White Sox

Zack Collins is here: How will the White Sox deploy the 2016 first-round pick?

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AP

Zack Collins is here: How will the White Sox deploy the 2016 first-round pick?

Zack Collins wasn’t in the lineup for Tuesday night’s Crosstown game against the Cubs. He might not start Wednesday night, either.

So what’s he doing here? Well, he might end up doing a lot of things.

Collins, the White Sox top draft pick in 2016 and the No. 11 prospect in a loaded farm system, got the call to the majors Tuesday morning, another step forward in Rick Hahn’s rebuilding project. But unlike Eloy Jimenez, who was immediately installed as the everyday left fielder; unlike Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada, whose starting spots on the infield were assured the moment they came up; unlike Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech, starting pitchers who slid right into the rotation, Collins comes with a mystery: Where is he going to play?

The White Sox have made a habit of saying that when they call up these highly touted prospects, they’re here to stay and they’re here to play. But with James McCann in the midst of an All-Star campaign, the regular catcher spot is kind of spoken for. That can have a positive effect, of course, with Collins not having to deal with the pressure of handling the bulk of a pitching staff, all while he’s still dogged by questions about his defense behind the plate. But it also creates a bit of a head-scratching scenario for the newest star of the rebuild to arrive in the bigs.

Speaking of Collins being here to stay, however, manager Rick Renteria wouldn't confirm that was the case when he spoke to the media Tuesday. Hahn has always said that the team's prospects are promoted based on the team deeming them ready, not because of a need at the major league level. But Renteria seemed to lean on Castillo's injury as the reason Collins got this opportunity. It doesn't mean those two things can't coincide, but it adds an interesting element to the whole promotion.

“I think that the opportunity arose, obviously, because of the Welington situation. Obviously, the intent is to ultimately get him here at some point. Right now, it happened to open up earlier, and we’ll see how it continues to play itself out. Hopefully he has a really good experience, and we’ll make some decisions as we continue to move forward.”

One thing that's certain is that Collins will be given the opportunity to swing the bat. After he put up a .250/.374/.482 slash line with nine homers, nine doubles, 39 RBIs and 36 walks in 50 games at Triple-A Charlotte, the White Sox are ready to see if Collins' offense is as major league ready as advertised.

Collins certainly seems to think so, showing off the kind of confidence that's become a trademark among the organization's stars of the future.

"I think I fit in the every day lineup, middle of the order," Collins said Tuesday. "Behind the plate, first base, DH, doesn’t really matter. I think I can help the team win, and obviously in the box is where I excel. So, we’ll see."

The defensive questions have forced Collins into other positions, as he mentioned. He spent 31 of his 50 games at Triple-A Charlotte this season at catcher but played first base and designated hitter there, too. That should provide Renteria with an opportunity to get Collins’ much-praised bat into the lineup more often. Indeed, Renteria was already turning to his second catcher — be it McCann or Welington Castillo, depending on who was behind the plate that day — as his DH more of late, opting for that bat, whichever it might be, instead of Yonder Alonso, who came into Tuesday’s game with a woeful .180/.280/.312 slash line.

And so it’s easy to see Collins moving into the same kind of role Castillo already had: catching on days when McCann isn’t and DH’ing on days when McCann is behind the plate. Though perhaps he can even be of more use in spelling Jose Abreu at first base, on occasion. Of course, that leaves little room for Alonso, whose bout of bad numbers has come at a poor time as he’s potentially fighting for playing time. Renteria has used Alonso in just five of his starting lineups this month.

Collins' development, like that of every young player on the major league roster and playing in the minor leagues, is ongoing. We'll get to see it in progress before our eyes. The offense should show up, and the White Sox are hoping the defensive issues don't. Collins is confident things have gone smoothly at Charlotte and is ready for his next challenge.

"I feel good," he said. "Everything is kind of falling into place. All the work I’ve put in through the last couple of years in the minor leagues. I feel good behind the plate, also. Everything is going smoothly.

"I feel like this year I made some big strides (defensively). Also, last year was the biggest one for me. Behind the plate, being with an older group at Triple-A was definitely helpful. There’s always room to improve. Now with McCann I can learn a lot from him."

