White Sox

Valbuena feels like a rookie all over again with Cubs


Valbuena feels like a rookie all over again with Cubs

By Jose M. Romero

PHOENIX Luis Valbuena knows he has been given another opportunity to be in the major leagues, and hes grateful for it.

Valbuena, the Cubs everyday third baseman for nine days now after he was in the starting lineup Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, is determined to make the most of his chance.

Its another chance that has come my way and I cant pass it up, Valbuena said in Spanish.

Valbuena, once a top Seattle Mariners prospect who was paired with Asdrubal Cabrera as the next generation of Cleveland Indians middle infielders only three seasons ago, fell out of favor and ended up in the minors for most of 2011. He was then purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays, but didnt make their 2012 Opening Day roster.

The Cubs acquired Valbuena by claiming him off waivers April 4, but Valbuena was sent down to Iowa a few days into the season. He hit .303 with 26 extra-base hits, 38 runs scored and had 31 RBI over 58 games, and got the call-up when Ian Stewart was placed on the disabled list with left wrist soreness.

While his .231 batting average with the Cubs going into Saturdays game might not show it, Valbuena has made an impression on his manager, Dale Sveum.

Hes been pretty impressive. Gives a great at-bat every time. Played a great third base, Sveum said. Hes a major-league player, theres no question about it. The bat speed he has. The at-bats he gives you. The at-bats hes had against left-handed pitching.

Consistency is the key to success in the majors, Valbuena said.

If you can stay consistent, you can have a long career, he said. When bad things happen, you have to be strong enough in your mind to overcome them.

For Valbuena, the business of baseball means hes happy to have a job. Hes only 26 and has already played in all or parts of five major-league seasons.

Im glad a team wants me and likes my game, and Im just up here with another team trying to do well and show them (the Cubs) that they can count on me, Valbuena said.

Valbuena hopes he can be a Cub for a while, and although hes a veteran, being around players with more experience like Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol makes him feel brand new.

I feel like a rookie, Valbuena said. I learn from those guys because theyve been here a while.

Valbuena is versatile enough to play second base and shortstop, and his left-handed bat with a little pop gives Sveums lineup a different look.

I think we stole something there, Sveum said. Thats a pretty huge pickup for us, to get a left-handed guy that can drive the ball out of the ballpark and catch the ball at multiple positions. That was a heck of a pickup.

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked


White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

Top White Sox MiLB moments of 2018: Omar Vizquel's award-winning managerial debut

With the White Sox season over, we're looking back on the top 10 moments of the club's minor league season. We'll unveil one per day for 10 days, showcasing each moment in chronological order.

The moment: Omar Vizquel is named the Carolina League Manager of the Year, Sept. 13.

Vizquel became the third Winston-Salem Dash manager to be named Manager of the Year. The Dash went 84-54, the second-highest win total in franchise history and won the division title in both the first and second half.

Vizquel's season: As soon as Vizquel retired after the 2012 season, he went straight into coaching. First, he was an infield coach for the Angels in 2013. Then, he became the first base coach for the Tigers.

Vizquel remained there until taking the Dash job in the White Sox organization this season. Winston-Salem was an important post because seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 30 prospects from MLB Pipeline's rankings spent some time there in 2018.

Vizquel was able to guide that talent to a whole bunch of winning. The Dash had the best record in the Carolina League in the regular season.

The playoffs did not go so well. The Dash got swept by the eventual league champion Buies Creek Astros in the first round.

Still, it was a successful managerial debut for Vizquel and the White Sox got to take advantage of his experience with a number of top prospects playing under him.

He may not manage the White Sox any time soon, but Vizquel's ties to the organization (two years playing with the team and now coaching in the organization) make him a possible candidate at some point in his managerial career.