Cubs

On The Farm: Rienzo Remains Hot At Kannapolis

On The Farm: Rienzo Remains Hot At Kannapolis

Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010
9:15 PM

By Kevin Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

WHITE SOX Kannapolis A
Andre Rienzos hot summer run through the South Atlantic League continued Tuesday night as Kannapolis upended Hickory, 8-2, at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium.

Rienzo 6-4 earned his third consecutive victory and improved to 6-0 in his last eight starts after allowing two runs in six innings. He fanned seven. Rienzos ERA over his eight-start streak is 2.16. Hes also fanned 61 over that 50-inning stretch.

Ryan Kussmaul one inning and Taylor Thompson two innings combined to allow one hit and strikeout four to preserve the victory.

Ian Gac had a pair of hits, including a homer, and two RBIs while Brady Shoemaker added two hits and two RBIs.

In other action, Bristol was rained out at Kingsport. Winston Salem and Salem were suspended at BB&T Ballpark with no score in the top of the third. The game will be resumed Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a seven-inning game to follow. The Dash also lost catcher Josh Phegley, who was promoted to Double-A Birmingham despite playing only 25 games in the Carolina League. Phegley spent two lengthy stints on the disabled list because of a blood disorder. Catcher Jason Bour was sent from Birmingham to Winston-Salem. The White Sox also signed RHP Jeff Sues, who was released earlier this month by Pittsburgh. He was on the minor league suspension list for unspecified reasons. Charlotte dropped a 6-2 decision to Durham at Knights Stadium. Jeff Marquez allowed four runs on 10 hits over six innings. Dayan Viciedo had three hits. ... Great Falls was a 10-6 loser at Orem. The Owls capped a five-run ninth-inning rally with a Brandon Decker grand slam off Jacob Wilson. Andy Wilkins was 2-for-5.

CUBSIowa AAA
The I-Cubs stumbled in Sacramento, dropping a 5-4 decision at Raley Field. Jay Jackson took the loss, his second consecutive, allowing four runs on seven hits in 5 23 innings. Marquez Smith had a pair of hits, including a homer, and two RBIs.

In other action, Daytona and Tampa were canceled due to rain. The AZL Cubs and Dodgers were also postponed. Boise managed only five hits and dropped a 7-1 decision to Everett. Micah Gibbs had a pair of hits and has five hits in his last nine at-bats.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Fergie Jenkins adjusts to new normal during what was his signature week of season

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USA TODAY

Fergie Jenkins adjusts to new normal during what was his signature week of season

Fergie Jenkins just got back from Lowe’s.

“They want people to stay inside,” he said. “I went out to get some fuel for my weed whacker.

“There’s still a lot of people shopping.”

The legendary Cubs pitcher spoke by phone from home in Frisco, Texas, late last week, the day after Texas’ stay-at-home order went into effect.

Jenkins, 77, is well aware he’s in the high-risk age range for COVID-19 reaction. So he’s being careful, mostly staying inside, using a lot of hand sanitizer, he said, and taking precautions the few times he goes out.

He picked a hell of a time to move from Scottsdale, Ariz., to his new place just north of Dallas — arriving barely a week ago just as the state of Texas braces for what authorities expect to be a steep rise in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.

It’s why he needs a few more trips to the hardware store than usual as he tries to settle in, for a lamp, a small appliance or a screwdriver. And why he usually needs to stop at the local Kroger’s grocery while he’s out or to handle another delivery of furniture when he gets back.

“I wash my hands about every 30 minutes,” he said, “with Dial soap and dry off with a paper towel. And I have Lysol spray. When I make a sandwich, I spray down the kitchen counters, and I spray the doorknobs, everything.”

If there’s a small silver lining in the moment for Jenkins, who expected to be spending last week in Chicago for the Cubs’ home opener, it might be that his focus on the move and on staying safe has distracted him from the closed ballparks during a time on the baseball calendar that was once his signature week throughout a 19-year Hall of Fame career.

Only nine pitchers in history have made more Opening Day starts than his 11 — including a franchise-record seven for the Cubs.

RELATED: Ranking Cubs' legend Fergie Jenkins' 11 career Opening Day starts

His last Opening Day start was 37 years ago today in his final season; his best, 49 years ago today when he pitched 10 innings to beat Bob Gibson 2-1 at Wrigley Field on a walk-off home run by Billy Williams.

