Buehrle battered; 3 homers not enough for Sox

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Buehrle battered; 3 homers not enough for Sox

Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.

By Brett BallantiniCSNChicago.com

DETROIT A Good Friday for the Chicago White Sox? Nope.

Blame it on a misty, murky brew falling from the Detroit skies.

Blame it on Justin Verlander, whos been roughed up by the White Sox in his career but was a wicked little critta Friday night in mowing down the Hose.

Blame it on overzealous celebration after snapping a seven-game losing streak with a laugher in Tampa Thursday night.

About the only thing you cant blame Fridays flaccid, 9-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on is Carlos Quentin, whose Triple Crown push hasnt slipped off its stride for a second this season.

Quentin hit two mammoth solo shotssome 800 feet of round-tripper goodness into the teeth of a Siberian Express wind, exemplifying his disdain for all pitchers, opponents, and acts of foul weather. The titanic blasts pushed Qs slugging percentage for the season to an outrageous .707.

But that was the beginning and end of the highlights for the White Sox, who spent much of the game fielding an uneasy-9 who appeared as if they couldnt get out of the drizzly chill fast enough.

To his credit, manager Ozzie Guillen saw fight in his team, right from leadoff hitter Juan Pierres initial, nine-pitch at-bat. Of course, that at-bat ended in a strikeout (the first of a rare daily double for the speedster).

Were fighting, man, were fighting, Guillen said. Everyone in the lineup went out and got after Verlander in every at-bat. Theyre fighting with every pitch, but the guy they were fighting against was pretty good.

Guillen the soother has yet to transform into Guillen the soothsayer with his band of brothers that has fairly well wheezed along ever since the second of April. While the jefe might not see it, primary among the underachievers was ineffective Chisox starter Mark Buehrle, who started sharp but ended flatulent. The lefty lasted just 5 23 innings and surrendered six earned runs on eight hits.

The first four innings I felt like I could throw a perfect game or no-hitter, location-wise. Ill take that every start. They were hitting good pitches, Buehrle said. In the fifth and sixth I fell behind in the count. Its a frustrating game when stuff like that happens The way the ball carried surprised me, big time.

Carry or no, Buehrle has been the worst of the White Sox starters this season, with four subpar efforts unable to offset a gem vs. the Oakland As spun some 11 days ago. His average game score is just 43.6, significantly below a quality start level (pitchers begin the game with a game score of 50, so the White Sox have been worse off with Buehrle than without him).

Contrast that with Verlander, who is slowly turning around his fortunes vs. Chicago (he entered the game with a 4.55 career ERA against the White Sox).

Verlander did a good job, Paul Konerko said. He got some runs early, and does what he does: Run with it. He gave up a couple homers in the seventh, but thats what you do when youre doing your job and have a big leadyou come at people, you dont walk people. Hes a handful. Hes got four above-average pitches and above-average command on top of it. Hes as good as it gets. He got some runs to work with and didnt look back.

The Bengals ace threw 117 pitches through seven innings, with eight Ks (including his 1,000th career punch out, after which he stared down his victim, A.J. Pierzynski) against zero walks. Verlander was touched for three earned runs, but he allowed them wisely with three solo shots (Qs two and one from Konerko).

The back-to-back jacks were the first such clouts of the season for Chicago. The multi-homer effort was the 11th of Quentins career. Q boats a bloaty 1.107 OPS, with 70 percent of the right fielders hits so far this season falling for extra bases.

But the story of the game was Detroits ace sucking the life out the Pale Hose.

You put that combination of weather and Verlander, its pretty tough, Guillen said. Verlander continues to throw the ball really well. You don't see too many guys in this league pounding 97, 98, 99 mph and his changeup is 84. Hes a very tough guy to face.

Break on through

Konerko is sensitive to fan panic and the "All-In" pressure lumped on his club back in December. But respond to such pressures? Thats a different story.

Never, because a sense of urgency makes you play worse, he said. Youre playing with urgency, that means tension and tension will never lead to good things. So of course we want to play better and have better results, but you just have to know youre going about it right.

"In baseball, everyone has their own way go playing the game and going about it. Everyone has a different temperament. You have to know yourself. If youre going about it the right way, then keep doing itit will happen or it wont happen but at least you know youre doing it the right way. But playing with urgency and that kind of stuff, I just laugh at it. You go out with a purpose and play hard, playing with urgency means you care what other people think. And you just cant do that as a player.

While acknowledging his part in the slow start, veteran hurler Buehrle agrees.

We have plenty of time: 20 games in is way too early to be worrying, he said. We have faced quality pitching and we havent hit too good and pitched very well at certain times. Everything clicked those first couple of games, but when score 14 its hard to lose.
Paul Konerko shakes hands with Adam Dunn after hitting his fifth home run of the season Friday, one he admits came as a surprise. Meanwhile, the White Sox captain says he isn't feeling a sense of urgency despite the White Sox recent struggles. (AP)
Were fine. If we get to the All-Star break and are struggling, I might think about worrying.

Fisked

Konerkos seventh-inning clout wasnt just the 370th of his career, pushing him past Ralph Kiner and into a tie with Gil Hodges for 68th all-time. It was one of the strangest dingers of the veterans career.

The home run was surprising, Konerko reflected. I certainly wasnt watching. I knew it would be out of play, over the fence and foul, most likely. When you hit a ball thats foul and has a hook on it, it never comes back. But the wind pushed it back. Its definitely luck, and I got some on that one.

