Williams, White Sox liking their chances

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Williams, White Sox liking their chances

Despite dropping four straight series, the White Sox entered Monday's BP Crosstown Cup matchup with the Cubs in first place, a game and a half ahead of Cleveland and three games ahead of Detroit. It's been a good-news-bad-news run in the last dozen games, plenty of which the Sox have dropped by only a run or two.

"We wasted games over the last week, week and a half," general manager Kenny Williams said prior to Monday's game. "And it's unfortunate because it came at a time we could have created distance between ourselves and the clubs behind us. It is what it is and it's part of the grind and you're going to have these stretches. But that's the bad news, that we had an opportunity to stretch out our lead. The good news is we've been in every game, we've been leading some of those games. We're still in position and still feel like we're a good club that can continue to grind it out and contend for the season."

Taking a step back, that the bad news is the White Sox didn't stretch their lead atop the AL Central isn't the worst news ever. Three months ago, no prognosticator expected the White Sox to be in first place, and many didn't even think they'd be in contention at this point. By the All-Star break, they'd look to sell.

Instead, the Sox are looking for ways to improve the club as late June approaches. And while Williams reiterated he does have restrictions on who he can add, the fact that the Sox are in a position to add players is probably shocking enough to those who pegged the Sox for dead last in the division.

"It's nice we're in it and we're competing. It's still kind of early, but it's starting to get to that midpoint," said first baseman Paul Konerko. "You just have to try to mentally prepare for that and don't kill yourself every night if we don't win, but at the same time you realize how important every game is, too. So balancing those things out is the hard part. We didn't play terrible on that road trip, but obviously it wasn't a good road trip wins and losses, but we just have shake that off and come out tonight strong."

The six-game road trip saw plenty of good pitching, be it from Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy or the bullpen. But the struggles of Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber continued, although Wiliams isn't planning on ditching either pitcher any time soon.

"We keep waiting and we see little things that are signs of progress," Williams explained. "Then you'll see the little blip on the radar here and there. We look at it optimistically. The great thing is we've been able to bring some of these young guys, whether it be in the bullpen, or in the case of Quintana, into the mix and he's performed great. We continue to allow ourselves the best opportunity by putting the quality starters out there."

Quintana's outstanding job filling in for John Danks hasn't gone unnoticed. Manager Robin Ventura said Monday the 23-year-old lefty "isn't going anywhere" and Williams sees Quintana's success keeping up long-term.

"Take a look at the teams he's pitched against," Williams said. "Maybe you could still guess about it if he hadn't pitched against some of the teams he has. But he's been on the stage, and he's had to produce, and he's come through. I don't see why there's any reason he can't keep this up."

The Sox don't quite know when they'll get Danks back, as the lefty underwent an MRI Monday, the results of which weren't known before the game. Williams expects Danks make an impact when he re-joins the rotation, but he also knows he and the coaching staff need to be calculated in their roster and role decisions when Danks comes back.

"No matter if they were here or not, we're still going to look at potential places where we can improve the club," Williams said, also referring to injured third baseman Brent Morel. "But you've got to be careful with that, because once guys start to believe in themselves as a unityou've got to be careful to disrupt that chemistry.

"Right now, it's pretty good."

White Sox: Nearly three years later, Matt Davidson is back in The Show

White Sox: Nearly three years later, Matt Davidson is back in The Show

It’s been 1,006 days since Matt Davidson last played in a major league baseball game. 

In between, the former top-100 prospect endured a two-year flirtation with the Mendoza Line while being passed over time after time for a return to the big leagues, even as a September call-up. But after hitting .268/.349/.444 with 10 home runs in 75 games with Triple-A Charlotte this year, the 25-year-old Davidson was called up to the major leagues on Thursday and is hitting eighth as the White Sox designated hitter. 

“It’s been a long ride, but I’m glad to be here,” Davidson said. 

The White Sox acquired Davidson for closer Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 16, 2013, with the hope he could be a staple at third base and the middle of the team’s lineup for years. But after not making the White Sox out of spring training two years ago, he struggled in back-to-back seasons in Triple-A. 

Davidson hit 43 home runs in that span, but had strikeout rates north of 30 percent both years and saw his OPS plummet to .644 in 2014 and .668 in 2015. During that offensive malaise, Davidson didn’t have any illusions of returning to the major leagues for the first time since the Diamondbacks brought him in in August and September of 2013. 

“The past couple years I haven’t really had a good reason to be impatient,” Davidson said. “I’ve struggled, so I kind of knew I wasn’t getting called up. You’ve got to take it day by day, one step at a time and focus on what you need to do to get here.”

The White Sox liked what they saw from Davidson during spring training in March, but needed to see him translate that positivity into regular-season success. Davidson’s .792 OPS was the best he’s had since 2013, and his strikeout rate dropped to about 26 percent. 

With the White Sox having an off day next Thursday and the All-Star break approaching quickly, there wasn’t a need for an extra arm in the bullpen, so Matt Purke was optioned to Triple-A and Davidson was brought up. 

“I think when you hit rock bottom and you try to work your way back up and build yourself back up, something happens there,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Not only doing that in spring training, but doing what he’s doing in Triple-A is the stuff that you build off of.”

With left-hander Tommy Milone — who’s given the White Sox offense plenty of headaches in the past — starting for the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, Davidson will get an immediate opportunity to make an impact, albeit from the back of the lineup. 

Ventura said he’s not worried about Davidson trying to do too much in an effort to make an immediate positive impression in his first major league game since Sept. 28, 2013. Davidson and the White Sox feel like his 2014 and 2015 issues are behind him, and the focus is on getting him to contribute for a team that expects to be in contention for a playoff spot throughout the summer. 

“I think he’s in a better spot than he’s ever been and understands himself better,” Ventura said. “I think he’s gotten over trying to impress and trying to do too much and the pressures that come with that. Even in spring training he was in a great spot. So I think that whole experience has helped him for right now. Seeing him today, he still seems to be pretty level headed about who he is and what he can do.” 

White Sox recall Matt Davidson from Triple-A Charlotte

White Sox recall Matt Davidson from Triple-A Charlotte

Matt Davidson is finally joining the big league team.

The White Sox announced ahead of Thursday afternoon's game against the Minnesota Twins that they recalled Davidson from Triple-A Charlotte, his first promotion to the major leagues since he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks following the 2013 season.

He was in the White Sox lineup on his first day in Chicago, starting as the designated hitter and batting eighth.

Davidson appeared in 31 major league games with the D-backs during the 2013 campaign, posting a .237/.333/.434 slash line with three homers and 12 RBIs. The White Sox sent Addison Reed to Arizona in exchange for Davidson the ensuing December.

Davidson has played in Charlotte ever since, struggling mightily in his first two seasons there with a .199/.283/.362 line in 130 games in 2014 and a .203/.293/.375 line in 2015. In 75 games this season, Davidson has fared far better, posting a .268/.349/.444 line with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. He made the Triple-A All-Star team, leading the International League with 20 doubles and ranking fifth in RBIs.

Primarily a third baseman, Davidson has appeared at three different infield positions this season in Triple-A.

Davidson takes the roster spot of relief pitcher Matt Purke, who was optioned to Charlotte following Wednesday's game.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”