White Sox

Williams on criticism: 'Bring it on'

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Williams on criticism: 'Bring it on'

When Kenny Williams was introduced during the opening ceremonies of Sox Fest on Friday, he knew the boos were coming.

How big and how loud? He wasnt sure. But considering his past history with an unhappy White Sox public, he was actually looking forward to them.

I was booed in 2004 and 2007 and we went to the playoffs the next year, so bring it on. Hopefully well be three for three, Williams said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. The guys on stage were trying to determine a percentage, and the consensus was 10 percent. I thought it was more like 20.

The anger and venom that has been slung in Williams direction this off-season is a complete 180 from the reaction he received last year at Sox Fest after he signed Adam Dunn and brought back Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski.

A week before this date a year ago, I walked into Chicago Cut Restaurant, and I got a standing ovation from the entire dining room. People were happy. Were back on the map, were going to challenge for a championship, Williams said. I came here to Sox Fest and there were praises all around.

After seeing him get treated like a king for two straight days, Williams new girlfriend asked him if this happened all the time.

I said, You havent been through this. Let me explain to you how this is going to work. If these guys dont play well, if this team doesnt play well, those same people that were standing and cheering will want me on the next plane out of town. Probably not even a plane a bus. They probably wouldnt want me to be that comfortable.

After his All-in White Sox proceeded to go 79-83, many fans would have ordered a Greyhound to pick up Williams outside U-S Cellular Field, and bought him a one-way ticket.

Since the end of the season, Williams has been bombarded with criticism for not resigning Mark Buehrle, for trading Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin for prospects, while hoping that Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Gordon Beckham and Dunn have bounce back seasons.

Then theres the fallout of the Kenny-Ozzie feud, which is a chapter all its own. Its a story that seems to have no end.

Is the Kenny criticism justified? Yes. But has some of the abuse been unfair? Williams singled out two members of the media.

There are two people in particular who seemingly -- thats all they know how to write about, and evidently dont have the ability or the inclination to want to write about anything other than the dead subjects theyve already covered, Williams said. Thats their problem, not my problem. Where it becomes my problem is if people buy into it, and then dont show up as a result.

Sagging attendance has become a major problem for the White Sox, who have seen their attendance drop every season since 2006, when they averaged 36,511 a game. In 2011, that number was down to 24,705; their lowest since 2004.

Many of the fans who came out last year booed Adam Dunn, who had one of the worst hitting seasons of all-time. Does Williams expect him to have a comeback season?

Absolutely," Williams said. "This is a proud man and a very successful man. He didnt just happen upon the deal that we gave him. He earned it.

And Williams says he takes part of the blame for Dunns struggles at the plate.

In hindsight, if I can think of one thing we could have done differently, I would have given him more time after his appendix surgery at the beginning of the season, because he had a whole month, or six weeks almost of getting ready for the season. After week one, he goes down and now we bring him up into cold weather. Nobody is making any excuses. Hes not making excuses, but if I had to do something in hindsight, I would have left him out another week as opposed to throwing him right into the fire.

Now the White Sox have to deal with the heat of Prince Fielder, signed by the rival Tigers this week to a nine-year, 214 million contract.

What was Williams reaction when he got the news?

I cant tell you what my reaction was. Not without you bleeping it out. It is what it is. It must be nice. You have a guy go down, Victor Martinez, and to be able to say, Whos out there? Lets go get Prince.'"

It was starting to sound like Williams might be a bit envious of the Tigers, picked by many to run away with the AL-Central. However, the White Sox general manager says he looks at it a different way.

The Tigers are clearly the team to beat in our division. Weve been clearly the team to beat in our division a number of times, too. It didnt exactly work out well for us. Lets hope it doesnt work out well for them.

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.