White Sox

Rick Hahn shares why Dane Dunning didn't get an invite to White Sox spring training

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn shares why Dane Dunning didn't get an invite to White Sox spring training

When the White Sox released the list of 20 non-roster players they were inviting to spring training, one name was noticeably absent. Where was Dane Dunning?

Dunning is one of the White Sox highest-rated prospects, a pitcher many believe can be a part of loaded starting rotation of the future and a guy who was having a sensational 2018 season before an arm injury brought that season to an early end.

There was fear Dunning might’ve been in for the same fate as Michael Kopech and require Tommy John surgery, but that didn’t end up happening. And after being in recovery mode since last summer, Dunning is apparently without restriction as spring training approaches.

But he won’t be in big league camp.

Hahn said during a Friday-night panel at SoxFest that the injury’s to blame, explaining that Dunning is clearly ticketed for Double-A Birmingham and that the team doesn’t need him to amp himself up — and overuse that recovered arm — by trying to make the big league roster at the tail end of camp.

"The reason for that is we know he’s starting the season at Double-A Birmingham. He’s not making the big league club right now," Hahn said. "And in a season coming off of injury where he needs to be ready for that Birmingham schedule on April 6 or whenever his spot comes up, we don’t want him throwing pitches in anger on Feb. 25 when our Cactus League schedule starts. So he’s fine, we’re easing him back in, we expect him to be part of that Birmingham rotation."

Hahn also added another interesting item on Dunning, saying that had the injury not happened and Dunning’s excellent 2018 continued as it had started, he’d be in the mix for a spot in the big league rotation this season.

"Quite frankly, had he not had the forearm setback last year, he probably would’ve been part of this conversation for the fifth spot coming into this season," he said. "He’s extremely polished, great pitch ability, great makeup. And the only thing that derailed his rapid ascent was the forearm issue. So we feel good about where he’s at."

The White Sox took their time with Kopech and have expressed a desire to do that with many of their top prospects, a group that would figure to include Dunning and Dylan Cease. While the pitchers appear to be moving along a little quicker than the position players during this rebuilding process, Dunning jumping from Class A Winston-Salem at the beginning of 2018 to a potential spot in the White Sox rotation by the start of 2019 would seem especially rapid.

But the internal options to fill the still-vacant fifth spot on the starting staff aren’t exactly thrilling. Hahn spent significant time talking up Manuel Banuelos on Friday night. The White Sox acquired him earlier this offseason, and he would be in a two-man competition with Dylan Covey for that fifth spot were the season to start tomorrow.

Of course, the season doesn’t start tomorrow, and Hahn signaled that more moves are likely coming. That might not mean specifically in the rotation, and the White Sox might move forward with a Banuelos-vs.-Covey showdown for the job. But with a lot of veteran arms still on the free-agent market, Hahn said the White Sox are still looking at external options. Remember back to last spring, when the White Sox signed a veteran capable of being a fifth starter, Hector Santiago, after the start of spring training.

As for Dunning, though, the future remains bright and his lack of an invite to spring training doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern.

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After homering for his first MLB hit, Zack Collins was 'in shock'

After homering for his first MLB hit, Zack Collins was 'in shock'

The young players that figure to feature heavily in the future of the White Sox have had quite a week.

It started with Lucas Giolito being the first pitcher in the majors to reach 10 wins, then Eloy Jimenez blasted a big go-ahead home run in the ninth inning in his first crosstown game against the Cubs. Now, Zack Collins has added his own blast of optimism to the White Sox young core.

The 24-year-old made his first major league start on Friday in Texas and delivered a three-run home run in his first at-bat. It was his second MLB plate appearance after he drew a pinch-hit walk Wednesday in Wrigley.

After the White Sox beat the Rangers 5-4 in 10 innings, Collins talked to Jason Benetti and Steve Stone on the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast.

“Honestly I was just in shock,” Collins said. “I was running around the bases. It seemed like it lasted like three seconds and I felt myself sprinting around second so I had to slow it down and enjoy the moment, but it was an awesome time.”

Collins finished 1-for-5 with three strikeouts, but that is Collins’ game. He’s going to strikeout a lot and his batting average probably won’t be pretty. He has a career .234 batting average in the minors (.250 in Triple-A Charlotte this year), but he coupled that with a .378 on-base percentage and big power.

In his five trips to the plate on Friday, Collins saw 22 pitches. He’s going to work the count and sometimes he’s going to run into home runs.

“It was smooth,” Collins said. “I just kind of put the ball in play and the ball flew. I really don’t know. It was kind of a blur to me. It was obviously a big moment for me.”

Collins was called up Tuesday morning ahead of the first game against the Cubs. He didn’t play that game, but the pinch-hit walk on Wednesday helped take out some of the nerves.

“On Wednesday night I stepped up, I had a little bit of jitters, had a little bit of butterflies and stuff, but I think that was the point of getting in there on Wednesday and getting all that out,” Collins said. “It felt good tonight.”

Collins still hasn’t played catcher since he got called up. He was the DH in Friday’s lineup. That didn’t stop his dad from being excited about his first start.

“I was pumped,” Collins said of when he saw he was in the lineup. “I immediately texted my dad and told him I was in there. He told me good luck, play hard, do your thing. Obviously it started off well and we got a big win tonight so it was fun.”

As of the postgame interview, Collins didn’t yet have his home run ball. However, it sounded like he was able to make a deal with a fan for it.

“Somebody said they did get the ball,” Collins said. “I think I have to make a little trade with somebody.”

 

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WATCH: Zack Collins hits a three-run homer for his first MLB hit

WATCH: Zack Collins hits a three-run homer for his first MLB hit

Zack Collins started his MLB career in fitting fashion, with a walk.

In his next trip to the plate, he hit a home run.

Collins came on as a pinch-hitter Wednesday at the Cubs and drew that walk. Friday's game at Texas was his first start. The 2016 first-round pick entered the lineup as a DH and batted eighth.

He came up with two on and two out against Rangers starter Ariel Jurado. Collins, as he is known for, took the first three pitches before fouling off a curve on a 2-1 count. Then he took a slider deep to right-center.

Watch Collins' home run in the video above.

Collins is known for three things as a hitter: home runs, walks and strikeouts. Before getting called up from Triple-A Charlotte, Collins was hitting .250/.374/.482. He had nine home runs in 50 games with 36 walks and 66 strikeouts. He was sixth in the International League in walks while playing fewer games due to splitting time at catcher.

In a very short time period, Collins is showing what the White Sox thought they were getting when they drafted him 10th overall in 2016.

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