Don Cooper

Teammates hoping for best as Danny Farquhar is stable but in critical condition following brain hemorrhage

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AP

Teammates hoping for best as Danny Farquhar is stable but in critical condition following brain hemorrhage

“It’s shocking. It’s sad.”

Don Cooper’s two-sentence assessment of the feeling in the White Sox clubhouse was as apt as any.

White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar remains in critical condition at RUSH University Medical Center after suffering a brain hemorrhage in Friday night’s game against the Houston Astros. Farquhar passed out in the dugout in the sixth inning and was carried out and taken to the hospital. Saturday morning, the team updated his status, saying that tests revealed that a ruptured aneurysm caused the brain bleed and that he’s undergoing continued treatment.

His teammates and coaches offered their thoughts and prayers as they got ready to play another game Saturday night, baseball certainly not the most important thing on their minds.

“It crushes us in this clubhouse,” pitcher James Shields said. “And nothing really matters baseball-wise when something like that happens, you know? When you see one of your brothers go down like that, it’s not very fun to watch, and he’s such a resilient human being and we’re praying for him. We hope everything goes well with that.

“Baseball doesn’t matter when it comes to something like that. All that matters is family and life, and like I said, he’s a brother of ours, he’s a great teammate and you don’t ever want to see one of your brothers go through something like that. We’re praying for him.”

Farquhar, who joined the White Sox in the middle of last season, has a clubhouse reputation as a good guy, a funny guy who has made a positive impression on his teammates.

“He’s awesome. Teammate, clubhouse guy, all-around just a great guy, good family guy. Just a good friend,” pitcher Hector Santiago said. “Just kind of sucks how everything just went down like that, unexpected like that. It’s something you can’t control. I mean he just pitched in a big league game and a couple minutes later he’s lying on the ground, so it’s a very worrisome situation and it sucks, but you just pray for him and hope for him to come back soon and hopefully everything works out great.”

“He’s a great kid. Hard worker,” manager Rick Renteria said. “When you look at him he probably had to battle his whole career to do what he’s doing. Has a very good arm. Hes a nice man with a beautiful wife and kids. And just a nice guy to have around.”

As Renteria alluded, Farquhar’s baseball journey has been an eventful one.

He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2010, traded back to the Blue Jays the following year and made his big league debut in September of 2011. The next summer, he was claimed off waivers by the A’s, then claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees two weeks later, then traded to the Seattle Mariners a month after that. In 2015, he made seven trips between the Mariners and their Triple-A affiliate. The following offseason, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, and he made seven more trips between the bigs and Triple-A in 2016.

Released by the Rays last summer, he was signed by the White Sox and made his first appearance with the South Siders in August. He logged 14.1 innings in a White Sox uniform in 2017 and pitched eight this season, including the 0.2 he threw Friday.

Even with all that moving around between the majors and minors, he’s pitched in parts of seven different big league seasons.

Farquhar’s teammates and coaches said they hope that perseverance will help him in this situation — one that’s far more important than anything that’s happened on the baseball field.

“As of right now it’s not looking great,” Shields said. “He’s definitely stable from what we hear, but he’s got a long way to go and he’s fighting. So, one thing I know is that Farqy, he’s a fighter, man. So again we’re praying for him and his family. Our thoughts are with him and his family.”

“Listen, all of the kids that come into your life, I don’t know if they come into our lives, we come into their lives or our worlds combine. But I believe things kind of happen for a reason,” Cooper said. “You want their pitching and baseball lives to be wonderful. You want them to have the careers they are looking for, and that would certainly hold true outside of baseball. I know this: He’s alive, he’s got a chance and that’s what I’m hanging on to. And prayers are more necessary than talk.”

Channeling Guns N' Roses, Don Cooper insists that when it comes to Carson Fulmer, all we need is just a little patience

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USA TODAY

Channeling Guns N' Roses, Don Cooper insists that when it comes to Carson Fulmer, all we need is just a little patience

Don Cooper doesn’t seem like a Guns N' Roses fan.

But the White Sox pitching coach is taking a page out of the band’s book when it comes to one of his young pitchers: To those already giving up on Carson Fulmer, Cooper says, all we need is just a little patience.

The 24-year-old righty has been the topic of much offseason discussion as the White Sox starting rotation of the future has gotten incredibly crowded. Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning, Dylan Cease. Is there room for Fulmer?

