White Sox

As Miguel Gonzalez continues to struggle, a reminder that not all 'signs' turn into 'flips'

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USA TODAY

As Miguel Gonzalez continues to struggle, a reminder that not all 'signs' turn into 'flips'

It has not been a good first three starts of 2018 for Miguel Gonzalez.

The pitcher, brought back to the South Side this offseason after the White Sox dealt him to the Texas Rangers last summer, was roughed up Tuesday night in Oakland, scorched for eight runs in three innings as his season ERA exploded to 12.41.

It's a handy reminder that not all "signs" turn into "flips."

Gonzalez was brought back for more than just the hope that Rick Hahn's could squeeze another prospect out of him. He's a great presence in the White Sox clubhouse, and he went as far as saying during spring training that acting as a mentor to young pitchers Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer was part of the deal when he returned. And while the rest of the White Sox crowded rotation of the future develops in the minor leagues, the team needed someone to eat up innings at the major league level this season.

Gonzalez, though, has not been doing that last thing. In three starts, he's given up six runs in five innings, four runs in 4.1 innings and now eight in three. That's not helping a struggling White Sox bullpen, which started the day with one of the worst relief ERAs in the majors at 5.98.

After last year's summer selloff, it wasn't out of line to expect a similar strategy this season. The White Sox traded Gonzalez, Jose Quintana, Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard. Those trades netted five prospects currently ranked in the organization's top 17, as well as others not ranked in the top 30. With low-risk offseason fliers on veteran pitchers like Gonzalez, Hector Santiago, Luis Avilan, Joakim Soria, Bruce Rondon, Jeanmar Gomez and Xavier Cedeno, it figured that solid performances from any of those guys could lead to more trades.

But remember that last year also featured failed sign-and-flip tries Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey. Those guys stuck in the White Sox rotation for almost the whole season and didn't pitch well enough to generate any trade interest. It didn't end up hurting the White Sox because they were rebuilding, not contending. But it was the flip side of what otherwise worked out very well for the White Sox last season.

What outcome is in store for Gonzalez? It's still far too early to tell. Obviously Gonzalez has the track record to straighten things out, and he could still turn into a potential trade chip this summer. And while he still has plenty of value inside the clubhouse walls regardless of what kind of results he's getting on the mound, should his season-long performance resemble how he's started, it'll be another reminder that not all low-risk "signs" turn into high-reward "flips."

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Daily White Sox prospects update: Gavin Sheets hits his first homer of 2018

Here's your daily update on what the White Sox highly touted prospects are doing in the minor leagues.

Class A Winston-Salem

Gavin Sheets hit his first home run of the season in a 12-4 loss. While it's taken him this long to hit his first ball out of the park, Sheets has a .380 on-base percentage and his 24 walks make for one of the top 10 totals in the Carolina League. Blake Rutherford doubled in this one, while Sheets, Rutherford, Alex Call and Luis Alexander Basabe combined to draw five walks.

Class A Kannapolis

Luis Gonzalez and Evan Skoug each had a hit in a 9-3 win.

Triple-A Charlotte

Charlie Tilson had two hits in a 9-3 loss.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.