White Sox

Why Bryan LaHair never says, 'I told you so'

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Why Bryan LaHair never says, 'I told you so'

KANSAS CITY There have been so many microphones in Bryan LaHairs face that you wondered if at any point he wanted to scream: I told you so.
LaHair didnt last beyond his freshman year at Clemson University, and wound up at St. Petersburg College. He fell to the 39th round of the 2002 draft. The Seattle Mariners a team desperate for offense at Safeco Field released him. The Cubs didnt give him a real chance until the age of 29, after more than 3,600 at-bats in the minors. He could have gone to Japan to make some good money.
So the All-Star Game would seem like an ideal platform to fire back at anyone who doubted him along the way.
You aint going to hear that from me, LaHair said Tuesday. I wont say that. Im not a I told you so kind of guy. Im just grateful for all the opportunities Ive been given. Its just obviously a different road to get here. But you dont want to have enemies in this game.
So LaHair probably wont take this as a slight: Tony La Russa replacing Joey Votto at first base with David Freese in the fifth inning. Freese a third baseman and World Series MVP for La Russas St. Louis Cardinals last season had only played nine games at first base since 2009.
Instead, LaHair ran out there two innings later and followed Ryan Dempsters advice: Take as much stuff as you can. He made sure to get his bat and jersey signed by his teammates.
LaHair, of course, doesnt even play first base for the Cubs anymore. That job went to Anthony Rizzo, who might keep it for the next decade, as soon as he was promoted from Triple-A Iowa two weeks ago. LaHair patiently answered all the Rizzo questions and explained how much those two big left-handed bats could do damage in the same lineup.
LaHair thinks his sense of calm and purpose can be traced back, in part, to the visualization exercises he began years ago in the Mariners system with Dr. Jack Curtis, a sports psychologist who began consulting for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987, when future Cubs manager Dale Sveum played there.
I just know that if you believe you can do something, LaHair said, and you put your mind to doing something, youre capable of doing it. I know that if you put those visions in your head consistently of having successit just ends up being dj vu, because youve seen it happen before it happened.
The players voted LaHair onto the All-Star team during a first half in which he hit .286 with 14 homers and 30 RBI. He says he continues to work with team psychologist Dr. Marc Strickland, who divides his time between the Cubs and the minor-league affiliates and is seen around the batting cage and in the clubhouse.
We just go in a quiet room and close my eyes, LaHair said. I talk to him about what my plan is for that day or how I want to keep it moving forward. We just kind of go through at-bats and situations that may appear.
LaHair will picture that nights starting pitcher or how the game might unfold. He does it once or twice a series, sometimes on his own.
Most of the time when Im finished, LaHair said, I open my eyes and I get ready (and) I feel really relaxed.
Theres a difference between being relaxed and being too comfortable, and LaHair definitely isnt resting on this All-Star trip. He wants to play 10 years in the big leagues. How he responds in the second half will be one of the storylines to watch around the Cubs.
You got to make adjustments to perform and stay here and have success in the long term, Sveum said. The guys on the other side of the fence learn how to pitch you and all that. So you need to make adjustments on a constant basis around here to learn how to deal with this kind of pitching on an everyday basis.
LaHair still has to prove that he can hit left-handers and do it for an entire season. He knows how hard this game is, and how cold the business can be, which is why he wont tell the world: I told you so. Hes going to close his eyes and look at the big picture.
Youre not going to go 4-for-4 every day (or) hit three balls off the wall at Wrigley, LaHair said. Hopefully, it works enough to where you have enough success to where Im sitting here today.

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first win in 10 months showed he could still be the ace of the future for White Sox

As encouraging as the reports are on many of the White Sox’s minor-league pitching prospects, Carlos Rodon’s effort against the Athletics on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field could prove just as significant to the rebuild on the South Side.

Looking much like the ace the Sox envisioned prior to Rodon’s rough 2017 season that ended with shoulder surgery, the left-hander put together his most successful effort of ’18 during a 10-3 drubbing of the Athletics before a sun-drenched crowd of 21,908.

Making his fourth start of the season, Rodon matched a career-high by going eight innings. He yielded two runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Rodon earned his first win of the season to help the Sox salvage a split of the four-game series.

“I felt good today—a lot of strikes,” Rodon said. “It was good to go eight and just be ahead of guys.”

Helping matters for Rodon was an offensive explosion by the Sox, led by Yoan Moncada’s career-high six RBIs. After falling behind 2-0, the Sox plated five runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings as Moncada cleared the bases with a double off the base of the wall in the fifth and launched his 10th home run of the season to drive in three more an inning later.

“Today was a great day,” Moncada said via a team interpreter. “I just went out to play the game the way that I play. Just to have fun. It was a very good game for me.”

Daniel Palka and Yolmer Sanchez also homered as the Sox won for just the second time in their last 11 games.

Rodon was the happy recipient of the run support to win his first game since Aug. 21, 2017, against the Twins. On Sunday, he threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes and was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball.

“I’m looking to do that every time out,” Rodon said. “Just show up and establish the strike zone with the fastball and be aggressive.”

The 25-year-old’s second-inning strikeout of Khris Davis was the 400th of Rodon’s career. It is a career that is continuing after a surgery that was a setback, but one that did not derail Rodon’s confidence that he would again pitch effectively.

“There are up-and-down days when you go through shoulder surgery or any surgery for any player,” Rodon said. “You've just got to work through it and try to make your way back. I'm here now and it’s looking up and I’m trying to get better.”

So is it reasonable to view Rodon as the future ace after all?

“You certainly can’t discount that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has to go out there and continue to get his feet underneath him and get through the rest of the season healthy and climbing.”

In other Sox pitching news, Renteria said starter Dylan Covey, who was removed in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game due to a hip flexor injury, “felt better” Sunday and the team will continue to monitor the right-hander’s progress.

Meanwhile, veteran Miguel Gonzalez made a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte as he continues to recover from inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Gonzalez went three innings and allowed one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez belted his first homer for the Knights in the game.

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.