White Sox

Rick Renteria shows what good the bunt can do as White Sox squeeze out win

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria shows what good the bunt can do as White Sox squeeze out win

As the White Sox rebuild has plowed forward, fans and observers have continued to ask whether Rick Renteria is the right man for the job, probably as much a reaction to the way he was replaced with Joe Maddon on the other side of town as to what he’s done in his two-plus seasons as the manager on the South Side.

White Sox brass has replied at every opportunity that indeed Renteria is the right man for this team, moving toward contending while the development continues at all levels of the organization. He’s received rousing support from Hawk Harrelson and Chris Sale, among others who aren’t calling the shots in this whole process. But the ones who are calling the shots think the world of Renteria and rewarded him with an unannounced contract extension in spring of last year.

One night in May of a season in which the team isn’t expected to contend for a playoff spot won’t be anywhere close to the deciding evidence in the outside debate over whether Renteria should be the one helming the next championship-contending White Sox team — and, again, I’ll repeat that the White Sox wholeheartedly believe he will be. But his calls did define a White Sox win Thursday night on the South Side, which included him showing what good the much-maligned bunt can do.

With the Toronto Blue Jays in town, runs weren’t expected to come fast and furious. The Blue Jays are perhaps the American League’s worst offensive team, and they entered Thursday’s tilt, the first of four this weekend, with a team slash line of .219/.286/.360. Their performance Thursday was on brand, with Dylan Covey and a trio of relievers holding them to two runs and two hits.

But the White Sox mustered just two runs through the first seven innings, too, forced into a low-scoring tie. They had a golden chance to break that tie in the seventh inning, but after getting the first two runners on, the White Sox got nothing out of the deal. That due, in part, to Renteria being unable to challenge Jose Abreu’s groundout to third that would’ve loaded the bases with one out. Abreu was called out, but he looked safe on the replay. Renteria couldn’t challenge because he’d burned his challenge back in the fifth.

In the fifth, Welington Castillo was up with two outs and a runner on — the White Sox were ahead, 2-1, at that point — and he struck out on a foul tip. Castillo checked his swing, and rather than the ball hitting the bat for a foul tip, Renteria and the White Sox believed Castillo was hit by the pitch. Considering Castillo appeared to check his swing, that would’ve put two men on and continued the inning in a one-run game. It wasn’t an outlandish challenge — despite the confusion those of us not in the White Sox dugout had in the moment — but the ball didn’t hit Castillo, per the review. Inning over anyway.

It didn’t seem like that big a deal until the seventh and Abreu’s groundout in a tie game. Two batters after Abreu, Castillo struck out again, and the threat ended with no runs.

“When (the umpire) turned and signaled, we looked in. As we look at it, we have a way we grade our views, and for me -- they didn't call a check swing (strike),” Renteria said after the game. “He thought he had contact with the ball. And if we allow him to get on base, we keep the inning going with (Nicky) Delmonico at the plate.

“I know it's early in the ballgame. We've done it several times, in this instance we didn't get the call that we wanted. When we potentially had the bases loaded with (Abreu), it ended up putting me in a situation where I couldn't get that call overturned, and obviously that was a big point in the game, as well. ... Sometimes you get situations in which you're looking at plays to review, you have certain criteria. I took a chance on the criteria we had, and I tried it.”

Renteria, though, made another call that did work in the White Sox favor. Again with an opportunity to break the tie in the eighth, runners at the corners and one out, Renteria sent in a variety of signals to batter Ryan Cordell. The last one of the at-bat was for a suicide squeeze, and Cordell and Yolmer Sanchez, sprinting in from third base, executed it perfectly. Sanchez scored the game-winning run, Cordell busted it safely down to first (which allowed an insurance run to score a batter later on Leury Garcia’s sac fly) and Renteria’s latest gamble paid off.

“It was exciting, it was awesome,” Cordell said. “In the moment, just kind of locked in and focused on getting the job done. When I got to first base and looked in and see the dugout going nuts, that’s a real exciting thing.”

