White Sox think Lindstrom is a perfect fit

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White Sox think Lindstrom is a perfect fit

The White Sox finalized a one-year, 2.8 million contract with reliever Matt Lindstrom Friday, adding another piece to a bullpen the team hopes will be a major strength in 2013.

There was plenty of mutual interest between Lindstrom and the White Sox, as general manager Rick Hahn sought a power arm who had the ability to keep the ball on the ground. The 32-year-old has only allowed 18 home runs in 326 career innings -- an average of one home run served up per 18 innings over seven seasons. That's important for a team that plays half its games at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.

"He fits nicely for the ballpark," Hahn said. "He keeps the ball on the ground, he has a power-type arm where he's able to get a strikeout when needed. So it was a good fit for us. And talking to (pitching coach Don Cooper) and our scouts, there's even a little bit of upside there given how strong the arm is."

Lindstrom has had his eye on the White Sox for a while, too. The right-hander, who posted a 2.68 ERA between Arizona and Baltimore in 2012, said he frequently bugged his agent to inquire about the White Sox this winter.

"Every time he mentioned some other team in the loop for my services, I would ask him 'well where are these guys at,'" Lindstrom explained. "So we kinda did it quickly down the stretch, I was excited about that. Now I don't have to face guys like (Alex) Rios and (Adam) Dunn anymore, and Paul (Konerko). So I'm looking forward to not having to do that either.

Lindstrom will join a bullpen headlined by Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Nate Jones, giving manager Robin Ventura plenty of late-inning depth. Ventura said he envisions Lindstrom filling the role Brett Myers -- who signed with Cleveland earlier this month -- had last season, pitching mainly in the seventh and eighth innings but also able to slide in if Reed needs a day off in the ninth.

All those pitchers had an average fastball velocity over 93 miles per hour in 2012, and the hope is the depth Lindstrom adds will help keep everyone fresh for the 2013 season.

"The great part about it is (Ventura) has those options down there now," Lindstrom said. "He could use any one of us late in a game from the sixth inning on. He can mix and match lefty and righty, whatever, because we have the ability to get both those hitters out."

While Lindstrom's velocity dipped in 2012 -- he went from averaging over 95.7 miles per hour on his fastball from 2007-2011 to 94.8 miles per hour last season -- Hahn chalked that up to an improved two-seam fastball, the sink on which helped Lindstrom generate plenty of ground balls. It's no surprise, then, that Lindstrom's 50.7 percent ground ball rate was the highest of his career in 2012.

For the White Sox, Lindstrom is another piece to the puzzle, one that'll keep the team competitive in the American League.

"You need an elite pitching staff to survive in the American League and to survive in our ballpark," Hahn said, "and we feel weve put that together, that one through 12 can compete with anybody."

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.