White Sox

Lucas Giolito, James McCann, Jose Abreu tabbed to rep White Sox at All-Star Game

Lucas Giolito, James McCann, Jose Abreu tabbed to rep White Sox at All-Star Game

At the end of the 2018 season, Lucas Giolito was statistically the worst pitcher in baseball. James McCann was on his way to getting non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers.

Halfway through the 2019 season, both guys are All Stars.

A pair of incredible turnarounds were honored Sunday, when Giolito and McCann were named to the American League All-Star team. So, too, was Jose Abreu, who is an All Star for the third time in his career. They’ll all represent the White Sox a week from now at the All-Star Game in Cleveland. It's the first time the White Sox have sent at least three players to the All-Star Game since 2014.

Giolito’s transformation has been nothing short of stunning. He led the game’s qualified starting pitchers last season with a 6.13 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP and 118 earned runs allowed. His 90 walks were the most issued by any AL pitcher. But through the first three months of the 2019 campaign, he’s been as good a Cy Young candidate as you’ll find in the Junior Circuit. After five innings of work against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, he’s got a 2.72 ERA on the season.

He was particularly dominant during a nine-start stretch in May and June during which he went 9-0 with a 1.30 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 62.1 innings.

Thanks to the ugly numbers he put up in 2018, Giolito was cast out of many fans’ projected rotations of the future for these rebuilding White Sox. After a half season of sensational pitching, he looks capable of being someone who could lead that rotation of the future.

Giolito is the White Sox first All-Star pitcher since Chris Sale and Jose Quintana both made the team in 2016, appropriate as he was acquired in one of the three trades so important to the White Sox rebuilding process, the first of which sent Sale out of town and the third of which sent Quintana to the other side of town. Giolito has been one of the best pitchers in the AL to this point and figures to at least receive some consideration to start the All-Star Game. Sale started the 2016 game in San Diego.

McCann, meanwhile, is a tremendous turnaround story in his own right. The White Sox picked him up off the free-agent heap with designs of him being a backup to Welington Castillo and serving as a veteran bridge of sorts to highly touted catching prospect Zack Collins. While the team thought he would have a positive impact on the pitching staff, it was hard to expect much from him offensively after he slashed .240/.288/.366 in his five seasons in Detroit.

Instead, McCann has shattered all expectations. He quickly usurped Castillo as the team’s No. 1 catcher, and his offensive production has made him a middle-of-the-order bat for the White Sox. Entering Sunday, he owned a .320/.378/.519 slash line, numbers that ranked first, first and fourth among AL catchers with at least 100 at-bats. At 29 years old — and under team control for another season — it’s not outrageous to suggest that McCann could be a part of the team’s long-term plans.

McCann is the franchise’s first All-Star catcher since A.J. Pierzynski in 2006.

It’s fitting that Giolito and McCann are going to the All-Star Game together, as Giolito has given McCann credit for helping him turn things around. Certainly there was a lot of offseason work that went into Giolito’s transformation before the two met up at spring training. But Giolito has credited McCann for his game-calling skills and allowing him to focus on executing his pitches.

And Abreu will make his second consecutive, and third overall, third to the Midsummer Classic. He was elected as the AL's starting first baseman a year ago, and now he's getting a nod for a productive first half that has featured 19 home runs and 60 RBIs to this point. As of this writing, only two AL players had driven in more runs than Abreu. After an uncharacteristic slump and a couple freak injuries ended Abreu's streak of 25 homers and 100 RBIs, he's well on his way to reaching those totals in 2019, even if his averages haven't rebounded similarly. In fact, he's on pace to set new career highs in home runs and RBIs.

Abreu, constantly praised for what he does off the field and in the clubhouse as a mentor for young players, sure seems to be in the White Sox plans past the 2019 season, even though he's scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the year.

Considering every team gets at least one representative, the White Sox sending three players to the Midsummer Classic might not seem like some tremendous leap in the quality of play on the South Side. But it’s yet another positive during a 2019 campaign that’s had a lot of them to this point. Giolito’s turnaround has been perhaps the biggest story of the season to date, but he’s one of a growing list of players that are having strong seasons and making the future look even brighter. Certainly McCann and Abreu are on that list, too, and though Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez won’t be going to Cleveland, they’re a big reason for big optimism moving forward. Dylan Cease’s major league debut Wednesday will be another before the All-Star break hits.

