White Sox

The White Sox roster is set for Opening Day, and yes, Eloy Jimenez is on it

eloy.jpg
USA TODAY

The White Sox roster is set for Opening Day, and yes, Eloy Jimenez is on it

The White Sox roster is set for Opening Day later this week in Kansas City.

And, yes, Eloy Jimenez is on it.

Thanks to the six-year deal that could Jimenez in a White Sox uniform through the 2026 season, there’s no longer any need to worry about service time, meaning Jimenez was free and clear to make the Opening Day group of 25. He’ll make his much anticipated major league debut in Thursday’s season-opener against the Kansas City Royals.

There were few other surprises on the Opening Day roster. Veteran outfielder Jon Jay was placed on the injured list to begin the season, meaning one of the team's offseason acquisitions won't make his White Sox debut for a while. The White Sox are delaying any tough decisions that might exist in the outfield by going with 12 pitchers and 13 position players. The schedule allows the White Sox to use just four starting pitchers until mid April, when the next roster move of consequence (barring injury) could be made to make room for Ervin Santana, who told reporters Monday in Arizona that he’ll remain at spring training to work himself up for the season.

So here’s a breakdown of the group of 25 that Rick Renteria will be taking to the Show Me State.

Starting pitchers: Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova, Lucas Giolito

These four were locks to be in the rotation when spring training began, and nothing’s changed since. Rodon will get the ball on Opening Day, the fifth different White Sox pitcher to do so in the last five seasons (Rodon, 2019; James Shields, 2018; Jose Quintana, 2017; Chris Sale, 2016; Jeff Samardzija, 2015). It’s a big season for Rodon as he looks to prove he can complete a full, healthy campaign and find some consistency after a rough finish to the 2018 season. Lopez led the team with a sub-4.00 ERA last season and could do so again if he irons out some of the consistency issues from his first full big league year. Nova was brought in to eat up innings and very much act in the same role Shields did a year ago. Giolito struggled mightily in 2018 and hopes that feeling good during spring training translates more than the results from spring training do. He finished Cactus League play with an 8.84 ERA. Santana will likely join this group in mid April.

Relief pitchers: Alex Colomé, Kelvin Herrera, Nate Jones, Jace Fry, Caleb Frare, Ryan Burr, Manny Bañuelos and Dylan Covey

Colomé might end up being the White Sox best acquisition this offseason and will be the team’s duly appointed closer after racking up 96 saves over the last three seasons (including a big league leading 47 of them in 2017). Herrera is a familiar face from the Royals’ glory days and should be a frequent eighth-inning man for the White Sox. Jones had a miserable spring but is the longest-tenured South Sider at this point. Fry will be a late-innings option, good news after not giving up a run in the seventh inning last season.

Then things get interesting.

Frare figured to get another shot after getting his first taste of the big leagues late last season. Same, too, for Ian Hamilton, but he’s not on the Opening Day roster after sustaining a shoulder injury in a car accident during spring training. Instead, the job goes to Burr, who was excellent during the Cactus League with a 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings. The White Sox are going with not one but two long men in Banuelos and Covey. The first’s inclusion isn’t too surprising considering Banuelos was out of options and a trade acquisition this offseason. Covey was good in spring training, with a 2.45 ERA, earning a spot in the ‘pen. It won’t be at all surprising, though, to see Hamilton, Jose Ruiz and other relievers at some point during the season.

Catchers: Welington Castillo and James McCann

This catching tandem was never in doubt, but it should provide quite a different support system for the White Sox young pitching staff. Castillo missed 80 games due to suspension last season, so a full year of his veteran assistance should be of benefit. McCann comes in after five seasons with the division-rival Detroit Tigers and brings in the experience of working with future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

Infielders: José Abreu, Yonder Alonso, Yolmer Sanchez, Tim Anderson, Yoán Moncada, José Rondón

Another obvious group on the White Sox roster, but with some notable differences for 2019. Abreu and Alonso will split time at first base and designated hitter. While neither guy is super fond of DH’ing, the White Sox argue it will help Abreu in the long run by keeping him off his feet and keeping him in the lineup. Moncada has been moved to third base, where after the failed pursuit of Manny Machado, the White Sox hope he can stick long term. Renteria said multiple times during spring training that Moncada playing third, a position that demands more focus, could also help him offensively. We’ll see. That switch forces Sanchez to second base, where he’s spent plenty of time over the years. Anderson will remain at shortstop, where his defensive improvement was one of the brightest spots of the 2018 campaign. Rondón will be the primary backup infielder and an intriguing bat after clubbing 24 home runs between the minors and majors. He’s also added a little outfield to his repertoire and could be used out there, too.

