49ers should keep ex-GM Williams busy

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49ers should keep ex-GM Williams busy

The less-than-hectic pace of Kenny Williams new role offers him ample time to enjoy life -- perhaps too much, he admits.

Fortunately for him, the ex-White Sox general manager and current executive vice president of baseball operations has two more weeks of football to keep him occupied before spring training begins.

Williams son, Kyle, plays for the San Francisco 49ers, who on Sunday earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Though Williams wont attend the Feb. 3 contest against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans because his son is out for the season with an injury, the event promises to have his full attention.

As for the office, Williams said Tuesday he hasnt totally adjusted to the first offseason since October 2000 in which he hasnt constructed the White Sox roster.

I sleep a lot better, Williams said at Hyde Park High School after he and Bulls GM Gar Forman spoke to a dozen at-risk young men as part of the BAM (Becoming A Man) program. I honestly have more of a life, but I do miss being in the mix to a greater degree and I'll have to find some balance that way to make sure I don't drive myself crazy.

Williams has been involved in the White Sox decisions this offseason, Rick Hahns first as GM. Hahn still turns to Williams, who was the GM for 12 seasons, for advice and input on personnel decisions. But it isnt quite the same, said Williams, who led the White Sox a .500-or-better record in nine of 12 seasons and a World Series title in 2005.

I think that's been why I've felt such of a lull because it's been the offseason and I'm used to being, used to having conversations with all the other GMs and in some cases, owners, and all the various people that compose an organization, Williams said. I'm there for Rick and he reaches out often, but that's just a small part of the day, so I've got to fill some other time some kind of way.

Williams has taken advantage of his new-found spare time to become engaged to CNN anchor Zoraida Sambolin. He also has enjoyed keeping up with the 49ers, though less so after Kyle tore a ligament in his left knee at New Orleans on Nov. 25.

Williams had 14 catches for 212 yards and a touchdown through 11 games this season and was likely to surpass last seasons 20 grabs with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.

Though Williams has been relegated to the sideline since he underwent season-ending surgery, his father is proud of the way he has shown leadership in other ways even though hed prefer to be preparing for the Super Bowl. One outlet has been Twitter, where the younger Williams has become his teams biggest cheerleader.

He feels good about his contribution while on the field but realizes he has leadership value to his to his team even though he is still unable to play, Williams said. Im proud of him for that.

As for the game, Williams said he told his son he would attend if he were playing but informed him I'm not gonna go watch to see you standing on the sideline.

That wont reduce Williams rooting interest, however. Even though he has indicated loyalty in the past to the Oakland Raiders, Williams has assumed a seat on the 49ers bandwagon.

It would be kind of unique to have a World Series and Super Bowl ring in the family, Williams said. Not sure there are many, if any, that can say that.

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He maybe doesn't receive the same hype as some of his peers, but the White Sox think Reynaldo Lopez deserves plenty of attention.

A highly-touted prospect for two seasons now, Lopez took a big leap forward in a 2016 season that resulted in two promotions, including a trip to the big leagues.

While Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito have garnered much of the attention, Lopez, who was acquired with Giolito in the Adam Eaton trade, is right on their heels if not equal. Lopez -- who produced a 3.21 ERA in 19 minor-league starts last season and struck out 42 batters in 44 innings in the majors -- is rated the No. 31 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and 38th by MLB.com.

"He's looked good from the get-go," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "The bottom line is we like all three of them. I didn't hear a lot (about him). When people are asking me questions it's usually about Giolito and Kopech. I'm not sure why because he's a gifted kid. He's got some stuff."

Lopez, 23, already has pitched in 11 regular season games (six starts) and made a playoff appearance. He earned those outings by excelling in a season that began at Double-A Harrisburg. Two seasons after he put up outstanding numbers at Single-A, Lopez dominated the Eastern League with 100 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings and 3.18 ERA. He attributes his success to calming himself down in game situations.

"I just kept my focus in the game," Lopez said through an interpreter. "Before, I thought a lot about things and I couldn't think. And then I realized to keep my focus on the game. Sometimes if someone hit me or something, my mind got stuck in that moment. But then I understood you have to have a short memory and just let the things that are happening (be) in the past and focus on what's happening."

