Chicago White Sox

With Manny on deck, Pierzynski clubs Sox to victory

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With Manny on deck, Pierzynski clubs Sox to victory

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 11:36 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND Even when Manny Ramirez isnt in the game, his aura has an effect on the biorhythm of every contest he creeps near.

What else accounts for the perplexing twist this series between Mannys new club, the Chicago White Sox, and his first franchise, the Cleveland Indians, took on Tuesday night? Namely, that a mere day after the two clubs combined for 16 runs on 35 hits, leaving 28 runners on base over 11 innings, the coupling erupted for just five hits over the first six innings.

And moreover, please do explain how his mere presence in the on-deck circle can inspire a first home run in months, a gamewinner at that?

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski played the hero (and the spoiler, as Ramirez was on deck waiting to make his White Sox debut) in the top of the ninth, clocking a three-run homer deep to right to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory.

Its been so long since I hit a home run, I kind of forgot what to do, Pierzynski joked. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was telling me when I was on deck that we need a run, and fast, because we were running out of reliever options.

Im not going to say A.J. hit a home run because of Manny, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Its unpredictable, but when you see Mannys presence, hitting in front of Manny gives you a look at better pitches. You have to be careful with the guy in front of Manny. Youve got to throw strikes because you dont want to face him.

Pierzynski actually had a perfect explanation for his sudden burst of game-winning power, his first home run since July 9.

I told Manny that I finally got some protection, said the backstop.

While acknowledging Pierzynskis heroics and the looming threat that is "Manny Being Manny," the games biggest hero was the exquisite Edwin Jackson. The Chisox starter threw 8 23 innings, giving up three runs and six hits while walking just one batter and striking out 11.

As a starter you want to go as far as you can, no matter if the bullpen is fresh or if its beat up, said Jackson, who threw 129 pitches. You want to be on the field as long as you can, or until you cant go any longer. Thats just the mindset Ive taken out there.

Edwin Jackson is the story of the night, Pierzynski said. We really wanted him to finish that game. We needed that effort, with our bullpen kind of used and abused with the extra-inning game here, and the games last weekend with the New York Yankees. For him to go out and pitch the way he did, he was amazing.

Bobby Jenks came on for his 25th save, shaking off a rough Monday outing by coaxing Cleveland center fielder Michael Brantley into a tapout to the mound with the winning run on first base.

Thats when you have your heart in your throatyou dont know what to do, Guillen said. Jackson was throwing too many pitches. We called the bullpen and Bobby said hes ready to go, and Lino Scott Linebrink and Sergio Santos were ready to go as well. I went with my best betmy closerbut as a manager when you hear your players volunteer when theyre very beat up, you know what type of players you have playing for you.

I was happy for Bobby to come in and get that last out because hes had some troubles here the last few times, Pierzynski said. So that was huge.

The game certainly didnt seem to be angling toward the dramatic, nor the celebratory, for Chicago. In fact, over the first six innings, left fielder Juan Pierre had the clubs only two hits, extending his stretch of hitting safely to 34 of his last 36 games.

It took until the bottom of the seventh for the scoreless deadlock to expire, as Shelley Duncan clocked a 1-1 slider from Jackson deep to left, putting the Wahoos up 1-0. The White Sox came right back in the top of the eighth to tie, as Mark Kotsay walked, Brent Lillibridge pitch-ran for him and was sacrificed to second by Alexei Ramirez, and Mark Teahen came through with a single to center, tying the score.

Meanwhile, Jackson kept mowing through the Indians. Although his club could only muster a tie in the eighth, the wily righty chased that game-tying effort with a 12-pitch bottom of the eighth in which he struck out the side, topping out at 99 mph on a fastball to third victim Shin-Soo Choo.

Its just a matter of attacking the strike zone and executing pitches, said Jackson, whose ERA jumped to 1.47 in winning his third game in five White Sox starts, his KBB increasing to an astronomical 5.63.

With momentum behind them, the White Sox mounted a rally in the ninth with a leadoff walk and stolen base for Alex Rios. After a poor at-bat from Paul Konerko ended in a K and Carlos Quentin walked, Pierzynski stepped to the plate and Ramirez hit the on-deck circle to pinch-hit. But the newest White Sox sat his fanny right back down after Pierzynskis three-run shot, leaving his Chicago debut for another day.

Everything worked out well for us, Guillen said. Manny was on the on-deck circle, and all of a sudden we hit a home run. Its good, we didnt have to use him today, and hell be in the lineup tomorrow. Manny is excited to play, maybe because he hasnt played for two months. It seems like hes very comfortable here and hopefully we make his stay with the White Sox very comfortable. The players seemed to welcome him very well. Our dugout was the same. Nothing changed.

