Chicago White Sox

Floyd hurls another gem as Sox rally late for win

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Floyd hurls another gem as Sox rally late for win

Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010
Updated 10:44 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
BALTIMORE He jogged right into this joke, so no scolds for low blows: Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski definitively answered the question of whether he could clap his hands and run the bases at the same time on his game-tying liner to the right-field corner on Saturday night.

Cheering his hit as he eased into an advance to third base after a game-tying double, Pierzynski suffered one of his less dignified moments on a baseball diamond, caught off-guard by a quick relay throw, failing to slide and turning his ankle while slipping on the slick sack. (The official postgame diagnosis from trainer Herm Schneider was a tweaked left ankle, something Pierzynski is confident he could have finished the game with and would be able to play on tomorrow.) Ramon Castro came on to pinch-run and replace the feisty backstop behind the plate.

No, said manager Ozzie Guillen when asked whether Pierzynskis move was something the catcher learned during Ozzieball drills in spring training. Thats why I took awhile to come out of the dugout. I was like, What was that?

It happened, but we won the game, and its good, said Pierzynski, who was walking freely around the clubhouse and had shed the ice bag to reduce swelling by games end.

But Pierzynski didnt just provide the blooper-reel technicians fodder into the fall, but a lift that Chicagos struggling offense desperately needed, as his wild romp around the bases spurred a come-from-behind, 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Ironically, the hit came immediately after a missed ball-four call that had the Chicago bench up in arms.

That was the break we needed, said Juan Pierre, who would single and score the eventual winning run in the next inning. Weve ran into some good pitching, and once we saw A.J. get his hit, there was some relief that we could come back and win this game.

Pierzynski also provided Gavin Floyd with some rare run support, and instead of throwing just long enough to earn a no-decision or hard-luck loss, the scintillating righty took home the win in front of a home crowd that included 20 family members and friends with seven innings of six-hit, two-run, five-strikeout ball. The start marked just the second time since June 2 that Floyd had been flogged for as many as two earned runs.

At first, I thought maybe it was going to be a short one, Floyd said after allowing two runs in the first three innings, uncharacteristic in a two-month stretch (12 starts) thats now seen him sport a 6-2 record with a 1.19 ERA and .205 batting average against. But its nice to come out on top in a close one, whether Im getting the W or not.

I was kind of worried early, Guillen agreed. We werent swinging the bat good and theyve been throwing the ball very good against us, but Im glad we scored some runs for Gavin. Every time he throws the ball well, we dont score any runs for him. Today we did, and he should be very happy.

The winning rally started after Pierzynskis game-tying shot, Pierre going the other way with a leadoff single in the eighth that extended his season-high hitting streak to 14 games. After a pantomime sacrifice bunt by Omar Vizquel, Alex Rios tapped a single to center, scoring Pierre, who luckily for the Sox sprints a tad faster and significantly more steadfast than Pierzynski while running the bases and clapping.

When Alexanybodytries to pull the ball, he tries to do too much, Guillen said of Rios, who has suffered a slump that has seen his average fall below .299 for the first time since May 23. I dont want Alex to try to hit another 20 or 30 home runs, just get the big RBIs. We dont need anybody to try to hit the ball out of the ballpark. If they do, good. But we can score different ways.

After an Adam Jones blastthe first homer off of Floyd in more than 77 inningsand an RBI single by Ty Wigginton that put the Os up a deuce, Carlos Quentin cut the Baltimore lead with a massive blow to dead center in the fourth.

Gordon Beckham supplied an insurance run in the top of the ninth, driving home Alexei Ramirez.

J.J. Putz subbed for Bobby Jenkswho is fighting a slump and some back soreness, and has been a victim of some horrible stumbles in the past vs. Baltimoreto earn his third save in four tries.

It was another great game, just like last night, Putz said. Thats kind of the luxury we have out there, whenever Bobby needs a blow, we can kind of mix and match the way we want to.

It was another all-in rally with a multitude of heroes, but this game did turn out unique in that the games main hero was also the butt of the joke.

I was joking, I finally did something to help around here and I get hurt, Pierzynski said.

Such baserunning isnt recommended, but clutch hitting to snap the White Sox out of an offensive funk? The team will take that, any time.

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