“The play itself, you have to expect to get a pitch that you can manage,” Renteria said. “I wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to at least score that run. You've got to give Cordell a ton of credit because he's the one in the box in that situation, in the heat of the moment. It's not anything that I did. He's the one that executed the play, I just asked for him to do something and he executed.”

Plenty of White Sox fans on social media (and modern-day baseball fans, in general) shudder when they hear about a bunt. With the focus on hitting the ball out of the ballpark these days, “bunt” has become a naughty word, and Renteria gets a lot of guff on Twitter for employing it when he does. But he’s not going to stop, and it sure did work Thursday night.

“I don't need a whole lot to score that guy, just contact, put the ball in play,” Renteria said. “It just afforded me the situation to do that. Cordy's shown that he can do that. A lot of our guys are now showing us they can do that.

“It's still been a process to get these guys to understand that's an important aspect that we need. It's starting to kind of come to fruition that they understand the importance of it, because they know we use it. When it is executed, that's a big play for us in that particular situation.”

Thursday’s result isn’t likely to convert previously critical fans and observers into worshippers of the bunt. But Renteria showed what good it can do on a night that was defined by the calls he made from the third-base dugout.

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Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal highlight White Sox minor league all-star team

Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal highlight White Sox minor league all-star team

Until the White Sox start winning at the big league level, the minor league system will continue to be of extra importance to the fanbase.

Even as Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease joined the White Sox in 2019, there was still some high-level talent in the minors. MiLB.com broke down each position to come up with a team of White Sox minor league all-stars.

These players were picked solely based on production and not prospect status, but a number of prospects still found their way on the team.

Catcher: Yermin Mercedes

First base: Gavin Sheets

Second base: Nick Madrigal

Shortstop: Zach Remillard

Third base: Danny Mendick

Outfield: Luis Robert, Steele Walker and Daniel Palka

Utility: Matt Skole

Left-handed starter: Avery Weems

Right-handed starter: Jorgan Cavanerio

Relief pitcher: Will Kincanon

The obvious standouts are Robert and Madrigal. Both played at three levels before finishing in Triple-A Charlotte. Overall, Robert had a 1.001 OPS and Madrigal hit .311, including a .331 mark in Charlotte.

Both players are expected to be up with the White Sox for most of 2020.

Walker and Sheets, both former second-round picks, are also noteworthy prospects. Sheets, drafted in 2017, led the Double-A Southern League in RBIs and Walker, drafted in 2018, was productive at both levels of A ball.

MiLB.com played some games with the rest of the infield a bit with Mendick being listed at third base. Mendick played more games at second (48) and shortstop (42) than third base (38) for Charlotte. He started at all three of those spots as a September call-up for the White Sox. His versatility will be valuable going forward in the majors.

Mercedes became a hot topic among White Sox fans for a scorching hot season. The 26-year-old catcher split the year between Double-A and Triple-A and put up especially big numbers for Charlotte. He hit .310/.386/.647 in 53 games for the Knights, which should be enough of a resume to give him a chance to impress during next spring training.

Palka and Skole have been with the White Sox for multiple years in the majors and were a part of a dangerous Charlotte lineup. Meanwhile, Remillard is a career minor leaguer who had a nice season with Birmingham and Single-A Winston-Salem.

On the pitching side, Jonathan Stiever may have gotten robbed. The right-hander had a 3.48 ERA in 26 starts between both levels of A ball, including a 2.15 ERA in 12 starts with Winston-Salem. However, Cavanerio, 25, got the nod with a 3.13 ERA with the Dash in 19 starts.

Regardless of his exclusion on this team, Stiever emerged as a breakout prospect in 2019 and will be one to watch in 2020 as he enters the higher levels of the minors.

Weems was a sixth-round pick out of Arizona in the 2019 draft. The left-hander pitched in both levels of rookie ball and finished with a 2.09 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 10 walks in 60 1/3 innings.

