Manny not needed; Rios, Sox's hot bats top Tribe

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Manny not needed; Rios, Sox's hot bats top Tribe

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010
Updated 12:14 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND What began as a laugher got a little tense, and then nearly tragic.

Thankfully for the Chicago White Sox, already doing the equivalent of treading water while waiting for unbalanced slugger Manny Ramirez to be their sunrise out of the West, the club got its head back above water after slipping below the surface and nearly drowning in a fall-from-ahead, surge back in the 11th, 10-6 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Monday night.

With a 1-2 count and two outs, Brent Lillibridge launched a solo shot off of Rafael Perez to provide what would be the deciding run. It also answered a 2-for-27 stretch for the utilityman.

Thats an ugly game, no matter if you win or lose, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I felt like I was in spring training at Tucson. It was a very bad game. Thank God we won it. You look up at the scoreboard and see 35 people left on base, 36 base hits but when you win, you feel a little bit better.

Lillibridge, whod earlier made an error that led to the tying run scoring in the ninth, had a decidedly brighter reaction: I just thanked God. I was squared up, got it over the fence. I just wanted to get us out of this game, get us home, get a win.

The White Sox added three more tallies in the 11th, including an RBI double from Alex Rios on his fifth hit of the evening.

Alex was huge for us, Guillen said. Rios has been very consistent all year long. Its been a very great year for him.

Manny will change a lot, but check the scoreboard and see how many hits were getting. Our offense has been pretty sturdy the last couple of weeks. We score one or two runs for a game here or there and everybody says, Oh, we need a hitter.

In the empty space of the glass, the White Sox stranded a wholly impeachable 15 runners, including leaving the bases full in three separate innings, with A.J. Pierzynski twice tapping out with the sacks packed, Juan Pierre once.

The White Sox jumped out to a 5-0 lead in just the first two innings, Paul Konerko supplying a two-run double in the first, and Mark Kotsay and Rios supplied three more runs in the second to pace what quickly looked like a runaway.

But the fourth inning featured the revenge of Jayson Nix, who rainbowed a two-run homer deep to left, and in the very next frame Travis Hafner plated another with a long double. But Chisox starter Mark Buehrle bore down, catching Nix looking and, after walking Andy Marte to fill the bases, got Jason Donald swinging.

It wasnt the last Cleveland rally of the night. After Rios clocked a solo homer in the sixth to restore the Chicago lead to three, the Wahoos again put runners on second and third in the eighth. But rather than walking them full, Bobby Jenks came on in relief of Sergio Santos to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera and end the threat.

Jenks would fail to succeed in a too-common inning-plus save. As nails were bitten to nubs, Jenks commenced his blown save with a dreaded leadoff walk to Shin-Soo Choo. After a defensive indifference placed him on second, Shelley Duncan looped a soft single to left, cutting the White Sox lead to 6-4. Hafner then doubled, and with runners on second and third Luis Valbuena singled, scoring Duncan. On Valbuenas Baltimore chop, Lillibridge threw wide to first, the error plating Hafner for the tie. With Valbuena moving to second on the error and third on a groundout, Jenks retired Trevor Crowe on a groundout to Lillibridge.

Im just trying to do my job, Lillibridge said of the game-tying play. It was an in-between play, whether I should have thrown it. Im still going to take a chance on it and be aggressive, but it was a barehand, awkward throw. Im just trying to get Bobby an out. It was a rough inning, and we battled through it.

Both manager and team saw Jenks' effort as heroic, rather than falling short.

Its not Bobbys fault, Guillen said. Our bullpen has to pick him up. Bobbys been throwing a lot of innings. Weve been short in the bullpen so for Jenks to go out and throw 30-40 pitches, thats not easy. Meanwhile, we fought back and score the runs we needed to come back.

What are you going to do, hes missing with balls downhes not catching too much of the plateand all of a sudden theres a trampoline in front of home plate bouncing balls all over the place.

Scott Linebrink relieved Jenks and earned his second win of the season with two perfect innings.

