White Sox

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

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USA Today

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

Early in the 2005 season, there was one White Sox player that fans thought was on thin ice and another who actually was on thin ice.

Despite playing great defense at third base, Joe Crede hadn’t exactly won over the fan base yet. He hit just .239 in 2004 with a .717 OPS in his second full major league season. He was already 27 and the White Sox had used their first round draft pick in 2004 to select hot shot third baseman Josh Fields, who was already considered an MLB Top 100 prospect.

So when Crede got off to a 3-for-21 start in the team’s first six games in ’05, there were already calls for his benching.

It wasn't going to happen. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were prepared to be patient with Crede. They seemed more concerned with closer Shingo Takatsu.

Takatsu had taken the South Side by storm in 2004, entering games in the ninth inning to standing ovations and the sound of a gong playing over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field. After taking over the closing duties in June, Takatsu converted 19-of-20 save opportunities in his first year with the White Sox.

Still, there were concerns that his unique frisbee style of pitching wouldn't last once teams saw Takatsu more than once. Those concerns were heightened when the Indians tagged him for three solo home runs on April 7, 2005, leading to the White Sox’s first loss of the season. Takatsu’s only blown save in 2004 also came to the Indians and Guillen was already voicing his concerns.

“I might not use him against (the Indians),” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a good left-handed lineup. Right now, he’s going to be there no matter what. We’re going to see the next couple days.”

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially considering the White Sox had already played three straight close games against the Indians, including two one-run victories.

But that was the situation as the White Sox went to Cleveland with a 4-2 record for the Indians’ home opener. Freddy Garcia took the mound for his second start of the season, while Kevin Millwood countered for the 3-3 Indians.

Here was Guillen’s lineup:

LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadahito Iguchi
DH Carl Everett
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Pablo Ozuna
C Chris Widger
3B Joe Crede

The White Sox-Indians game from Apr. 11, 2005 will air Saturday at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. For the full White Sox Rewind schedule from the 2005 season, click here.

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

Say “Game 3” to any White Sox fan and there’s one name that will immediately come to mind.

Geoff Blum.

Blum was born April 26, 1973 in Redwood City, Calif. He was a star shortstop for Chino High School in Chino, Calif and attended UC Berkeley, where he was All-Pac 10 in 1994. The Montreal Expos selected him in the seventh round of the 1994 MLB Draft. After the 1995 minor league season at high-A West Palm Beach, he spent his winter playing for the Hunter Eagles of the Australian League. In 1996, Blum played at Harrisburg (AA) of the Eastern League, then moved up to Triple-A Ottawa for 1997.

He had his best minor league season in 1998 when he hit .277 with six home runs across four levels, though he missed some time with an elbow injury. Blum started 1999 in Ottawa and finally, on Aug. 9, made his MLB debut for Les Expos de Montréal, going 2-for-4 with a run, double and two RBIs in an 8-0 win over the Padres at Stade Olympique.

Blum is the only player in Expos history (1969-2004) to collect multiple hits AND multiple RBIs in a major league debut. On Aug. 13 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Coors Field, Blum hit his first big league home run off Mike DeJean. As it turns out, all eight of his home runs in 1999 came on the road, including one off Randy Johnson on Aug. 31 in Arizona.

2000 was Blum’s first full MLB season and he hit a respectable .283/.335/.449 with 11 home runs. He played all four infield positions, something he’d end up doing every year from 2000-08. Add in Blum’s ability to switch hit and that’s a pretty valuable guy to have on a team. Blum’s teammates with the 1999-2000 Expos included future 2005 White Sox teammates Dustin Hermanson and Chris Widger.

In 2001, Blum took a step back, hitting .236/.313/.351, though on July 5, he became the fifth player in Expos history to homer from both sides of the plate in a game. The Expos dealt him to the Astros in March 2002 for third baseman Chris Truby.

Blum responded with his finest season, hitting .283/.367/.440 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. He logged his lone career five-hit game on April 19, 2003, a 14-inning loss in Milwaukee. It seems as if there was something about 14-inning games that brought out the best in Blum, as would be illustrated again later. Another 2003 highlight was Blum’s career-long 16-game hitting streak from June 25 to July 17.

In 2004, Blum repeated his 10 home runs and 52 RBI from the previous season. After his rate stats took a dip and at the end of the season, the Astros dealt him to Tampa Bay for pitcher Brandon Backe.

Blum had a down year for Lou Piniella’s 70-91 Rays, posting a career-low .215 batting average with 8 home runs in 112 games. Two of those home runs were on May 4 –– one from each side of the plate –– and Blum became the first player in Rays history to pull that off. He signed with the Padres for 2005, playing all over the infield with a respectable .241/.321/.375 slash line in 78 games. San Diego dealt him at the trade deadline.

At the time, the White Sox were reportedly interested in A.J. Burnett of the Marlins, Jason Schmidt of the Giants and Billy Wagner of the Phillies. Instead, they brought in insurance for Joe Crede and his ailing back, acquiring  Blum for pitcher Ryan Meaux. To make room for Blum on the roster, as well as pitcher Jon Adkins (who was recalled from the minors at the time) both Ross Gload and Willie Harris were optioned to Charlotte.

Blum ended up playing 31 games down the stretch, hitting .200 with a home run – Aug. 29 at Texas. But the move paid dividends. Blum popped out in a pinch hit appearance for Paul Konerko in Game 1 of the ALDS and wouldn’t appear in another game until Game 3 of the World Series. He entered in the 13th inning when he came out to play second base, replacing Bobby Jenks in the fifth spot of the batting order.

After a Jermaine Dye single and a Paul Konerko double play, it seemed as if Astros reliever Ezequiel Astacio was going to escape the top of the 14th inning with the score tied at five. Not so fast.

Blum poked a 2-0 pitch down the right field line and into the stands to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead. The Sox tacked on another run to make it 7-5, which held, and then won Game 4 to sweep the series.

Blum is one of four players in MLB history to homer in their lone career World Series at-bat, along with Jim Mason in 1976, Bobby Kielty in 2007 and Michael A. Taylor in 2019. Blum is also one of only two players in World Series history to hit a go-ahead/game winning home run in his only World Series at-bat, joining Kirk Gibson in 1988.

It was Blum’s last appearance in a White Sox uniform. He signed a one-year deal with the Padres in 2006 and performed admirably, hitting 12-for-31 (.387) as a pinch hitter and starting at shortstop in the NLDS against the Cardinals. He signed for another year in 2007 before spending 2008-10 with the Astros.

Blum hit a career-high 14 home runs in 2008, and in 2009 he recorded three walk-off hits – the only three of his career - including consecutive games against the Cubs on June 10-11. In 2010, Blum suffered one of the more unusual injuries in baseball history when he hurt his elbow while putting on a shirt.

Blum appeared in 40 games for the Diamondbacks over 2011-12 and called it a career. He debuted as Astros TV color commentator in 2013 and has been in that role ever since.

On March 3, Chino High School retired Blum’s No. 11. He is the first athlete in the school’s 123-year history to have a number retired. He also wore No. 11 for the Expos as well as with the Rays. He wore that number in honor of former All-Star third baseman Doug DeCinces.

Blum’s MLB career included 1,389 games, a .250 batting average, 990 hits and 99 home runs, with five career multi-HR games. Oh yeah, and one huge World Series home run.

Geoff Blum. We remember that guy!

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