Kincanon is a local product from suburban Riverside-Brookfield High School. The 23-year-old had 71 strikeouts and a 1.86 ERA in 58 innings for Winston-Salem.

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Sox Drawer: Getting to the bottom of 'the money will be spent'

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USA TODAY

Sox Drawer: Getting to the bottom of 'the money will be spent'

The Sox Drawer is back for the offseason — and jam packed with questions from dedicated and clever White Sox fans who never disappoint.

More than 100 strong reached out on Twitter asking questions ranging from hot stove predictions to best tailgating beer to the continuing saga known as “When Will the Money Be Spent?”

Let’s get to it!

How should I enter next year as a fan? Are we going for it, or last year of rebuild? — @TheMarcski

A lot depends on the moves the White Sox make this offseason. I do believe they will be aggressive in their attempts to add a starting pitcher, right fielder and designated hitter. However, it takes two to tango. You can say you want to, but in the end, all that matters to the fans and the front office is, “Did you convert on the moves?”

See Manny Machado, 2019.

Even if the White Sox get, let’s say Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson and J.D. Martinez, that would be a great haul. But will that be enough to compete with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees next season? That might be a stretch. 

Assuming the White Sox successfully fill three to four needs on their roster, and with the additions of Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech, I think you should expect the White Sox to compete for a playoff spot next season.  

If Rick Renteria and several players are openly talking about such goals, there’s nothing wrong with you expecting and hoping for the same thing.

What’s one surprise move you think the White Sox will make? — @Jsegura233

A surprise move? How about this one: The Cubs pick up Jose Quintana’s option and trade him back to the White Sox. Theo Epstein seems ready to shake things up, Quintana hasn’t been the same consistent pitcher he was on the South Side, the White Sox can use a lefty starter, and Quintana only has one year and $11.5 million left on his contract, meaning the return will be nothing close to the Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease haul the White Sox got in 2017 for Q. Sounds like a win-win, right? That is, unless you’re the Cubs. Epstein would have to swallow really hard to make that trade happen, basically taking a big "L" on that high-profile trade.

What would the White Sox have to give up? Probably not as much as you’d think. Last winter, the White Sox got Ivan Nova with one year left on his deal ($9.1 million) from the Pirates for 19-year-old pitcher Yordi Rosario and international bonus slot money. And Nova was arguably better in 2018 than Quintana was in 2019.

Who knows? Maybe the Cubs don’t even pick up Quintana’s option, allowing the White Sox to sign him as a free agent.

So there’s my surprise prediction: Quintana ends up back on the White Sox. How crazy would that be?

In 2011, the White Sox payroll hit an all-time high of $128 million. Will we surpass that in 2020? 2021? When will we be a top-15 payroll again? (approximately $140-$145 million) — @grifjam106

I can’t say for certain “if” or “when” the White Sox payroll will be back at that level, but judging by their history, I foresee them heading back to that neighborhood soon. They’ve done it before. I can see them doing it again.

There are different payroll numbers floating around on the internet, but from what I have found, back in 2011 after signing Adam Dunn and Jesse Crain and re-signing Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, the White Sox finished with the fifth-highest payroll in the majors, ahead of the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets and Cardinals.

In 2013, the White Sox opened that season with the eighth-highest payroll in MLB, surpassing the Cardinals, Nationals, the rebuilding Cubs and Braves. Want to guess who opened that season dead last in the majors with a total payroll of $22 million? The Astros.

So will the White Sox spend big again? That leads to the next question ...

When Rick Hahn said last year and quote, “The money will be spent,” can we get clarification on that please? Thanks Chuck! — @JAC34331791

That quote is in reference to what Hahn told reporters back on Feb. 20, the day they missed out on signing Machado. Here’s the full quote from Hahn: “The money will be spent. It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. This isn’t money sitting around waiting to just accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in the best position to win some championships.”

The White Sox aren’t known for recklessly spending money. They seem to pick their spots, and when the timing feels right, they go for it. In recent years, we’ve seen this happen: in the winter of 2013, when they outbid everyone for Jose Abreu, then again in 2014, when they signed David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, and then in 2017, when they won the sweepstakes for Luis Robert.