The guy who was the No. 8 pick in the 2015 draft hasn’t had the best of luck with South Side baseball fans watching. He made eight appearances out of the bullpen in 2016 that yielded an 8.49 ERA. Five of his seven 2017 appearances were starts, with the first a shelling in a spot start against the Minnesota Twins. The other four, at the end of the season, were far more promising, with Fulmer allowing only three runs in 17.1 innings.

But this spring didn’t go well, with Fulmer routinely knocked around over the course of his five Cactus League starts to the tune of an 11.81 ERA in 10.2 innings. It had plenty questioning what Fulmer’s future would be. The more declarative among the White Sox fan base wrote him off entirely.

Cooper argues that is rather premature.

“When he first came to the big leagues, we put him in the bullpen out of Triple-A. He had a couple of good outings and a couple of lemons. But everybody was writing Carson Fulmer off. ‘Can he do this, can’t do this, can’t do that.’ All of that negative crap,” Cooper said last week in Kansas City. “Then he had a start against Minnesota and couldn’t get out of the first. ‘Oh, Carson can’t do this and can’t do that. He sucks.’ After one freaking outing. Come on. That’s not even fair to anybody. Then he got off and had some really good starts for us.

“To write a guy off after a couple, you’ve got to have a little patience. I’m not patient for a lot of things in life, but with pitching I find myself more patient because it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. I had guys years and years ago that were not ready to give what everybody wanted them to do right from the get go. Not everybody grabs a brass ring the first time around the merry go round. As a matter of fact, it’s the exception to the rule.”

Fulmer, who gets his first start of 2018 on Wednesday night in Toronto, has a unique opportunity with the rebuilding White Sox this season. He’s one of plenty of players embarking on “prove it” seasons, in which they’ll attempt to stay in the franchise’s long-term picture. But instead of doing it in the minors, Fulmer will be staging his quest for a future rotation spot in front of the guys who will ultimately make that decision.

General manager Rick Hahn said throughout the offseason that the rebuilding White Sox would spend 2018 watching their bevy of young players continue to develop into the planned stars of a perennial contender at both the major and minor league levels. There might not be any player for whom “developmental year at the major league level” fits more than Fulmer.

“It’s possible if we were in a different spot in our success cycle, you don’t get the opportunities that certain guys are having here, and based on this spring, I would certainly understand why people would point to Carson and think maybe that’s not as dependable of a bet as you would want at a different spot in your cycle,” Hahn said last week. “That said, what we’re trying to do here is learn as much as we can about our guys and how they fit going forward, and we do have the opportunity to give Carson a handful of repetitions and see how it unfolds.

“Coop and (manager Rick Renteria) really fought for this kid and wanted to make sure he got this opportunity going forward. Frankly it’s part of what excites you about where we are right now. Obviously you want to feel like you’re in a position to win a championship on Opening Day, but where we’re at right now, being able to see the guys develop in a way that show they can be part of that championship team, helps invigorate you as well.”

After what Fulmer showed in spring training, as Hahn mentioned, his outings likely won’t begin with much optimism among an eager fan base itching to see the successful future on display as quickly as possible. But Fulmer also has plenty of opportunity to work through any struggles and figure things out at the major league level in a season when the White Sox aren’t expected to contend for a championship. It’s one of the silver linings of this phase of the rebuild, and it’s experience that could potentially give Fulmer a leg up on his competition when the next wave of pitching prospects reaches the South Side.

“There’s no fixed tryout for anybody at this point. There’s no magic number of plate appearances or games started or anything where at that point, ‘All right, that’s enough. We’re going to pull the plug,’” Hahn said. “Instead it’s going to be more about what we’re seeing in terms of not only the performance on the field but how it’s trending, whether he’s able to make certain adjustments we’re asking him to in order to potentially unlock more success.

“We’re going to have to be fluid. We’re not necessarily going to allow a guy to be out there and continue to fail repeatedly and potentially harm their own development. But it’s not as if we’re saying, ‘OK, you get three starts. You get 50 plate appearances, and that’s it.’”

Getting first start of his first full major league season, the future starts now for Lucas Giolito

Getting first start of his first full major league season, the future starts now for Lucas Giolito

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lucas Giolito’s time has come.

It came a little while ago, actually, when he made his first big league appearances in 2016 with the Washington Nationals. And it came at the end of last season, too, when he made seven impressive August and September starts for the White Sox.

