Keppinger expects leg will be fine

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Keppinger expects leg will be fine

Jeff Keppinger is in good shape now but admits earlier this offseason he was worried when an X-ray revealed a broken right fibula rather than a sprained ankle.

The White Sox newest addition said Monday he expects to be ready for spring training when the team reports to Glendale, Ariz. in just over two months. The walking boot worn by Keppinger -- who signed a three-year, 12-million deal with the White Sox on Monday -- comes off Tuesday and he will start his rehab shortly thereafter.

It especially wasnt a fun time, Keppinger said. I thought I rolled my ankle and sprained it. I was wearing flip flops coming down the stairs and just slipped and thought I could catch myself and just didnt land right. I come out of (the walking boot) tomorrow and get on my way with walking and get better so I should be all good shortly. It was pretty nerve wracking.

The competition for Keppinger was heavy this offseason.

The New York Yankees were one of many teams in pursuit of Keppinger, a .288 career hitter, who, along with Dustin Pedroia and Albert Pujols, is one of three hitters with more walks and extra-base hits than strikeouts since 2007. Keppinger is tailor-made for the White Sox as general manager Rick Hahn wants his offense to be less reliant upon the long ball next season. He wants his team to be able to score even when it doesnt hit home runs. Hahn said the White Sox were high on Keppinger from the start of the offseason but the broken leg cooled the chase, at least temporarily.

It actually probably slowed things down a beat so that us and the others clubs involved could get the medical records and post-op report and the follow-up report, Hahn said. It may have slowed things down by a week or two, but there certainly was a great amount of interest in him and we were there from there the start. Once we were comfortable with the prognosis on the fracture we were right there back in it and we were able to close something off down in Nashville last week despite the fact that there was a fair amount of competition.

Keppinger heads into spring as the White Sox third baseman, though he said the club hasnt informed him of where he will play or hit. With no more than 36 strikeouts in any of his eight seasons, Keppinger appears to be a strong candidate for the second spot in the White Sox lineup. Hahn received a good report on Keppinger from assistant GM Buddy Bell, who briefly managed him in Kansas City in 2006 and likes Keppingers makeup.

Jeff adds a valuable and different type of offensive player to our lineup, Hahn said.

Keppinger likes the idea of hitting second because of the different aspects to the offensive approach. Hes a career .288 hitter.

Sometimes you have to take pitches to allow the leadoff batter to steal, Keppinger said. Other times you have to just kind of give yourself up for the team and move guys over for the three hitter. I kind of like the challenges the two hole brings. Its kind of tough sometimes to do all those little things, but I pride myself in being able to get them done.

His first task, however, is to get his right leg back up to speed. Keppinger doesnt anticipate any problems.

That was what I told by the doctors, Keppinger said. Im about to be out of the boot and healed up and basically its just strengthening the leg back up. I should be good to go come spring. That certainly all matters based on how rehab goes but I dont imagine there being any tough parts of rehab that are a struggle for me. I just need to strengthen it back up and get the flexibility back in my foot.

John Danks 'can't fault' White Sox for decision to cut him

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John Danks 'can't fault' White Sox for decision to cut him

He’s disappointed in the decision and hopes to pitch again, but John Danks said Wednesday he understands why the White Sox moved on.

Speaking from his home in Nashville, Tenn., Danks said he would stay in pitching shape in case any teams call after his departure from the White Sox is finalized. The team’s longest-tenured player, Danks will officially be designated for assignment on Thursday, the White Sox announced on Tuesday. Danks said he began to believe his run with the club might be over after he lost on Thursday night in Baltimore, which dropped his record in four starts to 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA.

“I can’t fault anybody with the decision they made,” Danks said. “It’s a win-now league and I wasn’t helping the team win.

“The team is hot, the team is playing well. That’s obvious and you can’t go out there with four-fifths of a rotation, I totally understand that. It all starts with starting pitching, we’ve been told that since we were young. In order to win this thing, you have to have five starters giving you a shot every night out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing that in April.”

A member of the team since 2007 and in the final season of a five-year contract, Danks entered 2016 with the expectation he’d receive more than four starts before the White Sox cut him.

But Danks also expected more of himself.

He commanded his fastball and consistently hit 90 mph on the radar gun this spring, developments that had the White Sox cautiously optimistic Danks would regain some of the form that made him successful early in his career.

Yet Danks never once had an easy outing after the season began. Even in his best start on April 21, Danks worked around five hits and five walks to hold the Los Angeles Angels to two runs in six innings. After his loss Thursday, Danks said he felt he was in the way of something special in the White Sox clubhouse, which has thrived off energy and chemistry so far.

Danks said leaving his teammates was difficult. Chris Sale convinced him to stop by the clubhouse early Tuesday to say goodbye.

“I would say that was probably the hardest part,” Danks said. “Went in and hugged guys that were in there yesterday. We are having fun. Those guys are a blast to be around. It’s always more fun to win. Just the energy that gets brought in every day and the camaraderie and the trust in each other. You can see that on the field. Guys are willing to give themselves up for the better of the team.

“They do that because the other guy behind them does the same thing. It’s been a great month aside from four starts. I wish those guys nothing but the best. I’m a Sox fan for sure.”

