James Shields effective as White Sox pound Tigers

James Shields effective as White Sox pound Tigers

James Shields wants to move on from a disastrous 2016 season and show he’s still a capable major league pitcher.

Even though he described it as a little erratic, Shields’ effort on Thursday afternoon is definitely a good first step. Shields was effective into the sixth inning and the White Sox offense pounded the Detroit Tigers 11-2 in front of 10,842 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Geovany Soto blasted two home runs and drove in four runs and Matt Davidson tripled and hit a three-run homer in support of Shields, who won for only the second time in his last 13 starts and finished with a 6-19 record last season.

“It’s always good to have a clean slate you know, beginning of the season,” Shields said. “But we have a long way to go. Got off on the right foot today. A little more walks than I wanted to. But overall we have a lot of work to do over a long season and we’re going to continue to grind.”

The conditions didn’t appear to favor Shields, who yielded 40 homers in 2016, including 31 in 114 1/3 innings with the White Sox. Winds gusted at 23 mph from right to left at first pitch, which could have created a hardship for Shields.

Also, were it last year, the five walks he allowed in 5 1/3 innings may have sank Shields.

But none of it mattered.

“He was great today,” Soto said. “He was mixing speeds, controlling both sides of the plate. …

“It was the best I’ve seen him.

“He commanded both sides of the plate, his offspeed was there. Great performance by Shields today.”

While Shields got tagged for a solo homer in the second inning when he left a 91-mph fastball up to Tyler Collins, he otherwise avoided damage. He struck out the side in the first inning to strand runners on the corners, getting Justin Upton on an offspeed pitch to end the frame.

Shields struck out two more batters in the third inning, including Victor Martinez. All five of Shields’ strikeouts came on swinging third strikes.

He had 12 swings and misses in all, according to brooksbaseball.net. Shields also induced a lot of soft contact.

He lamented the free passes. But Shields also limited Detroit to two hits in 104-pitch effort.

“We were very happy with his outing,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know he had a few walks today, and he was talking about that after he came out of the ballgame. He was trying to attack the strike zone early. He was mixing his pitches well, secondary pitches. His offspeed he was taking a little more off, which was very effective for him. We were hoping he would be able to get through that last inning of work. It wasn’t to be, but he did a really nice job and kept us in the ballgame the whole game.”

The White Sox offense took advantage of the effort and a poor outing by Tigers starter Matthew Boyd.

Davidson started it with a triple in the second inning, his first at-bat of the season. He scored when Boyd’s throw home on a safety squeeze by Jacob May got away. The White Sox added another run on an RBI single by Tim Anderson.

Soto gave Shields plenty of room to work with in the third inning when lined a three-run shot down the left-field line for a 5-1 lead.

The White Sox poured it on in the fourth inning. Avisail Garcia, who had two hits, singled in a run off reliever Anibal Sanchez. Davidson then launched one an estimated 428 feet for a three-run homer and a 9-1 lead. The blast was Davidson’s first homer since Sept. 22, 2013 and the fourth of his career.

Jose Abreu later singled in a run and Soto also homered to center, his first two-homer game since 2011.

It all added up to an easy victory for Shields, who combined for a 5.85 ERA in 33 starts for the White Sox and San Diego Padres. Shields was acquired in a May trade in hopes that he’d provide the White Sox with a reliable innings-eater behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana in the rotation. The White Sox agreed to take on $22 million of the $44 million left on Shields’ contract.

The trade got off to a horrible start as Shields allowed 21 earned runs and five homers in his first three starts over 8 2/3 innings. While Shields found consistency over a seven-start stretch from June 23-July 26, he couldn’t maintain it. He went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox.

But all spring long Shields said he felt like he would bounce back. After a March 21 start, Shields said he wants to rediscover his aggressive self and become the consistent pitcher he has been throughout his career. Shields felt like he got away from his aggressiveness last season because he had trouble keeping the ball down in the zone.

“Sometimes you have your really good stuff and sometimes you have your OK stuff,” Shields said. “Today I didn’t have my best stuff, but I went out there and grinded it out. It helps when the team scores early, it gives you confidence to go out there and make some pitches.”

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

Todd Frazier wasn’t pleased with a call Saturday afternoon that led to the first ejection of his career.

It’s not that the White Sox third baseman is arguing about whether or not he deserved to get thrown out in the seventh inning of a 10-2 loss to the Oakland A’s. Frazier is more miffed by first-base umpire Sam Holbrook’s initial ruling --- that his throw pulled Jose Abreu off the bag --- and the determination by replay officials that the call was correct.

Frazier was ejected shortly after word arrived that the call stands, which means officials in New York didn’t believe they have enough evidence to overturn the original ruling. That fact bothered Frazier, who was charged with an error and began to speak his mind. White Sox manager Rick Renteria was ejected shortly thereafter for the third straight home game.

“It’s just frustrating with the technology we have today,” Frazier said. “It’s just crazy. It boggles your mind. It really does. You know -- I’m the one. I’m vocal. I’m emotional. But when it’s wrong, 100 percent wrong. I saw it on the MLB Network. I saw it in our cameras and our computers. I just don’t understand how we can see it and they can’t see it in New York. It’s just, it’s frustrating as all hell to be honest with you. It turned into a big inning. We were down a lot, don’t get me wrong. But still, Jake (Petricka) is pitching his heart out and next thing you know he gives up an unearned run and two more runs. So it’s really not that hard. Honest. It’s not that hard.”

