First Pitch: Buehrle seeks Opening Day redemption

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First Pitch: Buehrle seeks Opening Day redemption

Friday, April 1, 2011
9:03 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND The good news is that Mark Buehrle has been aces in his Opening Day starts. The bad news? The one exception came three seasons ago, here at Progressive Field.

The last time he started Opening Day in Cleveland, oh, it was an ugly one, Guillen said. Ill ask Mark: Please dont do that again.

Hopefully Ill do better than I did the last time we started in Cleveland, Buehrle smiled. Because that was 1 23 innings, and that was rough.

In that 2008 game, Buehrle gave up seven earned runs but escaped with a no-decision, as the White Sox drove Indians starter CC Sabathia out of the box early in an eventual 10-8 loss.

Buehrle is 3-1 lifetime with a 3.39 ERA in eight Opening Day starts. Remove 2008 from his opener resume, and the lefthanders Opening Day ERA falls to 2.08.

His Opening Day, 6-0 shutout of Cleveland a year ago both set a team record for most Opening Day starts and saw the two-time Gold Glove winner author the most spectacular fielding play of his career, a hockey kick-save, football-hike assist on a Lou Marson slap through the box.

Buehrle has had some big highlights vs. Cleveland in his career, but overall has scuffled some, going 13-15 with a 4.64 ERA, .804 OPS, 2.14 BB and 1.38 WHIP. Hes a touch better in his career at Progressive Field, Buehrle is 6-7 with a 4.13 ERA, .739 OPS, 2.29 KBB and 1.29 WHIP.

Heres how the Wahoos will line up vs. Buehrle:

1. Michael Brantley, center field (2-9, .444 OPS, two strikeouts career vs. Buehrle)
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, shortstop (6-29, .523 OPS, three walks, five GIDP)
3. Shin-Soo Choo, right field (10-26, 1.064 OPS)
4. Carlos Santana, catcher
5. Travis Hafner, designated hitter (14-60, .761 OPS, 15 Ks, six HBP)
6. Orlando Cabrera, second base (17-49, .866 OPS, home run)
7. Matt LaPorta, first base (3-16, .485 OPS)
8. Austin Kearns, left field (3-6, 1.167 OPS)
9. Jack Hannahan, third base (2-6, 1.095 OPS)

Pick to click? What's new, its Choo.

Fausto Carmona takes the bump vs. the White Sox, bringing a career record of 7-3 vs. the South Siders, with a 4.36 ERA, .729 OPS, 1.32 KBB and 1.39 WHIP. In his career at Progressive Field, Carmona is 24-28 with a 4.15 ERA, .720 OPS, 1.58 KBB and 1.40 WHIP.

Heres how the White Sox will attack the righthander:

1. Juan Pierre, left field (1-8, .347 OPS career vs. Carmona)
2. Gordon Beckham, second base (1-6, .611 OPS, three walks)
3. Adam Dunn, designated hitter (0-8, four Ks)
4. Paul Konerko, first base (4-11, two HR, six RBI, five walks, 1.465 OPS)
5. Alex Rios, center field (3-18, .417 OPS)
6. Carlos Quentin, right field (0-2, walk)
7. A.J. Pierzynski, catcher (6-21, .699 OPS, two GIDP)
8. Alexei Ramirez, shortstop (2-9, .522 OPS)
9. Brent Morel, third base (1-2, HR)

Outside of Konerko, the White Sox offense could scuffleunless Morel wants to spin some sophomore magic and take Carmona deep again.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Fire players to appear at Nando's Peri-Peri in South Loop on July 30

Fire players to appear at Nando's Peri-Peri in South Loop on July 30

Nando's Peri-Peri just launched a seventh Chicago-area restaurant and the Chicago Fire are helping to promote the new location in the name of the Chicago Fire Foundation.

Fire players and general manager Nelson Rodriguez will pay a visit to the Nando's at 1005 S. Delano Court on July 30.

Nando's will donate all sales, excluding alcohol, on that date to the Chicago Fire Foundation. That Nando's location opened on July 24.

Players Matt Lampson, Patrick McLain, Patrick Doody, Drew Conner, Matt Polster, Michael Stephens, Joey Calistri and Alex Morrell and Rodriguez will be at the Nando's. Fire players will be at the restaurant from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Check out the Fire's release on the event for more information.

Notre Dame unit preview: Is Alize Jones primed for a breakout at tight end?

Notre Dame unit preview: Is Alize Jones primed for a breakout at tight end?

With the start of Notre Dame preseason camp approaching fast, we’re looking at what to expect from each unit that’ll take the field in primetime Sept. 4 against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. 

