13 Things: The highlights of 2011

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13 Things: The highlights of 2011

Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011Posted: 7:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
CLEVELAND - With the Chicago White Sox desperately striving to finish even as well .500 this season, you could certainly say that there have been as many highlights as lowlights in this All-In season that ended up flatulent and deflated. But in the interest of staring at the sun instead of getting soggy in the rain, heres a look at the top 13 moments of the 2011, All-In turned Well-Were-Here season.

And the list is made all the more appropriate by the top spot on the list, which took place almost six months ago in this very spot.

1. April 1: White Sox 16, Indians 10 -- Offense hits the ground running

Just four innings into the 2011 season, the White Sox had jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Cleveland Indians, who would become the darlings of the American League before dropping back down to .500. The Pale Hose offense was terrible in the Cactus League, but 11 hits and 10 runs off of presumptive Wahoos ace Fausto Carmona made it look like the White Sox would coast to the Central title. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin would combine to go 5-for-9 with two homersnine RBIs and six Sox had two or more hits.

As we now know, this outburst would turn out to be the biggest April Fools joke in White Sox history. But for one day two, actually, as the next Wahoo trouncing, 8-3, kept the Pale Hose a half-game ahead of everyone in the Central at least the team was in fulfilling its promise, bolstered by the highest-octane offense in baseball.

2. April 25: White Sox 2, Yankees 1 -- Heroes Humber and Lillibridge

Opening the White Soxs visit to the Bronx began with the White Sox flailing at 8-14 and GM Ken Williams flying into town after being grumbled at by any number of furious fans while he awaited his plane at OHare to assure that all was calm at White Sox central.

In just his fourth start for the White Sox, Phil Humber took a no-hitter one out into the sixth inning and still managed to be upstaged. Thats because defensive substitution Brent Lillibridge made back-to-back brilliant plays in the ninth, the first on a run back to the wall to rob Alex Rodriguez of extra bases, then the clincher on a diving catch parallel to the ground, extinguishing Robinson Canos bid to win the game.

I found my closer, a smiling Ozzie Guillen said postgame. Lillibridge.

3. April 7: White Sox 6, Rays 1 -- Velo perfection

There was a time when I felt Edwin Jackson would, in a salary drive year, become the ace of the White Sox staff. That certainly didnt happen, as Velo was just as exasperating a hurler as ever. But he did win his first two starts and spun a gem of a game in the White Sox home opener, with eight innings of four-hit, 13-strikeout ball. His game score of 82 would be the fourth-highest all year.

4. May 11: White Sox 6, Angels 4 (10) -- Wild pitch offense

In perhaps the most hilarious comeback of the season, L.A. reliever Kevin Jepsen provided the White Sox the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th by airmailing the first pitch of an intentional walk 10 feet over the head of catcher Hank Conger, scoring Alexei Ramirez from third.

In mockery of the White Sox awful performance driving in runners from third base, this improbable win gave berth to the wildpitchoffense hashtag on Twitter, one that sadly was never killed off by the White Sox actually gaining proficiency in clutch hitting this season.
5. July 4: White Sox 5, Royals 4 -- Balk-off win

Its a joke waiting to be written: What was more rare this season, a clutch Dunn homer or a winning run coming home on a balk? The answer might end in a tie, as two white buffalos were bagged in this comeback win. The first came off the bat of Dunn, a towering fly of a home run that landed just beyond reach in right-center, as Sox maniacs hoped against hope that his .171 average would soon swell as the nights heated up. Meanwhile, after Dunns dinger gave the White Sox the lead in the eighth, but that advantage dissipated as K.C. went ham on Sergio Santos in the ninth. That set the stage for A.J. Pierzynski, who was operating at peak feist on third base, annoying reliever Aaron Crow to such an extent that he jerked his shoulder subtly as Dunn stood at the plate, forcing home the Campbell Soup kid with the game-winner.

