White Sox

White Sox newcomer Jon Jay is honoring Michael Jordan with his new jersey number

White Sox newcomer Jon Jay is honoring Michael Jordan with his new jersey number

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s been 25 years since Michael Jordan famously wore No. 45 during his attempt to become a Major League Baseball player with the White Sox.

Now, a quarter century later, Jordan’s No. 45 is making a comeback — thanks to new White Sox outfielder Jon Jay.

Jay — who was born March 15, 1985, during Jordan’s rookie year with the Bulls — has been a die-hard Jordan fan his whole life. Soon after signing with the White Sox this offseason, he decided to honor his basketball hero by wearing Jordan’s old baseball number with his new team.

“Every year, I always have different numbers bouncing around from different teams. I kind of pay tribute to someone in my family. I’ve worn numbers for people who have passed away in my life before. This year coming to the South Side I said, 'Let’s see if someone is wearing 45,' and it was available so it’s cool,” Jay said.

Growing up in Miami, Jay fondly remembers the day he saw Jordan play in person when the Bulls came to town to play the Heat.

“I remember, I was 8 years old. I think it was ‘93,” Jay said. “That was pretty cool.”

Jay isn’t the first White Sox player to wear No. 45 since Jordan did it in 1994. Carlos Lee wore it from 1999 to 2004. Bobby Jenks had it from 2005 to 2010. There’s also been Dave Righetti (1995), Jeff Abbott (1997 and 1998), Derek Holland (2017), Gregory Infante (2018) and four others.

But none of them wore No. 45 for His Airness like Jay, who has always admired how Jordan changed careers in his prime at the age of 31.

“Hearing the story later on, it’s truly remarkable that somebody could stop in the middle of being the best and play baseball for a bit and then go back to being the best,”  Jay said about Jordan, who after playing for the Double-A Birmingham Barons went on to win three more NBA titles with the Bulls. “I’ve always admired his work ethic and all those little things you hear about how intense he was in practice and just the competitor he was, and that’s something I always try to instill in myself.”

Jordan, who celebrated his 56th birthday Sunday, struggled in his one season in the minor leagues. He slashed .202/.289/.266 with three home runs, 51 RBIs and 30 steals in 436 at-bats.

If it wasn’t for being the greatest basketball player on the planet, Jay believes that Jordan would have made it to the majors.

“People don’t realize how hard it is to hit a baseball. You can sit there and you watch and you think, 'I can do that,' but it’s a lot tougher than that it looks,” Jay said. “You see Michael hadn’t played baseball in forever, and he did it. I truly believe that if he would have been playing baseball his whole life and continued it in college, he’s that good of an athlete, he definitely could have been in the show.”

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MLB The Show: White Sox offense supplies fireworks in win over Rangers

MLB The Show: White Sox offense supplies fireworks in win over Rangers

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: White Sox def. Rangers, 9-6 
Record: 53-37, 1st in A.L. Central (4.0 games ahead of Twins)

W: Dane Dunning (5-1)
L: Kolby Allard (6-3)
SV: Alex Colome (18)

Game summary: Fans were treated to a beautiful Fourth of July in Arlington, Texas as the White Sox tried to take down the Texas Rangers after losing the series opener. The White Sox sent Texas’ own Michael Kopech to the mound and he was wayward of the strike zone early and often. The flame throwing righty only lasted three innings while walking six and giving up three earned runs.

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The White Sox got their offense from the middle of the lineup. Down 3-2 in the fifth, Yasmani Grandal hit a home run to left field to put the visitors out front. With 34 home runs, Grandal continues to lead the American League. After Nick Solak tied up the game at 4 in the fifth, Eloy Jimenez joined the homer parade in the seventh with a solo shot to put the Sox up 5-4. Jimenez continues to keep pace with Grandal and now has 33 home runs in his second big league season.

In the ninth, Grandal was once again in position to come through for the Sox and did with the bases loaded, driving in two with a double down the right field line, propelling the Sox to a 7-4 advantage. The Rangers bullpen then lost control, walking in two runs and giving the South Siders a commanding 9-4 lead.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 1-4, BB (.319 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, HR, RBI (.252 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 2-4, RBI (.278 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 2-4, HR, 4 RBI (.307 BA)
Jose Abreu: 2-4, RBI (.316 BA)
Tim Anderson: 0-4, RBI (.272 BA)
Luis Robert: 1-5, 2B (.255 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 0-3, RBI (.281 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 1-5, 2B (.253 BA)

Scoring summary:

Top first:

Jose Abreu singled to left field, Edwin Encarnacion scored. 1-0 CHW.

Bottom third:

Shin-Soo Choo homered to center field. 1-1.

Bottom fourth:

Roughned Odor singled to center field. Nick Solak scored. Todd Frazier scored. 3-1 TEX.

