Peavy's best outing yet?; Sale struggles again

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Peavy's best outing yet?; Sale struggles again

Monday, March 14, 2011
Posted 5:05 p.m. Updated 7:05 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. If there was a team Jake Peavy could have imagined having a smooth outing against, the offensively-challenged San Diego Padres might have been the one.

Both Peavy and lefty phenom Chris Sale were touched for three runs apiece, setting the foundation for the Chicago White Soxs 7-6 setback to the Fathers.

I felt OK, better than I expected, Peavy said. I made good progress today. Im excited about the direction I went in. Obviously I worked on some things, found some flaws out there in the middle part of the game, worked on some things, and stayed stubborn. I got good work in. It was a fun day. I climbed.

To a man, the White Sox agreed with Peavys assessment, that his six hits and a walk en route to three earned runs against two strikeouts was the best outing the righthander has had in his comeback.

It went very well, manager Ozzie Guillen said. The feedback from him in the dugout was the best I got from him in the three outings hed had. He was talking very positively. Today he was more aggressive than he was earlier. He let the ball go a couple of times. Im very happy with where he is right now.

Peavy threw the ball better than what his line says, said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who clocked a two-run homer in the sixth as part of a 2-for-4 day. In the last inning we were trying to work on specific pitches in a specific spot out of the stretch when there were chances to put guys away. Instead of doing that, we just kind of continued to throw the same pitch.

Peavy was off to another strong start, taking just seven pitches (six strikes) to get through the first in 1-2-3- fashion. With two outs in the second, Peavy gave up a walk to Cedric Hunter and a single to Mike Baxter, but got Kyle Phillips to fly out to left to end the threat.

The righthander also allowed two baserunners in the third, surrendering back-to-back singles to Jason Bartlett (who had whiffed on three straight pitches in the first) and Chase Headley, but escaped any damage. The White Sox took the lead in the bottom of the third on a solo home run from Lastings Milledge.

Milledge turning heads

Peavy started the fourth inning from the stretch, giving up a sharp single to left from Cameron Maybin. Hunter drove him in with a double to right, and Baxter got his second hit of the game off of Peavy, crushing a home run into the White Sox bullpen in right. Peavy then retired the next three batters, all on ground outs to second base.

Peavy finished with 67 pitches, 47 for strikes, over his four innings.

Sale relieved Peavy and gave up another three earned runs, pushing his spring ERA to 7.36.

Im not concerned about him, but Im disappointed a little bit, Guillen said. Not because he gave up three runsthats part of the game. He was missing spots. The ball was supposed to be in and it was away. He was a little out of whack today, thats all. Pierzynski also said Sale was just a little bit off in his outing.

The White Sox scored two more runs in the eighth on an Alexei Ramirez two-run blast, but couldnt tie the game.

The team is doing a lot better than the record 6-10-1 says, Pierzynski said. I feel that were good. Guys have been coming in and throwing the ball well. As it gets closer to Opening Day, the hitters get closer and closer. Thats what you look for as a player.

Ozzie on Sale

Guillen admitted his disappointment with Sales outing, but remains encouraged about his prospects.

We have to be patient with this kid, he said. A lot of people think hes Sandy Koufax, 30 years in the big leagues, but this kid just came out of college two weeks ago or, last June. Its a learning process. I talked to the pitching coach Don Cooper and hes going to have a sideline pitching session. Its not about stuff, but where you locate your stuff.

Roster trimming

Eight White Sox were moved out of the major-league clubhouse after the game. Triple-A Charlotte gains outfielder Stefan Gartrell, infielder Eduardo Escobar, and pitchers Anthony Carter and Freddy Dolsi. Double-A Birmingham adds pitchers Kyle Cofield and Nate Jones. Two other pitchers, Brandon Hynick and Miguel Socolovich, were simply reassigned to minor league camp.

Gartrell, we have to send him down, but this kid had a great spring training, Guillen said. Escobar played better than what people thought and opened a lot of peoples eyes. Were very excited about him and what he can do.

The White Sox roster now stands at 38 players: 18 pitchers, four catchers, 10 infielders and six outfielders.

Hopefully, its about 25 players but its never going to happen because of injuries and slumps, Guillen added. Its about 30 or 32 players, and players sent down have to be ready and prepared to help us in the summer.

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

Cut-fastball key to Miguel Gonzalez's improvement with White Sox

Cut-fastball key to Miguel Gonzalez's improvement with White Sox

Miguel Gonzalez has thrown his cut-fastball more in July than ever before.

The White Sox pitcher thinks the way its complements his repertoire has been critical to his most consistent month in the majors since 2014.

Not only is he 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in five starts in July, but Gonzalez has increased his strikeout rate by three percent with 26 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.

The improvement has helped Gonzalez, who next starts Saturday at Minneapolis, develop into either a good back-end rotation option for the White Sox and perhaps even a trade chip. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Miami Marlins scouted Gonzalez on Monday when he outpitched Jake Arrieta.

“It has been helping me this year,” Gonzalez said. “Hitters see a fastball out of the hand and at the end it’s already on them. That’s been a big change for me and it’s helping a lot. I’ve been seeing better results.”

His catchers have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cutters Gonzalez has thrown. In four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Gonzalez threw 19 cutters. The pitch is a staple for White Sox hurlers under Don Cooper and Gonzalez took his regular slider and started to throw it harder once he signed a minor-league deal with them in April.

So far this month, Gonzalez has thrown the cutter 119 times, which accounts for 24.59 percent of his pitches, according to brooksbaseball.net. Batters have hit .188 and are slugging just .313.

