White Sox

White Sox don't need Dallas Keuchel to be a 'savior' but he can still set the tone

White Sox don't need Dallas Keuchel to be a 'savior' but he can still set the tone

Mark Buehrle. Jon Lester.

No matter what side of town you want to invoke, the comparisons have already come for Dallas Keuchel.

Keuchel gets comp’d with Buehrle, the White Sox legendary left-hander who helped deliver a World Series in 2005, because of style. Hard-throwing strikeout kings they are not. Elite defenders who can get the job done by pitching to the defense behind them, that’s their game.

Keuchel gets the Lester nod mostly because of what’s going on around him. His arrival on the South Side, where the White Sox are primed to leap from rebuilding mode into contending mode, seems to mirror what happened with Lester on the North Side ahead of the 2015 season. Like Lester brought a packed resume to the Cubs, Keuchel comes to the White Sox with experience as a Cy Young winner and a World Series champ.

But Keuchel is not here to be the ace Buehrle was. And he’s not here to be the franchise-defining arm Lester was, either.

“He wasn’t brought in solely to be a savior,” general manager Rick Hahn said last week. “We’re not looking to him to pitch like a No. 1. If he does, which he’s capable of doing, fantastic. But we have other guys in this rotation and other guys coming that we think have the ability to pitch as No. 1s and No. 2s, and Dallas is just another part of that rotation.”

Don’t read that as a slight against the White Sox big free agent addition to the starting rotation. It’s more so praise of a collection of young arms the team believes contains several guys who can emerge as top-of-the-rotation talents.

Lucas Giolito’s already there after remaking himself into an All-Star last season and finishing sixth in the 2019 AL Cy Young vote. He’s the ace of the staff and the favorite to get the start on Opening Day. The guys behind him bring more questions than answers at this point, but if Dylan Cease can put the rookie year growing pains in the rearview mirror, if Reynaldo Lopez can find some consistency to match his flashes of brilliance and Michael Kopech can be the pitcher who was promised prior to his Tommy John surgery, then yeah, Keuchel will be just another part of the rotation — in a very good way.

“There’s a lot of deep prospects in this organization,” Keuchel said in the early days of White Sox camp. “I threw a bullpen (the day before pitchers and catchers officially reported). … I was very thankful that I threw mine (that day) because some of these guys were coming out of the tank throwing 93 or 95 with little amount of effort.

“The talent is endless. We just have to kind of get working on the mental state of some of these guys. Get them ready for the big league life and the ups and downs of Major League Baseball.”

But none of this is to suggest that Keuchel is going to kick back and take a backseat to the youngsters over the next three years (or four, should he pitch well enough that the White Sox pick up that option for the 2023 season). Part of the reason he was brought in was to be a leader, to set the tone for the starting staff — even if the elite potential of some of these younger arms lead to numbers more in line with the traditional description of an ace.

“There’s different ways to set the tone,” Hahn said. “There’s the ability to eat up innings. There’s the ability to come up with a big start when the bullpen needs a relief and perhaps we’ve had a couple short outings from other guys. And there’s a way of setting the tone simply by how he goes about his business on a daily basis and showing guys how to be a professional and showing guys how to deal with, hopefully, the stress and expectations of a pennant race.”

Reliability. Dependability. Stability. Other -bilities.

The young guys might have the gas, but they don’t have all those things yet. And that’s what makes Keuchel a unique and powerful presence within this group. Even in the early days of spring training, he made a habit of chatting up his fellow hurlers.

“He has naturally gravitated to giving pitchers some of his observations and insight,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's a bright man. I mean, he can articulate a message. You can articulate a concept and maybe give insight. When you're able to put words to insight and connect with your teammates, it's very valuable.”

Don’t let all this talk of not needing to pitch like a No. 1 and providing pearls of wisdom let you believe that Keuchel is some creaky old man who won’t be a primary piece of the White Sox chase for a playoff spot in 2020. He most definitely will be. Keuchel might not be set to embark upon another Cy Young campaign like his dazzling 2015 season — a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts in an AL-high 232 innings — but he’s just two years removed from facing more hitters than any pitcher in baseball.

Keuchel might not need to pitch like a No. 1 to live up to the White Sox expectations for him this season. But he might just do it anyway, whether the numbers say it’s likely or not.

The numbers didn’t much like Buehrle, either.

“Honestly this is the best I've felt in a number of years. So that really helps out the mental edge coming in,” he said. “This game is always going to be about commanding the baseball and just knowing how to pitch.

“The guys with elite velocity and elite this and that, plus command are the guys who year-in, year-out are in for Cy Youngs and this and that. But at the end of the day it's always going to be about command. That's where guys' average stuff makes them better and that's where I include myself.

“Analytics always has a tough time with me, and I think that's a good thing, though, for me as well. Sometimes it can be a little disappointing just from the fact that they can't draw numbers on me because the numbers say I'm not that good. But then again, you look at my resume and see all this stuff and you think, ‘How can that be?’

“I'm hoping to help out future generations of players, and I think this game will never change in that aspect.”