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NBC Sports Chicago to air “Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown” special

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to air “Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown” special

Chicago, IL (July 17, 2019) – As one of the greatest hitters in Chicago baseball history prepares for his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, NBC Sports Chicago - THE Home of the #AuthenticFan - will provide viewers with a brand new special entitled Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown, a half-hour NBC Sports Chicago Original Production that chronicles the brilliant career of the White Sox legend who spent 14 seasons on the southside of Chicago.  Hosted by NBC Sports Chicago’s multi-platform White Sox expert Chuck Garfien, Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown premieres Friday, July 19 immediately following “White Sox Postgame Live” (9:30 PM CT time approx.).  (NOTE: Welcome to Cooperstown will also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app; fans located anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.)  NBC Sports Chicago will also re-air the special on Sunday, July 21 at 11:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 9:00 PM, the day of Baines’ Hall of Fame induction.

Produced and edited by NBC Sports Chicago’s Emmy-award winning Senior Producer of Original Content Ryan McGuffey, Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown celebrates the remarkable 22-year MLB career of one of the greatest players to ever don a White Sox uniform.  Baines, who finished his career with 2,866 hits, opens up to Garfien about being selected #1 overall in the 1977 MLB Draft by the White Sox, why he still hasn’t spoken with Larry Himes since the trade that sent him to Texas in 1989, having his number retired by the White Sox while still being an active player, the apology that President George W. Bush gave him when the 2005 White Sox visited the White House and why he believes baseball writers left him out of the HOF prior to being selected by the Veterans Committee last December.  A six-time All-Star, Baines ranks third in White Sox history with 221 HR, only Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas have more. 

In addition to the exclusive, candid interview with Baines, Welcome to Cooperstown also includes interviews with White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Baines’ former teammate, 1983 AL “Rookie of the Year” and current White Sox community relations ambassador Ron Kittle.

Please note the following quotes from the NBC Sports Chicago Original Production of Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown, hosted by Chuck Garfien, debuting Friday night, July 19 immediately following “White Sox Postgame Live” (9:30 PM CT, time approx.):

BAINES on being able to play 22 seasons in the big leagues: “I didn’t have anything to fall back on. I didn’t go to college. I was a high school kid who was in the right spot at the right time…and took my father’s advice and put my head down and went to work. You need a lot of luck. I had a lot of injuries, but I was fortunate enough to do enough to keep people interested in my talents.”

BAINES on being traded to Texas in 1989: “I wasn’t happy about it. (‘Who traded you?’) Larry Himes…and I still haven’t spoken to him. We haven’t spoken to each other, not even when I got traded. Jeff Torborg told me I got traded. It hurt a lot…and then you come back a month later and they retire your number. How do you figure that?!”

BAINES on President George W. Bush saying that trading Sammy Sosa for Baines was the worst thing he had done as an adult: “He actually apologized to me at the White House when we went there after we won (the 2005 World Series), and he sent me a congratulations letter when I got put in the Hall of Fame, and I have it framed.”

REINSDORF on Baines being inducted into the Hall of Fame: “A great deal of joy. The fact is he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame and I wish he had gone in sooner. Clearly, it’s a great thing for Harold and great thing for our organization.”

REINSDORF on Baines being traded to Texas in ‘89: “I remember calling Harold after it was completed and I remember being in tears on the phone talking to him…and then of course on the next trip in, when the Rangers came in, I retired his number.”

KITTLE on Baines being just shy of 3,000 career MLB hits: “What is he, 150 or some hits shy of 3,000? I would have given him my hits to get him to 3,000 and I wouldn’t do it for another person who’s ever played baseball.”

BAINES on how his life will be different after being inducted into the Hall of Fame: “I’ll still go back to my little small town of St. Michael’s (Maryland) and live my life. It won’t change that much. I can probably make a change, but I’m 60 years old and I’m not trying to get any busier. I’m trying to go the other way.”

For a full recap of this weekend’s Hall of Fame festivities in Cooperstown and the very latest White Sox news, videos, podcasts, and more, fans are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com/WhiteSox and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears postgame coverage, local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the new “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.  

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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