“That was the fun part of it,” said Jenkins, whose Hall of Fame opponents in openers also included Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning, Dennis Eckersley and Bert Blyleven. “Just to tell yourself after all the hard work you did in spring training that if I’m not ready to compete today, I’m going to lose.”

He almost always was ready — his 2.58 career ERA on Opening Day compared to 3.35 the rest of the year attesting to that much.

The one he remembers most fondly is the first, in 1967, against the Phillies — his original team — at Wrigley Field with his parents in attendance.

“My mother had glaucoma and had never seen me pitch. She listened to games on a transistor radio. My dad had watched me pitch other ballgames in relief,” he said. “And just the fact that Leo [Durocher] gave me that opportunity in 1967…”

He pitched a complete game and beat Bunning 4-2.

A half century later, he finds himself opening boxes instead of seasons and wondering like the rest of us when the world — including sports — will find a semblance of normalcy again.

Jenkins, an ambassador with the Cubs, was in camp during spring training until Major League Baseball shut things down in mid-March and delayed the start of the season.

A year after losing his wife following a long series of health issues, he bought his new place in Texas at the end of last year, but he didn’t make the long drive from Scottsdale for the move until a couple of weeks ago.

“It’s been an experience. A little different,” he said. “I’m just doing things one day at a time.”

That means making use of his Weber grill, considering making use of his new bike in the new neighborhood and continuing his Cameo side gig on Twitter — which he used to help raise money for suddenly displaced game day workers at Sloan Park in Mesa after the shutdown last month.

“The world’s going through a crisis, and sports is the last thing on people’s minds right now,” Jenkins said. “When we had 9/11, especially in New York, they thought by playing baseball it would help give people something to think about besides what had just happened on 9/11.

“This is totally different.”

Ongoing. Uncertain. Spreading.

“It’s scaring people,” he said. 

“Sure, I miss the sport. I especially miss seeing hockey and basketball,” added the Canada native and one-time Harlem Globetrotter.

“Now it’s all changed. Now you turn the news on and see how many [new cases and media briefings] we’re having. And the president trying to do this and that. The world’s changed, and not for the good. Even beyond this [crisis].”

Jenkins said he’s confident baseball will be played this season, whether a 100-game season or 80, mostly based on a faith in medical science to provide at least more definition, if not reliable treatment for the virus.

A return in June? July? “Who knows?” he said.

What he might know as well as anyone, however, is the collective attention span and endurance level of a group of ballplayers during a lengthy shutdown.

As Cubs and other big-league players use Twitter and Instagram to show how they’re individually working out during shelter-in-place practices, Jenkins recalls how he and Texas Ranger teammates handled the longest single-season shutdown in major league history.

The Rangers were 33-22 and 1 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West when players began a two-month strike in June of 1981.

“Maybe 15 guys stayed around,” Jenkins said, rattling off the names of teammates such as Jim Kern, Doc Medich, Buddy Bell and Jim Sundberg.

They procured about six dozen balls from the team, Jenkins said, and then went to local parks to throw, run, take infield and take batting practice.

“Just a regular park,” he said. “Everybody would phone each other every day: ‘You coming to the park?’ … ’You coming to the park?’ “

After a day of workouts, they would head somewhere for an early dinner and talk about the latest strike news, he said.

“After about 40 days guys got sick and tired. It got to the point where guys were getting bored,” he said. “Then only a half-dozen guys were showing up. It just petered out.”

It would be another three weeks at that point before the 1981 season restarted.

If that experience is indicative of anything, it might simply underscore the need for at least three or four weeks of a second “spring training” once a start date is determined — if not suggest a reminder for how much of a gift any baseball at all this year might be.

As Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said the week after the shutdown: "If there’s not [a season], then obviously our world’s not in a good spot. This is bigger than baseball.”

Until then, Jenkins has a grill and a weed whacker to fire up. And Lysol to spray.

“I’m going to stay busy,” he said, mentioning some bass fishing he’d like to do once the stay-at-home order is lifted.

So he'll do his best to stay safe and well, he said.

“People are taking it to heart now, what’s going on. A lot of people are losing their lives. And now it’s the younger people,” he said. “It teaches you a lesson. They tell you what to do: Just do it.”

After all, this is a guy with a lot more Opening Days in mind — including this one.

“If they get everything settled, I’ll be back,” he said of joining the crew of Cubs Hall of Famers who were scheduled for the opening festivities, including Williams, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith.

“Hopefully, we’re all there,” Jenkins said, then laughed a little. “If we’re all still kicking.”