Outfielders: Eloy Jiménez, Daniel Palka, Adam Engel, Leury García, Ryan Cordell

Jimenez is locked in as the everyday left fielder for the foreseeable future and every one of his at-bats this season will be of utmost interest as the No. 3 prospect in the game begins his career. Once Jay returns from the IL, he should be the team’s leadoff hitter on a regular basis, though Renteria mentioned he might not be an everyday player nor a player who plays just one position. He has the versatility to play all three spots. Garcia is a versatile reserve who can play most outfield and infield spots, plus he tore the cover off the ball during spring training with a .440/.455/.660 slash line in 19 Cactus League games. While there could be an eventual crunch, both Palka and Engel are on the roster now and at least one of them figures to be in the lineup every day for at least the season’s first few weeks. Palka hit 27 homers as a rookie last season and brings plenty of left-handed pop, though he’s perhaps best suited as a DH, a position that’s well spoken for heading into 2019. Engel, meanwhile, was a Gold Glove finalist last season because of his tremendous defense in center field, but his offensive struggles have been well documented over the past two seasons. Somewhat surprisingly, Cordell got the outfield spot vacated by Jay. Cordell hit just .108 in a cup of coffee last season and .243 during the spring. He'll start the season on the big league roster instead of the more established Nicky Delmonico, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday. It’s always possible the White Sox could just stick with 12 pitchers and 13 position players once Jay returns and once Santana joins the team in mid April, allowing most of these outfielders to stick around.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

sox_hat_image.jpg
USA Today

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

Early in the 2005 season, there was one White Sox player that fans thought was on thin ice and another who actually was on thin ice.

Despite playing great defense at third base, Joe Crede hadn’t exactly won over the fan base yet. He hit just .239 in 2004 with a .717 OPS in his second full major league season. He was already 27 and the White Sox had used their first round draft pick in 2004 to select hot shot third baseman Josh Fields, who was already considered an MLB Top 100 prospect.

So when Crede got off to a 3-for-21 start in the team’s first six games in ’05, there were already calls for his benching.

It wasn't going to happen. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were prepared to be patient with Crede. They seemed more concerned with closer Shingo Takatsu.

Takatsu had taken the South Side by storm in 2004, entering games in the ninth inning to standing ovations and the sound of a gong playing over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field. After taking over the closing duties in June, Takatsu converted 19-of-20 save opportunities in his first year with the White Sox.

Still, there were concerns that his unique frisbee style of pitching wouldn't last once teams saw Takatsu more than once. Those concerns were heightened when the Indians tagged him for three solo home runs on April 7, 2005, leading to the White Sox’s first loss of the season. Takatsu’s only blown save in 2004 also came to the Indians and Guillen was already voicing his concerns.

“I might not use him against (the Indians),” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a good left-handed lineup. Right now, he’s going to be there no matter what. We’re going to see the next couple days.”

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially considering the White Sox had already played three straight close games against the Indians, including two one-run victories.

But that was the situation as the White Sox went to Cleveland with a 4-2 record for the Indians’ home opener. Freddy Garcia took the mound for his second start of the season, while Kevin Millwood countered for the 3-3 Indians.

Here was Guillen’s lineup:

LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadahito Iguchi
DH Carl Everett
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Pablo Ozuna
C Chris Widger
3B Joe Crede

The White Sox-Indians game from Apr. 11, 2005 will air Saturday at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. For the full White Sox Rewind schedule from the 2005 season, click here.

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

remember_that_guy_logo_1.png
USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

Say “Game 3” to any White Sox fan and there’s one name that will immediately come to mind.

Geoff Blum.

Blum was born April 26, 1973 in Redwood City, Calif. He was a star shortstop for Chino High School in Chino, Calif and attended UC Berkeley, where he was All-Pac 10 in 1994. The Montreal Expos selected him in the seventh round of the 1994 MLB Draft. After the 1995 minor league season at high-A West Palm Beach, he spent his winter playing for the Hunter Eagles of the Australian League. In 1996, Blum played at Harrisburg (AA) of the Eastern League, then moved up to Triple-A Ottawa for 1997.

He had his best minor league season in 1998 when he hit .277 with six home runs across four levels, though he missed some time with an elbow injury. Blum started 1999 in Ottawa and finally, on Aug. 9, made his MLB debut for Les Expos de Montréal, going 2-for-4 with a run, double and two RBIs in an 8-0 win over the Padres at Stade Olympique.

