Ozzieball's reward: A breakout win

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Ozzieball's reward: A breakout win

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 8:54 p.m Updated: 10:25 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.When a stray loss or two start to string together into a streak, most managers start to grip the managerial hot seat and start to snap back at even the simplest and kindest of questions.

For consummately chill Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen? Its a signal for story time.

Yesterday, I was talking to bench coach Joey Cora before the game started, saying, Man, I have to start doing hit-and-runs and stuff, Guillen said before Thursdays series finale vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. A good answer came back: Well, we have to get on base, first.

Guillen started a long dissertation on his smallball roots with that anecdote, with a conclusion drawn thusly: I grew up bunting. My baseball game is bunting. We win a lot of games bunting.

With 10 hitsthe clubs first double-digit parcel of safeties since April 8Ozzies smallball ways are likely to be discounted as a factor in the 9-2 trouncing. So the evidence of a first inning runthe first lead the Pale Hose have held in 51 inningsspurred by Juan Pierre bunting his way on (his first of two consecutive) and advancing to third on an overthrow is offered merely anecdotally.

JP did a great job getting on there and causing some havoc, said Carlos Quentin, after turning in a now-customary double, two RBI, HBP night. Getting that run in was big. It gave us a chance to put pressure on them.

Pierre himself, robbed of an inside-the-park grand slam by Sam Fuld in Chicago and victimized for extra bases by Matt Joyce in last nights game, was caught in a bit of a fib postgame. Asked whether he microscoped his at-bats (he bunted in his first two times up, twice for hits) intentionally because of the Tampas defensive prowess, he said, No.

Then, laughing, he changed his story: Well, a little bit. I made up my mind that there was a big guy on the mound, too, so I was like, Ill try to get some bunts down and try to create things.

For storyteller Guillen, it was the perfect end to his time in Tampa.

Thats the way we expect to play every day, to be honest with you, he said postgame. I dont want to be cocky or arrogant, but this team can play this way because of the way we built this club and the talent we have. Every time we take the field, we expect to play that way.

Translation: Snapping the slump, especially one that came on so stealthily and threatened to anesthetize the season if it went on much longer, was nothing short of enormous for the Chisox. But its something the club knew was just a matter of time.

We all knew it was a big game for us, Quentin said. No team wants to get swept, especially for it to happen two times in a row. Its something you dont want to happen at all. We have been playing hardWe just havent gotten results. Its unfortunate because thats what happens in this game. But its not for a lack of effort and well keep bringing that same effort level day in and day out.

Gavin Floyd pitched into traffic more than he needed to, but with seven Ks over six innings and another snappy bullpen effort (Will Ohman, Sergio Santos, Jeff Gray), smiles snuck their way back into the Chicago clubhouse.

Quentin maintained his beastly pace to start the season, cracking his major-league leading 11th double in the sixth to plate two. The two-bagger also set a White Sox record for April doubleswith nine games left in the month.

Quentin shrugged off any notion of April records, speaking with customary animatronic emotion postgame. Gavin Floyd, who immediately scoffed himself postgame for his series of two-out baserunners, provided the proper exaltation as the volume on the clubhouse joking and celebrating kept getting turned up:

Hallelujah!

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

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

He absorbed a ton of information in spring camp, but perhaps it’s what Michael Kopech observed watching Jose Quintana that could help most.

For five weeks in big league camp, the extremely motivated White Sox pitching prospect gleaned every piece of information he could from more experienced teammates.

Kopech and veteran starting pitcher James Shields discussed pitch sequencing and the importance of the changeup. Infielder Tyler Saladino talked with the No. 14-ranked prospect in baseball about visualizing success. Catcher Geo Soto told Kopech pretty much everything about life in the majors.

But even though he didn’t say much, Quintana’s practice sessions may have provided the most valuable lesson of all. The key takeaway, Kopech said, is how Quintana performs every action with a purpose. The young pitcher knows how critical the example Quintana provided is to his development and wants to implement a similar approach.

“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) likes to call it focused practice,” Kopech said. “For me that’s one thing I haven’t done well, is get locked in. You have to be locked in all the time. That’s something that came from Coop and all the big leaguers I was around. Quintana is a great guy to watch when it comes to stuff like that.

“That’s a guy that is a definition of a silent leader. He doesn’t talk about much. He goes and gets his work in and you can just watch him and know that’s the way the game should be played.”

