White Sox

Will 'extraordinarily frustrating' stretch finally end for White Sox?

Will 'extraordinarily frustrating' stretch finally end for White Sox?

When will an “extraordinarily frustrating” stretch finally come to an end for the White Sox?

Those were the words general manager Rick Hahn used to describe the last month prior to the White Sox ending a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals in front of 20,014 at U.S. Cellular Field Thursday night. Before Miguel Gonzalez threw the first pitch of the game, the team made a flurry of moves: Right-hander Mat Latos was designated for assignment, right-hander Tyler Danish was called up from Double-A and first baseman Justin Morneau was signed to a one-year, $1 million deal. 

On one hand, the White Sox are still within striking distance in a diluted American League Central currently led by the Cleveland Indians. On the other, though, there’s a sense of urgency to get things turned around for a team that’s absorbed brutal loss after brutal loss since the beginning of May. 

“Certainly after being 23-10 there was probably going to be a little bit of giveback,” Hahn said. “But by no means did we anticipate this dramatic and immediate correction. Extraordinarily frustrating. It’s time for it to end.”

Thursday night’s win was a necessary start for a team that entered the day having lost 20 of its last 26 games. 

Gonzalez cruised through six innings, allowing just a solo home run to Daniel Murphy with no walks and five strikeouts to earn his first win since July 25, 2015. The biggest moment of his evening came in his sixth and final inning when, with runners on second and third and nobody out, shortstop Tyler Saladino made an excellent throw home to nab Nats catcher Jose Lobaton. Jayson Werth hit into a double play one batter later that kept Washington off the board.

“It's what we needed,” manager Robin Ventura said of Gonzalez’s start. “If anything, the way the last few days have gone for us, you need some length and you need a guy to shut them down. I think he did all of that.”

Former South Side farmhand Gio Gonzalez was erratic early on, and the White Sox capitalized. Melky Cabrera’s two-run double was followed by a Brett Lawrie RBI double to net all three of the team’s runs in the first inning. 

After that rough frame, the Nationals left-hander scattered three hits and racked up 10 strikeouts. But thanks to the right-handed Gonzalez and a lockdown setup effort from Zach Duke and Nate Jones — and a save from David Robertson that came with the tying run on first base — it didn’t matter. 

“Big time. Bad,” catcher Dioner Navarro said when asked how badly the White Sox needed Thursday’s win. “We’ve been scuffling. We are in a bad spot right now. But we know what it takes. We know what we gotta do. We just got to continue to do it. Baby steps, so hopefully we keep doing what we’ve been doing, what we did tonight.”

The win brought the White Sox back to .500 after spending a day under water, but this is still a team that’s only won one series over the last month. And after taking two out of three from the New York Mets after Memorial Day, the White Sox were swept out of Detroit and then blown out in back-to-back games by the Nationals. 

While Hahn’s latest moves were another attempt at finding a spark, he’s not worried about the makeup and attitude in the clubhouse. Eventually, though, things have to turn around for good. Whether that process began Thursday night remains to be seen. 

“Coming out of two big wins in New York it felt like we started maybe to turn the tide and play a little bit more like we had over the first 30-plus games,” Hahn said. “So certainly (we) know the preparation's there, the focus is there, the energy and the commitment is there, it's just a matter of we've got to start getting results.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.