Thornton earns title of 'Grandpa' among teammates

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Thornton earns title of 'Grandpa' among teammates

Hes but 35 years old and his daughter is three, but that hasnt stopped Matt Thorntons manager nor his young teammates from calling him Grandpa.

With several veteran relievers currently injured or recently released, Thornton is the senior statesmen in a White Sox bullpen loaded with rookies. His seven-plus years of service time dwarfs the 51 days combined owned by the White Sox five rookie relievers when the season began. While the moniker is part playful, its also a sign of respect the rookies have for their elder. So despite the absurdity of it all, Thornton not only indulges manager Robin Ventura and the rookies, he has actually begun to embrace his nickname.

Im the only one with any kind of time out there, Thornton said with a laugh. (Being a grandpa) is a long, long, long ways away for me. (Ventura) is just picking on me and having fun. I guess him and Kenny Williams were joking around about it.

A rookie himself, Ventura is asked almost daily about the makeup of the teams bullpen and how they will fare in a pennant race.

Closer Addison Reed is 23. Hector Santiago is 24. Nate Jones and Leyson Septimo are 26 and Brian Omogrosso is 27. Septimo made his major league debut on Friday and Omogrosso is still waiting for his chance.

And then theres Thornton, who made his major league debut on June 27, 2004 and has 510 big league appearances to his credit. This season, Thornton is 2-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 38 games.

Besides the grandpa out there, its a pretty young group, Ventura said. But theres energy that comes with that. Theres excitement and a lot of good things that come with it. Some people view it as a negative. Im looking more at the positives.

One positive influence Thornton has is the example he sets for his teammates. Both Thornton and pitching coach Don Cooper said the left-hander isnt one for being a vocal presence. And thats not what Cooper wants from Thornton, nor what Thornton wants. Cooper just wants a good performance.

Its much more important to get the job done on the field and to lead the way that way and he has done a great job for us all the years he has been with us, Cooper said. The work on the field is what really matters (in the pennant race) and thats where Id like him to lead the way.

Still, Thornton picks his spots to offer advice. When Santiago was removed from the closers role earlier this season, Thornton didnt take long to make sure he was OK.

He came up to me, hes like Youre giving up home runs. When I first came up I was walking the bases loaded and trying to pitch out of it and giving up home runs. Right now youre on a better path than I was going and look where Im at, Im seven years in the big leagues, Santiago said. Hes great to pick his mind. He picks you up for sure.

Were 23 and 24 and then weve got Grandpa Thornton, Reed said. Its pretty funny. Hes out there kind of holding us down. We dont need that guy in here trying to pumping us up with words. Everybody goes out there and plays and thats enough to fuel everybody else.

Thornton is definitely okay with the ribbing. He knows his teammates are inexperienced, but he likes the signs he sees. He loves Reeds demeanor during a tight situation and after a bad game. Hes impressed by how Santiago handled a rough period early in his career. He likes how Jones has overcome some of the control issues that dogged him in the minors and attacks the strike zone.

Most of all, Thornton likes the work ethic his teammates display and how they believe in their abilities.

We have a great group of kids out there. They go about things the right way. They continue to work hard, to continue to improve their craft. (The nickname) is okay, Thornton said with a laugh. Theyre all doing good. They all do things right. They just need to keep going out there and attack the strike zone. Thats all I tell those guys is Just go after it.

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

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Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

That Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada have reunited is a nice story, but it won't dramatically change the mindset of the rebuilding White Sox, who earlier this week demonstrated they aren't messing around.

Abreu said in a statement issued by the White Sox on Friday that he's "very happy" about the prospect of again playing alongside Moncada, who played 12 games with the star slugger in 2012 for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series. Moncada, 21, is the centerpiece of a four-player package acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale on Tuesday, a toolsy infielder who MLB.com has rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.

While the concept of Abreu mentoring Moncada has plenty of merit — the first baseman's work ethic is outstanding, and he's beloved by coaches and teammates — don't think the White Sox would hesitate to trade him if someone paid the right price. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn just spent four days at the Winter Meetings discussing how a team that just traded away its best pitcher and position player remains open to listening to all offers and is prepared to do what is must to get the franchise healthy again. 

"We're extremely open-minded on ways to continue the process that we started," Hahn said earlier this week, adding that the White Sox "have to make some painful decisions."

The White Sox have grown tired of never having all the pieces — or even more than a few — to fill the holes created by injury, poor performance, etc. They want to be flush with young talent and essentially have said anything that isn't nailed down at Guaranteed Rate Field is available with the exceptions of Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon.

The team wants to cash in on the chips it possesses.

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While they don't have a ton, the few the White Sox have could help expedite a rebuild process as the Sale and Eaton trades have shown. Those deals brought back seven players, including three who played at the big league level last season (Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez). Some of those players potentially would start 2017 in the big leagues, and that possibility increases the internal value of Abreu and starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who is equally revered among teammates and coaches for his dedication and team-first mentality. 

Having those young players see firsthand what it takes to excel in the majors from veteran teammates is invaluable. Abreu, who arrived in the United States from Cuba in late 2013, addressed that point in his statement about Moncada, who signed with Boston in 2015.

"Moncada is a five-tool player," Abreu said. "He really has everything needed to succeed, and I know that with the proper guidance of veteran players and coaches with experience he can become an All-Star caliber player."

"He is going to make a huge impact in the White Sox organization, and both the fans and the team will be thankful.

"I already spoke with him to welcome him to the team. I told him that I'm going to be there for him for everything that he needs on and off the field."

In a conference call Wednesday, Moncada said he's "thrilled" to once again play with Abreu. Whether they will hasn't yet been determined.

When asked about Moncada's 2017 starting point earlier in the week, Hahn said the 21-year still needs to develop. Moncada appeared in eight big league games last season for Boston and struggled with contact, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances. But that promotion came after a meteoric rise through Boston's farm system, an aggressive path that included only 45 games played above High-A. Nothing has been announced, but it appears Moncada will receive an invite to big league camp next spring and be seated near Abreu in the clubhouse. 

Still, Hahn sounds like he intends for Moncada to spend much of 2017 refining his approach in the minors. He also has demonstrated he is willing to dig deep and make more painful moves if it betters the team in the long run, all of which means the White Sox wouldn't hesitate to trade Abreu or Quintana if they get what they want.