As the opening of the free-agent market nears, generalmanager Rick Hahn doesnt want to guess about where any of the White Sox threefree agents might land.As of midnight Saturday, A.J. Pierzynski, Brett Myers and KevinYoukilis are free to sign with any team they prefer. The team isnt expected tomake a qualifying offer to any, Hahn said. And though their chance to retainplayers is reduced significantly once they become available to all teams, Hahnsaid, he knows the strength of relationships means nothing is certain. I dont want to handicap it because if I were sitting heretwo years ago the last time A.J hit free agency I would have given you a reallow, low number on the likelihood of returning and then at the 11th hour wewere able to work something out, Hahn said. Free agency has a weird way withyour own guys of unfolding. Theres a fair amount of sentimentality on bothsides and you never really know a guy is gone until hes gone.After eight years on the South Side, the decision regarding Pierzynskihas the most sentimentality attached. The veteran catcher also figures to, alongwith Youkilis, be the most difficult to sign. Pierzynski earned 6 million lastseason when he hit a career-high 27 home runs and tied his career-best with 77RBIs. He and Texas Rangers free agent Mike Napoli figure to be thetop options at a premium position. Pierzynskis potential return is alsofurther muddled because the White Sox have a potential replacement in TylerFlowers, who hit seven home runs in limited play and is strong defensively.Whereas the club could be comfortable with Flowers behindthe dish -- though a fracture in his hand will keep Flowers from playing winter ballas the team hoped -- there isnt as much certainty at third base. With thehealth of Brent Morels back still in question and no prospects consideredmajor-league ready, third base seems to be of a higher priority for the WhiteSox. Whether or not they can retain Youkilis, the top free agentat the position in a thin class, remains in question. Though a major leaguesource said the White Sox have indicated they want to speak to Youkilis -- whohad 15 homers and 46 RBIs after he was acquired from Boston on June 24 -- whenits time, they may face too much competition. Youkilis is prepared to signto play either first base or third base and has received a good level ofinterest thus far, according to a baseball source.Youkilis also may prefer to play closer to home in the SanFrancisco area. Late in the season, Youkilis wife gave birth to the couplesfirst child. In early October, the veteran said family would play a significantrole in his decision.Myers, who was 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 35 games after he cameover in a trade from Houston, has also probably increased the size of hismarket because he would make himself available as both a starter and areliever.Late in the season, executive vice president of baseballoperations Kenny Williams said the club considered retaining Myers, who had a10 million option, as a starter. Myers, who is 89-79 with a 4.27 ERA as astarter and has a 3.36 ERA and 40 saves as reliever, said he is open to anysituation.Ive got the mentality, I want to pitch, Myers said.Whichever way a team wants me to go Ill do. I think Ive proven I can start.Ive proven I can do both. Hindsight is 2020. Some teams might like me in thebullpen. Some might like me as a starter. Its up to the team.One final -- and potentially gigantic -- factor is how muchmoney the White Sox have to spend. After the team signed Jake Peavy for 14.5 million thisseason and picked up Gavin Floyds 9.5 million option, the White Sox have nineplayers under contract for a total of 89.25 million (7 million of Konerkos13.5 million is deferred). Hahn said Thursday the club will operate on roughlythe same amount as 2012, when they began the season with a 97.669 millionpayroll. With Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza both arbitration eligible,the team has a limited amount of money with which to operate. That may forceHahn to be creative in addressing his needs, including trading players off thecurrent roster.We certainly would like to have them back, Hahn said. Theyneed to see what their market is. It just wont happen as quickly as wed like.Were not closing the door on any of our free agents.
The White Sox take on the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.
Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo vs. James Paxton
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James Shields allowed his fewest runs in a month on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a loss.
Shields yielded two more home runs in six innings and his offense couldn’t keep pace as the White Sox lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in front of 15,630 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields gave up four earned runs and seven hits. Dioner Navarro homered in the loss, which snapped a three-game White Sox winning streak.
“We’ve seen better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “(Shields) got to two strikes, two outs and gave up a couple there and that’s tough. The homer to left, that’s just one you get in this ballpark. The biggest one, for him, mistake-wise was the homer to Joseph. I think that’s the one that he wants back. But as far as going out there and getting us to a point, he’s still got room to improve on. But he got through it.”
The six innings pitched marks the most by Shields since July 26.
In between, Shields allowed 28 runs (27 earned) and 33 hits in 14 innings over four turns, good for a 17.36 ERA.
He fell behind 3-0 by the third inning before he settled in and retired nine of 11 batters. The Phillies pieced together a two-out rally in the second inning to go up two runs as Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis doubled with an Aaron Altherr singled sandwiched in between.
Cesar Hernandez opened the third inning with a solo homer just inside the left-field foul pole.
Joseph also homered with two outs in the sixth inning to put Philadelphia ahead 4-0.
Shields has allowed 31 homers in 143 innings this season, including 22 in 75.2 innings for the White Sox. Eleven of those have come in his last four starts.
He walked none and struck out six.
“I think the only pitch I made a mistake on was that last one, the home run in the sixth inning there,” Shields said. “The ball kind of slipped out of my hand a little bit and kind of left it over the plate. Other than that I felt good with my location tonight. I was hitting my spots consistently. They were getting hits here and there. That’s part of it. One of the positives things, I didn’t walk anyone and I was getting some swings and misses. But we have to move on and move forward and build off that.”
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The White Sox didn’t have much success against Phillies starting pitcher Jerod Eickhoff, who retired the first nine batters he faced. Avisail Garcia led off the sixth inning with a single and Navarro belted a two-run homer to right to make it a 4-2 game.
Eickhoff limited the White Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings.
Garcia kept the White Sox alive with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. But Jeanmar Gomez retired Navarro with runners on the corners to end the threat.
“Until Dio hit the homer there wasn’t much going for us,” Ventura said. “We got one --- I think Adam was the one that breaks it up and gets it going. But (Eickoff) was tough on us. A great curveball. That’s the biggest thing that sticks out. When he got in trouble, that curveball was the pitch for us. After that, it just wasn’t a good night offensively. I don’t think we swung it that well.”
If all continues to go well, Miguel Gonzalez could pitch in a rehab start as soon as Friday.
On the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, the White Sox starter said he felt good during a second bullpen session on Wednesday.
Gonzalez, who is 2-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 19 games (18 starts), threw 30 pitches. He previously threw a bullpen session on Friday and felt some discomfort the following day. But Gonzalez said he has made progress since he received treatment on Saturday.
“A lot better,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t feel anything while I was throwing my bullpen, which is great. I’m happy with the results today and come back tomorrow and we’ll see.”
Gonzalez left an Aug. 11 start at Kansas City in the bottom of the second inning. Though he wasn’t yet sure if he’d head out on a rehab assignment, Gonzalez said he was on the third day of a five-day schedule in which he was supposed to start. But it’s also possible the White Sox could have Gonzalez first throw a simulated game.
“We're going to have him go back out there again and do a little bit more, that looks more like starting in a game where he's going to throw for a little while, sit down, get back up,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Simulate some innings and hopefully after he does that a couple time he can go out for a rehab assignment.”