Longball, Danks lift Sox past Cubs

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Longball, Danks lift Sox past Cubs

Adam Dunn loves to hit against the Chicago Cubs. He had great success against them during his days in the NL. And he really enjoys Wrigley Field.Good thing for the Chicago White Sox.Dunn had one of the White Sox's three homers Saturday night and also walked four times to back strong pitching from John Danks in a 7-4 victory over the Cubs.Dunn's solo shot in a three-run eighth inning was his 13th of the season and 42nd of his career against the Cubs - only Albert Pujols (53) has more among active players against the team from the North Side of Chicago."I have had it since Day 1. I see the ball pretty well here. The environment makes it pretty fun to play at," Dunn said of Wrigley Field, where he has now homered 26 times.Dunn was selective at the plate as the White Sox - playing without star Paul Konerko - beat the Cubs for a second straight game. Dayan Viciedo and A.J. Pierzynski also homered, back-to-back off Ryan Dempster in the third."I feel good, I'm not chasing too many pitches like I had all year," Dunn said. "That's something I'm continuing to work on."Konerko, who'd been hit near the left eye with a pitch Friday and had to leave the game, had a shiner Saturday, but tests revealed no major damage and he hopes to play again Tuesday.
Viciedo wasn't supposed to start any of the three games at Wrigley Field as manager Robin Ventura planned to play Dunn in left field without the DH in a NL park. But when Konerko had to leave Friday's game in the third inning, Dunn moved to first and Viciedo took over in his familiar left field spot while batting in Konerko's cleanup slot."He's a pretty confident kid," Dunn said. "He never gets down on himself. He knows what he is capable of doing. "Danks (3-4) got his first win since April 22, allowing three hits in 6 1-3 innings. It was his third career start at Wrigley Field, where he has allowed just two earned runs in 19 1-3 innings and is 2-0."This is an exciting game. The energy in the ballpark. This is a game I enjoy throwing in, for sure," said Danks, who was staked to a 4-0 lead after three innings and retired the first 13 batters he faced."We will take all the runs we can get early," Danks said. "That's always a key. That allows us to relax and stay aggressive."Trailing 7-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs got two-run homers from Alfonso Soriano and Joe Mather off Zach Stewart.Viciedo connected on his seventh homer in the third inning to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead, right after Dunn drew a two-out walk. The two-run shot just went over leaping center fielder Reed Johnson's glove and was Viciedo's fourth homer in his last six games.Two pitches later, Pierzynski hit a liner to left center that cleared the ivy-covered wall, his sixth of the year."I wish we could duplicate this for every game of the season," Pierzynski said. "It's a special series and it's a special place. Once you get on the field, it's a good atmosphere."Dempster, who hasn't won in a span of 16 starts dating to last Aug. 11, gave up seven hits and four runs with three walks and three strikeouts in six innings as the Cubs dropped to a season-worst 10 games under .500 with their fifth straight loss. This one came before 40,228 fans."Just didn't pitch well enough to win," Dempster said. "A loss is a loss. I don't really care who is watching. I don't like losing anytime. If there was one person in the stands or there was 40,000 people, to me it means the same thing and that's a loss. I don't take any one loss different than the others."Danks was spotless before Alfonso Soriano doubled with one out in the fifth. Danks also walked Joe Mather before Koyie Hill lined out to end the inning. Pinch-hitter Tony Campana and Johnson singled to open the sixth, but the rally died when Starlin Castro hit into a double play."Four innings of perfect ball, so we're making it pretty easy on some pitchers who have been coming in struggling," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We're making them look pretty good. Pitch counts and all that, we're just making quick outs and not really getting good pitches to drive."The White Sox opened the scoring when Alejandro De Aza singled to start the game, stole second and after a walk to Dunn scored on Viciedo's RBI single.Alexei Ramirez had an RBI single in the eighth to make it 6-0 and the White Sox subsequently loaded the bases. Reliever Blake Parker then went to a 3-0 count on De Aza before he had to leave with a tight right hamstring and Michael Bowden threw ball four, forcing in the seventh run.Notes:
The White Sox have won 17 of the last 23 against the Cubs. ... Viciedo now has 10 RBIs in his last six games. ... C Koyie Hill, who had been playing Double-A in the Reds' organization hoping for another shot at the majors, got just that when the Cubs reacquired him and then put him in the lineup Saturday night. Starting catcher Geovany Soto went on the DL after knee surgery and backup Wellington Castillo has a sprained knee ligament. ... The White Sox go for the sweep Sunday sending out Jake Peavy (4-1) to face Paul Maholm (4-2).

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He already carries the confidence of someone who throws 100 mph. But Zack Burdi felt even more secure entering camp after receiving sound advice from his older brother, who also happens to play pro ball.

Burdi — selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2016 draft — hasn't felt too overwhelmed over the past five weeks even though he's experiencing big league camp for the first time. A process-oriented pitcher, the White Sox prospect said he owes his comfort to the guidance of his brother, Minnesota Twins farmhand Nick Burdi. 