6. August 28: White Sox 9, Mariners 3 -- The power of youth

The weirdest saga of this sad season took an interesting turn in Seattle, when Dayan Viciedo made his debut some two months later than anticipated, finally getting the call to aid Chicagos withered offense after hed put himself in the International League MVP discussion for his ball murdering at Charlotte. All Viciedo did was crush a liner out to right-center in near Dick Allen-esque fashion. That three-run blast woud prove to be enough for Gavin Floyd, but later on catcher Tyler Flowers pounded out a grand slam, making this rare laugher of a win fully fueled by the Knight Sox.

7. August 27: White Sox 3, Mariners 0 -- Danks tosses a gem

Just one day earlier, another erstwhile Pale Hose ace, John Danks, threw a gem of a game in defeating Ms rookie hurler Micheal Pieda, giving up just three hits while whiffing 10 and earning a season-high to that point game score of 90. The win also raised the streaking Dankss record to 6-9 sadly the closest hed get to .500 from that point on.
8. April 12: White Sox 6, As 5 (10) -- Alexeis game-winner

With just 15 home runs tied with his lowest-ever major league output there hasnt been much occasion for mister Homer Hands to show off his joy at a killer clout. But early in the season, things looked different, especially in the 11th game of the season, when Ramirez not only hit his second career game-ending homer, but hit two, for his first career multi-homer game. The decider came with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, and raised the White Sox to 7-4. Believe it or not, it was the last and only time the team would be three games over .500.

9. September 5: White Sox 4, Twins 0 -- Stewart chases perfection

The doubleheader vs. the Twins was billed as a possible battle between two young hurlers for the fifth rotation spot for the White Sox in the seasons final month, and Humber had already spun a gem in a Game 1 win. But rookie Zach Stewart raised the ante by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning, where Danny Valencia spoiled the bit with an oppo double. It would prove the only at-bat marring Stewarts brilliant outing, as he finished with a White Sox season-best 94 game score and a one-hitter en route to a 4-0 win.

10. May 30: White Sox 7, Red Sox 3 -- Peavy fuels a sweep

Sometimes for better, sometimes worse, but Jake Peavy usually garners an unusual amount of attention with his every start. And per game score, the Bulldog had three better starts in his truncated season. But none may have been more important that his 7-3 win at Boston, which would fuel a three-game streak and further entrench the Pale Hoses domination at Fenway. The game was perhaps more notable for the Chicago offense jumping all over Bosox ace Jon Lester, but whatever the root cause, this win temporarily staved off the free-fall the White Sox were in danger of falling into with the season just two months gone.

11. May 24: White Sox 8, Rangers 6 -- Q triples his fun

Quentin is infamously hot and cold, but a slugger cant get much hotter in a single game than crushing three homers in a single contest, even if that contest ends at 1:27 a.m. the next day. Indeed, not even tornado-force wins, delaying the game three hours and forcing various methods of evacuation from Rangers Ballpark, could deter Quentin, who had his most productive day in a 24-homer, 77-RBI campaign in this soggy victory deep in the heart of. And of curious sidenote, Tony Pea got his final White Sox victory in relief of Peavy in the win.

12. June 30: White Sox 6, Rockies 4 (10) -- Pierre kick starts

Guillen is known to shake his tiny fist at his naysayers, particularly those of us who might lean on dastardly stats to determine who should play and who should sit, or who should stay and who should go. The manager placed Juan Pierre beloved left fielder straight in the line of fire over the Viciedo debate, but was vindicated to some degree by his beloved left fielder when his rebound began. Although he has undoubtedly lost a step on the basepaths and a great deal of confidence in the field, offensively Pierre equaled his solid 2010 in this campaign as well. And that all basically started with a game-winning single to knock off Colorado in extras and help fuel Chicagos run back to .500.

13. June 7: White Sox 5, Mariners 1 -- Sox start to hit

In a season full of false offensive starts, this was another. After knocking off hot rookie Pieda in the series opener in Seattle, Chicago chased ace Felix Hernandez with a 6-1 win. To a man and including the slumping Dunn and Gordon Beckham the White Sox felt their offense was beginning to crest and that promise would be delivered soon.