Blum is the only player in Expos history (1969-2004) to collect multiple hits AND multiple RBIs in a major league debut. On Aug. 13 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Coors Field, Blum hit his first big league home run off Mike DeJean. As it turns out, all eight of his home runs in 1999 came on the road, including one off Randy Johnson on Aug. 31 in Arizona.

2000 was Blum’s first full MLB season and he hit a respectable .283/.335/.449 with 11 home runs. He played all four infield positions, something he’d end up doing every year from 2000-08. Add in Blum’s ability to switch hit and that’s a pretty valuable guy to have on a team. Blum’s teammates with the 1999-2000 Expos included future 2005 White Sox teammates Dustin Hermanson and Chris Widger.

In 2001, Blum took a step back, hitting .236/.313/.351, though on July 5, he became the fifth player in Expos history to homer from both sides of the plate in a game. The Expos dealt him to the Astros in March 2002 for third baseman Chris Truby.

Blum responded with his finest season, hitting .283/.367/.440 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. He logged his lone career five-hit game on April 19, 2003, a 14-inning loss in Milwaukee. It seems as if there was something about 14-inning games that brought out the best in Blum, as would be illustrated again later. Another 2003 highlight was Blum’s career-long 16-game hitting streak from June 25 to July 17.

In 2004, Blum repeated his 10 home runs and 52 RBI from the previous season. After his rate stats took a dip and at the end of the season, the Astros dealt him to Tampa Bay for pitcher Brandon Backe.

Blum had a down year for Lou Piniella’s 70-91 Rays, posting a career-low .215 batting average with 8 home runs in 112 games. Two of those home runs were on May 4 –– one from each side of the plate –– and Blum became the first player in Rays history to pull that off. He signed with the Padres for 2005, playing all over the infield with a respectable .241/.321/.375 slash line in 78 games. San Diego dealt him at the trade deadline.

At the time, the White Sox were reportedly interested in A.J. Burnett of the Marlins, Jason Schmidt of the Giants and Billy Wagner of the Phillies. Instead, they brought in insurance for Joe Crede and his ailing back, acquiring  Blum for pitcher Ryan Meaux. To make room for Blum on the roster, as well as pitcher Jon Adkins (who was recalled from the minors at the time) both Ross Gload and Willie Harris were optioned to Charlotte.

Blum ended up playing 31 games down the stretch, hitting .200 with a home run – Aug. 29 at Texas. But the move paid dividends. Blum popped out in a pinch hit appearance for Paul Konerko in Game 1 of the ALDS and wouldn’t appear in another game until Game 3 of the World Series. He entered in the 13th inning when he came out to play second base, replacing Bobby Jenks in the fifth spot of the batting order.

After a Jermaine Dye single and a Paul Konerko double play, it seemed as if Astros reliever Ezequiel Astacio was going to escape the top of the 14th inning with the score tied at five. Not so fast.

Blum poked a 2-0 pitch down the right field line and into the stands to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead. The Sox tacked on another run to make it 7-5, which held, and then won Game 4 to sweep the series.

Blum is one of four players in MLB history to homer in their lone career World Series at-bat, along with Jim Mason in 1976, Bobby Kielty in 2007 and Michael A. Taylor in 2019. Blum is also one of only two players in World Series history to hit a go-ahead/game winning home run in his only World Series at-bat, joining Kirk Gibson in 1988.

It was Blum’s last appearance in a White Sox uniform. He signed a one-year deal with the Padres in 2006 and performed admirably, hitting 12-for-31 (.387) as a pinch hitter and starting at shortstop in the NLDS against the Cardinals. He signed for another year in 2007 before spending 2008-10 with the Astros.

Blum hit a career-high 14 home runs in 2008, and in 2009 he recorded three walk-off hits – the only three of his career - including consecutive games against the Cubs on June 10-11. In 2010, Blum suffered one of the more unusual injuries in baseball history when he hurt his elbow while putting on a shirt.

Blum appeared in 40 games for the Diamondbacks over 2011-12 and called it a career. He debuted as Astros TV color commentator in 2013 and has been in that role ever since.

On March 3, Chino High School retired Blum’s No. 11. He is the first athlete in the school’s 123-year history to have a number retired. He also wore No. 11 for the Expos as well as with the Rays. He wore that number in honor of former All-Star third baseman Doug DeCinces.

Blum’s MLB career included 1,389 games, a .250 batting average, 990 hits and 99 home runs, with five career multi-HR games. Oh yeah, and one huge World Series home run.

Geoff Blum. We remember that guy!

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.