Chicago White Sox

Ballantini: Active first day for Sox GM Williams

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Ballantini: Active first day for Sox GM Williams

Monday, December 6, 2010
7:10 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. It was just a matter of a weekend after his triumphant signing of slugger Adam Dunn, but ebullience begat fatigue for Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams on Monday evening.

After a couple of monosyllabic responses to questions about retaining Paul Konerko (Nope. Yep.) set a tone of dread for the day, Williams did correct perceptions and acknowledge that the bloom is off the pre-Winter Meetings rose.

Maybe its just because its been a long day, but there is no reason to feel like Konerko is staying or going, Williams said. Todays talks were just an initial conversation that we had, which leads to other conversations.

As you might imagine, the GMs session was relatively brief. The blow-by-blow:

Konerko

Williams laughed off the idea that Konerko might have come to terms with the White Sox before the meetings even officially began.

It just doesnt happen that way, Williams said. Certainly not in conversation No. 1, day one. Absolutely not.

Williams said that more talks were scheduled with Greg Landis, Konerkos agent, and was frank in assessing that Konerko might have to settle for less money than he originally anticipated.

Its a market that has numerous first basemen in it, Williams said. Konerko is coming off a great year, but teams have options, so I dont know that he will get to the salary level maybe he originally hoped for. ButIm surprised all the time. Ive been surprised in the last few days at some deals, so well see.

Otherwise, Williams was expectedly cloaked in his remarks about Konerko, the player hes unabashedly declared as the final big-ticket item on his wish list:

Im not going to take you through a blow-by-blow of our private conversations.
Im not optimistic or pessimistic, just going through the dialogue.
Im not leaning one way or the other on how I feel.
We always have a contingency plan.
Its business as usual at the Winter Meetings. Its 20 hours a day of dialogue with teams and agents, and so forth. You just go through it.
Conversations have to take place and representatives have to go back to him.
Its just a process.
Ive learned not to get too up or too down.

But as patient as hes attempting to be with Konerko (other people call me impatient, but Im patient, to a pointI recognize Konerko is a special case and I need to be even more patient than I think I usually am), the time frame is finite.

Theres a fine line, when you do risk losing your plan B and C in favor of trying to be as patient as you can with your plan A, Williams said. We will wait as long as we can, because Ive pretty much said on the record that Konerko is the guy we want.

Tough Bacon

Prior to Williams session, a rumor inflamed the Twitterverse, identifying the White Sox as the runner-up in the Adrian Gonzalez sweepstakesincluding the news that Gordon Beckham was the centerpiece of the proposal.

Williams was initially coy about the rumor, saying, I cant really talk about it. All I can say is that its always been business as usual for us. We try to go after impact players every year. But Im not going to get into the particulars of those types of things.

Later, Williams again underscored Beckhams untouchable status within the organization, praising the second sacker even in light of a sophomore year marked by slumps and injuries.

Im more confident in Beckham now that he has gone through some struggles as a big leaguer and come out of it on the other side, he said. Its just unfortunate that he had the hand injuryhe was having quite a second half. That Chicago tough I talk about? He showed a little bit of it in doing what he did through injuries.

Bullpen Notes

Williams forecasted the news that J.J. Putz apparently signed with Arizona to become the Diamondbacks closer, saying, We wanted him back, but Putz is headed elsewhere.

As for the recently non-tendered Bobby Jenks, Williams remained open to a return by his five-year closer, with logical hesitation: Hes new to the market, and hes got to flesh some things out before he gets back to us.

With holes in the pen (just Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, and possibly Chris Sale and Tony Pena project as holdovers in 2011), Williams knows he needs at least one recognizable addition in the trenches.

A trade is quite possibly the way we might have to go because weve taken ourselves toor beyondour payroll limits, he said. I might have to get a little creative with tradesbut I dont think a reliever is going to come at these meetings for us. That will be after.

Future Prospects

Williams has never met a deal he didnt want to strike instantaneously, so forgive his fatigue for today.

The priority was to get as much done as we could, as quickly as we could, said the GM without remorse or rancor. Then see if I could get some sleep.

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

How Alec Hansen's methodical path through minors has turned him into a top prospect

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Winston-Salem Dash

How Alec Hansen's methodical path through minors has turned him into a top prospect

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — He didn’t totally lose it, but the White Sox intended to restore Alec Hansen’s confidence with a methodical minor league program after drafting the right-hander.

Hansen, 22, admits that a junior season at the University of Oklahoma in which his stock fell sharply when he was moved in and out of the team’s starting rotation was difficult.

Still, the 6-foot-7-inch pitcher never gave in and found a team that believed in him enough to take him in the second round. Fourteen months later, the Single-A Winston-Salem starter feels good enough about his prospects to have recently suggested he thinks he can be a No. 1 or 2 in the majors.

“It’s tough, especially when you work so hard basically your whole life to achieve your goal of being a first-round pick or a top-10 pick and it kind of wastes away throughout the season,” Hansen said. “I think the White Sox had faith in me. They saw what I can do and understood my situation there at OU and took a chance on me and I’m just trying to make sure they get their money’s worth.”

Hansen has been everything the White Sox hoped and more since they selected him with the 49th pick in the 2016 draft. Once viewed as a potential first overall pick, Hansen was viewed as a project by the end of a rough 2016 season. Though he could hit 99 mph on the gun, Hansen’s mechanics were off and he was deemed inconsistent throughout a season in which he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 hitters in 51 2/3 innings for the Sooners.

