Chicago White Sox

James Shields ready to be activated off disabled list

James Shields ready to be activated off disabled list

TORONTO -- James Shields not only got the physical preparation he needed, but he’s confident he received the mental work necessary, too.

The White Sox starter is set to return off a two-month long disabled list stint on Sunday and thinks his three-start rehab assignment has him amply prepared. Shields strained his lat muscle during an April 16 outing. He had a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings at Triple-A and won’t mind if he never hears about the first DL trip of his career ever again. The White Sox will activate Shields off the DL on Sunday morning and make a corresponding move.

“I’m kind of the over the whole DL for the first time thing,” Shields said. “Just excited to get back in action.

“Those guys made me work. It was great. It was good to see. They gave me a lot of work down there. I got tested for sure. I always thought Triple-A wasn’t too much of a difference except for experience and knowledge and that’s about it.

“We got some good work in.”

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The White Sox rotation could use another steady hand after it has endured its share of struggles recently. Including Mike Pelfrey’s start on Saturday, the rotation has produced only five quality starts in its last 25 games.

During that stretch, White Sox starters have a 6.03 ERA.

Coming off a disastrous 2016 campaign, Shields was off to a good start to 2017. Despite walking 10 hitters in 16 2/3 innings, Shields posted a 1.62 ERA with the aid of 16 strikeouts.

“It seemed like he had reinvented himself using his breaking ball a little more, a couple of different speeds with it and throwing it for strikes,” manager Rick Renteria said. “That’s been very helpful to him. But he was commanding the strike zone. I think he was throwing a lot of strikes and he knows how to manage particular situations, who to get to and who not to get to. I think his experience has been invaluable in order for him to kind of get the thing moving this season.”

White Sox see pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's injury as 'temporary thing'

White Sox see pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's injury as 'temporary thing'

The White Sox are fairly encouraged about Reynaldo Lopez’s progress and hopeful he returns soon to the mound.

Manager Rick Renteria said before Monday’s doubleheader that Lopez, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained back, said he has increasingly felt better. Lopez went on the DL on Saturday, two days after he made his second start since being promoted to the majors. The right-hander played catch in the outfield on Monday. Renteria also noted that Yoan Moncada would play in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader but he would sit out the second contest to rest his shin splints.

“He’s doing very, very well,” Renteria said of Lopez. “I ask him every day. (Sunday) night before we got off (the plane) he said he’s feeling much, much better. Now it’s a matter of where he’s at, and what we start doing with him activity wise before we he gets back in the rotation.

“This is a temporary thing.”

Similar to Moncada in July, Lopez is the first heralded prospect on the pitching side to appear in the majors. He had a strong debut against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 11, allowing two earned runs and striking out six in six innings. Lopez struggled in his second start, allowing six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against Texas before he exited. He struck out six and walked four batters before complaining of soreness on his side.

“There’s nothing that’s going to hold this young man back,” Renteria said. “The disappointment is more that he can’t get back out there every five days right, not in terms of his performance. He’s done pretty well. It’s just that he can’t be out there right now. Once he’s healed up he’s going to be fine and be out there every five days.”

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

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USA TODAY

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

Put the shift on against Nicky Delmonico and he’s going to drop down a bunt to beat you.

The White Sox rookie has tried his solution for shift-happy defenses already three times this season and it’s worked in each instance.

And while its undoubtedly the long ball -- he’s hit five home runs -- that has caught everyone’s attention during the White Sox rookie’s unbelievable start, don’t overlook the little things, especially Delmonico’s ability to bunt for a hit and the impact it’s had on opposing defenses.

Whenever opponents try to employ a shift, and they’ve done it more often this season, Delmonico has shown no fear in trying to beat them with a bunt down the third-base line.

He bunted for a single in Sunday’s win when he reached base three times to bring his on-base percentage to .451 through 71 plate appearances. There’s no question that forcing defenses to play him straight up is partly responsible for Delmonico reaching base safely in 15 of 17 games to start his major league career.

“It opens up a hole,” Delmonico said. “There’s been a lot of times in Charlotte where you hit a hard ground ball through the four hole and think it’s a hit, but then there’s a guy deep in right field. You want those (to be hits). Any time you can take advantage of bunting and show you can bunt they’ll move out of the shift.”

Take a look at Delmonico’s spray chart and it’ll tell you he’s pull-happy. He’s pulled 47.9 percent of all balls put in play since reaching the majors, according to Fangraphs.com. Were he to be qualified for a batting title, Delmonico would currently be 15th in pull percentage in baseball, easily within range of leader Salvador Perez’s 54.6 percent.

Either way, Delmonico’s spray chart is the type that often leads defenses to load up three gloves on the right side of the infield no matter the count (teams tend to shift to a hitter’s pull side most often with two strikes).

But Delmonico has made them think twice --- at least early in the count.

“Any time I see them all over that’s when it’s the best time to lay one down,” Delmonico said. “You’ve just got to get it past the pitcher and fair.”

You also have to catch the attention of advance scouts. Based on the way he’s been defended so far, hitting coach Todd Steverson thinks opponents have taken notice of Delmonico’s skills.

“It’s got to be in their notes,” Steverson said. “It’s got to be in their data: “This guy will bunt.” Even just the words “he will bunt” keeps somebody close for a minute before they move to another spot. If you have none, then they don’t have to do nothing.

“They want to play him in the full shift. That’s what they did to him from the get-go. He dropped two bunts down on them and said ‘Ok.’ ”

Delmonico said he’s seen an increased number of shifts since reached Triple-A two years ago.

“But it was all different kinds of shifts,” Delmonico said. “Very rarely I would see them all over until two strikes.”

Delmonico works on bunting the same as anyone else. There’s the round he takes each day at the start of batting practice each day. And every few weeks or so, Charlotte brought out the pitching machine.

But what may make him standout are his confidence and conviction. While Delmonico realizes he may be taking the potential for extra bases out of his hands for one at-bat, he’s knows he’s still giving himself a chance to jumpstart a rally and he’s creating a world of opportunities for the rest of his trips to the plate.

“I feel like they’re pretty good,” Delmonico said. “I’ve worked a lot on it the last two years because I know eventually they will shift and to get that hole open you’ve got to prove to them that you will bunt.

“Overall it helps you out and two, it gives you a chance to get on base and get going. That’s the biggest thing for me.”