White Sox

Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago

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Former 'Bench Mob' member Watson returns to Chicago

The Bench Mob reunion tour continues Saturday night at the United Center with the return of C.J. Watson, now the backup point guard for the visiting Nets.

Its fine, its cool, Watson said prior to the game, after greeting a litany of former teammates, coaches and Bulls employees on the United Center court. A lot of emotions, but youve just got to go out there and play the game.

Watson has made a smooth adjustment to his new team, probably because hes used to his role of backing up an elite point guard in Chicago, it was Derrick Rose and in Brooklyn, its All-Star Deron Williams for a team in a major market.

Its been fun. Im just trying to get used to the system that Coach Nets head coach Avery Johnson and get used to my teammates, he said. I just try to go out there and be aggressive, lead the second unit and also try to go out there and play with Deron some, depending on matchups. So its good and I just try to go out there, and do my best.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau lauded Watsons performance with the Nets thus far after the teams practice Friday.

Hes a winning player, he said. Hes going to play for the team first and those guys could go a long way.

Watson also addressed a mild controversy from the offseason, when he reportedly ranked Williams above Rose in his introductory Nets press conference after signing with Brooklyn as a free agent in the summer.

Actually, I didnt say that, he explained. I said, To me, he was the best point guard. Then, I was asked who was better and he the reporter said, Compare the two, and I said, You cant compare the two.

While Watson remains close with some of his former teammates among them, Nets teammate Keith Bogans, whos one year removed from his stint in Chicago he isnt exactly pining to be back with the Bulls.

Ive watched some of the games. I havent really been keeping up with them that much, he said. I talk to Ronnie and Kurt all the time because theyre in New York, so I see them a lot. I try to keep up with John Lucas III and everybody else.

Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I had returned to Chicago, but you cant think about that because it didnt happen, the Las Vegas native continued. I try to take some of the stuff that I learned from Thibs, the defensive stuff and apply it to our team here because Averys trying to be a defensive coach.

"Just trying to teach some of the stuff that we learned in Chicago, because theyve been the best defensive team the last couple of years, so its always good to take away and learn, and take it somewhere else.

While he acknowledged his defensive improvement with the Bulls, Watson also joked that he didnt miss Thibodeaus famously long practice sessions.

No, he deadpanned. Not at all. I like these 30-minute, 45-minute practices.

Watson has mixed memories of his time with the Bulls, as he fondly remembers his experience with the Bench Mob, but also hasnt forgotten how last season ended, when he was a target for angry fans after passing the ball to Omer Asik, a subpar free-throw shooter in Game 6 of the teams first-round series with the 76ers, a contest that was eliminated the Bulls from the postseason.

It was fun because we all knew our role, we knew what to do and we knew who was going to get the ball, who was going to score and who was going to play defense. We just fit into our roles and everybody played their role to the best of their ability, said Watson, who noted that he never considered returning to Chicago at a lesser salary. The season ended how it ended. I wasnt worried about that. I knew I could do better. It was a critical mistake, maybe. But at the time, I didnt think it was. I just thought I kind of got mistreated, but it is what it is.

Michael Saunders joins Triple-A Charlotte: A potential addition to White Sox banged-up outfield?

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USA TODAY

Michael Saunders joins Triple-A Charlotte: A potential addition to White Sox banged-up outfield?

The White Sox could use some help in the outfield.

Did a reinforcement just join Triple-A Charlotte?

Former Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders signed with the White Sox organization Monday, joining up with Charlotte.

Saunders, 31, has parts of nine major league seasons under his belt. Last year, he split time with the Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, posting a .202/.256/.344 slash line with six homers and 21 RBIs in 73 games.

The year prior he made his as-of-yet only All-Star appearance, slashing .253/.338/.478 with 24 homers in 140 games with the Jays.

The White Sox currently have both Opening Day corner outfielders on the shelf. Avisail Garcia has been on the disabled list for almost a month with a hamstring strain, and the team announced over the weekend that Garcia's injury is bad enough that it will likely keep him out until late June. Nicky Delmonico suffered a broken bone in his hand during the recently completed series with the Texas Rangers and will miss four to six weeks.

The White Sox have been giving playing time to Adam Engel, Leury Garcia, Daniel Palka and Trayce Thompson. But Engel and Thompson are both batting under .200, while Palka has an on-base percentage under .300.

So perhaps, with his major league experience, Saunders might make an appearance on the South Side sometime this summer.

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs

Uncanny!

Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.