But the White Sox liked what they saw. Hansen struck out 185 batters in 145 innings at Oklahoma. Their plan for the right-hander included a quick trip to Arizona to work with now-bullpen coach Curt Hasler on mechanics before he’d spend the bulk of the season at Rookie League Great Falls.

“He was a little bit out of whack,” said third-base coach and ex-farm director Nick Capra. “I think confidence played a big part in what he was doing early and to what he’s doing now. He didn’t have the confidence in what he was doing. Once he got into sync with what he was doing with his mechanics it took off on him.”

Hansen said the mechanical adjustments were related to better posture — sometimes he leaned back toward first base in his delivery — and keeping his head still. While he deems the changes as minor, the impact they’ve had on him has been great. After seven innings pitched in Arizona, Hansen moved to Great Falls and struck out 59 batters with only 12 walks in 36 2/3 innings and a 1.23 ERA. That performance earned him a late-season promotion to Kannapolis.

“The difference outing to outing is just mentally,” Hansen said. “It’s just mental and having the confidence and the poise and being relaxed and the right attitude to go out and be successful.”

[RELATED: White Sox Talk Podcast: Alec Hansen wants to be a future ace and don't piss off Dane Dunning]

The White Sox started Hansen at Kannapolis this season and he was dominant again. He produced a 2.48 ERA with 92 strikeouts and only 23 walks in 72 2/3 innings. Hansen — who’s rated the No. 9 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline and 10th by Baseball America — has continued to excel since a promotion to Winston-Salem 10 starts ago. He struck out 11 in seven innings on Wednesday night and allowed only a run in seven innings. Hansen is second in the minors this season with 166 strikeouts (he’s walked 43 in 126 innings).

Player development director Chris Getz said Hansen has the stuff to throw his fastball up in the zone and get swings and misses and combines it with good offspeed pitches. Throw in the confidence and Hansen has strong potential.

“Even though he’s a large guy he’s fairly athletic, he can repeat his delivery,” Getz said. “It’s really, with him, it’s staying over the rubber and not rushing out there so his arm can go out on time and on top of the ball. Those are the keys and he’s been able to take to that.”

“Since he’s really gotten into professional baseball and more comfortable with who he is as a pitcher he’s been consistent. We look forward to what else he can bring to the table.”

Hansen does, too.

He insists this belief in himself was never lost because Hansen suspected the consequences of doubt would ruin him. But Hansen didn’t downplay how the uncertainty of his junior season affected his mindset.

Hansen said he’s glad at how he handled the experience and has moved on from the disappointment of dropping 48 places. He's also more than pleased to have found an organization that has the same belief in him that he does.

“It was kind of hard to go through that but it’s over now,” Hansen said. “I believe in myself more than anyone. I think you need to as a professional athlete. If you don’t have confidence then you’re done as an athlete no matter who you are at what level.

“It’s just being more relaxed and comfortable and confidence because the people I’m around have confidence in me.”

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

How Michael Kopech reminds the Birmingham Barons of Michael Jordan

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — No player has impacted the Double-A Birmingham Barons the way Michael Kopech has since … Michael Jordan?

That’s the belief of long-time Barons play-by-play man Curt Bloom, who said Kopech has garnered more attention than almost every player he’s covered during 26 seasons in the booth.

Bloom acknowledges that nobody will ever surpass Air Jordan’s 127 games with the Barons in 1994. But the advent of social media has made Kopech an extremely popular attraction this season. Whenever he takes the mound, the team’s social media accounts see a significant increase in page views, engagement and impressions.

“Jordan-esque,” Bloom said. “Nothing will beat Jordan. LeBron could come down. But this reminds me of it. It triggers it. A jolt.

“Nothing stirred like this guy has and I do say, and I think Kopech will tell you the same thing, a big chunk of the reason is we have social media. We didn’t have that for Jordan. We did not have that for Aaron Rowand. There’s always a ying for a yang.

“That being said, it’s still gone beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”

It’s unavoidable to miss the Barons’ remembrance of Jordan’s season when he reportedly paid $350,000 to buy the club a luxury bus “The Jordan Cruiser and the Barons set records for attendance. The team drew 467,867 at their old stadium, Hoover Met, and Southern League attendance was more than 2.5 million.

Jordan’s image wearing a Barons No. 45 jersey can be found throughout Regions Field, including a massive banner near the home-plate entrance.

Kopech has been a focal point for White Sox fans since he was acquired in December.

Whether it’s his 100-mph fastball, his lofty prospect status or simply the fact he came over in the Chris Sale deal, eye balls have been drawn to Kopech all season. The right-hander has only increased the awareness with his steady presence on social media, including giving away game-used items to fans.

Throw in his recent dominance on the mound — Kopech has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in his last 41 innings — and the hysteria is real.

The Barons determined early on this season that they would follow in the steps of several major league clubs and anoint the day he pitched at home Kopech Day. The White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins have all recently done the same for Sale, Felix Hernandez and Jose Fernandez.

Kopech has only lived up to the hype.

“He’s answering the bell,” Bloom said. “There’s definitely awareness in the city, in our followers, the Twitter universe.

“My daughter Chloe who has no idea about baseball, she asks me, ‘Is Kopech pitching?’

"That’s what has been created.”