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.

Omar Narvaez helps father celebrate his birthday in style with first home run

Omar Narvaez helps father celebrate his birthday in style with first home run

Omar Narvaez’s teammates gave him a beer shower after he blasted the first home run of his career on Friday night.

But the rookie catcher said it wasn’t the best gift he gave or received in a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins. Narvaez’s father, Omar, was in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and celebrating his birthday when he son blasted a 377-foot drive to right field.

“It was great, especially because it was my dad’s birthday today,” Narvaez said. “It’s a very special gift for my dad. That’s what I was thinking as I was running the bases. It’s the best thing I could do this day.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Narvaez, who hails from Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela, said his family has been in town all week to see him play. His fourth-inning homer off Twins pitcher Pat Dean put the White Sox ahead 6-0. Narvaez -- who has seven minor-league homers, including two at Triple-A Charlotte this season -- homered in his 111th plate appearance in the big leagues.

“That was awesome,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I’ve been waiting a while because I know he’s got that pop. Took him a little bit, but I was happy for him.”

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

The word electric was used multiple times to describe several young White Sox players on Friday night and it wasn’t hyperbole.

Carlos Rodon tied an American League record with seven consecutive strikeouts to start a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field and Tim Anderson was an all-around force. Anderson turned several double plays and finished a double shy of the cycle and Rodon, who was coming off the best start of his career, struck out 10 to close out a stellar second half. Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez also blasted the first home run of his big league career in the victory.

“This was some electric stuff coming out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I would say the first seven hitters were better than (Sunday’s start). He just, it looked like his confidence and end of the year, letting it out. It was definitely the best stuff-wise of having it all -- fastball, slider, mix in a change. I think that’s just a big confidence boost for him of getting to that point where he can do that.”

Where Rodon is now compared with 2 1/ 2 months ago is vastly different. Frustrated by a 2-7 start and a sprained wrist sustained when he fell in the dugout, Rodon was about as low as he’s been in his two seasons in the majors. But the North Carolina State-product vowed to treat the second half like an entirely different season when he returned from his injury and he has done just that.

Featuring a fastball that topped 99-mph, according to brooksbaseball.net, and with his wipeout slider in tow, Rodon quickly looked in control against the Twins. He struck out the side in each of the first two innings. Only two of his first seven strikeouts came via called third strikes.

Rodon’s third-inning whiff of John Ryan Murphy moved him into a tie for the team and AL record with ex-White Sox hurler Joe Cowley, who struck out the first seven he faced in a May 28, 1986 loss at the Texas Rangers. Coupled with the three strikeouts to end Sunday’s start in Cleveland (part of 11 overall), Rodon’s 10 straight strikeouts between the two games matched the most by a major league pitcher since Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Eric Gagne did it in 2003.

“He was throwing a lot of strikes,” Narvaez said. “The slider was perfect today. He was at his best today.”

Rodon was only slowed down by a 31-pitch sixth inning as he allowed three runs (two earned). He yielded three hits, walked three and struck out 10 to improve to 7-3 with a 3.45 ERA since the All-Star break. The left-hander struck out 77 batters in 73 innings from July 31st through the end of the season.

“It’s easy to play behind him because it makes my job a lot easier when he’s striking out people,” Anderson said.

Rodon feels the same about the way Anderson has played since he arrived in the majors in June. The rookie shortstop continues to excel even though he has never played more in a season than he in 2016.  

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Anderson headed into the eighth inning with a chance to complete the cycle. Needing only a double after he tripled and homered in his first two at-bats, Anderson grounded out and finished 3-for-5.

He turned on his speed when he tripled off the glove of Byron Buxton in the first inning and scored on Melky Cabrera’s RBI double. Anderson flashed his power when he blasted his ninth home run in the third, a two-run shot that traveled 410 feet. And used his glove and arm to turn several nice plays in the field.

“He’s electric,” Rodon said. “Just watching him develop over this few months here, it’s been incredible. Making those plays in the hole and just swinging the bat great. That’s a guy our team can feed off of when he’s in the lineup.”