We didnt really plan on drawing the win up like that, Linebrink said. But they got some cheap stuff there in the ninth inning, high choppers and the bloops to the outfield. That stuffs gonna happen sometimes and we were able to battle back."

In what is becoming a tedious trend in White Sox contests as the team wheezes to the end of August, an apparent significant injury was suffered, even in this winning cause. Gordon Beckham, who entered the game hitting .342 over his past 43 games, was hit in his right wrist with a pitch in the seventh. After hitting the dirt and writhing in pain, Beckham walked off the field and was replaced by Lillibridge.

Beckham was in a great deal of pain postgame, but nonetheless felt he would be ready to play by the weekend, at worst. It looked uglier to begin with, when the X-ray technician initially told the second baseman that his hand was broken. Beckham was stunned, before learning that, no, in fact, his hand was merely bruised.

Rookie League, assessed the irritated sophomore.

But in spite of comebacks, fallbacks, injuries and heroism, there were silver linings on Monday night. They just took a little longer to see.

I know we were out here a little bit longer than we wanted to be, but to win a big game like thisif wed have lost this one, it would have been a heartbreaking loss, Linebrink said. So it kind of shifts the momentum right back around and hopefully well catch a wave here and ride it. You battle in games like this, especially on the road, and come up with a victory, that can give you a huge boost of confidence, just like how we strung those hits together in the 11th inning. The same thing can happen with a few games in a row here, with winning.

For all the doomsday scenarios that could have played out progressively, as tired heads hit pillows tonight, its a wonderful way to start a long and crucial road trip.

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

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome taking his talents to MLB Network

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome taking his talents to MLB Network

White Sox fans who miss Jim Thome will get to see the ex-slugger’s mug a whole lot more soon.

Thome won’t be rejoining the White Sox lineup, but he is adding television analyst to his job description, supplementing his gig in the White Sox front office with regular appearances on MLB Network.

“I’m excited,” Thome told reporters Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “The opportunity came up of maybe doing it, and then the first thing I thought of was my job with the White Sox. But it all worked out.

“I love baseball. I think being around baseball and talking hitting and maybe sharing some of the stuff that I learned over a 22-year-career, maybe to help kids, coaches, just in general maybe share a little input. Learn a lot of stuff from a lot of great people: Hall of Famers that are on the show, players that I played with, players that I competed with. And to me the biggest thing, when you leave the game, you miss that teammate camaraderie atmosphere that I think this gives you.”

Thome doesn’t know what his schedule will be or which of the network’s many shows he’ll be appearing on. He won’t be a full-time analyst, but he will be sharing his expertise on the art of hitting alongside his fellow players like Sean Casey, Al Leiter, Billy Ripken, Dan Plesac and plenty of others.

Per MLB Network, Thome’s first appearance will be May 1.

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Thome, who works with the White Sox as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn, is most looking forward to doing a little teaching on the show that he hopes gets through to some younger players.

“I’ve got a lot of drills I did when I played. So if I can teach that to the game, but also maybe to our youth side of the sport and also the college side,” he said. “Maybe you say something that helps a player and he goes out and does well. And that’s what it’s all about.”

This move to TV isn’t necessarily something that Thome ever expected, though it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to fans and observers who remember his personality from his playing days.

“I didn’t (ever think about doing this). I have to say, I never thought about, ‘Would I ever be an analyst? Would I ever get on the media side?’” Thome said. “I always say in baseball you never say never. If an opportunity comes up that fits your family schedule and then your work schedule — my work schedule is this job with the White Sox. That’s really important to me because I’ve been here now almost five years. To me that’s important.

“So to have them all mix and translate and feed off one or the other, being around here maybe will help me on the other side as well. That was the most important thing for me.”

Of course, White Sox fans might be curious about another part of Thome’s future career: Will he ever return to the dugout?

After Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura served as the team’s managers for a combined 13 seasons, speculation over whether some other former White Sox could ever sit in the manager’s chair has been fairly common, and Thome has been part of those “what if” conversations along with guys like A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko.

“Again I answer that kind of the same thing with this, you never say never. If an opportunity comes up and you feel it’s a great opportunity, you know, think about it, getting a manager’s job would be a tremendous opportunity,” Thome said. “So I would definitely have to think about that, yes.”

