Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

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Peavy stretches into 6th; Thornton named closer

Saturday, March 19, 2011Posted: 3:30 p.m. Updated: 7:47 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHOENIX - In spite of looking weak and tossing his initial game warmups lightly to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy made just one big mistake in his start Saturday's vs. the Oakland A's.

That mistake came in the third, when Ryan Sweeney coaxed the first three-ball count from Peavy (3-0) and on 3-1 clocked a two-run homer to left-center.

Peavy left the game with two outs in the sixth, trailing 3-0. He threw 83 pitches, 55 for strikes.

Sweeney had led off the game with an infield single that could well have been judged an error on shortstop Alexei Ramirez. But Peavy coaxed a 4-6-3 double play from Daric Barton and then finished the inning by retiring Josh Willingham on a pop to right.

Willingham's at-bat was delayed when first base umpire Bill Miller doubled over as if in danger of becoming ill. Perhaps he caught the same flu bug Peavy has been battling for the past few days.

Peavy looked stronger in the second, getting DH Hideki Matsui to ground out to first. Lastings Milledge got a bad jump on a fly to right, but recovered enough to make a diving catch.

Peavy's best exchange came vs. sixth batter Mark Ellis, a three-pitch strikeout. Peavy appeared to throw his first curve and slider for a strike.

Prior to Sweeney's clout to give Oakland a 2-0 lead, Kevin Kouzmanoff grounded to first, Landon Powell singled sharply to right-center, and Eric Sogard flied to center. The third ended with Barton grounding out to first.

In the fourth, Peavy got Willingham to fly out to center after the left fielder battled hard. Then the righthander surrendered three singles in the next four hitters, with Kouzmanoff tapping home a run with a first-pitch safety to center to push the Oakland lead to three.

That knock pushed reliever Sergio Santos out of the dugout to begin warmng up. Peavy escaped the fourth after coaxing a flyout from Powell.

The hurler trotted back out for the fifth and retired the A's in order, on three fly outs. His last three batters came in the sixth, as Peavy surrendered a single to Willingham, then finished strong despite pitching on fumes, punching out Conor Jackson and Matsui on what the pitcher described as "a major league curveball."

Peavy was in line for the loss after giving up seven hits and three earned runs, while striking out three and walking none.

The hurler admitted he was "aching all over" after the outing and said he felt his velocity was higher in this start and he got stronger as the day went on.

Peavy was optimistic in looking toward the future, discussing his plans to go home and attempt to eat (he hasn't kept any food down for two days), sleep 10-12 hours and will be shooting for a "a real major-league start" (around 100 pitches) his next outing, Thursday night against the Cubs.
Guillen names Thornton closer

After his Chicago White Sox dropped their rematch with the Oakland As in Phoenix, manager Ozzie Guillen named lefthander Matt Thornton as his closer.

I talked to Thornton, Guillen said. I said he would get the chance to be the closer A good percent of the time, he will be the guy Matt Thornton earned it. We have a lot of confidence in him. He is the guy who can do the job better.

Thornton, who had eight saves in 10 chances in 2010 but was perfect as the teams de facto closer while Bobby Jenks was sidelined after Sept. 3, was in competition with rookie Chris Sale for the job. Sale has struggled with his location so far in Cactus League play; while he has just two walks this spring, his ERA is 6.48 and batters are hitting .351 against him.

Sale, we would have to put a lot of things on his shoulders, Guillen said. This kid pitched well last season, but we would put a lot of pressure on him to be the closer.

Although Guillen has promised significant roster or lineup decisions for a few days now, he had no other news beyond naming his closer.
Fighting for the final spots
The manager did confirm that Mark Teahens offensive outburst this spring has secured his place on the roster, likely playing both third base and the outfield. Guillen indicated he would be getting Teahen would get some opportunities to be in the outfield before we break camp.

Reliever Gregory Infante had a poor outing, surrendering five earned runs in a ruinous eighth inning and pushing his spring ERA to 11.57, Guillen remained supportive, saying, He pitched well, I dont think he should feel bad. That happens to everybody in spring. I like the way he throws the ball. Everybody has a bad game.

Still, Infante has likely lost his hold on a possible last man in the bullpen position, a competition that is whittling down to Phil Humber, Josh Kinney, and Jeffrey Marquez.

In the three-way battle for the last spot on the bench, Lastings Milledge continued tightening his grip on the spot, going 1-3 with an RBI, a walk and a strikeout. He turned on the afterburners to cut off a potential double into the gap, but also got a poor jump on a flyball, forcing a diving catch, and was thrown out at third on a terrific Brent Lillibridge bunt because he failed to slide. Lillibridge executed that terrific bunt and played a solid center field, but was otherwise 1-4, leaving five men on base. Alejandro De Aza was 0-1 as a pinch-hitter, but his flyout was a ball that was drilled to left.

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

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.