White Sox

Hjalmarsson embraces increased role

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Hjalmarsson embraces increased role

When Niklas Hjalmarsson paired with Brent Seabrook, he was dealing with both familiar and uncharted territory.

No, its not the first time he and Seabrook have teamed together. That was the comfortable part. But in Duncan Keiths absence, the Swedish defenseman had to take on some serious minutes per game. It was going to be a tough task, especially since Hjalmarsson had missed so many games lately from a concussion.

But in two games with Seabrook, Hjalmarsson is feeling good about his partner and his minutes.

Hjalmarsson played a season-high 26:04 in the Blackhawks shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. He finished with three shots on goal, two takeaways and a blocked shot, but most important soaked up those big minutes that are a nightly habit for Keith. Hjalmarsson said hes feeling better with each game.

The conditionings getting close to (where it was) before I got injured, said Hjalmarsson, who missed 13 of 14 games through February and March. Its good for me to play more minutes and hopefully be better prepared for the playoffs. We have to get there, but hopefully we do and Ill be in good shape.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson has looked good with Seabrook these past two games.

We like that pair. Hammer can absorb minutes and hes comfortable against top lines as well, he said. The offensive side of his game is safe but at the same time, the defensive side of his game is really safe.

As far as playing with Seabrook, well, that was the easy part. And Hjalmarsson said recently he welcomes the challenge of competing against the oppositions top players.

I love to play with him; hes such a solid player, Hjalmarsson said. When you go out you know hes going to do his job. I just have to be on my toes and do my thing and usually things work out pretty good.

Royals' Brad Keller expected boos from White Sox fans but heard 'crickets'

Royals' Brad Keller expected boos from White Sox fans but heard 'crickets'

White Sox fans aren’t too fond of Royals pitcher Brad Keller, not after he intentionally hit Tim Anderson post-bat flip last season.

In the weeks following the bat flip, the plunking and the benches clearing, Keller caught tons of heat from South Siders on social media. But he was surprised he didn’t get a more negative reaction the next time he came to Guaranteed Rate Field.

Keller drilled Anderson on April 17 and pitched at the corner of 35th and Shields a month later, May 28. He was expecting White Sox fans to let him have it. But apparently he didn’t hear much.

“I get tagged in everything (on social media,” Keller said during an appearance on The Charity Stripe podcast. “I got called every name under the sun after that, cuss words that I didn't even know what they were. They were just ripping me to shreds.

“But what was so funny is when we went back to Chicago, I didn't get booed, I didn't get called anything when I ran out to the mound. Nothing happened. For them being so passionate and loyal on social media, there was nothing at the game. I was expecting full-on (cursing and screaming). I was ready for it.

“In the visitor's bullpen (at Guaranteed Rate Field), there's a bar like underneath us just to the right. There's like a screen. You can't see in it, but they can see you. I was fully expecting, because everyone's drunk down there — it's kind of a sick place to watch a game — I was fully expecting for people to just wear me out. And there was crickets.

“One dude said one thing, and the girl he was with smacked the shit out of him, like I could hear it from the bullpen. It was hilarious. So I was fully expecting everything to come out. Nothing really happened.”

RELATED: Tim Anderson and the Royals stir up baseball's never-ending debate: 'You want him to not do that? Get him out'

Now, while this is almost sure to rev White Sox fans’ engines even more for the next time they’re able to greet Keller on the South Side, it also serves as a nice lesson in treating your fellow human beings with respect, especially online. Keller didn’t get the same treatment at the park he did on social media because the things people say on social media are things they’d rarely say to someone’s face. And that’s as good an indication as any that they shouldn’t be said at all.

Keller, too, could maybe use a reminder, not for what he said but what he did: throwing a projectile at another person because he didn’t like the way he celebrated. It goes all ways.

However, such lessons are unlikely to completely spare Keller the next time he pitches in front of fans at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Under Major League Baseball’s proposed altered schedule for a shortened 2020 season, the White Sox would face the Royals 13 times. That’s fewer games than during a normal season, but it’s a much greater percentage of the schedule. Almost 16 percent of the White Sox games would come against the Royals.