As White Sox bats heat up, Todd Frazier feeling like himself after bumpy start to 2017

As White Sox bats heat up, Todd Frazier feeling like himself after bumpy start to 2017

Three games do not a comeback make, but Todd Frazier is feeling like his normal self again.

Frazier’s been battling a host of health-related issues since the start of 2017, including injuries to his finger and oblique that hampered him in the spring and most recently a bout with the flu that cost him six of eight games and saw him lose 10 pounds.

But the last three games have been more like it for Frazier, as the White Sox third baseman has gone 4-for-12 with five RBIs, four runs scored, three doubles and a pair of walks. In Tuesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, Frazier had a pair of doubles, matching his total from his previous 12 games.

“It was weird to start off with the finger on something weird that happened last year and that turned into a cast. And then the oblique. It has been a crazy ride,” Frazier said after Tuesday’s game. “That’s why this game you’ve got to work your butt off in the offseason and be ready now, and I feel like I’m getting back to where I need to be.

“I feel fine. I’m good. I’m trying to lift as much as I can. Maybe a little soreness from lifting trying to gain some muscle and some weight back. Trying to eat as much as I can too as well.”

The time off would be enough to knock someone off their game, but Frazier — who posted career lows with a .225 batting average and .302 on-base percentage last season — was still looking to heat up after struggling to produce through the season’s first few weeks. In his first 10 games, the veteran third baseman slashed just .091/.189/.212 with just three hits and one RBI.

So Frazier has been studying up. The entire White Sox lineup has feasted in the first two games of the current series against the Royals, combining for 22 runs on 29 hits. But Frazier credited his personal success to some of the work he’s been doing.

“Just doing my homework,” he said Wednesday. “I’m just trying to go back and understand what I did in the other years  that made me hit the ball better. Talk to the coaches. At the end of the day, it’s mental, that’s all it is. You’ve been hitting for all these years now, just got to understand to focus.

“We see these pitchers a lot. People always told me, ‘You’ve got the upper hand, you see these guys all the time.’ So let’s start figuring out what they’re throwing.”

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Tuesday night, Frazier served as the White Sox designated hitter, the second time he’s been in the lineup but not in the field this season, matching the number of times he played DH in 2016, his first year with an American League team.

While it presented a change of pace, Frazier had a positive review of something he hasn’t done very often.

“I liked it. Every once and a while I think you need a day like that,” he said. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can do it. It was good to get Matt (Davidson) in there at third base, get his body going a little bit out in the field a little bit more. It’s like, ‘You got a day off, you’re DH’ing.’ Not really. You’ve got to keep the body moving, keep staying loose. It worked out well for everybody.

“I did a little heavy lifting in the legs the day before, and Rick (Renteria) didn’t even know about that. I was a little sore, and I was like, ‘Good, I got a little DH spot today,’ which was great for me, and now I can focus on defense, as well.”

In baseball, fortunes can change on a daily basis, so who knows if this will be the start of a surge for Frazier or just a brief spike in a long season. But if the White Sox can get Frazier and the rest of the lineup to keep hitting like they have the past few games, it could mean big things.

“Everybody focused and prepared,” Frazier explained when asked about the big run totals in the last few games. “I think the little things, guys getting here earlier, guys wanting to get out there and take extra work, and the focus and determination that we’ve got going right now is pretty nice. Nobody’s trying to do too much.

“You see our plate approach, you see guys hustling out balls. You watch guys like Avi Garcia, he’s got two big infield singles for him. At the end of the year, you look back at some things like that, a guy hits a one-hopper to second base and beats out a ball. That takes your average from .250 to .260 if you get three or four of those. Examples: Leury Garcia beating out a ground ball, getting a play overturned because of hustle. We don’t lack that this year, and I think that’s something big that we’re working on.

“Win, lose or draw, we’re going to give 100 percent. We know we’ve got Rick Renteria coming in here telling us ‘Nobody’s feeling sorry for you. So pick yourself up. We’re professionals. We’re White Sox.’ I think that’s what we’re going by right now.”