Mixed emotions for White Sox as Nieves departs

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Mixed emotions for White Sox as Nieves departs

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- No names have been discussed, but Don Cooper knows the White Sox have a critical vacancy created by Wednesdays departure of Juan Nieves.

The White Sox bullpen coach for the past five seasons, Nieves, 47, accepted an offer to take over as pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox.

The White Sox first hired Nieves in November 1998 as the teams Single-A pitching coach. Though the current White Sox pitching coach thinks the team wouldnt move to immediately replace Nieves, Cooper did stress the importance of the relationship with whoever takes over. Cooper described how he and Nieves were in lock step with one another when it came to philosophy and style.

Its an important job, Cooper said by phone from Nashville, Tenn. We worked together, lived together and talked about (pitching) endlessly. We were totally on the same page and came up with plans for each guy. Juan fit like a glove. Hes a qualified guy. He earned his chance.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn described the move as bittersweet. He also lauded Nieves -- who was 32-25 with a 4.71 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1986-88 -- for his endless effort with pitchers.

You like to see your guys, good guys, get rewarded like that, Hahn said. But hell be missed. Hes a real hard worker. Upbeat guy. Creative. He deserves a fair amount of credit our young guys had in the bullpen this past year. Hes a nice calming, stabilizing force for them.

Reliever Nate Jones agreed with Hahns assessment. Jones said Nieves often spent the entire game engaged with the teams younger pitchers about strategy and situational pitching.

Hes an extremely important piece to the development, Jones said by phone. During all the situations that all of us pitchers get ourselves into, hes always talking strategy and he always had information on hitters. (Nieves and Cooper) both have an eye for mechanical problems, approach and the mental side. Both are well rounded and Im not surprised he got the opportunity.

Hahn sounded confident the White Sox have plenty of internal candidates to take Nieves spot. He expects he, Cooper and manager Robin Ventura among others to discuss the teams options.

As for Bostons choice, Cooper is confident the Red Sox picked a winner. He echoed Hahns sentiments the move is bittersweet.

Its nice to see good people get opportunities, Cooper said. Hes going to be missed, but Im happy for him. The only knock against him is he has no experience. But how do you get experience until you get a chance?

After wild seventh, Carson Fulmer wants another big-time opportunity for White Sox

After wild seventh, Carson Fulmer wants another big-time opportunity for White Sox

The White Sox called up Carson Fulmer from Double-A Birmingham a week ago with the expectation he could add a strong, powerful arm to the back end of a bullpen that’s been taxed quite a bit this season. 

After he struggled in his first high-leverage appearance in the majors, though, the White Sox remain confident their 2015 first-round pick will be an important part of the team’s bullpen down the stretch this summer. 

Fulmer only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes and allowed three game-deciding runs in seventh inning of the White Sox 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of 22,611 at U.S. Cellular Field Friday night. The leverage indexes of Fulmer’s first two appearances on the West Coast — which spanned 2 2/3 scoreless innings — were .01 and .05 (a leverage index of 1 is average), with those coming in a 8-1 loss and a 6-1 win. On Friday, Fulmer’s leverage index was 2.98. 

Fulmer said nerves weren’t behind his erratic outing, in which plenty of those 18 balls weren’t close to the strike zone. 

“I want to be in those situations,” the 22-year-old Fulmer said. “When you go out there and don’t do your job, it’s obviously frustrating. But you have to have a quick memory and throw it over your shoulder and prepare yourself for tomorrow.”

Fulmer’s electric mid-90’s fastball and wipeout curveball were rendered ineffective by his inability to command them in his two-thirds of an inning. He walked Justin Upton, gave up a single to Tyler Collins and walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia to load the bases with nobody out, and after a pair of groundouts brought a run in, he walked Cameron Maybin to re-load the bases.

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After that walk, Fulmer was pulled in favor of Nate Jones, who surrendered a go-ahead, ultimately game-winning two-run single to Tigers All-Star first baseman Miguel Cabrera. 

At some point, the White Sox were going to have to test Fulmer. With starter Jacob Turner only lasting 3 1/3 innings, and Fulmer looking comfortable in his first two appearances in the majors, manager Robin Ventura calculated that the seventh inning Friday was a prime opportunity. 

“He’s going to have to have it sooner or later,” Ventura said. “From the way the first (two) went, we felt comfortable he was going to come in there and be able to do that. But tonight, that doesn’t happen. But you have the confidence he can come back from this and be very effective in that spot.”

Morneau, who’s provided offense for bullpens over 14 major league seasons, agreed with his manager’s confidence in Fulmer. 

“We see a lot of good things in him,” Morneau said. “It’s obviously not up to me, but hopefully we get him back out there quick and let him settle back down and get comfortable, because he can really help this team.” 

White Sox relievers entered Friday with the fifth-highest leverage index in baseball, a product of the high volume of one-, two- and three-run games this team has found itself in this season. All those stressful innings — as well as Jake Petricka’s season-ending injury and Zach Putnam’s elbow issue from which he isn’t likely to return anytime soon — have put a considerable strain on Jones, Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and David Robertson.

Fulmer, by virtue of being in the White Sox bullpen, will get another opportunity at a high-leverage inning. And while his first foray into a pressure-packed relief appearance didn’t go well, he hopes to quickly get a chance to put Friday in the rearview mirror. 

“I can’t ever use the excuse of it being my first big-time experience, especially for me being put in that situation,” Fulmer said. “Hopefully I get the opportunity to do it again. I’ll continue to stay prepared, just like I was tonight, and hopefully the odds turn in my favor. That’s all I can control.” 

Preview: Sale, White Sox continue series with Tigers tonight on CSN

Preview: Sale, White Sox continue series with Tigers tonight on CSN

Chris Sale takes the mound as the White Sox continue their four-game series against the Detroit Tigers tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Matt Boyd (1-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA)

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Report: Rangers making ‘serious effort’ to trade for White Sox ace Chris Sale

Report: Rangers making ‘serious effort’ to trade for White Sox ace Chris Sale

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday he’s been fielding more calls about trades as he team has slid to six losses in seven games after the All-Star break. 

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, one of those calls has been from a Texas Rangers front office that’s pushing hard to acquire All-Star left-hander Chris Sale. 

Sullivan reports the White Sox want power-hitting 22-year-old prospect Joey Gallo as well as former top prospect infielder Jurickson Profar. 

The 23-year-old Profar is hitting .304/.351/.435 in 42 games with the Rangers this season. Profar missed the entire 2014 season due to a muscle strain in his right shoulder, and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in the same shoulder prior to the 2015 season, in which he only appeared in 32 games in the Rangers’ minor league system. 

Gallo, who homered in his first career at-bat off then-White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija in June of 2015, has 17 home runs with a .254/.394/.561 slash line and 85 strikeouts in 228 plate appearances for Triple-A Round Rock this season. 

While Hahn said Thursday it “might be extreme” for the White Sox to undergo a full rebuild with Sale and Jose Quintana under control on team-friendly deals through 2019 and 2020, respectively, he did say the organization is considering all of its options as it languishes in both the American League wild card and Central Division races.

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday that the White Sox were offered a "king's ransom" for Sale and turned that team down.