White Sox

Rick Hahn lauds the benefits of adding a veteran starter as reports tie White Sox to J.A. Happ

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn lauds the benefits of adding a veteran starter as reports tie White Sox to J.A. Happ

CARLSBAD, Calif. — More than one report out of baseball’s GM Meetings this week in Southern California have the White Sox in pursuit of free-agent starting pitcher J.A. Happ.


The 36-year-old Happ, an Illinois native who attended Northwestern, might not be at the top of fans’ wish lists. He’s not Patrick Corbin nor Dallas Keuchel, the two big-name free-agent starters on the market. But he does seem to make sense after hearing Rick Hahn rave about what a veteran starting pitcher could bring to the White Sox rotation in 2019.

“We have short-term needs that we can’t ignore,” Hahn said, referencing the two holes in the team’s starting staff heading into next season. “We have to augment the pitching staff, both the rotation as well as the bullpen. Those most likely will come via free agency. There’s a chance via trade, but most likely via free agency given the supply of what’s out there and given that we do have some economic flexibility.

“So you will see some veterans added, in part to address our short-term needs but also with an eye toward how they can play a role in the clubhouse in mentoring some of our younger guys. There’s definitely an important role, one we haven’t shied away from being a part of this at some point.

“It would be marvelous if we could be the first team in history to win a World Series with 25 homegrown players. We’re realistic. We know there’s going to have to be additions from outside the organization, the veterans who can play a role in mentoring the young players certainly have some appeal.”

It’s a role that James Shields served in during the 2018 campaign, earning rave reviews as a mentor to Lucas Giolito and others. Shields made a big impact off the field and ended up tremendously reliable on it, one of 13 big league pitchers to throw 200 innings.

While Shields is available, a free agent after the White Sox declined his pricey option, perhaps it’s Happ who Hahn & Co. hope can serve in a similar capacity.

“Having someone in there who provides a level of stability for the rotation and dependability every fifth day has some appeal that you would allow young players to go through some of the growing pains that are inevitable in their development,” Hahn said. “Having someone who can play that veteran, mentor role who can help teach guys whether it's from a game prep standpoint ... or any level of alteration with certain pitches, which is where James had the biggest impact in the minors.

“Having a guy who can play that role has appeal. It's not just what a guy can do between the white lines, it's what a guy can do for you in the clubhouse, is part of this equation.”

As for what happens between those lines, Happ was excellent after a midseason trade from the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees, where he posted a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts. The results weren’t nearly as good prior to the trade: a 4.18 ERA in 20 starts with the Jays. But he had an ERA under 4.00 in each of the three seasons prior, playing in Toronto in 2016 and 2017 and splitting time between the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015.

Last season, he struck out a career-high 193 batters. Perhaps more importantly, he walked only 27, a number worth noting considering the White Sox rotation led baseball in walks in 2018.

While plenty of Twitter-using White Sox fans have their sights on big-ticket items this offseason, Happ is an addition that would fit in more with what the team is doing with their rebuild. He could serve as a short-term fill-in while the White Sox wait for Michael Kopech to recover from Tommy John surgery and for Dylan Cease to complete his development in the minor leagues. If a deal were to be for multiple years, that would also be sensible, with Happ serving as both a bridge to those younger players and a safety net of sorts should they go through some to-be-expected growing pains on a team looking to contend in 2020.

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Prospects Zack Burdi, Luis Basabe to begin rehab stints in White Sox minors

Tommy John surgeries have knocked out two top White Sox pitching prospects for 2019 (Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning), but one pitching prospect is set to make a notable step in his return from the surgery.

Zack Burdi will join Single-A Kannapolis on a rehab stint on Monday. Burdi had Tommy John surgery in July of 2017. In his first game action since the surgery, he made seven appearances last August with the Arizona League White Sox (rookie level). The Downers Grove native made five more appearances in the Arizona Fall League before being pulled from the league due to “general fatigue.” He talked about his recovery process on an episode of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

In spring training, Burdi was not invited to major league camp and he wasn’t on a minor league roster when the season began. With this news, he is set to hit another milestone in his return. If all goes well in Kannapolis, it is expected that Burdi will join Triple-A Charlotte, where he was in 2017 when he got hurt.

If Burdi can recapture his stuff, which profiled him as a back end of the bullpen pitcher, he could even join the White Sox sometime in 2019. He has to show he is healthy and back to his old self first though. The 24-year-old was taken with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft and is the No. 16 prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline.

Another prospect will be joining Burdi in Kannapolis on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, No. 7 prospect in the system, will also join the Intimidators on Monday. Basabe broke the hamate bone in his left hand during batting practice in spring training. It was initially estimated that he would return in late May, so Basabe appears to be ahead of schedule. The 22-year-old spent the second half of 2019 with Double-A Birmingham and is expected to return there after rehabbing with Kannapolis.

Elsewhere on the White Sox prospect injury watch, Luis Robert left a game on Saturday with soreness in his left hand and is reportedly day-to-day. He was hit by a pitch in the first game of a doubleheader for Single-A Winston-Salem. He made one at-bat in the second game, a leadoff groundout, and then was taken out of the game. He did not play on Sunday.

Robert endured an injury-plagued 2018. He was limited to 50 games, but has been on fire early in 2019. Robert leads the Carolina League in batting average (.475), home runs (6), hits (28), runs (16), on-base percentage (.530) and slugging percentage (.915) and is tied for the league lead in RBIs (18) and stolen bases (7).

 

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Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed due to rain; makeup scheduled for August

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USA TODAY

Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed due to rain; makeup scheduled for August

The White Sox and Tigers were likely to start Saturday's game (12:10 p.m. CT) in a rain delay. Instead, the game has been pushed back altogether.

With rain expected all afternoon in Detroit, Saturday's game has been postponed. A makeup is scheduled for Aug. 6 at 12:10 p.m. as part of a split doubleheader. The originally scheduled game will start at 6:10 p.m. CT.

According to a press release, all paid tickets from Saturday's game will be valid for the first game of the doubleheader.

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