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Why Cubs losing Jose Quintana to injury isn't exactly good news for White Sox

Why Cubs losing Jose Quintana to injury isn't exactly good news for White Sox

The Cubs' pitching staff suffered a blow Thursday, when the team announced that Jose Quintana will miss some time after injuring himself in a dish-washing accident.

While some White Sox fans might jump at the chance to revisit the 2017 Crosstown swap that sent Quintana to the North Side in exchange for Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, it's important to realize that what happens to the Cubs affects the White Sox more than ever in this most unusual of seasons. The two teams are scheduled to meet six times, which accounts for 10 percent of the 60-game regular-season schedule.

In a normal season, games against the Cubs are more of a frivolity, a chance for the city to get excited about the two sides of town squaring off, and a time to provide some memorable moments (speaking of Jimenez). But this year, playoff chances could really hinge on Crosstown matchups, with both teams entering the abbreviated campaign with postseason expectations.

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So Quintana's season being in jeopardy is a break for the White Sox, right? Without one of their starting pitchers, the Cubs' staff is worse off than it was yesterday. It's bad news for their bullpen, which might have already been staring at shouldering a heavy load considering the unknown ability of starting pitchers after a three-month layoff. And the White Sox won't have to face a guy they know has the ability to pitch really well. He regularly did just that during his five and a half seasons on the South Side.

But maybe missing out on matchups with Quintana isn't such a good thing for the White Sox.

They've only faced their old mate once, but they did some significant damage against him in September 2018, tagging the former White Sox hurler for five runs on nine hits in his five innings of work. While the White Sox lineup that day featured only a few players still with the organization — Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Adam Eaton made up a third of the batting order; Jose Abreu didn't even play that day — the bats made some noise.

Maybe it was familiarity with an old teammate? Maybe it was just an off day for Quintana, whose Cubs' tenure has been far more of the up-and-down variety than his consistent days with the White Sox?

While the sample size is undoubtedly tiny, the only time the White Sox faced Quintana, they raked. So losing him as a foe might not be an obvious plus, after all. That being said, perhaps the strain placed on the Cubs' staff without him makes everyone else a better opponent for the White Sox, and they rake regardless.

RELATED: Yoan Moncada: White Sox still on track for success in 2020, even after layoff

It's complicated, obviously, as even the numbers from that day in 2018 show: Anderson and Moncada, now two rebuilding cornerstones for the White Sox, went a combined 1-for-5. If the White Sox still had Kevan Smith, who homered off Quintana in that game, this would be far easier to figure out.

But nothing is easy to figure out in 2020, including something as seemingly straight forward as a frequent opponent losing a key cog in the starting rotation.


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