But because baseball is full of so many different firsts, Giolito’s time has come again, now in the form of his first major league Opening Day and the beginning of his first full season in the majors.

There are many young arms in the White Sox farm system that could one day achieve “ace” status — Michael Kopech throws like 200 miles an hour, Alec Hansen struck out like every player in minor league baseball last season, stuff like that — but Giolito is here right now. He was excellent in those seven starts at the end of 2017, finishing with a 2.38 ERA. He might be the best pitcher currently on the White Sox major league roster, and because of that there were many disappointed social-media users hoping Giolito would’ve started Thursday’s season-opener instead of James Shields.

But Giolito goes second for the White Sox on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. It will be a significant moment for the 23-year-old righty who has gone through quite the transformation since joining the organization in one of those trades the jolted this rebuilding effort to life after the 2016 season.

“He was a different guy when he came up last year,” White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said Thursday. “In spring training (of 2017), looking back on it, he was in search of stuff that wasn’t really attainable. He was looking for more velocity. What I saw was enough stuff.

“If you are pitching and pouring your strikes in — he has four pitches and changes speeds — you have enough stuff. He was tying up himself mentally, searching for some velocity. It wasn’t allowing his other pitches to even come out to play. The mental guy was choking the physical guy and not letting the physical guy have his best attributes come out to play. Now it’s just about pitching.”

Giolito will admit the same thing. And a lot has happened since those days in Arizona. He made 22 good starts at Triple-A Charlotte and racked up 134 strikeouts in 128.2 innings. He threw a no-hitter down there, too. Then he came up and pitched great at the major league level, quite the redemption from the 6.75 ERA he had in his six 2016 outings with the Nats.

This spring, he was again terrific, finishing with a 2.04 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 17.2 innings.

The different pitcher has seemingly arrived.

“Those last few starts in spring, my pitches felt good,” Giolito said Thursday. “A big goal of mine was to improve the curveball, throw it better for a strike, kind of improve the shape of it a little bit. And I feel like I achieved that. Continue to work on that stuff and hopefully carry that into the season.

“A lot more confidence, sense of belonging, feeling at home in the clubhouse. All the guys were developing that family atmosphere, everyone is just having a lot of fun with each other. Definitely different vibes this year for me and feeling much more positive.

“Just working through some things both mentally and physically the past couple years, kind of putting a lot of it together over the course of the end of last season and then working on stuff in the offseason, feeling very confident about my pitches, about where I was at both physically and mentally. And having a strong spring always helps. Just overall, just having a much more positive attitude, feeling very sure of myself, very confident every time I take the ball.”

Spring training is spring training, as the players will tell you, and the stats are pretty much meaningless. But at the same time, good performances in the Cactus League are good signs as guys who need to prove themselves or have good campaigns or build off of last year begin the regular season on the right foot.

“Lucas had a nice spring. He picked up basically where he left off in September,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “His breaking ball showed very well in Arizona, which is not an easy thing to do. You hear that from a lot of pitchers about the difficulty in establishing their breaking ball, and Lucas really didn’t seem to scuffle with that, which makes you optimistic about how it’s going to play once we got out of the valley.

“Still a young kid, still has not made a ton of starts at the big league level. He’s looking more and more like the kind of guy we projected him to be, which is a stalwart in the rotation going forward.”

Guys like Kopech, Hansen, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning developing in the minors, as well as current big leaguers like Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer and Carlos Rodon, make projecting the White Sox rotation of the future a difficult task. That’s a lengthy list of names for only five spots on the starting staff.

Giolito, though, perhaps because of his comparatively early arrival in this rebuilding process or perhaps because of what he showed in a small sample size last September, seems like a guy who can be penciled in as a very important piece when this team reaches its planned stage of contention. He looks like a potential rotation leader, and he admitted it’s a role he’d love to take on.

“I feel like we’re all leaders in our own way. That’s what we’re learning, especially from the veteran guys, is how we can all come together and kind of help lead each other,” Giolito said. “If one guy is not doing so hot, not feeling as confident, then we’re going to have a bunch of leaders there to pick him up and help him out.

“As far as the pitching staff goes, I’d love to step into that leadership role in the next few years. But I’m definitely learning a lot from James Shields along the way. He has been there, he’s done that and he’s got a lot of knowledge, a lot of good info that I’m trying to learn.”

As the White Sox rebuild rolls on, the future is still on the way when it comes to many of the young players in the minor leagues. But in the case of Giolito, the future starts now.