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Remembering White Sox great Ed Farmer


White Sox Talk Podcast: Remembering White Sox great Ed Farmer

On yesterday, White Sox nation lost a legend in the passing of broadcaster and former player Ed Farmer. Host Chuck Garfien and NBCS Chicago White Sox insider Adam Hoge discuss memories of Ed Farmer and react to comments made by Ed's broadcast partner Darrin Jackson, and former White Sox players Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.

(2:00) - Ed Farmer was one of a kind

(7:09) - Darrin Jackson remembers his friend Ed Farmer

(11:50) - Ed Farmer bled White Sox

(17:40) - Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski discuss what Ed Farmer meant to them

(22:14) - The time Ed Farmer got into a brawl as a White Sox

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast


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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Chris Widger homered for the first time in five years


White Sox 2005 Rewind: Chris Widger homered for the first time in five years

You want some “team of destiny” type moments from the 2005 season?

How about Chris Widger just teeing off on Barry Zito?

Zito is one of the more accomplished pitchers of the modern era and a fearsome foe in his day. He held the White Sox to just a couple hits through the first six innings on April 25, 2005.

Meanwhile, Widger, the White Sox backup catcher, hadn’t homered in a big league game in half a decade. As Chris Kamka described when he remembered this guy back in October, Widger had few big league opportunities after the 2000 season and played fast-pitch softball and independent league ball in 2004 before the White Sox picked him up.

Coming into this matchup against Zito and the A’s, Widger’s last major league homer came against the White Sox, off Mike Sirotka, in a 2000 game on the South Side.

No matter. Widger played the unlikely hero this night, breaking a scoreless tie in the seventh inning by obliterating a Zito offering into the outfield seats at the Oakland Coliseum.

That swing turned the game around, with the White Sox turning a scoreless tie into a 6-0 rout over the final three innings.

Widger also caught Jon Garland’s complete-game shutout in this one, doing good work both at the plate and behind it.

The reserve position players were clutch for these White Sox, and you don’t need to look any further than this game to see it. In addition to Widger’s offensive fireworks, Pablo Ozuna made some things happen in this one, too. He reached base three times, stole two bases and scored two runs, including the fourth run off Zito in the seventh inning with a diving slide into home plate.

Widger and Ozuna were the only two White Sox batters this night with multi-hit games.

Just like the White Sox bullpen complemented the starting rotation to form a championship-caliber pitching staff, the bench provided a few reliable options for Ozzie Guillen when his regulars needed days off.

It all added up to a world-champion roster.

What else?

— Garland was fantastic, and he was the story of the night despite all the Widger talk above. This was the second shutout of his career and his first since 2002. This performance capped an incredible month of April for Garland, with a dazzling 1.80 ERA in 30 innings over his first four starts of the campaign. Against the A’s, he allowed just four hits and one walk, retiring the final 13 batters he faced in order. He went toe to toe with Zito and was the better pitcher this night.

— Zito, of course, was good, too. But the White Sox actually ended up handing him one of his worst days of the 2005 season. Of Zito’s major league leading 35 starts, in only 12 of them did he give up more than three earned runs. He made 21 quality starts that season. And he looked every bit his dominant self throughout much of this one. Through six innings, he gave up just two hits, putting only five batters on base. But a pair of two-RBI hits in the seventh turned things around quickly. He went from one of his finest outings of the season to a rare four-run evening. He ended up facing the White Sox again later in the 2005 season, with much better results. Zito tossed eight two-run innings on July 3.

— Two of the five White Sox hitters who reached in those first six innings against Zito reached after getting hit by a pitch. Ozuna was hit in the hand leading off the game. Joe Crede was hit in the ribs leading off the third inning. Zito hit 13 batters in 2005, matching a career high. This was one of two starts where he hit multiple batters. The Angels lineup got it worse 10 days before this game, with three batters hit by Zito pitches.

— Juan Uribe made a couple excellent defensive plays in this one. He made a tremendous play up the middle to rob Eric Chavez of a hit in the sixth inning, sparking a terrific Hawk Harrelson call.

And he made another web gem in the bottom of the ninth to help Garland lock down the win.

— Speaking of web gems, though, the best play of the evening came from future White Sox outfielder Nick Swisher, who made a miraculous diving catch in right field to steal a hit away from Timo Perez in the top of the ninth. Seriously, it was one of the better catches you'll see. Swisher received mixed reviews from fans during his one season on the South Side in 2008, but he had some very good days with the A’s. In 2005, his first full season in the major leagues, he had the first of nine 20-homer seasons and finished sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

— Last but not least, I need to point out Harrelson’s love for a couple of A’s players’ names. Marco Scutaro and Huston Street sounded oh so sweet to Hawk’s ears.

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 24, 2005: The White Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Orlando Hernandez blew that advantage, with Matt Stairs homering off Cliff Politte to give the Royals a one-run edge. The White Sox struck back, though, in the eighth, getting back-to-back two-out RBI hits from Aaron Rowand and Ozuna to tie the game and then take the lead. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 15-4.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Friday, when you can catch the May 1, 2005, game against the Tigers, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s another Garland gem, plus some more out-of-the-park fun courtesy of Timo Perez.

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