Konerko grand slam lifts White Sox

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Konerko grand slam lifts White Sox

Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010
Updated 11:54 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

If theres a baseball player in Chicago with more flair for the dramatic than Paul Konerko, have him stand forth and be judged.

On a day the White Soxs mainstay first baseman forecasted his departure from the club this offseason, it was only appropriate he iced Thursdays game with a full-count grand slam in the fourth inning, spurring an 8-2 rout of the Boston Red Sox. Konerko reached base in four of five trips to the plate and now stands at 39 homers, 111 RBI and an OPS of .981.

That was perfect, White Sox starter John Danks said of Konerkos clout.

All year, he wasnt giving up any at-bats, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of his captain, openly zealous about a possible 40-homer campaign for Konerko. Its max effort out there. Thats why he had a season like this.

Konerko, natch, was thinking little of 40 round-trippers.

Numbers are nice, but Ive done it before in 2004 and 2005, he said. Its good to have a nice, round number like 40, but I dont think about it too much.

Two innings after Konerkos clout, the baseball gods deemed the game already perfect and unworthy of continuing, pulling the plug on the ballpark lights and delaying the contest for 21 minutes.

Red Sox starter Jon Lester probably hoped that the plug was yanked for good. The southpaw came into the game with a glistening career record vs. the White Sox, at 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA, along with a 1.13 WHIP and 1.90 KBB. He had been unbeatable in September and October in his career against all AL opponents, going 16-2 with a 2.50 ERA. Lesters three starts in Chicago have been stellar: 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA, and overall no White Sox starter was hitting better than .222 for his career against him.

Lesters got four pitches and he can use both sides of the plate, Konerko said. You just have to keep scratching.

I was worried when I gave up a home run, Danks said of the two-run blast he surrendered to Victor Martinez in the third that put Boston ahead, 2-1. Lester is tough to score against.

That all changed on Thursday, when the Red Sox ace was pummeled for nine hits and eight earned runs in four innings, an outing that tacked more than a quarter-run onto his season ERA. Lester also lost a shot at becoming Bostons first 20-game winner in three seasons, finishing his campaign at 19-9.

We made him workhe had 99 pitches in four innings, Guillen said. Our offense did a tremendous job.

Konerkos grand slam paced a 2-3 night, but the offense was keyed by Juan Pierre, who reached base on his first four plate appearances, going 3-3 with a walk. Pierre also swiped three bags, giving him 66 on the season, a personal best.

Before the game, I was making fun of Pierre because I told him I wasnt playing him and he got angry with me, Guillen said. Im lucky to manage this guy. I love fast players. Speed never gets in a slump.

Before the baseball gods could darken the game, Dayan Viciedo (starting at Konerkos first base, with PK shifting to DH for the night) clouted an opposite-field, two-run homer in the fifth, which would close out the scoring.

Danks was sharp for the White Sox, tossing six innings of five-hit, one-run ball, striking out six. In his final start of 2010, the southpaw shaved his ERA down to 3.72 and extended career bests in wins (to 15) and strikeouts (162).

The White Sox have now spun wins in seven of eight games, finishing the 2010 campaign strong, just as Guillen promised they would.

Were going out there trying to win every game, and this was just another example of that, Danks said. Games like this make it fun to pitch, even when were out of it.

For Konerko, being feted with a curtain call from a rapturous U.S. Cellular Field crowd after his grand slam was a season highlight, and admittedly a career one.

That felt good, Konerko said. Curtain calls are really special. I remember all of themyou never know when your last one might be.

White Sox fans will go to sleep tonight praying it wasnt their final serenade of the Captain.

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

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

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Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

That Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada have reunited is a nice story, but it won't dramatically change the mindset of the rebuilding White Sox, who earlier this week demonstrated they aren't messing around.

Abreu said in a statement issued by the White Sox on Friday that he's "very happy" about the prospect of again playing alongside Moncada, who played 12 games with the star slugger in 2012 for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series. Moncada, 21, is the centerpiece of a four-player package acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale on Tuesday, a toolsy infielder who MLB.com has rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.

While the concept of Abreu mentoring Moncada has plenty of merit — the first baseman's work ethic is outstanding, and he's beloved by coaches and teammates — don't think the White Sox would hesitate to trade him if someone paid the right price. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn just spent four days at the Winter Meetings discussing how a team that just traded away its best pitcher and position player remains open to listening to all offers and is prepared to do what is must to get the franchise healthy again. 

"We're extremely open-minded on ways to continue the process that we started," Hahn said earlier this week, adding that the White Sox "have to make some painful decisions."

The White Sox have grown tired of never having all the pieces — or even more than a few — to fill the holes created by injury, poor performance, etc. They want to be flush with young talent and essentially have said anything that isn't nailed down at Guaranteed Rate Field is available with the exceptions of Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon.

The team wants to cash in on the chips it possesses.

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While they don't have a ton, the few the White Sox have could help expedite a rebuild process as the Sale and Eaton trades have shown. Those deals brought back seven players, including three who played at the big league level last season (Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez). Some of those players potentially would start 2017 in the big leagues, and that possibility increases the internal value of Abreu and starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who is equally revered among teammates and coaches for his dedication and team-first mentality. 

Having those young players see firsthand what it takes to excel in the majors from veteran teammates is invaluable. Abreu, who arrived in the United States from Cuba in late 2013, addressed that point in his statement about Moncada, who signed with Boston in 2015.

"Moncada is a five-tool player," Abreu said. "He really has everything needed to succeed, and I know that with the proper guidance of veteran players and coaches with experience he can become an All-Star caliber player."

"He is going to make a huge impact in the White Sox organization, and both the fans and the team will be thankful.

"I already spoke with him to welcome him to the team. I told him that I'm going to be there for him for everything that he needs on and off the field."

In a conference call Wednesday, Moncada said he's "thrilled" to once again play with Abreu. Whether they will hasn't yet been determined.

When asked about Moncada's 2017 starting point earlier in the week, Hahn said the 21-year still needs to develop. Moncada appeared in eight big league games last season for Boston and struggled with contact, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances. But that promotion came after a meteoric rise through Boston's farm system, an aggressive path that included only 45 games played above High-A. Nothing has been announced, but it appears Moncada will receive an invite to big league camp next spring and be seated near Abreu in the clubhouse. 

Still, Hahn sounds like he intends for Moncada to spend much of 2017 refining his approach in the minors. He also has demonstrated he is willing to dig deep and make more painful moves if it betters the team in the long run, all of which means the White Sox wouldn't hesitate to trade Abreu or Quintana if they get what they want.