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Donn Pall

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Donn Pall

Donn Pall was in the Comiskey Park stands for Disco Demolition. Less than ten years later, the life-long White Sox fan was on the mound, pitching at Comiskey. 

Against all odds, “The Pope” lived his dream. Remember that guy?

Donn Steven Pall was born Jan. 11, 1962 in Chicago. He pitched at Evergreen Park High School, roughly 20 minutes south of Comiskey. He didn’t make the all-conference team in high school, and he was cut as a freshman walk-on at the University of Illinois (he enrolled as a math and computer science major), but didn’t give up. He made the team as a sophomore and went 5-12 over his next two seasons at U of I.

As a senior, Pall figured things out and started to draw some attention, going 13-1 (he started 13-0). He was drafted in the 23rd round of the 1985 MLB draft, by his hometown White Sox, no less. It was a dream come true.

Pall started his professional career in 1985 as a starter in rookie ball. After going 8-11 with a 4.27 ERA for Birmingham in 1987, he thrived in winter ball in Venezuela and settled into a new role as a reliever. In 1988, he used his signature pitches — a forkball and splitter — to go along with his mid-80s fastball and his slider, and blossomed into a fine reliever at Triple-A Vancouver, posting a 2.23 ERA before getting his shot in the White Sox bullpen in August.

Pall made his MLB debut on Aug. 1, 1988 at Comiskey in the ninth inning of an eventual 10-2 defeat vs. the A's. He pitched one inning, allowing one run on two hits, with a double play and one strikeout (Tony Phillips). Coming home to pitch for the team he grew up rooting for, he quickly became a fan favorite, signing an abundance of autographs for fans and earning a nickname from broadcasters Hawk Harrelson and Tom Paciorek. He was “The Pope, Donn Pall” after Pope John Paul II. In his first taste of MLB action, Pall posted a 3.45 ERA in 17 games.

Pall became a fixture in the White Sox bullpen, pitching 50+ times in each of the next three seasons, posting ERAs of 3.31, 3.32 and 2.41. In 1989, he earned a save in each of his first two games of the season, including Opening Day — the first two saves of his MLB career. Pall’s first big league win came on April 27, 1989, when he pitched the final four frames (scoreless) of a marathon 16-inning battle in Boston. He showed he could handle either long relief or setup duties and found success even without high octane gas or big strikeout totals.

“The Pope” rebounded from a shaky 1992 (4.93 ERA) to post a 3.22 ERA in 39 appearances for the Sox in 1993, but he was designated for assignment at the end of August to make room for Iván Calderón. On Sept. 1, the Sox traded him to the Phillies for a player to be named later, who turned out to be catcher Doug Lindsey (who had a grand total of one at-bat over two games in his Sox career). While Donn was saddened to leave his hometown team, he would end up on the NL East-leading Phillies. He pitched well (2.55 ERA in eight outings) but was left off the postseason roster.

Pall signed with the Yankees for 1994 and wasn’t bad, posting a 3.60 ERA in 26 appearances, but he was released at the end of July. The next month, he did the unthinkable; he signed with the Cubs, who needed a replacement on the roster for Jose Bautista, who had an ailing elbow. Pall pitched twice for the Cubs before the strike put an end to the 1994 season.

Pall tried to reunite with the White Sox in 1995, but didn’t make the team. He spent the entire season in Triple-A Nashville and then signed with the Marlins for 1996, starting out in the minors. On June 23, he made his first big league appearance since August 1994, tossing three scoreless innings. He struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 1996 and made only two major league appearances in 1997 for the world-champion Marlins (though he was given a ring anyway).

In 1998, Pall made the final 23 appearances of his MLB career for the Marlins. He was one of the few pitchers to throw to Mike Piazza during the future Hall of Famer’s five-game stint with Florida. Pall’s final MLB appearance was Sept. 27, 1998, when he allowed one run in three innings against the Phillies. The last batter he faced was Doug Glanville, who doubled in a run but was thrown out at third to end the inning.

After retiring, Pall was a financial consultant and retirement planner. He still makes it out the ballpark for White Sox games.

Like the late Ed Farmer, Pall was a Chicago guy who had the chance to come home and pitch for his hometown White Sox. We can’t help but to root a little harder for guys like that. Pall was cut as a freshman in college, but he’s currently 15th on the White Sox all-time relief appearances list with 255. Overall, he posted a 3.63 ERA in 328 career MLB games over 10 seasons.

“The Pope” Donn Pall. You remember that guy!