Danks looks back fondly on his White Sox tenure, even if the four seasons after shoulder surgery didn’t go as planned. Though the results weren’t what he wanted, Danks is satisfied with his effort level. He also loves that he got to spend nine seasons living “in a badass city.”

But at 31, Danks isn’t quite ready to call it a career.

“I don't have any regrets, I worked as hard as I know how to and did my very best every time out and that's really all I could promise,” Danks said. “Certainly still is a desire to play. Now it's up to someone wanting me or not.

“I grew up there. Showed up as a baby, I was 21 years old when I made my first start and left as a 31-year-old man. I got to play with a lot of awesome teammates that have become lifelong friends now. Met a lot of people in a great organization. I don't know, I hadn't thought of my whole time just yet. I certainly had a lot of good times, some tough times, some struggles, but all in all I got to live a dream. Got to play a game, and yeah, I'm a very blessed man, no doubt.”

Hamstring still sore for White Sox Avisail Garcia

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Hamstring still sore for White Sox Avisail Garcia

The combination of soreness and cold weather looks as if it will keep Avisail Garcia out for a fourth straight game.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday afternoon he intends to be cautious with how he uses his designated hitter, who hasn’t played since Friday because of a sore right hamstring. The White Sox host the second game of a three-game set with the Boston Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. on Wednesday.

Garcia tested his hamstring before Tuesday’s game and still isn’t 100 percent, Ventura said. He intended to test it again during batting practice on Wednesday. While Garcia is listed as being available, Jerry Sands started at DH again.

“He still has something there,” Ventura said. “So even today, you’re a little nervous using him for a game and having him try to beat something out and sprint. So we’ll test him again today.”

Garcia tweaked his hamstring as he tried to avoid a tag on the final play of Friday’s loss.

The injury arrived just as Garcia had begun to finally hit. He went 8-for-18 with four RBIs and four runs and had a hit in all five games of the team’s road trip.

Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

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Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

The White Sox newfound brand of crisp, clean baseball is suiting Jose Quintana awfully well. 

The 27-year-old left-hander pitched another gem Tuesday night, firing eight innings of one-run ball to propel the White Sox to a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of 15,025 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Anchored by improved offensive and defensive support, Quintana lowered his season ERA to 1.40. But more jarring — in a positive way — is that in earning the win on Tuesday, Quintana for the first time in his career won three consecutive starts. 

“It’s way better this year,” Quintana said. “The offense is, for me and for everybody, everybody tries to do his job. We’re off to a really good start and we believe this year is a good year for us, and we’ll try to do everything to stay in first place.”

Quintana’s posted consistently solid results since the White Sox plucked him from Double-A Birmingham to start in a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians four years ago. His decidedly-not-flashy-but-effective pitching style didn’t make headlines like his prolific teammate Chris Sale, but a 3.46 ERA and an unfairly poor win-loss record landed him on plenty of lists and social media takes focused on the most underrated or overlooked players in baseball. 

That’s changed this year. Before his stellar start Tuesday, Quintana was given 8/1 odds by the sports betting website Bovada to win the American League Cy Young, the third-best of anyone (Sale led the way at 6/5). It’s still early, of course, but these six starts to begin the 2016 season stand is one of the best stretches he’s had in his career. 

Manager Robin Ventura attributed Quintana’s ace-like success in part to pitching with a little less pressure than in the past. 

“There is something to be said for going out there thinking if you give up one you’re going to lose,” Ventura said. “It’s been a few years for him. Right now (with) the feeling going on in there, he knows if he just pitches his game those guys are going to scratch out some runs for him.”

The White Sox continue to show signs of ending a head-scratching inability to support Quintana. 

Jose Abreu’s first-inning RBI triple got the White Sox scoring started and his double in the eighth added two insurance runs (a Todd Frazier groundout in the third inning plated the White Sox other run). For the fifth time in six starts this season, Quintana was supported by four or more runs, and Adam Eaton and Austin Jackson made sparkling defensive plays to keep hard-hit balls from inflicting any damage. 

Having the offense score four or more runs in 83 percent of Quintana’s starts seems unlikely — if he makes 32 starts this year, that’d mean he’d get that support in about 27 of those — but it is an improvement off the last few seasons. The White Sox scored three or fewer runs in 54 percent of Quintana’s starts from 2013-15, a span in which it’s worth noting the club also was rated as having the third-worst defense in baseball by DRS and UZR. 

“There’s more of a confidence level of him knowing he doesn’t have to do an extraordinary thing — and he might do it, like tonight,” Ventura said. “But he doesn’t feel like he has to do it on his own.”

Quintana isn’t throwing harder this year and hasn’t added a new pitch or anything like that. But Ventura’s theory on why the Colombia native is pitching better makes sense — perhaps the next step in Quintana’s career was getting a good, reliable team playing behind him.

“He’s probably one of the best right now in the league,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through a translator. 

That’s not hyperbole. Quintana has a top-10 ERA that’s backed up by a 2.12 FIP, which is a good indicator that his early-season success isn’t necessarily a small sample size-generated mirage. 

Quintana is a shining example of how so much has gone right for the White Sox this season — even on the day in which the team announced it would eat over $11 million to cut ties with veteran left-hander John Danks. Not only is he pitching better, but everyone around him is playing better. And the combination of that, so far, has taken Quintana and the White Sox to another level. 

“Everything changed,” Quintana said. “Everything is going in a good direction this year. We believe in that.”