Ozzie's sweep remedy: Erase season, start over

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Ozzie's sweep remedy: Erase season, start over

Sunday, April 24, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m. Updated: 3:40 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
DETROITSigns abound in the Chicago clubhouse that White Sox havent given up on the season and are still enjoying the game theyre paid to play.

And yes, that goes beyond the potboiler quotes about fighting hard, taking one day at a time, and the team inevitably catching fire again.

Adam Dunn remains calm in the face of an OPS careening down dangerously close to his body weight. Omar Vizquel celebrates his 44th birthday with a cake and a dance around the clubhouse. Lefty compadres John Danks and Mark Buehrle are teasing one another over any volume of minutiae.

But after reaching their worst start in 10 years (8-14) after another spiritless loss to the Detroit Tigers, 3-0, its getting harder to believe theres a break in the clouds that threaten, in just April, to blot out Chicagos season.

Nothing works, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I continue to plug those guys in the lineup. Hopefully they come out of this. The only way you come out of this is playing otherwise theres nothing you can do about it. It seems like every day a rerun, seeing the same at-bats and it seems like everybody we face is pretty nasty. But you have to get ready for the next day because you cant control what happened today, only tomorrow. My faith and hope is still very high and Im still very optimistic about this ballclub; we know were going to hit. As a group were not very strong right now. We try to figure out what we try to do about it but nothing is going well for us.

I couldnt tell you what is wrong, said Matt Thornton, who threw a scoreless eighth to keep Chicagos recent strong bullpen run going. There are numerous aspects of the game that go on, from defense to starting pitching to bullpen to hitting to situational hitting and theyve all been missing in the past few days. At least one major one is always missing in each game. Thats why were dropping so many. But were way too talented: Look at guys track records on this team, and we have a lot of guys with a lot of success in major league baseball. Its a matter of getting everyone on a roll and going.

The White Sox were again no-hit for the first three innings, something thats happened in all three games in Motown. Bengals starter Max Scherzer climbed to 4-0 by keeping the Chisox hitless through four and by surrendering just four through eight innings, racking up seven Ks against three walks in an efficient 103 pitches.

Danks stopped a streak of subpar starts from Chicago, although he was just a step past mediocre by allowing 11 baserunners over six innings. The Chicago ace remains winless through his first five starts.

We lost, Danks said in response to a question about hurling a stronger game this time out. It was a battle, no doubt. I found myself in some pretty tight jams, in the fourth inning, especially, when Im just thinking damage control at that point. Its one of those games where you go out and battle the best you can and give us a chance to win. Unfortunately, Scherzer is pretty darn good. You just have to move on.

We arent going to dwell on it. We know its early. We arent helping ourselves digging ourselves a hole. At the same time, theres plenty of time and plenty of talent on this team to think we are out of it just yet. We are going to battle and try to win every game we can and go from there.

The White Sox are suffering through a deep freeze that gets worse by the day. In Detroit this weekend, they mustered just three runs. With runners on base, the White Sox were 2-26, including an 0-9 series with runners in scoring position. Chicago has been held scoreless for 20 straight innings.

After the game, Guillen joked about the meaninglessness of a pep talk at this juncture of the season: What am I going to tell them? But it was a comment that came before the game that might be a strong statement of support, and one he has already shared with the likes of Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham.

I worry about them mentally, yes, he said. Players, in general, when they see the beginning of the season and look up at the scoreboard, they have 40 at-bats and see .090, they start to panic. I dont care how strong you are mentally or how much you care or not, you will think about it. The only thing you can do is former White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak told me: Erase the season and start over.

Peavy lightens the load

Dont take Jake Peavys temporary detour into journalism as a sign that his rehabilitation took a bad turn in the Comerica Park bullpen on Sunday.

Peavy, who hid behind a crowd of reporters to ask Danks, What about those two walks?got a nonplussed response from the chill Texas lefty.

One was intentional, he answered. That doesnt count.

I was just trying to lighten the mood, Peavy smiled, moments later. John pitched hard. It could have been worse or better. Scherzer was a little bit better today. We are going to grind through this and win or lose together.

Of course, the main focus with Peavy postgame was how his 40-pitch bullpen session went. And by all accountsgrunts, snorts, and allthe intensity was quite a bit higher than any bullpen Ill ever throw, and went very well.

I felt good, he said. Im excited to move forward. Ill throw another bullpen in Yankee Stadium and go ahead and go out on assignment on Friday to Charlotte. I felt nice and free today, nothing painful that I felt the other night. Thats exciting.

