Ballantini: Ozzie and that wacky outfield D

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Ballantini: Ozzie and that wacky outfield D

Wednesday, April 13, 2011Posted: 3:19 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

As much as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has defended his defenseparticularly an outfield defense that has dropped five fly balls (four for errors) in Chicagos first 11 games, he knows that trend has to reverse course.

Its making an excuse when you are making a mistake and making errors, thats a no-no for me, Guillen said. You screw up, you screw upwell get them next time. It has been very windy here the last couple of days. We see a lot of guys were play against make mistakes, too. Just keep playing Hopefully we get better about it; I know we will. We know we need defense. Every time we make a mistake, we pay. And hopefully, we start making less mistakes.

Last year, the White Sox were an average defensive team overall, with a .983 fielding percentage that tied for 14th in the leaguethis year the White Sox are last in the AL with a .969 fielding percentage. This year, theyve sported a range factor per nine innings of 3.60 RF9 and 2.63 RFG, much poorer than last years 4.15 and 3.03, respectively. The clubs revised zone rating (RZR, the percentage of balls in each fielding zone a team coverts to outs) was .797 through the first 11 games (24th in the league) and .801 last year (29th), and the out-of-zone (OOZ) outs totaled 427 in 2010 (18th in baseball) and project to 368 this season (tied for 22nd).

So really, while five drops in the first 11 games of the season is a bit extreme, the White Sox defense is generally what it should be. Guillen is willing to put a positive spin on that.

We have played pretty good defense, he said. We dropped two balls that cost us runs. Overall, we play great defense. Rios just dropped one ball, and how many nice plays does he make? So does Juan. I not going to criticize the play because they make errors. I wish it would be better? We all do. They want to play good. They take a lot of pride playing defense. They take fly balls and ground balls, they take infield. Everything thats out there to get better, we do it. Execute during the game, we do it. We will make more mistakes because thats part of the game.

One thing that really gets Guillens goat, however, are the Bronx cheers that greeted half a dozen caught fly balls last night, something he said made him feel sad for his team.

The thing is that bugs me a little bit, if youre booing because we drop the ball, yes, please do. You boo because we make a bad pitch thats a double, yes. But dont think this is a little game where every time we catch fly balls you can be making fun of the team or embarrassing it, Guillen said. Everyone should be proud if youre a White Sox fan and you see Juan Pierre play every dayyou got your moneys worth. This kid plays very, very hard for us. He doesnt deserve Bronx cheers. I will be behind him and I dont care if people get mad at me Its just not fair, and Ill keep saying that. When the play happened, boo, but if every time teams hit a fly ball to us theyre going to do that, I dont think thats nice at all.

In the third inning of Wednesdays game vs. Oakland, Pierre made his third error of the young seasonthe fifth outfield error in 11-plus games for the White Soxon a single by Cliff Pennington in the third. Pierre had two singles early in the game, but was picked off of first base both times.

Having their backs

Guillen very quickly jumped to support his players during their defensive doldrums on the homestand, and thats just one reason why he is such a popular leader in the White Sox clubhouse.

He played the game. Hes got it in his blood, catcher Ramon Castro said. He knows what we go through and never hesitates to support us.

He doesnt throw us under the bus, centerfielder Alex Rios said. He runs a tight ship, but he absorbs a lot of the criticism for us, so we are protected.

Guillen constantly threatens to throw his players under the bus, but only a small percentage of the time does he follow through on those threatsand thats actually a big part of the circle of trust Guillen has with his team.

He establishes his rules and expects us to live up to them, shortstop Alexei Ramirez said. People think theres no method to how he works, but thats not true. We respond to his support and respect by respecting him right back, and working hard.

Rios, who says that a key to making the trust Ozzie has with his team work is the support that the players have for one another on the field and in the clubhouse, broke it down similarly.

Ozzies cool with us, he said. When you know someone is behind you, its good.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms 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.”