Licorice whip: White Sox offense stymied in loss

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Licorice whip: White Sox offense stymied in loss

Saturday, March 12, 2011Posted: 4:50 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Never has a strong offense ever seemed so impotent.

The White Sox entered play second in the American League with a .281 average but could only muster a single hit in the first three inningsa bunt single by Juan Pierre to lead off the gameen route to a 4-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at Camelback Ranch.

Matt Harrison stymied the White Sox for four innings, striking out four. The Pale Hose mustered just three more hits in the game against Rangers relievers.

On the White Sox side, Edwin Jackson threw four innings and was hammered for four runs and eight hits. The hurler said that Saturdays outing was the best hes felt all spring.

"I'm looking at pitches, ahead in the counts, behind in the counts, aggressiveness," Jackson said. "Those are things you can take into the season. Numbers are numbers. It's spring training. At the end of the month, everyone will be at zero all over again. You are working on things, and you want to see where you are at pitch-wise and continue to progress from there."

Chicagos second hit came courtesy of Omar Vizquel, who was promptly picked off of first base, turning an Adam Dunn strikeout into a fourth inning double play. Later, Dunn added a stand-up triple, aided by Texas centerfielder Craig Gentrys attempted catch on the play. Dunn scored the only White Sox run of the game one batter later, when Alex Rios tapped an excuse-me, check-swing infield single.

The hot-and-cold Chicago attack doesnt please White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, but hes been extremely patient this spring, continuing to point to the plan he diagrammed in the offseason.

Ten games, seven games before we break camp, youll see starters play nine innings, he said. You havent seen that in the past Everyone has to play seven-eight innings because we have started poorly in the last four to six years. After Opening Day we play very bad because we dont play together enough late in spring training.

In or Out?

Guillen joked postgame that he had been ejected from the contest, but theres no evidence in the box score to support that. Chalk it up to another case of wishful thinking for the jefe.

Jackson Four

Jackson threw all of his pitches and continued working toward his regular-season debut, but Texas easily solved him after two strong starts to begin Cactus League play (the righthander entered todays action 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA).

The only difference is the score, I guess, he said. The pitches were the same. I went out and worked on the same thing. I was throwing high a little bit more than I like.

Spring training can be a grind, with Jackson still due for four starts before the Cactus League mercifully closes its doors for another year. But the hurler wouldnt blame the grind for taking his eyes off the ball in his effort today.

You have to go out and you are still trying to have success, Jackson said. But you can be the most successful spring training pitcher and the worst season pitcher. And you can be the least successful spring training pitcher and when the season starts, you dominate.

The main thing is getting through spring training. As long as you feel good and healthy into the season, thats the most important thing.

Vote of confidence

After a fairly strong start at the plate, third baseman heir apparent Brent Morel has seen his OPS fall to .488. Yet Guillen wouldnt say that Mark Teahentearing the cover off the ball (hitting .474 after an 0-for-2 effort on Saturday)had won the job.

Morel is not going to make the team because hes going to hit .600-.700, Guillen said. But the way Teahen is playing the last couple of games is outstanding. Hes playing better defense than he was in the past.

The plan, according to Guillen, is to continue alternating the two candidates in games.

Its going to be a battlewere going to keep throwing them out there, Guillen said. Were going to alternate them. I want to see who responds the best.

Morel has to continue to be considered the front-runner, given Guillens predilection toward defense.

Are we going to go with better defense Morel, or Teahens offense? Guillen mused, noting that he has seven more meetings scheduled with staff to discuss the White Sox roster. Im not afraid to play Morel with this ballclub at all.

Ditto closer

Guillen also hasnt made up his mind with regard to the White Sox closer. Matt Thornton has made three appearances, with a 6.00 ERA and just one strikeout, while Chris Sale stands at 4.26 with eight strikeouts.

I can throw a coin up, and wherever it lands, thats the guy, Guillen said. I dont worry about either of those two guys. Coop will have an idea, Kenny has an idea, I have an idea, and well put the best guy out thereI dont care who it is, because I have confidence in both guys.