I know these transactions were nowhere near what it took to sign Machado, for instance, but with an exciting nucleus intact and the window seemingly starting to open in 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised if the White Sox attempted to spend a good chunk of that cash this offseason and into next offseason. You can debate what’s the best way to allocate the “Machado money.” Some fans want to spend it all at once on Gerrit Cole. Personally, I wouldn’t write a check for between $150 million and $200 million for a single arm. Ask the Red Sox about that right now with Chris Sale and David Price.

You also can’t force the issue by spending just to spend. All that said, I do believe that the payroll is headed north. How far north in 2020 and 2021? I can’t say. But if there is a time for the White Sox to start being aggressive in the marketplace in the hopes of winning again, this is one of those times.

Will the White Sox win a World Series before the Cubs do? — @cg_chi

This sounds like a great podcast. Stay tuned.

Chuck, who is your “go get him” player that will make an immediate impact for the Sox next season? — @BobMelcher1

Speaking of podcasts, last week we spoke about my “go get him” player on the White Sox Talk Podcast. That’s J.D. Martinez, assuming he opts out of his contract in Boston. He’d be the perfect bat to put in the middle of the lineup. The White Sox had the lowest DH production of any AL team last season. As we’ve seen before, not every hitter can be a successful DH. Martinez is elite at this position, slashing .293/.372/.512 in 2019. John Tomase, Red Sox beat writer for NBC Sports Boston, came on the podcast and boldly predicted that he’d end up on the White Sox. We’ll see.

What would it take for the White Sox to sponsor a little league baseball team in Amman, Jordan? — @PeregrineBloggs

Amman, Jordan, hello! White Sox fans are seriously everywhere! I didn’t believe it at first, but there is actually little league baseball in Jordan, though they look a lot older than the little leaguers we have in the U.S.

@PeregrineBloggs wrote back: “We have a little community of MLB fans of many teams. Twins, Reds, Yankees, Tigers, A’s, Dodgers and of course, White Sox." He sent the photos below. The first is him smacking a double. The second is his team, apparently named Free the Pizza.


What team is going to beat the Sox next year? — @JoshTuman

Honestly, the only team I see them having trouble with is Free the Pizza.

When will I get the Yermin Mercedes podcast? — @Wheres_Bald0

I figured this was coming. Yes, I did say toward the end of the season that I was going to do a podcast solely devoted to the baseball exploits of one Yermin Mercedes, who quickly became one of my favorite White Sox prospects of 2019. Unfortunately, my grand plan slipped through the cracks. I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve let down a small but fervent portion of the White Sox fan base. I interviewed new White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino about Mercedes. They worked together in Triple-A. I was planning on making some sort of podcast about him, but in the end, I needed more sound and perspective about this 5-foot-11 spark plug, who slashed .317/.388/.581 in 95 games with the Charlotte Knights. I’m just as curious and fascinated as you are. Let’s see where he ends up in 2020. Hopefully he’s not traded! A Yermin Mercedes podcast needs to happen at some point.

Can we just use commons sense for once? — @durag97

OK.

Chuck, really liked the time you spent doing play by play with Steve Stone. Love Jason Benetti also, but any chance we will hear you in the booth for a couple more games? — @preacherabe​​​​​​​

I had a blast calling those two games in Detroit. Career highlights for sure. It’s not up to me, but if the White Sox ask me to sub again, I will definitely say yes!

What’s the best beer to binge drink in the parking lot prior to game? — @MikeyBudz

If you ask my friends, I’m a serious lightweight in the beer-drinking department, so I’m probably not the best person to ask. However, according to a source close to the tailgating situation, “it’s quantity over quality.” So, I would suggest Coors Light or Miller High Life.

And finally ...

When will Chuck Garfien acknowledge my existence? — @toastfart

Right now!

Thanks everyone for all of your tweets. Let’s do it again next week!

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