As for the scar tissue around his reattached latissimus dorsi muscle that caused him to snap his prior start on April 18 some 75 pitches short, Peavy was all smiles.

The intensity was high today, Peavy said. I needed to find out if I turned the ball loose, if I was going to feel what I felt. I cant say Im going to start without giving it a test run. We certainly did that today and the scar tissue checked out OK.

Peavy feels particularly helpless these days, unable to help the Chisox snap out of a funk that threatens to scuttle their season before May.

READ: Peavy throws side session, on track for next rehabilitation start.

Im excited to get back out and just obviously feel bad sitting here talking to you guys about this when team is going the way its going, he said. I just try to keep the boys as positive as we can and be a cheerleader for next couple of days, and go out and rehab and get back here and help as soon as I can.

Oddly enough, after talking to teammates like Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, who have also had significant arm surgeries, Peavy is starting to believe that the serious surgery he suffered last July could have a sunny effect overall.

We had to take it for a test run and find out if the irritation and scar tissue was still an issue, he said. We might have freed the tissue up a little bit Maybe this thing will work beneficially in the long run.

For now, Peavy is dealing with shifting his focus from a sort of homecoming start in Chicago later this week to another round of rehab in Charlotte. Peavy is all smiles and trying to play it cool, but inside hes ready to jump out of his stirrups.

Hopefully setbacks are behind us, he said. I look forward to getting back out to Charlotte once again. Hopefully, its one of the last times.

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

Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017

Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017

Rick Hahn said Thursday he won’t divulge which direction the White Sox would head this offseason out of respect to his current players and staff.

But once the offseason begins, Hahn said it would quickly become evident what the White Sox front office has in mind. Roughly a month after his comments about being “mired in mediocrity,” the White Sox general manager said that he, executive vice president Kenny Williams and club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf are still mulling their options and open to all. Hahn also strongly denied recent reports that a divided front office prevented the start of a rebuild at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, describing them as “tired.”

“The frustrating thing is it seems every few months we need to have this same conversation,” Hahn said. “The fact of the matter is I have no idea where an unnamed random report of any discord at the deadline came from. It’s simply untrue. There was no trade or direction of whatever it was described as vetoed, so to speak, at the deadline.

“We are of a similar mindset as to how best to proceed. We’ve had a number of conversations, both Kenny and I, as well as Kenny, Jerry and I, about the best way to approach the offseason and what we want to accomplish. And once the offseason rolls around we will start executing that plan.”

“It’s just, frankly, tired news and repetitive and there’s nothing there. None of us would be here doing what we do if we didn’t feel we were set up to have the potential for success.”

As for the most successful route to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Hahn wouldn’t yet commit to a plan. Hahn said the club would also address all questions about its roster and coaching staff after the season, which ends on Oct. 2.

With 36 games remaining after Thursday, the White Sox appear on pace for a fourth straight losing season.

[MORE: White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season]

While the team has many of the top-tier pieces necessary to compete, its lack of depth continues to be a critical issue holding back the franchise. Injuries in the bullpen and outfield and the unexpected retirement of Adam LaRoche forced many part-time players or inexperienced pitchers into key roles. With a farm system still short on talent, the White Sox would likely need a serious cash infusion to fill in some of those holes in order to compete in 2017. Or, they could begin a rebuilding process and replenish their farm system by unloading some of their talented, affordable players.

Either way, Hahn isn’t ready to talk shop.

“We have a sense of what we want to do,” Hahn said. “Frankly, regardless of which direction it is — full rebuild or add on — we’re still in the middle of the season.

“If I were to say we’re going to do a full rebuild that’s disrespectful to what they’re trying to accomplish. To the other extreme, if I were to say we’re going to fight and go for it and plug the holes it begs the question, ‘Where are the holes?’ and that’s disrespectful to the guys in the clubhouse. It’s just not the time to be laying out offseason plans. We’re working on it, exploring a lot of angles internally trying to come up with priorities so we can hit the ground running when the time is appropriate.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

When he spoke about the team’s trade deadline plans July 21, Hahn said the White Sox had only ruled out short-term acquisitions, but remained open to all options. He said the idea of trading away Chris Sale or Jose Quintana seemed “extreme,” in part because competing teams wouldn’t deal players helping them in their playoff chases; that they’d have a better market in the offseason.

Hahn said Thursday the White Sox remain open-minded. When reminded that the White Sox have operated in an aggressive manner under Reinsdorf, Hahn agreed. But he also noted that the White Sox haven’t been happy with their recent performances and left the door open for a rebuild.