Lopez, 23, said he has taken the same approach to handling his trade to the White Sox. The right-hander admits he was shocked at first when he heard he was traded by the Washington Nationals, who signed him for $17,000 in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic.

But the more he thought about it, Lopez realized how good of an opportunity he has in front of him with the rebuilding White Sox. The club intends to try Lopez out as a starter --- there's debate among scouting analysts whether he's meant for the bullpen or rotation --- at Triple-A Charlotte this season. Asked what he prefers, Lopez said he's a starter.

And rather than try to impress the club by overthrowing a fastball that MLB.com graded 70 on the 20-80 scale, Lopez has worked on location early in camp. Those efforts haven't gone unnoticed by Cooper and manager Rick Renteria.

"Lopez is a guy who maybe goes under the radar a little bit, but when you see his bullpen work, he's pretty clean, pretty efficient," Renteria said. "He hits his spots."

Through four throwing sessions, Cooper said he likes how Lopez has located his fastball and curveball. Cooper thinks the changeup, which is the lowest graded of his three pitches (45 out of 80), is where the most work is needed. But Cooper is pleased with how Lopez has worked in the bullpen and batting practice and looks forward to seeing how it carries over once the exhibition season begins.

Lopez likes how he has fit in with the White Sox through the first week and a half. An aggressive pitcher by nature --- "I like to get ahead in the count," he said --- Lopez has tried to work down in the zone in the early part of camp. He said that was one of his main takeaways from pitching in the majors.

"I learned a lot from that experience," Lopez said. "I learned how to pitch. It's not just throw hard. You have to locate your pitches and be smart. I think that was the most important thing for me, from that experience."

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

GLENDALE, ARIZ -- Ken Williams acknowledges that this is the first time as an executive that he's ever been a part of a rebuild.  After realizing their go-for-it attitude for more than a decade had run out of steam, the White Sox front office decided it needed to look in the mirror, take a step back, and start anew. It began this offseason with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, and will continue into this season and likely next season.

No longer involved in the day-to-day running of the White Sox, Williams believes he has found the right balance as the team's executive and vice president, utilizing his strengths in scouting and player development while overseeing things as Hahn reshapes the organization from top to bottom.

How does this dynamic work between Williams and Hahn? Williams goes in-depth on this subject and many others in our White Sox Talk Podcast conversation.

Among the highlights:

Working relationship with Rick Hahn: "The relationship has been the same and consistent since the very beginning.  We're constantly talking.  I'm not going to BS you and say that we don't have these conversations. I just think that a certain point in time, you just have to say here is your responsibility and mine is over here. I have to respect the fact that this is what you want to do. I'm only going to express my interest to a point so that you can come to your own decision without my influence and then we're getting to brass tax.  Most times than not, he'll express, 'Hey, I need to know what you think. But until that time you've got to give people the space to do a job as they see fit, and to plot a course as they see fit."

Trading Chris Sale: "Contrary to popular belief, we have enjoyed a great relationship over the years. There was obviously a little blip in that part of it and I've always understood him because I was a little bit like that when I was younger too.  It was very often a couple days later we'd visit and laugh about a couple things but also in a serious manner.  he's one of the best in the game.  How do you trade one of the best pitchers in the game and not feel some remorse about it?  On the other end of the spectrum we got what we think are special pieces that will be with us for quite a while assuming good health. And you can envision them being part of a championship team.  We got to the point where we couldn't envision that particular group that we had be a part of a championship team and that's what it's about."

Possibly trading Jose Quintana: "I have not been presented with anything that has been recommended by Rick that he wants to do. So in terms of closeness, we've bantered some things around, but Jose Quintana is a very, very special pitcher. I'm sure if something comes up where it's consistent with what we've done thus far then I'm sure Rick will put it in front of both Jerry and I.  But until that time, I can't say that anything has been close or relatively close."

His hopes for the White Sox: "My only goal at this point in my career is to help bring another championship to Chicago and to Chicago fans, watch Rick Hahn walk across the stage to receive an Executive of the Year award and watch Rick Renteria accept the Manager of the Year Award.  Then I will consider this a job well done. If any of those things don't happen, then it won't be.  I sincerely feel that in my heart."