Chicago White Sox

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.

The White Sox made sure Rob Brantly's father celebrated retirement from Air Force in style

The White Sox made sure Rob Brantly's father celebrated retirement from Air Force in style

The surprise that Master Sergeant Robert Brantly received on his final day of work is one he’ll never forget.

The father of White Sox catcher Rob Brantly, the elder Brantly was honored on the field on Monday night as the team’s Hero of the Game and joined by his son, who presented him with an autographed bat. The 37-year Air Force veteran, who also celebrated his 56th birthday, wasn’t informed he would be recognized by the White Sox on the field with his son until late Sunday.

“When I saw my son there and gave him a big hug and he told me I was his hero, it meant the world,” the elder Brantly said. “I can’t express it any other way than just gratitude for this organization, this team and my family putting up with me being away for so many different occasions with the military.

“I will never forget coming here to Chicago.”

The White Sox backstop said he informed the club that his father, an Angels fan, would be in town on his final day of employment in the Air Force. Brantly’s first day as a civilian is Tuesday.

“It’s a pretty emotional moment for me just knowing that my dad in the service he put into this country for almost 40 years fighting for our freedom, but also fighting to give me, his son, every opportunity in the world to succeed and he gave me this opportunity to be here and to be able to play Major League Baseball not only as a service man but as a father teaching me everything to know about baseball and the passion that comes along with the game,” the younger Brantly said.

“He would tell me he puts on that uniform every day so I don’t have to. It carries a lot of weight. To be able to do something like that for him and to finish off his career, his first day of retirement, tipping his cap to a Major League Baseball crowd giving him a standing ovation, it was a special moment for him and our family. I was glad I was able to be there to share that with him.”

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Ever since James Shields dropped down his arm angle, the strikeouts have increased considerably.

The White Sox pitcher struck out eight more batters in Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Shields, who pitched seven innings to earn a victory, has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning since he began to throw from a three-quarters angle in the middle of an Aug. 5 loss at Boston. While Shields still hasn’t perfected the new look -- he’s not even sure he’ll bring it back in 2018 -- it has caught the attention of opposing hitters.

“That was definitely a different Shields,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said. “He was moving the ball around tonight.”  

Shields might consider sticking with the lowered angle. The veteran often insists the adjustment is a work in a progress, though his results have continued to improve (he’s got a 3.51 ERA in his past four starts).

Overall, since Shields made the switch he has a 4.33 ERA in 60 1/3 innings, nearly two points below the 6.19 ERA he produced in his first 56 2/3 frames. Shields has also seen a reduction in home runs allowed per nine innings from 2.38 to 1.79.

But the most drastic change has been in strikeouts. Shields has increased his strikeout-rate to 23.5 percent, up from 16.6 percent. He’s whiffed 59 batters since making the adjustment after only 44 prior.

“He already curls, he closes off,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's got a cross-angle delivery, so you see his back a lot. But I think the variance in velocities, the breaking ball, he'll run the fastball, sink it. He's doing a lot with it, there's a lot of action going on so it's going to both sides of the plate. But the variance of velocity, especially with the breaking ball, sometimes it pops up there as an eephus or something. He's doing a real nice job.”

Shields has one season left on his current deal and seems likely to return to anchor a young White Sox rotation in 2018. Whether or not he’ll stay with the current setup remains to be seen.

“We’ll see,” Shields said “I’ll make some assessments in the offseason, and see how that works out, see how my body is feeling. Over the last month and a half, it seems to be working out. we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m revamping every year man. This being my 12th season, you’re always trying to refine your game every year, no matter what, whether it’s a pitch or mechanical adjustment. The league makes adjustments on you. I’ve faced a lot of these hitters so many times. I think Robbie Cano I’ve had almost 100 at-bats in my career against. But at the end of the day, you always have to make adjustments.”