So while the All-Star nods for Giolito, McCann and Abreu are excellent individual honors, they also go a long way toward highlighting the future of this franchise, as well, showing that the rebuild is moving in a positive direction.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

An awful lot of energy is spent these days discussing the leadoff spot.

Offense struggling? Maybe there needs to be a new leadoff hitter. Offense doing fine but the leadoff man isn’t of the stereotypical variety? Better think about making a change.

While teams certainly don’t need a stereotypical leadoff hitter who specializes in speed and small ball to be successful — the school of thought that your best player should get the most plate appearances possible is not a bad one — Scott Podsednik showed how guys at the top of the order can simply make things happen and win you ballgames because of it.

On April 11, 2005, the White Sox were once again having trouble figuring out Kevin Millwood, who was throwing his second gem against the White Sox in as many starts to begin his season. But after five scoreless innings, Podsednik made something happen.

He popped up a bunt that went so awry that it went over Millwood and behind the pitcher’s mound. It was a bad bunt, maybe, but it worked. He reached first with a single. Not long after, he used that blazing speed of his to swipe second base and put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

In a one-run game, the White Sox down 1-0 at the time, Podsednik changed everything. He scored the tying run two batters later, when Carl Everett drove him in with a single. It’s a run that doesn’t happen without Podsednik’s skill set. Call it the best argument in favor of the stereotypical leadoff man. Or just call it making things happen.

Podsednik did it again two innings later, driving in the winning run to cap a two-out rally against Millwood. After two quick outs, Chris Widger and Joe Crede delivered back-to-back singles. Podsednik made it three in a row, driving in Widger — who went from first to third on Crede’s hit up the middle — to put the White Sox in front.

Podsednik’s work 15 years ago isn’t likely to do much to sway any ongoing arguments over who should lead off for the 2020 White Sox or any of the 29 other teams. But it sure paid big dividends for the 2005 White Sox.

He made it happen.

What else?

— Millwood pitched extraordinarily well against the White Sox for the second time in 2005. After throwing six shutout innings on April 6, he allowed just two runs over seven innings in this one. Millwood ended up making five starts against the White Sox in 2005, logging a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, but went just 0-2 in those five games. He had himself an excellent season overall, with a 2.86 ERA that led the American League and was the second lowest single-season ERA of his 16-year big league career. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote that season, tying with White Sox pitcher Jon Garland and finishing behind Mark Buehrle.

— Freddy Garcia was pretty darn good in this one, too, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. He retired the final 13 batters he faced. Garcia allowed just three runs in 14 innings in his first two starts of the season. This one was the first of a whopping nine outings he made that season of at least eight innings.

— Garcia threw a pair of wild pitches with Grady Sizemore at the dish in the second inning, two of the 20 he ended up throwing in 2005. That total led the major leagues. In the following season, his second full campaign with the White Sox, he only threw four in the same number of starts, 33.

— Podsednik threw Ronnie Belliard out at third base in the third inning, preventing what might’ve been another run in the inning the Indians scored their lone tally. Podsednik had three outfield assists in 2005, and that was one of them.

— “Aaron’s going to get hit a lot in his career.” Hawk Harrelson chalked up Aaron Rowand getting hit by a pitch in the fifth inning to the center fielder’s approach at the plate. Well, Rowand did get hit by a lot of pitches in 2005, 21 of them, to be exact. Only Shea Hillenbrand of the Blue Jays got hit by more that season. This one that caught Rowand in the hand looked like it hurt like hell.

— Remember when the Indians played at The Jake? Good times.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 10, 2005: The White Sox got shut down by the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, who allowed just two runs in his seven innings, striking out 11. The Twins tagged Buehrle for five runs, including four in the third inning alone. Torii Hunter’s three-run homer was the big blow in that frame. White Sox lose, 5-2, drop to 4-2.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the April 13, 2005, game against the Indians, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s an extra-inning affair with some heroics from Juan Uribe.

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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.