Chicago White Sox

LIVE: Indians open up big lead over White Sox

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LIVE: Indians open up big lead over White Sox

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
Posted: 10:31 a.m.

Associated Press

Neither the Chicago White Sox nor the Cleveland Indians have been officially eliminated from the playoff race, but their chances of winning the AL Central continue to quickly wane.

In what's been reduced to a battle for second place, the White Sox and Indians continue their four-game set on Friday night.

Chicago used a seven-run seventh inning Thursday to rip Cleveland 8-1. Brent Morel drove in a career-high four with his first two-homer game and Paul Konerko hit his 10th career grand slam, tying Robin Ventura's club record.

That helped pull the White Sox (72-70) within 8 12 games of the idle Tigers with 20 remaining. Chicago and Detroit will meet for the final three times this year starting Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox, though, will be without the versatile Brent Lillibridge for the remainder of the season after he suffered a broken hand when hit by a pitch from rookie Josh Judy in the seventh Thursday.

"It's frustrating, but I'll be around as much as I can," said Lillibridge, who's played five positions this year and hit a career-best 13 homers in 97 games.

Cleveland (70-71), which is 10 games back, is in danger of falling two games below .500 for the first time since opening the season 0-2 against Chicago. Manager Manny Acta's team has lost eight of 11 to the White Sox this year while being held to two runs or fewer five times.

"We couldn't get anything going offensively," Acta said Thursday.

Former White Sox star Jim Thome received a standing ovation and drove in the lone run for the Indians. However, Thome is hitting .214 with a homer and 16 strikeouts in 12 games since being acquired from Minnesota on Aug. 25.

Thome has five hits - two homers - and 13 strikeouts in 25 career at-bats against Chicago's Mark Buehrle (11-7, 3.34 ERA), who's trying to bounce back from his worst start of the year.

He was charged with a season-high eight runs in a season-low 3 1-3 innings during Sunday's 18-2 loss at Detroit.

The left-hander has also been hit hard by Cleveland this year, giving up eight runs and 20 hits in 13 1-3 innings while going 1-1 over two starts. Buehrle lost to the Indians at home Aug. 17, dropping to 7-9 with a 5.09 ERA all-time against them on the South Side.

Indians catcher Carlos Santana is 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts in his last four games, but 4 for 7 against Buehrle this year.

Cleveland's Jeanmar Gomez (2-2, 4.11) will try to win his third consecutive start as he faces the White Sox for the first time.

Since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 30, the right-hander has yielded two runs - one earned - and 12 hits in 11 1-3 innings en route to wins over Oakland and Kansas City. He had been 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in his four previous major league starts this year.

"Gomez gave us what we needed," Acta told the Indians' official website after Sunday's 9-6 win over the Royals. "He's been very good his last two outings and we need that."
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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.’ ”