On Wednesday, the Manny Era in Chicago begins, as the White Sox attempt to sweep the Wahoos and pull closer to first place - as they remain four games back of the Minnesota Twins. If a standing ovation in the on-deck circle and mind-melding a pitcher into tossing a three-run, game-losing homer to the batter in front of him is any indication of his powers, that Manny Era is going to be one heck of a trip.

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

Nicky Delmonico is the White Sox hero we don't deserve

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USA TODAY

Nicky Delmonico is the White Sox hero we don't deserve

The legend of Nicky Delmonico grows every night. 

On Friday, the White Sox rookie produced his second career multi-homer game in extraordinary fashion.

The first of his two bombs was just a good, old-school mash to right field: 

The second, however, conflated muscle and hustle: 

What can't this guy do? 

The pair of homers boosted his total to five in just 15 games. May want to save voters the time and just induct him into baseball's Hall of Fame now. 

How Michael Kopech's rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program played a role in Friday's promotion

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USA TODAY

How Michael Kopech's rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program played a role in Friday's promotion

He’s never pitched more innings and yet Michael Kopech feels great from a physical standpoint. The White Sox prospect -- who was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte in a surprising move on Friday -- is also throwing as well as he has at any point in his young career.

Kopech and those around him attribute how he feels on the mound in spite of a large innings total to a rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program. Kopech, who spends up to an hour a day in the gym in between starts during the season, works out 15-18 hours a week during the offseason in order to be prepared to withstand the rigors of a full season. With an 0.66 ERA over his last 41 innings, Kopech feels that work has been validated.

“There’s a lot of natural fatigue throughout the season,” Kopech said. “I feel like I do a pretty good job in the offseason of preparing myself for a full-innings load and that’s what I’ve done every offseason.

“Unfortunately, until this year I haven’t had that opportunity. Now that I’ve finally got the opportunity, I’m starting to see the work that I did, it’s paid off. I do feel like that has had a lot to do with (the success).”

Kopech has done many things to impress his now former Birmingham Barons manager Julio Vinas. But one event that recently stood out was when Kopech hit 99 mph on the radar gun with his 95th pitch of the game without any extra effort. The right-hander naturally produced the same velocity fastball he had earlier in the game.

Vinas has little doubt about the origin of the pitch.

“He’s a workhorse,” Vinas said. “I get here early. He’s here and always doing something to better himself, whether you see him in the outfield getting some extra running in, you see him in the weight room, he gets after it. It just shows how hard he works. To maintain that 99-mph fastball when 95 pitches into a game, you’ve got to be in great shape. He is because you never see him laboring.”

But Kopech was struggling in June when he posted a 6.95 ERA in five starts and walked 18 batters in 22 innings. The stretch had the White Sox wondering if MLB Pipeline’s No. 12-ranked prospect had hit a wall. The pitcher had completed 75 innings by the end of June, which was 3 2/3 shy of what he totaled in all of 2016, including 22 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League.

[MORE: Pair of White Sox top pitching prospects promoted] 

The White Sox made no certain plans, but determined they’d be vigilant in seeing how Kopech handled the workload. The team gave him a nine-day break in between starts around the All-Star Futures Game and made a mechanical adjustment with Kopech, too.

Just like that, Kopech has soared, which led to his promotion on Friday.

“Since then he’s on the best run he’s been on,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He’s in a really good place. But we’re constantly having conversations on his work, physically where he’s at, his weight and then obviously the on-field performance. Are there any indications of fatigue or anything like that? We’re near the stretch run and then the finish line and well aware of the innings and what he has done in the past.

“If he were to hit a wall and we feel like physically he needed to be shut down we certainly were open to it. We weren’t going to force any issues, but he’s shown no signs. He’s a physically gifted guy who works very hard, has a goal in mind to finish a full season. He’s on track to that do that.”

Kopech thinks it’s due to the offseason work he has always put In but never had a chance to test out. This is the first time he’s had the chance to pitch a full season as 2015 ended with his 50-game suspension and the first half of 2016 was wiped out by injury.

Kopech said he works out two to three hours a day for five or six days in the offseason. He’s also “getting after it” in the gym for an hour on three of the four days in between his starts.

On road trips, Kopech also eats pre-packaged meals prepared by a nutritionist rather than normal clubhouse fare to eat healthy.

Kopech was expected to start on Friday at Birmingham before he was promoted. Now the plan calls for him to start on Monday at Charlotte. If he stays on a regular schedule, Kopech would be in line for three starts at Charlotte, a plan for which he feels physically prepared.

“I haven’t really felt very fatigued,” Kopech said. “I’ve felt comfortable. I feel like I’m within myself. I don’t feel like I’m overthrowing when I need to rear back. I don’t feel like I’m losing any velo. I’ve felt pretty comfortable in probably close to double the amount of innings I threw last year.”