Depth Chart

1A. Durham Smythe (Redshirt junior)
1B. Alize Jones (Sophomore)
2A. Tyler Luatua (Junior)
2B. Nic Weishar (Redshirt sophomore)
3. Jacob Matuska (Redshirt junior)

Smythe’s Week 2 injury against Virginia thinned this group quite a bit last year. As a group, Notre Dame’s tight ends only totaled 20 receptions for 233 yards and one touchdown (which came when Smythe scored on a fake field goal against Virginia). 

But with Smythe healthy, Jones feeling more comfortable and a dearth of experience at receiver, Scott Booker’s group should be relied on more in Notre Dame’s passing game this fall. The return of Luatua, who was welcomed back to the team this summer after initially deciding to transfer prior to spring practice, will help Notre Dame’s running efforts behind the physical 255-pound California native. 

Weishar could develop into a factor, too, as he enters his third year in the program. The Marist alum has solid receiving skills that could play well this fall, especially in the red zone. 

Biggest question: Is Alize Jones ready to break out? 

Jones accounted for most of Notre Dame’s tight end production last year (13 catches and 190 yards) but wasn’t satisfied with his first year on campus. It was an eye-opening experience for him: “I didn’t take enough time and I don’t think I took it too serious last year,” Jones said during spring practice. 

But even through some of that first-year turbulence, Jones showed glimpses of the outstanding athleticism and receiving skills that made him a sought-after recruit out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. His 45-yard catch in the fourth quarter against Temple set up DeShone Kizer’s game-winning toss to Will Fuller, and he also had a 37-yard reception against UMass an a 35-yarder against USC. 

Whether Jones stays at tight end is another question. Notre Dame tried him out at its “W” receiver position this spring, and if he winds up sticking there, he could follow the Devin Funchess-like career arc plenty of Notre Dame fans prophesied when he signed with the Irish in February of 2015. But however the 6-foot-4, 240 pound Jones is used, he’s primed to develop into a key part of Notre Dame’s offense this fall. 

Youthful impact

Notre Dame didn’t sign a tight end in its 2016 recruiting class, but has two highly-touted players verbally committed to its class of 2017. Both Brock Wright (Cypress, Texas) and Cole Kmet (Arlington Heights, Ill.) are rated by Rivals as four-star recruits. 

They said it

“I know what it’s like to play Clemson and Ohio State and teams like that, playing against elite guys. Now going into my sophomore year, I’ve already done it. It’s just getting comfortable with everything, which I am. So I really feel like all the pieces are coming together.” — Alize Jones

White Sox like short- and long-term payoff from Tim Anderson's battle with Jake Arrieta

White Sox like short- and long-term payoff from Tim Anderson's battle with Jake Arrieta

What arguably was the best at-bat of Tim Anderson’s nascent major league career ended with a strikeout. 

Anderson led off the sixth inning of the White Sox 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday with a 10-pitch at-bat against reigning National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. He fouled off four consecutive pitches, three of which came on a 3-2 count, before taking a sinker on the black for strike three. 

What happened after Anderson’s at-bat was where the payoff from it came: Melky Cabrera drew a walk and Jose Abreu lined a single to right. After Justin Morneau struck out looking on a high curveball — the pitch was out of the strike zone, according to BrooksBaseball.net — Todd Frazier launched a three-run home run.

 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“I kind of felt like that got us some momentum, even though I did strike out,” Anderson said.” It kind of got him (Arrieta) flustered a little bit, got him off rhythm and we were able to capitalize on that.”

The 23-year-old Anderson hasn’t made a living on patient, lengthy at-bats since being promoted to the majors in early June. Anderson entered Tuesday’s Crosstown date with the Cubs seeing an average of 3.56 pitches per plate appearance, ranking 278th out of 310 players with at least 150 plate appearances this season (former White Sox and current Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski is last with 3.09 P/PA, while the Cleveland Indians’ Mike Napoli leads the majors with 4.59 P/PA). 

Anderson also has the lowest walk rate (1.2 percent) of any player with 150 plate appearances, which would explain why he only has a .281 on-base percentage despite hitting a relatively healthy .273. 

It’s relatively rare for a player to have a walk rate as low as Anderson’s and have an above-average season at the plate. The lowest walk rates for players with a wRC+ over 100 (100 being average) over the last three years: Adam Jones (3.6 percent walk rate, 119 wRC+ in 2013), Dee Gordon (3.8 percent walk rate, 113 wRC+ in 2014) and Jones (2.8 percent walk rate, 116 wRC+ in 2015).

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Eventually, Anderson will have to become more patient at the plate to maximize on his outstanding contact skills. The battle he had with Arrieta showed he can fight off plenty of pitches from one of baseball’s best hurlers, which manager Robin Ventura saw as a positive long-term sign. 

It didn’t hurt things in in the short-term view of the sixth inning Monday, either. 

“He’s getting a taste of some good pitchers,” Ventura said. “I think that’s part of his process going through the league, seeing these guys. He doesn’t back down, he’s a very confident kid. You learn something as well as be productive. You like to see a kid fight like that at the plate.”