Chicago White Sox

Late-inning small ball lifts White Sox

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Late-inning small ball lifts White Sox

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Updated 11:44 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The 2009 Chicago White Sox may have folded under a 3-0 first-inning deficit, or a 5-1 second frame setback.

Not the 2010 edition, however; one that manager Ozzie Guillen molded in his name and steadfastly defends in the face of trade rumors stretching coast-to-coast.

The White Sox took seven innings, but they managed to rally all the way back to win 6-5 over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night.

That was a big game for us today, Guillen said. We made a huge comeback right away, twice. The offense did a lot of great things, as a team. We played very, very, very well today.

The seventh stanza, which provided the game-winning tick, was Ozzieball to a T. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre worked a leadoff walk off of Seattle reliever Jamey Wright, stealing second to allow Alexei Ramirez to sacrifice him to third. Alex Rios followed with a run-scoring single, and just like that, the White Sox led for good.

Without a doubt, that was a big, big victory, left fielder Juan Pierre said. The way our lineup is set up, the little things become important: a bunt, a sacrifice fly.

Of course, U.S. Cellular Field was playing summer-small on this night, so naturally four of the Chisoxs first five runs came courtesy of the longball: a two-run shot by Gordon Beckham in the second and solo taps from Ramirez and Paul Konerko in the fifth.

The whole game I felt like wed come back and win, second baseman Gordon Beckham said. Weve got the ability to play small, and the ability to hit the ball out of the park. Thats a nice combination.

Early on, these were games we didnt win, said rookie reliever Sergio Santos, who recorded two Ks. Thats a cool part of the whole turnaround.

While the starting rotation has done more than its share in rallying the White Sox into first place25-9 with a 2.69 ERA and 35 quality starts in the last 44 gameson this night, it was all Mark Buehrle could do to keep his head above water.

You never want to go less than six or seven innings, but we won the game, thats what mattered, said Buehrle, who surrendered nine hits and five runs in five innings. The offense picked me up. If you get in too big a hole its hard to battle back.

Buehrle was fighting, Guillen said. Every game on the field, all my players fight hard; maybe they like me, or theyre proud. Buehrle battled, and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Indeed it was a lights-out quartetSantos, Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz and Bobby Jenkswho were the heroes, with four innings of scoreless pitching, allowing just two hits and striking out five.

The first three relievers extended scoreless streaks with their efforts: Santos has gone 10 games without surrendering an earned run, Thornton 17 straight scoreless appearances and Putz pitched a perfect eighth to extend his club-record streak of scoreless games to 27.

Perhaps most importantly, Jenks shook off his recent scuffles by striking out the side in the ninth for his 21st save. He hit 99 on the gun to strike out Russell Branyan for the second out.

All I know is if have to keep continuing to prove myself, Jenks said. I have to attack hitters, attack the zone and stay with the game plan.

You blow two games, thats going to happen, Beckham said. Jenks came back tonight and got it done. Thats what we need from him.

Guillen, who expressed surprise that there was any buzz over Jenks being displaced has his closer, praised the bullpen as well as his entire roster with his final, cheeky comment of the night.

Youre a good manager when the players execute well, he said.

Couple that with his first comment of the dayI should be happy, Im in first place. I should be the happiest man in baseballand couple it with his last, and at this point, two things are clear: The White Sox appear poised to take up seeming permanent residence in first placeand that Guillen is looking like the best skipper in the bigs.

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

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A strong relationship with pitching coach Jose Bautista allowed Michael Kopech to make a midseason adjustment he thinks is critical to his dominant stretch.

The Double-A Birmingham pitcher said he’s learned a ton about himself during a very good first season with the White Sox. Much of Kopech’s newfound knowledge is related to the direction of his throwing motion and how he needs to be more consistent with it. The suggestion came courtesy of Bautista, who’s in his ninth season as a White Sox coach.

Kopech, who next pitches for the Barons on Friday night, has found the necessary amount of consistency since he and Bautista made the switch in early July. Since then Kopech, 21, has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in 41 innings.

“He really trusts Jose’s information,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “They did some mechanical stuff fixing his direction. He just took off from there once they corrected that direction and make him understand, strike one, how important it really is. He had one good game where he got into the seventh inning and he came out and he says, ‘That’s the longest outing I’ve had.’ And it was like right after he had corrected the direction and he just took off from there. He’s done great. He’s a great kid. He works hard. Fantastic teammate.”

Kopech is pleased with the insight he has gained from Bautista.

“I feel like I’ve learned more about myself this year,” the right-hander said. “Just that I’m more successful as a starter when I’m able to repeatedly stay in one motion.”