“It made sense to where if I throw a fastball inside, located, and then I throw that cutter, it’s going to make it a lot harder for a lefty, or a righty, to react on,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve seen swings where they get jammed or break a bat or they swing and miss because they think it’s a fastball and it’s three or four miles an hour slower.”

Always more of a contact pitcher, the addition has -- in the short term -- increased Gonzalez’s strikeout rate to near league average. Before July, Gonzalez struck out 17.1 percent of the batters he had faced in his career. This month, the rate is 20.2 percent.   

Cooper is pleased with the development of Gonzalez. He’s also not surprised to find that Gonzalez’s name has appeared in recent Hot Stove chatter along with James Shields, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, among others.

“Every year this comes up,” Cooper said. “It’s not the first time. People come and go. Trades do happen. Heck, when (Mark) Buehrle left that was a tough one because that was 10 years there. So if Buehrle can leave,anybody can leave. I’ve always said the names change, but the job doesn’t.”

Gonzalez is happy with his current location. He didn’t know what to expect with the White Sox when he signed in April. Suffice it to say, the experience has been better than he could have hoped.

“When you have a free mind, stress free, and you’re on a new team, new environment, things tend to change a little bit and in a good way,” Gonzalez said. “That’s how I feel. I feel comfortable with the team. They welcomed me and now it’s paying off. Hopefully we can get into a nice little stretch and win, a little streak going. That’s what we need right now.”

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

White Sox expect Chris Sale's return to be 'fairly normal'

It doesn’t sound as if there’s much ambivalence among the White Sox about Chris Sale’s expected return on Thursday.

Manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday he expects things to be “fairly normal” as Sale is scheduled to pitch the finale of the Crosstown series after serving a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property. Adam Eaton said teammates should have no reservations about Sale’s coming back after his actions Saturday left them in a bit of a bind. And pitching coach Don Cooper said he’s the first to forgive and that everyone has situations they might later wish they’d handled differently.

“Open arms,” Eaton said. “He’s our teammate. He’s our guy. All of the things that are swelling around about his character, who he is as a player … he’s my brother and I enjoy every second with him on and off the field. Can’t be a better person. I’ll be excited to see him and I’m sure he’ll be in the same form he’s been the entire year — go out and perform and be Chris Sale.

“I’m sure he’ll be well-rested and a clear mind for him I’m sure is going to be a good thing. We’ll welcome him back.”

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The pitching staff could use some innings from Sale without question. When he didn’t pitch Saturday, the White Sox filled those innings with a committee of relief pitchers. Prior to Tuesday’s win, the bullpen had pitched 19 1/3 innings the previous four games.

But the White Sox have handled the drama extremely well. They’re 4-0 with one game left in Sale’s suspension and they look forward to having their ace back. Cooper said he hopes to move on, sentiments that were previously echoed by Ventura and executive vice president Kenny Williams.

“Welcome back, let’s go,” Cooper said. “Let’s go to work. Let’s move on. Listen man, who would want to be held responsible for the (stuff) they did at 22, 24, 26, 27, you know what I mean? He’s way too good of a kid. I don’t think anybody would. Everybody screws up from time to time or has some missteps.”

One of the actions that has caught Sale flack is his criticism of Ventura’s handling of the situation. Neither Ventura or Williams responded to Sale’s comment on Tuesday that “Robin is the one who has to fight for us.” Ventura said he wouldn’t have done things any differently and Williams applauded how Hahn and Ventura handled a difficult, “unique” situation.

Ventura said he doesn’t expect much out of the ordinary.

“I think it’s going to be fine,” Ventura said. “Players always have their teammates’ backs, and that’s no different with our clubhouse, and it’s going to be fairly normal, as far as he’s going to be prepared to pitch and our guys are going to prepare to play and it’s going to go from there.”

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

White Sox C Dioner Navarro has a good story behind the best game of his career

There’s a good story behind the best game of Dioner Navarro’s 13-year career. 

On May 29, 2013, Navarro — then playing for the Cubs — hit three home runs and drive in six in a 9-3 Crosstown victory at Wrigley Field. Both were career highs. 

And Navarro did it without a whole lot of preparation. 

“I got to the ballpark and I didn’t see the lineup, I thought I wasn’t playing,” Navarro recalled. “So we go out for stretch and the first group is hitting and they called my name and I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And they said ‘You’re playing.’ It was already too late to get into the group so I went inside.”

Navarro only took two rounds of batting practice in his haste to get ready. But he also took those swings thinking right-hander Jake Peavy was going to start for the White Sox, so he hit left-handed during batting practice. 

The White Sox, though, were starting left-hander John Danks, so the switch-hitting Navarro wound up batting right-handed when the game started. 

The pregame mixup hardly hurt Navarro, as it turned out. He homered off Danks in his first and second at-bats, and then launched a three-run homer in the seventh off White Sox right-hander Brian Omogrosso. 

“It was one of the best experiences of my career,” Navarro said.

Navarro is one of a handful of people to play for both the Cubs and White Sox since the two teams began their annual interleague series in 1997 (others include pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Bob Howry, Edwin Jackson and Neal Cotts, among others). His perspective from playing off the Addison and Sox/35th Red Line stops is one he said he’ll cherish after his career is over. 

“I’m really fortunate to be part of it from both sides,” Navarro said. “A little bit bittersweet because the Cubbies had lost 100 games the year before and we were onto our way to lose 100 more games that year (2013). But still the rivalry against this team was something that people always talked about. Being part of it with the Cubs and now being part with the White Sox is a tremendous experience, something I look forward to share with my kids when I get older.”