Top fifth:

Yoan Moncada singled off the pitcher's leg, Nomar Mazara scored. 3-2 TEX.
Yasmani Grandal homered to left field, Moncada scored. 4-3 CHW.

Bottom fifth:

Nick Solak sacrifice fly to left field, Joey Gallo scored. 4-4.

Top seventh:

Eloy Jimenez homered to left field. 5-4 CHW.

Top ninth:

Grandal doubled to right field, Encarnacion and Jimenez scored. 7-4 CHW.
Tim Anderson walked, Moncada scored. 8-4 CHW.
Nick Madrigal walked, Grandal scored. 9-4 CHW.

Bottom ninth:

Choo homered to left field. 9-5 CHW.
Willie Calhoun homered to right field. 9-6 CHW.

Notable performance: The White Sox Nos. 3-5 hitters did most of the damage offensively. Moncada, Grandal and Abreu went 6-for-12 collectively, driving in six of the nine Chicago runs.

Next game: Sunday, July 5 - Game 91: White Sox at Rangers (Lucas Giolito, 7-7, 4.46 ERA vs Corey Kluber, 5-6, 3.65 ERA)

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Dallas Keuchel suggests White Sox can 'wreak a little havoc in the AL Central'

Dallas Keuchel suggests White Sox can 'wreak a little havoc in the AL Central'

It's not how you start, it's how you finish, right?

That's one of baseball's myriad enduring maxims. But like a lot of the other ones, it's going to have to be chucked out the window during this most unusual of seasons.

The sport's typical six-month marathon has been squeezed down to a two-month sprint, the campaign down to 60 regular-season games as Major League Baseball attempts to play in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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All 30 teams, obviously, were built for 162 games, not 60, sending everyone into a fit of head-scratching trying to figure out which clubs are best suited for the sprint to the postseason. That question is basically impossible to answer until teams start playing games.

A big factor? That ol' unpredictable variable: luck.

"Honestly, I think luck is going to play a (big) role in the 60-game season," White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said Saturday. "It's going to be who kind of catches fire early and then who kind of catches fire late. If you can come out hot and play well early, and then idle for 20 games, but then kind of catch fire again the last 10, 15 games — there's a lot of different ways to do it. I've taken into account playoff years from my previous experience, and there's a lot of different ways."

Keuchel would figure to be spot on, and it only takes a glance back at last season to provide some convincing arguments. The Washington Nationals ended up winning the World Series but were under .500 and in fourth place in the NL East standings after 60 games. The Seattle Mariners are the other side of that coin. They got out to a fast start and were in first place in the AL West after 30 games, only to finish the season with 94 losses.

With only about 37 percent of a normal season's games being played this year, each one is worth twice or thrice as usual. A losing streak could dash a team's playoff hopes. A sweep of a division rival could completely rearrange the postseason picture. Some fans are upset about more than 100 games getting lopped off the schedule, but this could prove pretty exciting.

So what about the White Sox? How are they positioned for this sprint?

For the moment, they appear much like they did back in March: on the cusp of leaping out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode, capable of competing with two good teams, the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians, for the AL Central crown. The young core of Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez and Lucas Giolito broke out in a big way last season. Then Rick Hahn's front office went to work in the offseason, adding Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and other veterans with winning experience to the mix. José Abreu, the face of the franchise, returned on a new contract. And highly touted prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal are expected to bring an even further boost.

If some of the young pitchers in the White Sox rotation can answer some questions about their consistency, the White Sox could be even more balanced than the power-hitting Twins or the power-pitching Indians.

RELATED: White Sox in playoffs? Tim Anderson: 'Something dope can happen in 60 games'

Keuchel thinks the White Sox bats could end up being the key, and with Grandal, Robert, Madrigal, Edwin Encarnación and Nomar Mazara all joining the lineup for 2020, that could definitely be the case. That could be enough lumber, even, to get the South Siders to the top of the division for the first time in more than a decade.

Even with a lot riding on luck, though, Keuchel is confident. Remember, it was his mom who back in spring training gave the White Sox their 2020 rallying cry: "Playoffs or die, b-----s!"

"I think this team, if we can get off to a hot start, if the bats can swing it like we know they can now with how deep our lineup's going to be," Keuchel said, "then I think we might wreak a little havoc in the AL Central."

That's music to White Sox fans' ears, who after sitting through a few rebuilding seasons are champing at the bit for a pennant race, even in a shortened season.

The months-long layoff between spring training and "Summer Camp" could put the White Sox in an even better position, allowing some of their pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery to return to health and provide full-season options for Rick Renteria.

We'll see if they can slug with the Twins, or pitch with the Indians. But they look capable, and Keuchel — he's not the only one on the South Side, either — has confidence a season to remember could be in the works.


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