White Sox

Contending Cubs and rebuilding White Sox have Hawk Harrelson seeing a wonderful next decade of Chicago baseball

Contending Cubs and rebuilding White Sox have Hawk Harrelson seeing a wonderful next decade of Chicago baseball

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Anyone else jazzed for a potential Red Line World Series?

On the North Side of town, the Cubs’ championship window is wide open and figures to be for some time. On the South Side, a lengthy list of highly ranked prospects has White Sox fans dreaming of a lengthy stay among baseball’s top teams.

One notable Chicago baseball figure who thinks the Windy City’s on the cusp of a golden age of baseball on both sides of town? Hawk Harrelson.

Despite his repeated pledges to never again set foot inside Wrigley Field, the longtime White Sox announcer — who’s embarking on his final season in the broadcast booth — had some high praise for the Cubs. And of course he’s as excited about the White Sox rebuilding efforts as anyone.

“Last month we were at an induction into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame. (Cubs chairman) Tom Ricketts was there. I congratulated him on winning a world championship. I also told him in two years from now our club is going to have a lot of fun playing his,” Harrelson said Monday at baseball’s Winter Meetings. “Because they’re not going anywhere, they’re good. That makes it good for us because it makes us have to get better. And when you have to get better you work a little harder, subconsciously or consciously. That’s the way sports is. Inner drive, and getting that adrenaline flowing.

“Chicago fans are going to have a wonderful next decade in baseball.”

The famously tangent-prone Harrelson touched on a wide array of topics in a crowded lobby at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, including baseball’s future and how one recent restructuring proposal could have the Cubs and White Sox playing in the same division.

“We’re going to see a reorganization in baseball, and it’s actually going to be, in my opinion, for decades and decades, a tremendous boon,” he said. “But the end result will take something away from it, where we’re going to be playing the Cubs 18 times a year. … That’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen for a long time yet, but it will happen.”

He also had glowing words for managers on both sides of town, channeling his “Ricky’s boys don’t quit!” mantra from 2017 by talking about how hard both the White Sox and Cubs players play for their respective managers.

“The mark of a good manager is not wins and losses. A mark of the good manager is these,” Harrelson said, pointing to his eyes. “How hard do they play for him? And we’ve got two terrific managers in Chicago in Rick Renteria and Joe Maddon. You saw how hard our guys played this year. We only won, what, 67 games this year? You see how Maddon’s guys play for him. They never quit. Our guys don’t quit. Now we’re outgunned, outmanned. But playing hard?”

It should come as no surprise that Harrelson is one of the biggest advocates and supporters of the White Sox rebuilding effort, and he added Monday that he’s never seen a rebuild get off to as fast a start as Rick Hahn has with the White Sox. But Harrelson has also lauded Renteria as the right manager for the job on the South Side.

As part of an analysis on the ever-growing number of players from Spanish-speaking countries in the game, he cited Renteria as the model for the future of managing.

“You’re going to see more and more Latin managers come into this game because nothing is going to be lost in translation,” he said. “I am so happy that we have Rick Renteria at the helm. I saw a thing last year, I could kick myself for not taking a photo of it. In Minnesota, there was (Avisail Garcia), (Jose) Abreu, (Leury) Garcia and Rick Renteria sitting around the table in the food room. They were laughing their behinds off. They were having such a good time talking about baseball and having good times, and you just don’t see those three guys in that mode. And Rick had them in stitches, speaking Spanish, of course. And then when he had his meetings in spring training, half of it was in English and half was in Spanish. So that is a trend.”

For a team so focused on the future, the man who’s seen it all — a man who hopes to be in baseball for parts of eight decades — sees not just a future contender but the future of the game in what is brewing on the South Side.

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

Manager Rick Renteria said after Wednesday's win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles that he couldn't comment on the reports. Castillo played in Wednesday's game, during which the news broke.

"For me, those at this particular moment are rumors," Renteria said. "MLB is the one that is in charge of that type of stuff. Until they release anything officially I can’t really comment on that."

The veteran catcher, slashing .267/.309/.466 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games this season, was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in both the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news now and in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition change for those two pitchers?

Omar Narvaez would be the logical choice to take over as the No. 1 catcher. As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: