Cody Asche has already settled in with White Sox

Cody Asche has already settled in with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Joining a new team after six pro seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies didn't exactly put Cody Asche's mind at ease last month.

Then he set foot into the White Sox clubhouse.

A non-roster invitee to camp, Asche has since found a comfort zone and it has translated to the field. With 11 days left in camp, Asche -- hitting .364/.563/.909 with six extra-base hits in 32 plate appearances -- is firmly in the mix for the Opening Day roster. 

"You lay awake at night before you come to spring training with a new club wondering how it's going to be and how scary it could be, being it's your first time," Asche said. "It's nothing like I would have imagined. I felt like I fit in right away, and I'm really taken aback by the humbleness of the superstars in this room, (Jose) Abreu, (Todd) Frazier, (Jose) Quintana. Those guys, they're really great teammates."

A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, Asche was "very surprised" when the Phillies decided to designate him for assignment on Dec. 2. The University of Nebraska-product quickly rose through Philadelphia's farm system and was promoted to the majors late in the 2013 season. Asche -- who hit 31 homers and has a .684 career OPS in 1,287 PAs -- struggled defensively at third base in 2013 and 2014, which prompted the Phillies to switch him to the outfield the past two seasons. Arbitration eligible this offseason for the first time and due a raise, Philadelphia opted to move on.

"I didn't see that coming at all," Asche said. "I thought at least I would be back in camp and fighting for a job again. That's baseball. That's how it goes. I wasn't the first, and I won't be the last.

"I don't want to prove to them anything. A lot of people have to make tough decisions in this game. Sometimes they're right and sometimes they're wrong."

The White Sox are hopeful the Phillies were incorrect in their evaluation of Asche, who signed a minor-league deal with an invite to camp on Dec. 22. Though he faces longer odds as a non-roster invitee, Asche's chances are helped because he's one of the few left-handed sticks in camp.

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The White Sox have added some flexibility to Asche's game by trying him out at first base this spring. They've been pleased with how he's handled his chances there as well as his offensive performance, which includes three doubles, three homers and nine walks in 32 trips.

"He's making it tough on everybody," manager Rick Renteria said. "Done a nice job preparing, executing and the things he is capable of doing. He's a pro and is doing things he's capable of, not trying to do too much. He's shown well. He's a pro and a person that kind of grows on you. He's pretty witty and very professional going about your business."

Asche said it didn't take long to feel comfortable in his new digs. He and Renteria had a chat at the start of camp where the manager "laid it on the line and told me what was going to be expected of me," Asche said. He has since found plenty of friendly faces, whether it's a quick word with Abreu or joking with Frazier.

Asche thinks he's matured as a person over the last few years. Though it has been tough to move on from old friends in Philly, Asche said he's only looking forward.

"No one wants to be DFAed from their parent club that drafted them and brought them up, but I always welcome new challenges," Asche said. "It's been real easy to play for these guys and around this group of teammates.

"I want to be a part of this culture. I want to be a part of this team. I want to play hard for Ricky. "I want to play hard for the guys in this room, and that's really all I'm focused on."
 

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland turned in one of his best starts of the season on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the White Sox had nothing to show for it after a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

In six innings, Holland allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks while recording six strikeouts. He was charged with his only run in the seventh, when he allowed a single to Yonder Alonso, who came around to score after Holland had been pulled from the game.

Despite his confidence in the bullpen, which has been one of the White Sox biggest strengths this season, Holland would like to see himself go deeper into the games.

“I should be getting into the 7th and not having 110 pitches,” Holland said. “The bullpen's done a great job of picking us up in the seventh, eighth and ninth. The starters, and really pointing more to myself, we need to...I need to go out there and go longer."

Entering Sunday, three of Holland’s last four starts had been the worst outings of the season – allowing 22 earned runs over those four games. Despite the team’s 5-3 loss, Holland felt his outing was a step in the right direction.

“I felt good about everything out there,” Holland said. “(Omar Narvaez) and I were right on the same page. There were just a couple of things that got away from us. Just one of those things. Defense made the plays for us when they needed to, unfortunately we just didn't come out on top."

Manager Rick Renteria also had high praise for the 30-year-old southpaw, who bounced back from one of his shortest outings of the season.

“I thought Holland, hopefully what's not lost is Holland's outing today was really, really good,” Renteria said. “He kept us in the ballgame. They've got some kids that can swing the bat. They were putting things together. All we were trying to do at the end was minimize any damage they could produce. We weren't able to.”

Tough luck for Tommy Kahnle as White Sox blow lead, get swept by A’s

Tough luck for Tommy Kahnle as White Sox blow lead, get swept by A’s

Tommy Kahnle has been one of the White Sox brightest bright spots, but fell victim to some tough luck that could ding on his under-the-radar All-Star bid.

Kahnle allowed the tying and go-ahead runs in the White Sox 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics Sunday in front of 28,089 at Guaranteed Rate Field, marking only the sixth time in 31 games the 27-year-old right-hander has allowed a run in 2017.

In the eighth inning, Kahnle allowed a broken bat single to Franklin Barreto, then Ryon Healy reached on a Todd Frazier error. Khris Davis tied the game with a single to left, knocking Kahnle out of the game, and Oakland took the lead when Yonder Alonso blooped a single off David Robertson that plopped into left field out of the reach of Melky Cabrera. Consider the hit probabilities, according to Statcast, of those three hits and the error:

Barreto: 78 percent
Healy: 5 percent
Davis: 62 percent
Alonso: 2 percent

That Kahnle coughed up the lead was surprising given his stealthy success leading a strong back end of the White Sox bullpen this year. The White Sox, prior to Sunday's defeat, were 28-0 when leading after seven innings. 

"Our bullpen's doing a great (job), it really is," manager Rick Renteria said. "I think you can't take away from what they've been doing for us all year long. We've been going to them a lot."

On that improbable Alonso bloop single, Cabrera was shifted more toward center field. 

"He was actually playing a little more to the pull side than he was to the line," Renteria said. "I don't think he was going to be able to get to it, regardless of the effort he might have given us. These guys are all a little fatigued, they're a little tired right now. They're giving you what they've got right now."

Entering Sunday’s game, Kahnle’s 1.2 WAR was sixth-best American League relievers, behind Boston’s Craig Kimbrel (2.2), Houston’s Chris Devenski (1.6), Cleveland’s Andrew Miller (1.6), Los Angeles’ Blake Parker (1.4) and Toronto’s Roberto Osuna (1.3). His 44.8 strikeout percentage is among the five best in baseball along with Kimbrel, New York’s Dellin Betances, Los Angeles’ Kenley Jansen and Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel.

Kahnle has been undoubtedly spectacular this year even with Sunday’s hiccup, though with Garcia seeming likely to be on the American League All-Star roster, Terry Francona wouldn’t have to take him to fill the game’s requirement. That this year’s All-Star Game doesn’t count — it’s the first since 2002 that won’t dictate home-field advantage in the World Series — could alter Francona’s roster construction to reward more starters and closers, and the Cleveland Indians manager would certainly be justified if he wanted to take his own setup guy in Miller.

The White Sox handed Kahnle the lead on Adam Engel’s first career home run (a solo shot in the third) and Jose Abreu’s dash home on a passed ball in the fourth. Starter Derek Holland was solid, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts over six innings. Melky Cabrera added a solo home run in the ninth inning, his eighth of the season.

Adam Rosales and Matt Joyce homered off Robertson and Chris Beck, respectively, in the ninth inning to give the A’s a comfortable ending to their three-game sweep of the White Sox. Beck was hit by a comebacker after allowing that home run and left the game with a bruised left hamstring, and is considered day-to-day.