“OK, but there also comes a point where there is a level of frustration with the way things have played out over the last couple of years,” Hahn said. “There are different approaches and again, I’m not saying (a rebuild) is the route we’re going to go. But I assure you there is absolute openness from Jerry, Kenny, myself. Everyone in that front office is looking for the best path to get us on an extended period of success, even if that involves a short-term step-back.”

White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season

White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season

Austin Jackson and Matt Davidson are officially done for the season.

Meanwhile, the White Sox still remain hopeful that Brett Lawrie is on the mend after a second MRI.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday that Jackson, who had surgery June 10 to repair a medial meniscus tear in left knee, and Davidson, who had surgery after he fractured his right foot, won’t return this season.

“Austin is progressing, but it unfortunately it’s been a slow pace,” Hahn said. “He has not taken baseball activities. I wouldn’t expect him back this season.”

Jackson hit .254/.318/.343 with 18 RBIs in 203 plate appearances before he suffered the injury.

At the time of Jackson’s injury, Hahn didn’t think it would end his season. But, Hahn did say it would take at least six weeks before they could re-evaluate Jackson’s knee post-surgery and get a better determination of when he might return. Jackson’s re-evaluation was pushed back a few days from the six-week mark and the White Sox made it clear they weren’t optimistic about him returning.

Davidson went 1-for-2 with an RBI before he broke his foot running the bases in his first game of the season.

“(I) would not expect (Davidson) either. It was a pretty bad fracture. It’s progressing and he’s hitting the early milestones. There just isn’t enough time for either of those two.”

Lawrie, who has been on the disabled list since July 22, had a second MRI earlier this week and is being treated, Hahn said.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Manager Robin Ventura has been adamant all along that Lawrie’s injury was tricky to diagnose. What began as a strained hamstring and later was thought to be a quad injury has been reclassified as a knee and calf issue. Hahn said the MRI showed the area is structurally sound.

“He received some medicine in the joint there,” Hahn said. “We’re let that work for a couple of days and we’ll ramp up the activity and see how it goes. No specific time frame.”

Miguel Gonzalez will participate in one more bullpen — possibly a simulated game — before he starts a rehab assignment, Ventura said. Gonzalez is on the DL with a strained right groin.

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields allowed his fewest runs in a month on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a loss.

Shields yielded two more home runs in six innings and his offense couldn’t keep pace as the White Sox lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in front of 15,630 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields gave up four earned runs and seven hits. Dioner Navarro homered in the loss, which snapped a three-game White Sox winning streak.

“We’ve seen better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “(Shields) got to two strikes, two outs and gave up a couple there and that’s tough. The homer to left, that’s just one you get in this ballpark. The biggest one, for him, mistake-wise was the homer to Joseph. I think that’s the one that he wants back. But as far as going out there and getting us to a point, he’s still got room to improve on. But he got through it.”

The six innings pitched marks the most by Shields since July 26.

In between, Shields allowed 28 runs (27 earned) and 33 hits in 14 innings over four turns, good for a 17.36 ERA.

He fell behind 3-0 by the third inning before he settled in and retired nine of 11 batters. The Phillies pieced together a two-out rally in the second inning to go up two runs as Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis doubled with an Aaron Altherr singled sandwiched in between.

Cesar Hernandez opened the third inning with a solo homer just inside the left-field foul pole.

Joseph also homered with two outs in the sixth inning to put Philadelphia ahead 4-0.

Shields has allowed 31 homers in 143 innings this season, including 22 in 75.2 innings for the White Sox. Eleven of those have come in his last four starts.

He walked none and struck out six.

“I think the only pitch I made a mistake on was that last one, the home run in the sixth inning there,” Shields said. “The ball kind of slipped out of my hand a little bit and kind of left it over the plate. Other than that I felt good with my location tonight. I was hitting my spots consistently. They were getting hits here and there. That’s part of it. One of the positives things, I didn’t walk anyone and I was getting some swings and misses. But we have to move on and move forward and build off that.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox didn’t have much success against Phillies starting pitcher Jerod Eickhoff, who retired the first nine batters he faced. Avisail Garcia led off the sixth inning with a single and Navarro belted a two-run homer to right to make it a 4-2 game.

Eickhoff limited the White Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings.

Garcia kept the White Sox alive with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. But Jeanmar Gomez retired Navarro with runners on the corners to end the threat.

“Until Dio hit the homer there wasn’t much going for us,” Ventura said. “We got one --- I think Adam was the one that breaks it up and gets it going. But (Eickoff) was tough on us. A great curveball. That’s the biggest thing that sticks out. When he got in trouble, that curveball was the pitch for us. After that, it just wasn’t a good night offensively. I don’t think we swung it that well.”