White Sox

Ryan Dempster is going out in style

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Ryan Dempster is going out in style

No, Ryan Dempster said he didnt think about it in those terms, that this could be his final start at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform.

But there was the conspicuous chat that Dempster had with team president Theo Epstein on Wednesday afternoon in the seats off the third-base line, in full view of the media.

And there was Dempster after Fridays 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox, touring a group of people across the outfield grass and toward the ivy. That may not be another dot you have to connect, but its pretty clear where all this is heading.

Im not nave. Im not oblivious to whats going on, Dempster said. Its one of those things where if I focused on that, or worried about that, I wouldnt be doing a very good job as a teammate.

Whatever ends up happening ends up happening. Right now, Im here and love being here and everybody knows that. I love the city of Chicago and playing for the Cubs.

Dempster shut down the Red Sox (31-33) for seven innings and won his third consecutive start. He extended his scoreless-innings streak to 22 and lowered his ERA down to 2.11.

A contender might not want to wait until the July 31 deadline and decide to strike quickly and maximize the return on Dempster, who has no-trade rights and will be a free agent at seasons end.

Dempster is friendly and accessible and has a good sense of humor, but that can mask how competitive he really is, the short fuse behind closed doors when he doesnt pitch well.

Not only is Dempster looking like a frontline starter, he even hit his first triple since May 12, 2002, when he was with the Florida Marlins.

I try to spread my triples out every 10 years, Dempster said. I was just excited to finally get to utilize my wheels. (Tony) Campana and I had a bet for first triple, actually, and I won. Im feeling pretty good about that.

Dempster showed he could do it against an American League East lineup (though without a designated hitter and not in the heat of September or October).

The New York Yankees certainly know Dempster, with Jim Hendry in the front office and Larry Rothschild working as pitching coach. The Los Angeles Dodgers are under new ownership and have old friend Ted Lilly on the disabled list.

Epstein has said that the Cubs are better off long-term for having Dempster in the organization. Pitching staffs need someone to look up to, and clubhouses need veteran presence.

You can see a guy like (Jeff) Samardzija, who has just tons of talent, tons of potential, and still is in awe of what (Dempsters) done over his career, outfielder Reed Johnson said. Thats a great example, the way he carries himself, off the field, as well in the gym (with) the hard work he puts in preparing himself for that start.

When you run into a guy who doesnt do that, and has success, it can be bad for a team. Because they think, Wow, I dont have to do anything either. They see what he brings to the table. Its like, Hey man, I got to do the same things if Im going to stick around that long.

Who knows whats going to happen if they have an opportunity to get something special for Demp. The way hes pitching now, theres going to be tons of teams calling about him.

So far, Epstein said those types of calls have been more preliminary, feeling out what the Cubs are trying to do. In January 2004, Hendry took a chance on Dempster, who was coming off Tommy John surgery and has lasted through the boom-and-bust cycles with this franchise.

Ive been here a long time, Dempster said. Its the best place to play. Its really incredible. I dont know what tomorrow holds, but right now Im just enjoying the fact that we won todays game.

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.