White Sox

Inside the White Sox's first 'Summer Camp' workout at Guaranteed Rate Field

Inside the White Sox's first 'Summer Camp' workout at Guaranteed Rate Field

The camp counselor gathered the kids in a circle, making sure they were spaced out properly. He shouted out instructions, slowly turning to make eye contact with everyone. Eventually the kids broke the circle and got on with their activities.

This might sound like a normal summer camp to you, but it most definitely is not. In this case, the camp counselor was White Sox manager Rick Renteria, who was wearing a mask. And the children were actually grown men -- White Sox players -- keeping a wide enough circle for proper social distancing.

Welcome to MLB “Summer Camp” in a global pandemic.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Friday, players started to trickle out of both the home and visitor dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field for the first workout session of the White Sox’s attempt to begin a season that was supposed to start over three months ago. Some players, like Dylan Cease, wore the same uniform worn in Arizona during spring training. Others, like Lucas Giolito and Steve Cishek, wore generic black workout tops. Tim Anderson sported a “Change The Game” shirt, representing the team’s 2020 slogan.

Indeed, the game has changed. Sure, Friday morning's session on the South Side was refreshing because the sounds of baseball were back, but there was also a distinct “should-we-really-be-here?” kind of vibe in the stadium.

“Boy, it was just fun this morning to be back out on the field and seeing guys playing catch,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Just hearing the sound of baseballs … today was a was a nice step forward for all of us, but there’s going to be challenges along the way.”

One of those challenges is that Major League Baseball teams are being tasked with executing a second spring training with access to only one field, all while maintaining proper distancing. For the White Sox, that means using both clubhouses in the stadium and adding more lockers to areas where furniture sat before. It means adding extra batting cages and pitching mounds to the service tunnel on the ground level. And, most importantly, it means everyone, from coaches to players to support staff to employees to reporters, doing their due diligence to keep everyone healthy. Everyone -- including reporters -- have to get their temperature taken when entering the ballpark.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

“We have two groups, two separate groups, one in the morning, one in the afternoon,” Hahn said. “And then we have sort of A and B groups within those groups to help keep the rotation going and keep guys socially distant from each other …  These are going to be a little bit longer days in order to get everyone their work in and do it in a safe and responsible way. But you’ve got to look at it from a net positive standpoint. There may be some challenges associated with it, but the bottom line is we’re building towards playing baseball.”

Manager Ricky Renteria set an opportant tone as he made the rounds on the field Friday. In his usual jovial manner, he joked to his players: “You can finally see my face!” Except they couldn’t, because he was properly wearing a mask throughout the morning workout. In fact, most of the coaching staff wore masks.

“Wear your masks for goodness sake,” Renteria said later.

On the field, cones were spaced out along both foul lines to keep players distanced from each other during warmups. Giolito and Cease played catch and long toss in the outfield, as pitching coach Don Cooper looked on from the bullpen. Cishek threw a bullpen session on the newly constructed pitching mound down the left field line. And eventually, Eloy Jimenez took a bat and started smashing baseballs into the seats during a hitting a session.

These indeed were signs that Major League Baseball games are on track to return, potentially in just 20 days. But there were also enough signs around the ballpark -- including the silent concourses that will be even more deafening when games return without fans -- to remind everyone that it won’t take much to stop the progress that is being made.

As of Friday, the White Sox were not ready to announce results of their COVID-19 testing as players arrived at the facility this week. Hahn said when the numbers are available, the team will announce how many tests were done and how many positive tests were recorded, if any. As good as it felt to be back on a baseball field, Hahn knows that any given test can lead to a sobering reality check. He admitted that he doesn’t want to see head trainer Brian Ball’s name pop up on his phone.

“Today was a real nice step back towards normal, but we realize what we're dealing with is going to be day to day," Hahn said. "We have to continue to understand that the health and safety of our players, staff and community are of the utmost importance with baseball being secondary to that at many times over the course of next few months. You know, ideal world, we go through this unscathed and get through October and have a successful season.”

The ideal world would be nice, but the White Sox, like everyone else, realize that nothing is ideal right now.

 

SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

Ozzie Guillen rips Nick Swisher again while telling story from 2008

Ozzie Guillen rips Nick Swisher again while telling story from 2008

Ozzie Guillen isn’t done ragging on Nick Swisher. Guillen took another shot at the former White Sox outfielder while telling a story on White Sox Postgame Live Tuesday night.

When giving an example of why he loves Juan Uribe so much, Guillen decided to tell a story of an interaction between Swisher and Uribe on “Nick Swisher bobblehead night” at U.S. Cellular Field.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

“(Swisher) comes to Uribe and says, ‘Hey Juan, look at what I got!’” Guillen said while pretending to hold a bobblehead. “And Juan said, ‘Ya, you seen outside? I’ve got a statue. I’ve got it hitting, catching the ball when we won the World Series. You don’t.’ How about that one?”

Uribe was critical in the White Sox World Series championship, including recording the final two outs of Game 4. One of those outs-- his grab made while falling into the stands-- is the catch that has been enshrined outside Guaranteed Rate Field.

Nick Swisher only played one season in Chicago, and slashed .219/.332/.410 with a -1.4 dWAR.

Apparently that one season made quite the impression on Guillen, as he declared last week, “I hate Nick Swisher with my heart.”


RELATED: White Sox hitters rough up Carson Fulmer in first game against former team

SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

Day after Keuchel calls out team, White Sox offense erupts in win over Tigers

Day after Keuchel calls out team, White Sox offense erupts in win over Tigers

Whatever Dallas Keuchel said after Monday night’s uninspiring loss to the Tigers really worked. Or maybe the return of Tim Anderson and Edwin Encarnacion to the lineup gave the Sox the spark they needed? Or maybe it was a little bit of both?

Whatever the reason, the White Sox offense finally broke out of its collective slump in Tuesday’s 8-4 win against Detroit.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

Leading the charge was Eloy Jiménez, who busted out of a slump of his own by going 2-4 with a homer and four RBI. He had previously been 1-23 dating back to Aug. 5, and used a simple approach to break through.

“I was in a slump, and I feel like I was seeing the ball good, but I wasn’t hitting it to the right spot,” Jiménez said through interpreter Billy Russo. “(I was) swinging at some balls a little bit out of the zone. Now I’m just trying to see the ball and hit it where there’s no people.”

That’s always a good idea.

But when asked for his thoughts on Jiménez’s day, Rick Renteria provided a bit more of a nuanced assessment.

“Consistency, there’s no secret to it,” Renteria said. “Solid approaches working both lefties and righties… faced some righties today and was able to stay in on them. The two-strike ball down the right field line to tack on another run, I mean he had some really good at-bats today.”

Zooming back out, this is the type of offensive output the White Sox envisioned when they built this team last winter. Tim Anderson setting the table, Jiménez and Encarnacion hitting bombs, and Abreu and Moncada driving in more runs with timely hitting.

“The entire lineup looked great,” said starter Gio Gonzalez. “Everyone looked aggressive going out there. Plays were being made around the horn, guys were doing their job hitting the ball, moving runners over. It just looked like a White Sox win today.”

“Today we felt really good,” Jiménez said. “We took care of business and you see what happened.”

RELATED: White Sox hitters rough up Carson Fulmer in first game against former team

SUBSCRIBE TO THE WHITE SOX TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.