Bullpen falters in Youk's return to Boston

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Bullpen falters in Youk's return to Boston

BOSTON --- Kevin Youkilis returned to Fenway Park in a big way on Monday night. Unfortunately for the White Sox, so did Adrian Gonzalez.

The slugger hit his first home run since June 24 --- the same day Youkilis was traded to the White Sox --- to power the Boston Red Sox to a 5-1 win over the White Sox in front of 38,334 at Fenway.

Gonzalezs three-run, opposite-field blast against left-handed pitcher Leyson Septimo (0-1) spoiled a warm and fuzzy homecoming for Youkilis and evened the White Sox record at 2-2 on this 10-game road trip.

Septimo entered a game tied at 1 in the seventh inning and stranded a runner when he got Jacoby Ellsbury to pop out.

But the rookie walked the first two batters he faced in the eighth inning --- Carl Crawford and David Ortiz --- before he fell behind Gonzalez 2-1 in the count. His 93-mph fastball caught too much of the plate and Gonzalez deposited his first home run in 66 at-bats over the Green Monster to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead.

Youkilis return wasnt quite as impactful, but had a fairy tale feel throughout.

Cheers and Youk chants began for the White Sox third baseman 20 minutes before first pitch when he hit the field to warm up.

They continued as he stood in the on-deck circle in the first inning and the largest Red Sox crowd of the year erupted in a standing ovation when Youkilis stepped into the batters box to face Aaron Cook.

Youkilis stepped out, raised his helmet and paused for 30-to-45 seconds before he began his at-bat, which ended with a single to center. The veteran then displayed the heady style that made him popular with Red Sox Nation when he took advantage of the shift against Adam Dunn. Dunn hit a slow chopper to second and with nobody covering third, Youkilis cruised over. Gonzalez saw Youkilis advance and attempted an ill-advised lob that went for a run-scoring error.

Youkilis doubled in his next two at-bats but struck out against Vicente Padilla (3-0) with the game tied at 1 to end the top of the eighth inning.

Three days after he threw 31 pitches in a win at Kansas City, White Sox starter Dylan Axelrod showed no signs of rust against the Red Sox.

Per the norm, the young right-hander struggled in the first inning. He allowed three straight one-out singles with Adrian Gonzalezs tying the game at 1.

In nine first innings, including relief appearances, Axelrod has allowed nine earned runs for a 9.00 ERA. But Axelrods struggles end there as he has a 3.26 ERA in his 47 other innings pitched.

True to form, Axelrod settled down. He struck out Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the first inning and was magnificent from there.

He set down 11 of 12 batters and 17 of the last 21 he faced.

Axelrod struck out the side in the fourth inning and tied a career-high with eight strikeouts.

Those efforts were matched, however, by Red Sox starter Aaron Cook. Cook was efficient and needed only 97 pitches to limit the White Sox to an unearned run and five hits in seven innings.

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”