But it’s also expected that those games will be played in empty stadiums. So Keller will likely hear those same “crickets” if he pitches on the South Side this season.

As for 2021? It will probably be a little louder.

 

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Why Royals pitcher Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Why Royals pitcher Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Brad Keller seems to be OK with being a villain in Chicago.

“I was on Chicago's villain list,” the Royals pitcher said during an appearance on The Charity Stripe podcast. “NBC Sports tweeted it. The list was LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Braun and me and one hockey player. I'm like, 'This is a pretty good list to be on.'”


Keller entered the collective Chicago sports consciousness when he intentionally hit Tim Anderson with a pitch last April, sparking a benches-clearing incident, a couple of suspensions and a resurgence in baseball’s ceaseless debate over unwritten rules and the culture war between old-school and new-school mentalities.

For White Sox fans long bereft of the meaningful baseball that typically stokes heated rivalries, Keller plunking one of the faces of the franchise — not only a strong presence in the community but a guy who since his best friend was killed has not stopped talking about how much fun he wants to have on the field — did the trick.

“It was like the first week of April. I'm not going to say a meaningless game because every game in the big leagues means something. But the 12th game of the season doesn't really define if you're going to make the playoffs or not,” Keller recounted. “This game, I was grinding. I was sucking this game. I was throwing really well, numbers-wise, but I think I was behind every single hitter. I was getting lucky, honestly. I was all over the place. I think I had five walks that game, too.

“Comes around the fourth inning, or whatever it is. Runner gets on second base. And I think the at-bat, he battled me for like nine pitches. It was like a long-ass AB, I remember. Basically, in my mind, I'm like, 'I'm not walking him.' Because he's fast, he can steal bases if he gets on. If there's a single, he's probably going to score from first. So I'm like, 'I'm not going to walk this guy.' So I throw a sinker in, and he turns on it, hits a home run.

“And how he acted afterwards, to me and my whole team, was just over the top. It's like, 'Bro, you hit a homer. Congrats.' This wasn't a Game 7 homer. This wasn't a playoff homer. This wasn't even a homer to win the game. Ultimately, we won the game, 3-2, in the long run, but that gets kind of lost in the whole transaction of everything. It just seemed like, at the time, it was an April home run. 'Why are you throwing your bat to the dugout or whatever?' We had beefs in the past, as far as our teams, and that was just like fuel on the fire, basically, is what it seemed like.

RELATED: Tim Anderson and the Royals stir up baseball's never-ending debate: 'You want him to not do that? Get him out'

“I was upset because I was grinding that day and I was already pissed off at myself, and then you pull some shit like that? It was like, 'All right, this is bullshit.' ... I come in, and I'm pissed, I'm hot. And I had other guys on the team like, 'Screw this guy,' basically. Like I said, we (the Royals) had beefs (with Anderson) in the past.

“So anyway, comes down to it. We ended up tying the game up. Comes around the sixth inning, and he had to know it was coming. He was leading off the sixth inning, and he was literally a foot from the dirt when I was on my second warm-up pitch. I've never seen anyone get out to the box that fast in my life.”

Being “over the top” in celebrating an accomplishment doesn’t really seem like the type of thing that warrants having a projectile thrown at you. But that’s what the old-school types think. Keller, it should be noted, is younger than Anderson.

Major League Baseball seems to be supportive of bat flips and celebrations and the like, spending a hefty sum on an advertising campaign trumpeting that style of behavior: “Let the kids play.” After all, baseball’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

But bad blood between division rivals must be thicker than any sea change in how a new generation of players is acting on the field.

Keller’s explanation of the event isn’t about to win him any fans on the South Side of Chicago, and he’ll likely stay on that list of villains, at least as long as Anderson remains a White Sox hero. After winning the big league batting title last season and being at the center of a young team on the rise, that could last a long while.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.