Renteria raced onto the field in an attempt to save Frazier from a quick ejection, but didn’t have enough time. It was the third home game in a row in which a White Sox player was ejected for the first time in their career. Tim Anderson got the boot on Friday night after he argued with plate umpire Jim Wolf. And Avisail Garcia got tossed from the June 15 series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.

Renteria said taking into context who his players are and their track record made him want to further defend their actions.

“I don't ever go into a situation arguing with someone to get thrown out,” Renteria said. “I don't. I think what happens is, like anybody emotionally, when you start talking and expressing yourself, you have a tendency to get heated. You don't plan on doing that. I certainly don't go out there planning on having that happen. I think what happens, and I think it's just human nature, you start thinking about the whole situation, you're losing a player. You're losing a guy that's supposed to be in there for the next two, three innings to help you maybe continue to chip away. Our team has been fighting every day, since day one of spring training. I don’t care what our record is, I don't care what the score is, we fight. And when you take one of those pieces out of the lineup, you get pissed.”

Even though he had a chance to cool off, Frazier still felt the same after the contest. He stuck his head into the team’s video room after the game to check out the play. Teams have a variety of angles from which they can determine whether or not to challenge a call. They also have the option of taking a freeze frame and magnifying the picture, which left no doubt in Frazier’s mind that the call was incorrect.

“Like I said just frustrating,” Frazier said. “It’s just not that hard. And with all the technology like I said, I don’t mean to repeat ourselves, but with all the technology and 8 different angles it’s just one of those things where I just can’t let that go. It turned into a huge inning. You never know. We were down 6 we coulda came back. You gotta be 100 percent. You gotta be 100 percent right on that and I really don’t think he was.”

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

It’s one of the more iconic moments in White Sox history, and now Mark Buehrle has a key piece of memorabilia after a fan’s kind gesture.

Already overwhelmed by a series of gifts from the White Sox on Saturday afternoon, Buehrle was in disbelief when 17-year-old Tommy Maloney walked onto the field during a number-retirement ceremony and presented him with the flipped-through-the-legs ball from 2010 Opening Day.

The memento was one of four gifts Buehrle received from the White Sox along with a new truck, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle and a personalized piece of art created by White Sox outfielder Ron Kittle commemorating many of the highlights of the pitcher’s White Sox career. It was just another part of an overwhelming, emotional day for Buehrle, who was honored for his 12 seasons in a White Sox uniform.

“Pretty cool,” Buehrle said. “I don’t recall signing it for him when it happened. I don’t really remember where it went. But one, for him to give that up, that was pretty awesome.”

Maloney’s father, Matt, contacted the White Sox earlier this month to see if Buehrle wanted to meet with the fan who had the ball from a moment in White Sox history that has been replayed thousands upon thousands of times.

The Maloneys also reached out to the White Sox back in 2010, too. They informed the club they had the ball that Buehrle retrieved and flipped through his legs to Paul Konerko, who caught it with a barehanded to retire Cleveland’s Lou Marson in the fifth inning of the April 5, 2010 contest. Buehrle autographed the ball in 2010, but neither he nor the White Sox asked for Tommy Maloney, who was 10 at the time, to hand it over.

“At that point it’s just a cool ball, it’s not part of White Sox history,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox vice president of sales and marketing.

As he looked for a unique artifact for Buehrle to offer another layer to Saturday’s ceremony, Boyer came across Matt Maloney’s most recent email. He definitely thought Buehrle would have interest in reuniting with the fan who held a key artifact from a play that has become legendary around these parts over the years.

But Boyer also asked if the Maloneys would want to donate the ball to Buehrle.

“We didn’t have the unique thing,” Boyer said. “We just didn’t have it.

“Here it is.”

How it had gotten in Tommy Maloney’s hands in the first place was interesting enough. The Munster, Ind., high schooler said his father got tickets for the 2010 season opener and he left school early to watch Buehrle, his favorite pitcher as a kid. The seats were in the first row behind the far right edge of the White Sox dugout, the same ones he was in for Saturday’s ceremony.

After the improbable play to steal a hit from Marson, Buehrle fell to his knees, which brought manager Ozzie Guillen out of the dugout. Somehow Guillen retrieved the ball and upon returning to the dugout, flipped it to Maloney, who had earlier asked him for a ball several times. Even though it was a prized possession, Tommy Maloney said he’d have no problem surrendering it again if he were asked.

The White Sox rewarded Maloney for his sacrifice as club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf determined that the youngster would present Buehrle with the ball on the field. But the White Sox didn’t tell Maloney he would present the ball until Saturday, surprising him with the news about an hour before the game.

“It’s awesome the way it played out,” Maloney said. “He’s such a great guy. He was hugging me in the dugout. He looked at me when I went up there to give him the ball and said, ‘Give me a hug.’ ”

Maloney not only stood on the field before the ceremony, he had a chance to briefly meet Buehrle in the dugout. He also received another autographed baseball. And after he was applauded by the sellout crowd, several fans stopped by Maloney’s seat to pose for a picture.

Buehrle was touched by the gesture.

“I was like, ‘Brooks, we’ve got to do something here,’ ” Buehrle said. “’He can’t just give the ball and walk out of here empty-handed.’ So I ended up signing him a ball and I don’t know if we have something else in mind, but it was pretty awesome.”