The manager was quick to remind of options beyond primary candidates Thornton and Sale, as well.

If Thornton and Sale are overused, then we have Jesse Crain. Crain and Will Ohman can close, too.

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

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Slumping White Sox get huge boost after Miguel Gonzalez 'defended his ground'

Every factor but one suggested there was no way Rick Renteria would remove Miguel Gonzalez in the seventh inning on Monday afternoon.

Of course, Gonzalez didn’t know that.

But even as he walked to the mound with two on and no outs in the seventh and Wrigley Field roaring, Renteria didn’t have any intention of pulling Gonzalez.

Trades and injuries have given the White Sox manager even less wiggle room with which to work than the one-run lead Gonzalez was trying to protect. As long he was convinced his pitcher was game, Renteria would stay with Gonzalez. Gonzalez acquiesced and soon thereafter the White Sox were on their way to their first victory since July 8. The White Sox topped the Cubs 3-1 and in doing so snapped a nine-game losing streak.

“I just went in there to reaffirm that we were thinking the same way,” Renteria said. “He was thinking the same way. It was kind of easy.

“He said ‘I got this.’ He defended his ground.”

[Such a mighty wallop: How does Matt Davidson's mammoth home run stack up?]

Even though he had a front-row seat for the conversation, catcher Kevan Smith had little understanding of what transpired. The rookie said Renteria and Gonzalez spoke entirely in Spanish after Jon Jay and Javier Baez singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning. Smith heard Renteria mention to Gonzalez that lefty David Holmberg was ready to face switch hitter Ian Happ. Beyond that, all Smith heard from Gonzalez was ‘bueno’ and ‘listo,’ and Renteria was headed back to the visiting dugout.

But you don’t have to be a linguist to decipher what issues the White Sox pitching staff faces after a trying month.

Prior to Gonzalez pitching into the eighth, the White Sox hadn’t had a starter complete seven innings since June 16. An already overworked bullpen has also had to deal with season-ending injuries to Zach Putnam, Nate Jones and top relief prospect Zack Burdi. And those issues have been even further compounded by the trades of Jose Quintana, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in the past 12 days.

So even though Gonzalez was on the verge of facing the top of the Cubs order a fourth time, Renteria had to stick with him so he could save top relievers Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak for later.

“I said ‘Just give me the ball,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ’I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m feeling OK.’ Just walked away and I was able to get out of that jam. That was a big one.”

Smith was also happy with the decision. He liked how Gonzalez — who threw strikes on 73 of 105 pitches — had competed. Smith thought Gonzalez had great stuff and heard positive reviews from opposing hitters.

“(Gonzalez) had it,” Smith said. “The guys were coming up to the plate saying this guy has got some stuff today. It was a big moment to kind of prove that he can be a long guy, especially late in the game like that. Big pressure situation. Obviously it was getting pretty rowdy, but he stayed composed and pitched his way out of it.”

First was a five-pitch strikeout of Happ that ended with a swinging strike on a curveball. Jason Heyward then popped out to shallow center for the second out. Kris Bryant worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But Gonzalez jumped ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the count 1-2 before he got the star first baseman to fly out deep to center to strand the bases loaded.

Gonzalez returned in the eighth and retired one more hitter before he exited after a Kyle Schwarber single. The effort was plenty for Renteria and the White Sox, who also wiggled out of jams in the eighth and ninth inning.

“Sometimes you just don't have any other option,” Renteria said. “You just have to do what you have to do. They had a really good idea of how they wanted to attack those guys. …

“Miggy did a really nice job.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Sox win game one of Crosstown Series

Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun Times), David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Ben Finfer (ESPN Radio) join Kap to go over the exciting first game between the White Sox and the Cubs.

Plus, the latest on trade rumors linking Justin Verlander and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Do the Cubs really need to make another move?

Finally, the guys discuss whether Kyrie Irving asking for a trade out of Cleveland is the dumbest career choice, ever.