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Kopech took a nice step forward in his development on Tuesday night when he pitched a season-high six scoreless innings for Double-A Birmingham. He struck out eight and allowed a hit while walking four and lowered his ERA to 2.50. The Texas native had only compiled 12 innings in his previous three outings because of “hit-and-miss” fastball command that led to 10 walks.

Along with perfecting his fastball command, one of the keys to Kopech reaching the majors is an increase in workload. Kopech — the 33rd overall pick of the 2014 draft — has never pitched more than 78 2/3 combined innings he produced last season. The White Sox would love for Kopech to reach the 180-inning mark by 2019.

“He doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He hasn’t been able to have that build up so that’s something we’re going to make sure he can focus on. We’re going to make sure he’s in the right spot so we can do that properly.”

In order for Kopech to eventually hit that mark, he’d need to pitch between 110-130 innings this season and then throw around 160 innings in 2018. But to reach those figures, Kopech must first pitch deeper into games.

Through his first three starts, Kopech worked on a strict pitch count that varied based on performance. If he was on, he could throw as many as 85 pitches. But if he ran into command issues, Kopech might only throw 75.

On Tuesday, Kopech pitched well enough to throw 95 pitches (65 strikes) against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. He thinks the key to consistency in games is directly tied to his effort in between. It’s yet another area where Kopech — who reads self-help books, is into Cryotherapy and salt baths and eats meals on the road pre-prepared by his nutritionist — strives to improve.

“From Day 1 to Day 4, you need to be just as focused as Day 5,” Kopech said. “I can’t stress that enough. If my bullpen tomorrow I lose a little focus, then I know I need to get right back into it to prepare for my next start. That’s something that’s going to have to kick in sooner than later.”

Birmingham manager Julio Vinas likes how Kopech has handled himself early in the season. Vinas thinks Kopech has the proper mindset and tools to be a special pitcher.

‘He’s got the right mentality and now it’s executing and it’s going to be there,” Vinas said.

He may have been there this spring, but Kopech preferred to not be seen or heard by his veteran teammates. Kopech couldn’t do anything about the onslaught of attention the media paid to him after he came over with Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale trade. But he could control the rest of his time around teammates. Little by little, he’d engage the veterans without drawing too much attention.

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“I just didn’t want to make it about me,” Kopech said. “It was my first big league camp and a lot of those guys are getting ready for a big league season and I’m competing for a job that’s not necessarily on a big league roster right away. I was just trying to take care of my business. All ears, not really any talk and take away as much as I could without pissing anybody off, really.

“I got the chance to face some good hitters and take away a lot of knowledge from older guys and I think that’s the best I could do to prepare for the season.”

But Kopech agrees the best preparation came from watching Quintana, who Cooper always lauds for his practice effort. Kopech hopes to be able to emulate how the 2016 All-Star pitcher handles himself soon enough.

Kopech thought he focused well from the second through the fourth inning in an April 20 start at Tennessee. But he wasn’t as pleased with his effort in the first and fifth innings.

“That’s the way I want to lock in when I’m on the mound,” Kopech said of Quintana. “I haven’t been doing that, but it’s something I’m going to work on going forward.

“I have to remind myself to stay locked in even though I’m doing what I always do because I need to have the same focus (in practice) I do when I’m pitching on the mound.”

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu said he hopes to be ready to go when the White Sox start their series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The White Sox first baseman took an awkward-looking fall on the infield grass while trying to field a grounder in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, leaving the game with what the team announced as a mild right hip flexor strain. Abreu was labeled as day-to-day.

Manager Rick Renteria didn’t have any sort of update after the game — though he said he didn't think it was serious — but in his comments to reporters, Abreu said he felt fine after receiving treatment and will be ready to go for Friday’s series opener in Detroit.

“I feel good right now,” Abreu said. “I got treatment and I feel good. The day off tomorrow is going to help and I hope to be ready for the first game in Detroit.”

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Both Renteria and Abreu said the first baseman had no desire to exit Wednesday’s game but that Renteria was being appropriately cautious.

“He did not want to come out,” Renteria said. “He was pretty adamant but I think all of us, you don't take any chances. I think it was just the right thing to do at that time.”

“When you are on the field, you didn’t want to leave the field. It doesn’t matter what’s the reason or what’s happening,” Abreu said. “But he’s the boss and he made that decision and you have to accept it.”

Abreu went 2-for-2 with a two-out RBI double in the first inning Wednesday before he left. He has had two hits in each of his last four games and is 8-for-15 during the White Sox current four-game winning streak.

The White Sox are off Thursday. The team said Abreu will be reevaluated then after arriving in Detroit.