White Sox

White Sox try to set 'standard' with lengthy first workout

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White Sox try to set 'standard' with lengthy first workout

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With so many new faces in camp, Robin Ventura emphasized exactly what the White Sox want from their players before Tuesday’s workout.

The manager and his coaching staff held a lengthy meeting before the team hit the field at Camelback Ranch to participate in its first full-squad workout. Ventura has said several times he wants his club to be on the same page early in the season and that they would put in enough work to ensure that happened. The White Sox, who have nine new players on their 40-man roster, then practiced in excess of three hours.

“It's about the team, what we expect, what I expect from them,” Ventura said of the meeting. “They should expect it from themselves. There should be a standard that we have, and they should be able to enforce that themselves as well. We'll be there to do it, but we've set our own standard with how they should be playing every day.”

The White Sox would need to produce a much crisper brand of baseball if they hope to snap their losing seasons streak at three. Not only did the 2015 offense lead the league in inducing boredom, the club’s base running was bad and its defense was downright atrocious.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Jose Abreu 'working on' his English]

With three quarters of a new infield and a new catching combination in place, Ventura has a chance to start fresh. He took advantage of the opportunity to make sure the team’s newest players have a sense for guidelines.

“It was sloppy for me,” Ventura said. “It's not always easy to watch. Now you bring new guys in, you want them to understand the level that we want to play at. When it doesn't go well, that's what it looks like.”

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu likes the feel of the new roster. He said he agreed with the sentiments of Todd Frazier, who thinks the White Sox have the potential to be a special team.

“I have the same feeling,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “From the first day that I came here and I met (Rick) Renteria and Frazier, that’s the feeling. Today, the first practice, everybody was happy and was laughing and making jokes. That’s the kind of atmosphere that we need here. We need to feel the chemistry and be like a family. That’s something we need to build from here.”

Though the first work out lasted into the early afternoon, Ventura said he thought it was necessary to cover everything. Even with a clubhouse full of professionals, it’s clear Ventura wanted to bring a business-like tone to the first day of camp.

“It was a long one, but it's just stuff you need to go over,” Ventura said. “In talking to them before we went out, getting everything done, sometimes these days take a little bit longer.

“We got everything in today that we needed to get in. I think that's the main part. Everybody's fine with it. We're getting through what we need to get through.”

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— Outfielders Avisail Garcia and Adam Engel arrived at camp on Tuesday, meaning everyone arrived on time. Asked if he thinks the White Sox still have confidence in him, Garcia said: “Yeah, for sure. They believe in me, and I believe in me too. I’ve been working really hard. I know I have a lot of talent, and I just have to keep working and believe what I’m doing and trust myself.”

— Ventura was asked if the addition of so many new personalities was a gamble. “I think if you’re just getting a personality. But I believe we got personalities that can play. So that's not really a gamble.”

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia is back from his lengthy DL stay just in time to prove he's a part of White Sox long-term future

For the first time in two months, Avisail Garcia is back in the White Sox lineup.

Garcia’s return from his lengthy stay on the disabled list was a refreshing sight for a team that came into the season believing he’d be one of its biggest bats. After all, Garcia was excellent in 2017, an All-Star campaign for him that saw him with some of the best hitting statistics in the American League.

But even with those good numbers, there were plenty of questions about where Garcia stood in the rebuilding White Sox long-term future. After a long wait for that breakout season, was it going to be the new normal or a one-hit wonder? He’s got just two more seasons of team control left, and there are a ton of outfield prospects developing behind him in the minor leagues.

His admittedly slow start this year didn’t help clarify anything: He returned to action with a .233/.250/.315 slash line, a far cry from the .330/.380/.506 line he finished with last season.

So now he’s back, and the “prove it” season resumes. He’s got time left to show the White Sox he can fend off challenges from the likes of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Micker Adolfo and all the rest. Getting back on the field is the first step in doing that.

“Be healthy and play hard like I’ve been playing all my career,” Garcia said Friday. “Just trying stay healthy, do my routine and do my best to help my team win.

“My knee is good. My hamstring is good. I have no pain in my body right now. I feel great, great and focused and trying to compete every single day.”

The injury — injuries, it turns out — certainly didn’t help. After the hamstring strain he suffered turned out to be a tad more significant than originally believed, he suffered a separate knee injury during his recovery that kept him on the shelf a while longer.

But Garcia showed that maybe his bat is ready to come back to life during his rehab at Triple-A Charlotte. He slashed an eye-popping .360/.429/.840 with three home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in just seven games.

No one’s expecting that kind of production now that he’s back at the major league level. But plenty of fans and observers are expecting a lot who is still young enough to warrant consideration for a spot on the White Sox next contending team. He’s got the advantage of already playing at the big league level to show off for all the decision makers.

But there’s no doubt that it’s a stacked group behind him. Jimenez, the third-ranked prospect in baseball, was just promoted to Triple-A. A trio of high-performing outfielders — Basabe, Alex Call and Joel Booker — just got bumped up to Double-A. And perhaps the most exciting group of all — Robert, Rutherford, Adolfo and Luis Gonzalez — are all playing together at Class A Winston-Salem.

That’s an awful lot of young, inexpensive depth to contend with in the discussion for how the White Sox should align their outfield of the future. But Garcia can still stay in that discussion by doing one thing: hitting. His quest to turn his season around starts now.