Konerko stood at the plate and didnt move until his shot clanged halfway up the foul pole in left. Natch, the mere attention paid to his who-me homer drew out the sensitive side of the slugger.

It certainly wasnt me trying to watch a home run and show off, Konerko said. I thought it was a foul ball, and I hope no one took offense to it.

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

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He already carries the confidence of someone who throws 100 mph. But Zack Burdi felt even more secure entering camp after receiving sound advice from his older brother, who also happens to play pro ball.

Burdi — selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2016 draft — hasn't felt too overwhelmed over the past five weeks even though he's experiencing big league camp for the first time. A process-oriented pitcher, the White Sox prospect said he owes his comfort to the guidance of his brother, Minnesota Twins farmhand Nick Burdi. 

"Act like you belong," Burdi said of the advice. "Don't make it out to be something it isn't. It's still a game. You're still going out there and playing a game you've played for the last 19 years. That was the big thing."

If it weren't for a gaggle of talented, newly acquired prospects alongside him in camp, Burdi might have been the hot topic in camp this spring. He features a fastball that rates 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, a 60-slider and a 55-changeup, according to MLB.com. The arsenal has many of the belief Burdi could one day be a stalwart in the back of a major league bullpen. The Louisville-product is also very advanced compared with most 2016 draftees and was considered to be the most major league-ready player at the time of last June's draft.

But until the club made a series of moves Tuesday, Burdi, who has a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings this spring, was just one of a bevy of talented prospects in the White Sox clubhouse. Of the team's top seven prospects, five are right-handed pitchers. Burdi is the team's No. 7 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. 

Armed with his brother's advice, Burdi has focused on keeping his head low and his eyes and ears open this spring. He said one of the best parts about the advice that Nick Burdi — who also went to Louisville and was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft — offered is that he had a sense of how the camp would be run. Though no two camps are alike, having a sense of what the day-to-day operation is like gave Burdi comfort. 

"Nick's someone I've looked to in countless situations in baseball or outside of it for advice," Zack Burdi said. "It has been nothing but good advice throughout it all. To come to camp and kind of have a little insight of how it's going to go, how it's going to be, was a huge personal advantage for me because I like to know how certain things are going to go. I don't like going in too blind."

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Burdi is in an enviable position as his first big league camp is coming to a close. He's the highest-rated prospect left after a series of moves Tuesday sent second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer to minor league camp. 

The White Sox head back to Chicago next Wednesday.

General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox merely want to give the Downers Grove-product a little more time to soak up the big league atmosphere. While its more likely he begins the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Burdi ranks high on the team's depth chart and could be in line for a late-innings role were the White Sox to trade a reliever. Either way, Burdi isn't worried about anything but his own performance and conduct. 

"I'm confident with where I'm at," Burdi said. "I'm just excited to see where the season's going to take me. If it's Triple-A then that's awesome. Going to go there and do my best to help the team. if it's the big leagues then it'll be the same thing: go up, do my best and keep learning day by day and just trust the process and keep growing."

White Sox pitcher James Shields hopes to rediscover aggressive nature

White Sox pitcher James Shields hopes to rediscover aggressive nature

SURPRISE, Ariz. — James Shields wants to regain the aggressive style that made him successful for so long. He feels like he's on the way.

Even though he didn't think his delivery was very sharp on Tuesday, Shields made his pitches when he needed to over six scoreless innings. The White Sox bullpen allowed four late runs in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Shields allowed three hits, walked one and struck out six in a 75-pitch effort.

"Yeah, I think so," Shields said when asked if he got away from being aggressive in 2016, when he posted a 6.77 ERA for the White Sox. "I think my ball was flat. It wasn't down in the zone. And when you're not down in the zone, it's hard to be aggressive. Because if you're up in the zone and being aggressive, hitters are going to take advantage of that."

Shields said he made several mid-game adjustments after feeling erratic in the bullpen and early in the contest. He threw all of his pitches on Tuesday night but mostly focused on commanding his two-seam fastball. The right-hander wants to induce more ground balls this season. Over the past two years, Shields has allowed 73 home runs in 384 innings. His groundball rate is down nearly five percent from 2014, according to fangraphs.com.

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Mostly, Shields wants to rediscover the aggressive nature that helped him produce 29.1 Wins Above Replacement from 2007 to 2014. That was a message he's heard from both his current pitching coach (Don Cooper) and his former one, the San Diego Padres' Darren Balsley.

Balsley called this winter to support Shields, his pitcher of a season and a half. As Shields notes, the advice wasn't anything new — it was merely a pick-me-up from an old friend.

"(Balsley) just called me and said, 'Hey, the best piece of advice I can give you is trust your stuff,'" Shields said. "'Believe what you're doing is going to get the job done.' In general, I do think that. He's just kind of giving me a little reminder as an ex-pitching coach.

"Just the fact he called me even though he's not my pitching coach any more shows me that he cares a lot about me, man. I have a lot of respect for him.

"More or less he wants me to be aggressive, and he was telling me that when I was with them. It wasn't something that was new."

After coming over from the Padres in a trade, Shields worked tirelessly with Cooper on mechanics last summer to keep the ball down in the zone. He found it for a period of seven starts between June and July but couldn't maintain any consistency. The veteran has maintained all spring that he's ready to move on from 2016 and feels like he's in a good place both mentally and physically.

"I feel good now with my stuff and I'm being more aggressive and my locations are better," Shields said. "Just working the process and I’m feeling good now."

Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu each had two hits and drove in a run in the losing effort.