LIVE: White Sox lose lead, trail 9-7 in 9th

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LIVE: White Sox lose lead, trail 9-7 in 9th

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 11:26 a.m.

Associated Press

The winless Tampa Bay Rays can't seem to get anything going offensively. They might want to take a lesson from the Chicago White Sox.

James Shields takes the mound opposite White Sox starter John Danks hoping to help visiting Tampa Bay to its first victory as the teams continue their four-game series Friday night.

The Rays (0-6), who finished third in the majors with 802 runs scored last season, fell 5-1 to Chicago on Thursday and have totaled just eight during their season-opening six-game slide.

"It's absurd to think you can go into some slumps and not hit the ball like this," said manager Joe Maddon, whose team was held to one run for the fifth time. "One run all the time is just hard to cope with. There's not a whole lot we can do to be creative."

Losing three-time All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria to the disabled list on Saturday with a muscle strain certainly hasn't helped the Rays, who are batting .145.

"Of course, we never expected to start this way. We've had success and we anticipate success this season," Maddon said. "What happens in the beginning of the year is more magnified than if it occurs in the middle when you've built up a little cache of wins."

In contrast, the White Sox (4-2) lead the AL with 45 runs scored and are hitting .320 after collecting 12 hits Thursday.

"Right now we're hitting in the clutch and that's very important," said manager Ozzie Guillen. "We're mixing in one run here and there. ...I think every day it's not the same guy every time. Different guys are doing the damage."

Juan Pierre improved his average to .357 with three hits, Alex Rios had two doubles and two RBIs and Paul Konerko had at least one RBI for the sixth straight game.

Carlos Quentin entered Thursday batting .500 over a five-game hitting streak but went 0 for 2.

Quentin is 3 for 17 lifetime against Shields (0-1, 2.45 ERA), who allowed four hits and two runs and struck out seven over 7 1-3 innings of Saturday's 3-1 loss to Baltimore.

"Sometimes you can look good and you don't come out with the win," said Shields, who is 2-2 with a 5.05 ERA in seven starts against the White Sox.

The right-hander, though, has enjoyed some success of late at U.S. Cellular Field, where he has gone 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his last two starts.

Danks (0-1, 3.00), too, suffered the loss in his season debut despite allowing six hits and two runs and recording eight strikeouts in six innings of Sunday's 7-1 defeat at Cleveland.

Danks had compiled a 2.35 ERA en route to winning five of six starts against the Rays before surrendering eight hits and a career worst-tying eight runs in four innings of an 8-5 loss May 29.

Rays outfielder B.J. Upton went 2 for 4 on Thursday and has recorded a hit in all six games. Upton, though, is 2 for 14 with six strikeouts lifetime against Danks.

Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Dan Johnson, who hit 2-3-4 in Tampa Bay's lineup Thursday, have combined for just one hit in 16 at-bats versus the left-hander.

Manny Ramirez, who spent part of last season with Chicago, missed Thursday's game because of a family matter, but is expected to be available for this one. Ramirez is 1 for 17 in 2011.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

Single-A Winston-Salem's Zack Collins is experiencing some newfound confidence when it comes to the catch and throw.

He should.

After he made a minor technical adjustment this spring, the White Sox first-rounder has dramatically improved his results in throwing out base runners early this season. The catcher has consistently reduced his throw time to second base by a tenth of a second. After he only threw out three of 21 stolen-base attempts in 2016, Collins has nailed 10 of 14 would-be thieves early this season.

Collins' correction is due in large part to a small change he and White Sox catching coordinator John Orton made in how the catcher positions himself as he releases the ball.

"What we noticed was when he tried to be quick throwing, his ball would seem to kind of die," said. "We looked at some video compared to some other guys that throw well and he wasn't using his front side, he wasn't on his legs enough to where he could use his lower half. 

"We saw it, he made the adjustment the next day and he felt it right away. He's basically carried that into the season. He's throwing great right now. 

"It doesn't normally work that way."

It's more than just a repositioning that has helped Collins. The No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 draft changed his dietary habits in the offseason and dropped 15 pounds. Collins also did Pilates to improve his mobility behind the plate.

Those aspects along with a strong attention to detail and quiet presence behind the plate had the White Sox pleased with how Collins showed in big league camp this spring. Early in camp, Orton said it didn't matter if Collins ever grew into a standout thrower because there are so many other important aspects of catching. He listed receiving/blocking, game-calling/handling the staff and hitting ahead of throwing in terms of importance.

But then Collins added a wrinkle and made what could be a significant adjustment. Prior to making the change, Collins' glove and front shoulder were pointed toward shortstop when he released to second base on a stolen-base attempt. Orton changed Collins' positioning and now has him throwing directly at the base. Collins instantly could feel a difference and his throws have been on target more often.

"I kind of closed myself off to second base," Collins said. "I get a lot more behind my throws and a lot better accuracy. That's the biggest thing.

"It feels great. It kind of feels normal now. Before it was a little weird, like I was closing myself off too much. But it kind of feels normal now and I get a lot of pressure off my arm and obviously the throw percentage is there."

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More important, the drastically-reduced times are there. 

Prior to making the change, Collins' throws to second base were somewhere around 2.08 to 2.10 seconds. In the first week of the season, Collins had reduced the time to 1.97 seconds and registered a 1.92 on one throw. He even posted several 1.87s in between innings.

"If you're under 2 and accurate you'll get most guys for sure," Orton said.

Collins has eliminated many attempts in the early going. He's throwing with confidence, too.
 
Recently, late in a tied game, Collins threw out a man headed to second base with a runner on third for the final out of the inning.

Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris was stunned to learn that Collins had improved from throwing out 14 percent of all base runners last season to 71 percent so far.

"Hell no I wouldn't even believe that," Harris said. "He's made some serious adjustments behind the plate.

"Collins is definitely a pro. He's going to have a very long career at the major league level. He does a lot of things right. He runs the staff. He knows when to make mound visits. He picks runners off at first, third, second."

The confidence the University of Miami product feels has carried over to social media. After Collins threw out another runner on Sunday, the team's Twitter account made a plea to Carolina League opponents to #KeepRunningOnZack. Colorado Rockies farmhand Willie Abreu, a former teammate of Collins at Miami, chimed in to inform the catcher he'd run on him all day.

Collins fired back: "You'd run on the other Zack Collins. Not the new one."

"It definitely helps and kind of gives me a little confidence behind my back knowing that I've found something that has helped me catch and throw," Collins said. "Obviously last year the numbers really weren't there during my first pro season. At the same time, I was kind of tired last year and didn't have as much behind my arm as I do now. I feel a lot better now."

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