It ended up a season of empty promises, but these choice moments from 2011 prove that all wasnt pain and heartache on the South Side.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A torrid two months at the plate helped Jose Abreu end what he found to be an extremely trying 2016 season with numbers close to his career norms.

But even though he finished with an .820 OPS and 100 RBIs for a third straight season, Abreu admits that 2016 was a season unlike any other he'd faced.

While he didn't disclose any theories for the cause of his lengthy struggles, the White Sox first baseman said Sunday he's pleased to have finished on a positive note and thinks that rebounding from those difficulties will only make him stronger. Abreu — who hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in 695 plate appearances — is also a fan of new White Sox manager Rick Renteria and is equally impressed with the prospects the club acquired this winter.

"Yes, those were different challenges, especially in my mind," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I never in my life experienced some of the kind of struggles like I did last year. But that put me in a better position as a player, as a person too. I'm in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience."

In spite of his struggles, Abreu was still a league average player through the first four months of the season. But the 2014 All-Star hardly resembled the player who produced a 153 OPS-plus over his first two seasons. His timing was off and Abreu — hitting .269/.325/.413 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs through July 30 — wasn't driving the ball as he typically had in his first two seasons, when he smacked 66 homers.

Abreu was lost at the plate and nobody could figure out why.

But after the arrival of his son, Dariel, who visited him for the first time since he moved to the United States, Abreu took off. He hit .338/.402/.568 the rest of the season with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in 249 trips to the plate.

"Right after last season ended, I had my meeting at my house with my family, just to explain to them how the season was because they know about baseball," Abreu said. "But sometimes they can't register how the process is in a season as long as the major league season is. We talked about it. I explained to them all of the challenges, the problems I had during that season. Once we ended with that meeting, last season was in the past. We moved on and we were trying just to figure out things and how can I do better for this season."

Now in his fourth season in the majors, Abreu has a firm grasp on how the White Sox operate and likes some of the team's modifications. He likes how Renteria thoroughly communicates what he has in mind for the club. Abreu also enjoys being seen as one of the team's leaders and wouldn't mind being a mentor to prized prospect Yoan Moncada.

Now he hopes to carry over his strong finish to the start of the 2017 campaign.

"I'm working on it," Abreu said. "That's one of my goals. Everybody knows that at the beginning of last season, I wasn't performing good. It was kind of a surprise for me, too. But I'm in good shape right now and I believe I will be able to succeed."

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot.

The White Sox rookie said Sunday that he noticed the injury gradually building up before he decided to stop his workout on Friday and headed for the training room. An MRI performed Saturday on Tilson -- who is rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early -- revealed the reaction, which isn’t severe as a stress fracture. Given Tilson previously had a stress fracture in his right foot, the White Sox said he'll be sidelined from impact work for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed Herm, thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Tilson wouldn’t be surprised if his injury is related to overcompensating for his left leg, which he has worked tirelessly to rehab since he suffered the injury on Aug. 2 and then had season-ending surgery. Manager Rick Renteria described it as an “irritation” in the area where Tilson suffered a stress fracture in 2013. In the interim, the White Sox will test some of their other options in camp, including veteran Peter Bourjos and minor leaguers Adam Engel and Jacob May, among others.

“But we don’t foresee it to be a long-term issue,” Renteria said. “By being able to shut him down now, it’ll be something he’ll be able to recover from. We’ll just readjust his timetable.”

Minor as Tilson and the White Sox say it is, the outfielder admitted he’s down about having to deal with it after the progress he’d made in his rehab.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But he suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson made enough progress to be a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

“I guess you could say I’m disappointed,” Tilson said. “But it’s a very minor setback and it’s part of the process. I had a major repair, and these things come up and hopefully we can minimize them as much as we can and hopefully this is the last one. But I’m just going to deal with it and do whatever I can to move forward.”