Bautista’s fix came on the heels of a six-start run where Kopech posted a 7.46 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. The club used a nine-day window between starts from July 5-13 to work on his direction. Kopech had only one appearance, a scoreless inning in the Futures Game.

“I may be a guy that goes toward the plate and spins off,” Kopech said. “But I can’t be a guy that goes toward the plate and stays toward the plate and the next pitch goes toward the plate and then spins off. I just have to follow in that some pattern no matter what I’m doing. It’s about consistency and I’ve learned my most consistent patterns as a pitcher. That’s put me in a good position.”

Rather, it’s put Kopech in an elite position.

The No. 12 prospect in baseball has perhaps begun to outperform the lofty expectations that have been in place since he arrived last December from Boston in the Chris Sale trade.

Opposing hitters have a .414 OPS against him over the last month. He has completed at least six innings in each of his last six starts and has gone seven frames or more four times.

“He’s going deeper into games,” player development director Chris Getz. “A lot of it has to do with that fastball command and really its staying within his delivery and going after hitters early with that fastball, trusting it, because he’s got good action on the fastball, not just the upper-90s straight fastball. He’s got natural two-seam action to his ball.”

Undoubtedly, throwing more strikes has played a big role in Kopech’s dominance. In his first 16 starts, Kopech threw strikes 61 percent of the time en route to a respectable 4.02 ERA. He’s increased that figure to 67 percent in his last six games.

Ultimately, Kopech credits Bautista for getting him back in the right direction.

“Getting a little bit of success with one mechanical adjustment kind of made the mental adjustments easier,” Kopech said. “It made me feel a little bit more comfortable with myself.

“I stayed in line. I stopped spinning off so much. The solution to that was getting out there and throwing more strikes. One thing became another and after that I started feeling a lot more comfortable with myself.

“A lot of it has to do with Jose and him being in my ear and telling me when I’m coming off and when I’m doing certain things.

“It’s the best I’ve been all year, the most consistent I’ve been all year. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”

White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

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White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Eloy Jimenez’s goal is to show the White Sox that his performance at Winston-Salem wasn’t a fluke.

At this rate the No. 7 prospect in baseball won’t need long to prove it.

The White Sox prospect celebrated his promotion to Double-A Birmingham on Wednesday night with a home run in his first at-bat and a double. Fellow prospect Zack Collins also homered in his first game with the Barons after both were promoted from Advanced-A Winston-Salem earlier in the day.

“It’s a big step for my career again,” Jimenez said. “I’m just focused more to show the White Sox I can do the same I did in Winston-Salem. Just keep working hard. That’s it.”

Both players learned of their impending promotion after Sunday’s game at Winston-Salem. They played in Monday’s 11-inning loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs) with Collins doubling, tripling and walking and Jimenez going 0-for-5. Jimenez had also gone hitless in five at-bats on Sunday.

But the organization’s co-minor league player of the month for July got going immediately on Wednesday. He drove a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line in the first inning and snuck it inside the foul pole for an opposite-field home run, a 368-foot drive. His next time up, Jimenez doubled to deep center after he produced an exit velocity of 109 mph. Collins also drew a walk in his fourth plate appearance.

The White Sox player development department promoted both players to Double-A to prepare them for next season as this is where each is expected to start the 2018 campaign.

“It’s just to get their feet wet and to know what to expect,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “It’s a great philosophy because now they come into next year and they know already, this is what they do at this level. Even if they don’t do great here in the next couple of weeks, they know what to expect to now. Now they’ve got all offseason where they can work on certain things and come back and be ready for it. I think it’s a great experience that we give them and I really love the way we handle that.”

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Collins wasn’t sure if he would be moved up. Originally, the plan was to keep him at Winston-Salem if the Dash was in the playoff hunt. Several losses erased that idea and Collins is appreciative of his new opportunity. The catcher struck out in his first two at-bats before he hammered one 420 feet for a solo home run in the fourth inning. The exit velo on Collins’ homer was 110 mph.

“(The promotion) means a ton to me,” Collins said. “Obviously, that’s the goal to keep on moving up and eventually to the big leagues. Just to get that next step in and get here and get my feet wet a little before the season ends is great.”

After he was acquired from the Cubs on July 13, Jimenez appeared in 29 games for Winston-Salem. He finished the month with 38 hits, including 11 doubles and eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 12 walks.

Jimenez produced a .345/.410/682 slash line for the Dash. He said he tried to avoid thinking about the promotion so he didn’t get distracted.

“Yes, (I was ready), but really, really I don’t think about it because when I think about it I struggle,” Jimenez said. “If God wants to take me here, whenever he feels I’m ready, I’m going to do my best job here. When they told me two days ago, I said ‘Ok. This is the time to keep working hard and just do whatever I’m going to do.’ ”