"Act like you belong," Burdi said of the advice. "Don't make it out to be something it isn't. It's still a game. You're still going out there and playing a game you've played for the last 19 years. That was the big thing."

If it weren't for a gaggle of talented, newly acquired prospects alongside him in camp, Burdi might have been the hot topic in camp this spring. He features a fastball that rates 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, a 60-slider and a 55-changeup, according to MLB.com. The arsenal has many of the belief Burdi could one day be a stalwart in the back of a major league bullpen. The Louisville-product is also very advanced compared with most 2016 draftees and was considered to be the most major league-ready player at the time of last June's draft.

But until the club made a series of moves Tuesday, Burdi, who has a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings this spring, was just one of a bevy of talented prospects in the White Sox clubhouse. Of the team's top seven prospects, five are right-handed pitchers. Burdi is the team's No. 7 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. 

Armed with his brother's advice, Burdi has focused on keeping his head low and his eyes and ears open this spring. He said one of the best parts about the advice that Nick Burdi — who also went to Louisville and was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft — offered is that he had a sense of how the camp would be run. Though no two camps are alike, having a sense of what the day-to-day operation is like gave Burdi comfort. 

"Nick's someone I've looked to in countless situations in baseball or outside of it for advice," Zack Burdi said. "It has been nothing but good advice throughout it all. To come to camp and kind of have a little insight of how it's going to go, how it's going to be, was a huge personal advantage for me because I like to know how certain things are going to go. I don't like going in too blind."

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Burdi is in an enviable position as his first big league camp is coming to a close. He's the highest-rated prospect left after a series of moves Tuesday sent second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer to minor league camp. 

The White Sox head back to Chicago next Wednesday.

General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox merely want to give the Downers Grove-product a little more time to soak up the big league atmosphere. While its more likely he begins the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Burdi ranks high on the team's depth chart and could be in line for a late-innings role were the White Sox to trade a reliever. Either way, Burdi isn't worried about anything but his own performance and conduct. 

"I'm confident with where I'm at," Burdi said. "I'm just excited to see where the season's going to take me. If it's Triple-A then that's awesome. Going to go there and do my best to help the team. if it's the big leagues then it'll be the same thing: go up, do my best and keep learning day by day and just trust the process and keep growing."

White Sox pitcher James Shields hopes to rediscover aggressive nature

White Sox pitcher James Shields hopes to rediscover aggressive nature

SURPRISE, Ariz. — James Shields wants to regain the aggressive style that made him successful for so long. He feels like he's on the way.

Even though he didn't think his delivery was very sharp on Tuesday, Shields made his pitches when he needed to over six scoreless innings. The White Sox bullpen allowed four late runs in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Shields allowed three hits, walked one and struck out six in a 75-pitch effort.

"Yeah, I think so," Shields said when asked if he got away from being aggressive in 2016, when he posted a 6.77 ERA for the White Sox. "I think my ball was flat. It wasn't down in the zone. And when you're not down in the zone, it's hard to be aggressive. Because if you're up in the zone and being aggressive, hitters are going to take advantage of that."

Shields said he made several mid-game adjustments after feeling erratic in the bullpen and early in the contest. He threw all of his pitches on Tuesday night but mostly focused on commanding his two-seam fastball. The right-hander wants to induce more ground balls this season. Over the past two years, Shields has allowed 73 home runs in 384 innings. His groundball rate is down nearly five percent from 2014, according to fangraphs.com.

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Mostly, Shields wants to rediscover the aggressive nature that helped him produce 29.1 Wins Above Replacement from 2007 to 2014. That was a message he's heard from both his current pitching coach (Don Cooper) and his former one, the San Diego Padres' Darren Balsley.

Balsley called this winter to support Shields, his pitcher of a season and a half. As Shields notes, the advice wasn't anything new — it was merely a pick-me-up from an old friend.

"(Balsley) just called me and said, 'Hey, the best piece of advice I can give you is trust your stuff,'" Shields said. "'Believe what you're doing is going to get the job done.' In general, I do think that. He's just kind of giving me a little reminder as an ex-pitching coach.

"Just the fact he called me even though he's not my pitching coach any more shows me that he cares a lot about me, man. I have a lot of respect for him.

"More or less he wants me to be aggressive, and he was telling me that when I was with them. It wasn't something that was new."

After coming over from the Padres in a trade, Shields worked tirelessly with Cooper on mechanics last summer to keep the ball down in the zone. He found it for a period of seven starts between June and July but couldn't maintain any consistency. The veteran has maintained all spring that he's ready to move on from 2016 and feels like he's in a good place both mentally and physically.

"I feel good now with my stuff and I'm being more aggressive and my locations are better," Shields said. "Just working the process and I’m feeling good now."

Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu each had two hits and drove in a run in the losing effort.