White Sox

The future shines through as White Sox take season series from Astros

The future shines through as White Sox take season series from Astros

This isn't going to go down as the White Sox biggest win over the Houston Astros.

I can think of four that rank a little higher on that list.

But for a team that's limped its way out of the All-Star break rather than continue the upward trajectory that spurred visions of contention as soon as 2020, a wild 13-9 victory over one of the best teams in baseball has its importance.

White Sox fans are itching for the future to arrive. Get Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal on the big league roster. Get Michael Kopech healthy. Get a big-name free agent or two. And get going on the way to the perennial contention that's long been the end goal of this rebuilding project.

There's more patience required, at the very least for the remainder of the 2019 season, but if you wanted to see the future in action, all you had to do was flip on the TV on Wednesday afternoon.

These were the Houston Astros in town, one of the absolute favorites to win this year's World Series, and the White Sox slugged their way to a dramatic win after giving up a three-run lead, James McCann's eighth-inning grand slam breaking a 9-all tie to give the South Sider what just might be their best victory of the season.

"We very easily could have folded and given in to them and the talent they have over there," McCann said. "But we kept fighting and kept pushing and never gave in and that's really good to see."

There's so much talk of learning moments with this work-in-progress group of mostly young players, of things Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez can build on to make themselves the core players the White Sox need when the days of contention come along.

But what about a team-wide learning moment? Something this entire group can experience and use to propel themselves into that contention period? Was today one of those moments?

"What do you think?" Jimenez said.

Point taken.

"It’s really good because that is one of the best teams of the business right now," he said. "We competed at a high level today. That means a lot. That means we can do it."

Jimenez was part of that future on display Tuesday, smashing his 20th home run of his rookie season in the seventh inning. The ball, like others before it, traveled many hundreds of feet to dead center, this particular one clearing the foliage of the batter's eye and landing not too far in front of the concession stand at the base of the Fan Deck.

Even with all that distance, it wasn't one of his five longest dingers of the season. In other words, get ready for much more of those kind of moonshots as the years move on.

"Eloy's a special player," McCann said. "You see the type of power that he has, and there's not many guys in the game that have that type of power."

Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome each played big roles Wednesday, Bummer minimizing the damage despite starting the seventh inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, and Colome keeping the Astros off the scoreboard, if not the bases, after Jose Altuve tied the game at 9 with his own eighth-inning home run.

Neither of those guys were dealt away at the trade deadline, Rick Hahn's front office signaling that they're expected to play big roles at the back end of a potentially contending bullpen in 2020.

Anderson banged out four hits and touched home on McCann's grand slam. Anderson's been red hot at the dish since returning from the injured list at the end of July and owns a .393 batting average in the month of August.

And McCann, too, seems a good bet to be part of that future. The White Sox have him under team control for the 2020 season, and with the offensive breakout he's experienced in this All-Star season and the glowing reviews he constantly receives as a guiding force for the team's pitching staff, his return seems like a no-brainer.

He's not going to hit a game-winning grand slam every time up, but you can include that big moment on the list of positive signs for the future that the White Sox saw against a dominant Astros team.

The two-of-three series win the White Sox grabbed this week combined with the split four-game set from May's trip to Houston makes for a win in the season series, too, no small feat against a team that might end up the world champs. That series had its moments. Giolito didn't pitch in this three-game set, but he tossed a complete-game shutout against the Astros back in May. Dylan Cease did pitch in this series, and though he wasn't thrilled with his performance Tuesday, he still held this lineup to just two earned runs.

All in all, a great showing for the young White Sox against the contending Astros. If the end goal of the South Side rebuild is to be like the team from Houston, then showing these signs of growth against the team from Houston has to be good for something, right?

"You feel good about any season series you take," manager Rick Renteria said. "I'm more elated in the way that, even though we gave up the lead, they ended up tying it with such a good lineup, we didn't quit. They've been doing that all year. It may not go well for us at some point in time but these guys keep fighting, they keep playing. I think you can count on that, they try to pick each other up. They even get upset with each other when we give up leads. They want their guys to have success, they want to be able to get it done.

"But today, that was exciting. That was an exciting game for us, to be able to pull it out, as any this season."

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Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start


Dylan Cease shows off big velocity in first spring training start

Dylan Cease is entering the 2020 season with plenty to prove. Considering how important he is to the future of the White Sox, it is perhaps fitting that he was the first White Sox pitcher to take a mound in a spring training game.

On Saturday, Cease pitched two innings against the Cincinnati Reds as he ramps up to full strength. The most notable thing wasn’t how long he pitched or what his stat line was. It was his fastball.

Cease's fastball sat mostly at 96-98 mph and topped at 99. Cease quipped that there could be a bit more in terms of velocity.

Cease averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in the majors in 2019. In 73 innings, he threw nine pitches that were at least 99 mph, topping out at 100.1 mph, according to Baseball Savant. He was capable of throwing that hard, but didn't do it often. For Cease to be on the higher end of his average and feature a 99 mph fastball in his first pitches of Cactus League baseball might be a sign that he could have added a touch more velocity.

It’s also just a two-inning spring training start, meaning Cease knew he could let fly a bit more in a shorter outing. Cease told reporters after his start that he was focusing on his fastball command. He struck out three with no walks and three hits allowed.

In his rookie season, Cease struggled with command and consistency. He had a 5.79 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 35 walks over 14 starts.

February baseball doesn't carry any meaning, but this is a small encouraging sign for Cease.

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Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox


Kenny Williams shuts down rumor connecting free agent Yasiel Puig to White Sox

You can put to bed the rumors about free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig possibly signing with the White Sox. It’s not happening.

The two sides did get together during the MLB Winter Meetings in December. Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria met with Puig for about 90 minutes to discuss the possibility of the 29-year-old joining the White Sox as their everyday right fielder.

But instead, the White Sox chose to take a different route. That same week, they acquired Nomar Mazara from the Texas Rangers for minor league outfielder Steele Walker, ending any chance of Puig coming to the South Side.

“After our meeting we came away big Yasiel Puig fans, but he wasn’t the right fit for us then and he isn’t right now,” Williams said.

With spring training games starting this weekend and the regular season a little over a month away, fellow Cuban Jose Abreu says he’s surprised the flashy 29-year-old outfielder remains a free agent.

“Yes, I am (surprised). That’s one of those things that happen that you don’t understand. A guy with his talent. He’s still so young,” Abreu said through a translator. “He doesn’t have a team yet. It’s a surprise. I’m confident he’s going to find something this year.”

Even with Puig’s talent, Abreu looks around the White Sox clubhouse and agrees with the decision by the White Sox not to sign the former All-Star who hit .267/.327/.458 with the Reds and Indians last season.

“I don’t think he would be a good fit here. Don’t get me wrong. He has a lot of talent but we’re full," Abreu said. "Our outfield is looking great with Nomar (Mazara), Eloy (Jimenez) and (Luis) Robert. There’s no reason for us to make more moves in that area of our team. He’s someone who would fit in with any major league ball club because he has the talent to help any of those teams.”

What about possibly platooning Puig with Mazara in right field? On paper, that might sound like a good plan, although Puig has traditionally hit better against righties than lefties in his career. But a larger issue could be the timeshare. The idea of Puig, nicknamed “Wild Horse,” being forced to the stable for half the season could spell problems not only for him, but the chemistry inside the clubhouse.

“It would be difficult, especially for him being an everyday player,” Abreu said about Puig being a platoon player.  “When you have to make that decision, it’s not easy.”

So, where will Puig end up?  No one knows for sure but it won’t be with the White Sox.  

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