Chicago White Sox

Pitchers duel falls Beertowns way

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Pitchers duel falls Beertowns way

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
4:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The marquee matchup of Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle vs. Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke lived up to expectations -- at least as much as expectations count when both pitchers are making their Cactus League debuts.

Both hurlers had scoreless efforts, with the deciding run in the game coming on a Rickie Weeks RBI single in the top of the third, driving home Wil Nieves. White Sox long reliever hopeful Phil Humber took the loss after giving up four hits and the games sole run in two innings of work.

Brandon Boggs, logging the entire game at DH, stroked a two-run single off of White Sox reliever Chris Sale to finish the scoring in Milwaukees 3-1 win. The White Sox mustered just five hits on the day, two by veteran corner infielder Dallas McPherson.

I felt really good for early in the spring, said Buehrle, who struck out one and tossed an efficient 24 pitches in his two innings of work. Its only two innings, but physically, with location, everything was there. I say it every spring, but I hope I feel this good on Opening Day.

With so little to speak on, Buehrle then directed a mock-tirade at his offense.

I am pretty ticked off, Buehrle said, laughing. We had our big boys going. All we need was one freaking run, and we couldnt even score it. A little bit of run support, guys, lets go.

Leadoff hitter Lastings Milledge was one bright spot in an otherwise mellow Chicago offense, opening the game with a crisp single down the right-field line and later paid for that safety plus having hit two of his four home runs last season vs. Milwaukee by taking a ball off his left bicep in his next at-bat.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was excited about the play of rightfielder Dayan Viciedo, both at bat and in the field. The Tank got the game off to a great start for the White Sox with a swift running putout on a deep Weeks flyball.

That was a very tough play, Guillen said. The ball was right on the line, the first ball hes seen in spring training. That was a good read.

In the sixth, Viciedo nailed Edwin Maysonet at third base on a Craig Counsell single in the sixth.

He was great. Im very happy about what he did out there, Guillen said. The good thing about it was that he threw Maysonet out. To me, its more important where the balls going and how he throws it than getting the guy out. He threw right to the cutoff man, and it was a good thing, the guy was out. Also he had good at-bats, hit the ball pretty good in two at-bats.

Tank Working Overtime

Guillen was quick to spread credit around for Viciedos strong debut on Tuesday.

I have to give credit to Daryl Boston and Bainesy Harold Baines and Devon White, Guillen said. They have been working with Viciedo every day. One thing about Viciedo, he has matured a little bit Viciedo worked very hard with Devo White for a couple of days in Miami. To be around JP Juan Pierre helps. Pierre is a workaholic, and he continues to work.

A big factor in Viciedos growth, according to Guillen, is simple: Viciedo came ready to play this spring.

Viciedo came into camp in shape, ready to play, Guillen said. Before, the last two spring trainings, we had to fight with him. Its not easy to come to spring training and have to lose weight. All of a sudden you get tired and your bodys not acting the same way.

Im a Tumbler

As if to underscore the aggressive defensive play manager Ozzie Guillen espouses, both Lucas Harrell and Brandon Short made diving attempts in Mondays Cactus League opener. Harrells assist came on a belly flop off of the mound, and he laughed in recollection on Tuesday.

It was kind of like tackle the baseball. Harrell said with a wild smile. I thought it was going to be an easy play, but then I had to turn on the jets. Just a routine play. Afterward, I felt pretty good about myself. I take a lot of pride in fielding my position. Youre just helping yourself out by getting the outs.

Short appeared to be very proud, and a bit bashful, for having an impressive debut, walking and scoring a run in addition to his diving catch in left to rob Jerry Sands in the eighth: It felt very good to start off that way. It was a tough play, it had a little topspin on it, and he hit it pretty good.

Dunn Lets Start

At 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first two Cactus League games, Adam Dunn is off to a customary sluggish start. But the great thing about Dunn is that, as a veteran with extremely good nature, hes chronically inoculated against overthinking a slow start.

If I stressed out about it, Id have been out of this game years ago, Dunn says. The beginning of the season is always toughwell, I say always, Im going to try this year to change that, gol-lyIm not going to set myself up and say Im going to start slow, but whispers good chance.

Guillen is likewise unworried about Dunn.

Well, he reminds me a little bit of Jim Thome, Guillen said. This guy strikes out 100-plus, walks 100-plus, thats 250 times up without putting the ball in play, and still puts up a lot of numbers. How they do it, I dont know.

Fans eyes pop out over home runs, but ask Dunn, and he could care less about the long ball.

Its not so much the homers; getting on base is No. 1 with me, Dunn says. If I can keep my on-base average .380-plus, thats my No. 1 goal of the year. Getting on base is going to equal runs. If I get on 40 percent of the time, were going to score some runs.

Thats exactly the way Guillen says it, although the manager has penned a quiet wish for 50 homers from Dunn this season.

I dont expect anything different from Adam, Guillen said. Monday he scored one run. You get on base, youre going to give the team a chance to win. Thats why Im putting him at the top of the order, to give him more at bats and get him on base.

Dunn admits that last year, the Washington Nationals anemic offense forced him to change up his strategy. Tired of being stranded at second base, the slugger turned on his aggressivenessand wasnt much pleased with the results.

Last year was the first year I tried to swing a lot, and everything was about the same except my on-base, Dunn said. I feel like I wasnt on base last year. We needed to score runs in Washington. I dont know whats going to happen this year, but Im just going to let it freaking rip.

And dont fall prey to lowered expectations per Dunn, and the traditionally sluggish Chisox early attack.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I know I have struggled early in the past, so I dont panic and say holy expletive, Im hitting .150 in April. It sucks, but that only means theres some damage coming in May, June, July, and August. Its hard to be patient when everybodys panicking, but it just takes five good months, so you can have a bad one.

And if Dunn gets off to a hot start in April?

If I start out on fire, Ill freak, said the genial slugger. I dont know whatll happen--.400, here I come.

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

Why Yoan Moncada's slow start with White Sox could soon be a thing of the past

Why Yoan Moncada's slow start with White Sox could soon be a thing of the past

Yoan Moncada wrapped up his first Crosstown Series — in front of the closest thing to a playoff atmosphere he’ll experience in, likely, a while — with an 0-4 showing in the White Sox 6-3 loss to the Cubs on Thursday. 

The 22-year-old had mixed results facing the defending World Series champions, striking out four times in five at-bats on Monday and hitting his first career home run off Jake Arrieta on Wednesday. His final numbers for these four Crosstown games: 17 plate appearances, two hits, two walks, two runs, eight strikeouts and one hit by pitch. 

Moncada is off to a slow start in his second stint in the majors, but he’s drawing plenty of walks (12.5 percent) and probably has been victimized by some bad luck (a .118 batting average on balls in play which, to say the least, is exceedingly low). 

Manager Rick Renteria, though, likes Moncada’s even-keeled demeanor and his ability to handle the ups and downs of the day-to-day grind of the regular season. 

“What he’s going to be able to do is minimize how much he gets wrapped up in frustration, as opposed to taking the at-bat, the last at-bat, going through pitch by pitch and trying to figure out what it was he wrapped in his approach,” Renteria said. “Younger players usually get very, very frustrated and lose that moment to gain some knowledge. Failure is not in and of itself a bad thing. It’s actually something that can produce a lot of positives. The thing is to try to get them to understand as quickly as possible so they can take those moments and gain information. 

“That’s why his even-keeled approach and even-keeled attitude (will help). He’s got fire. It’s not that he doesn’t care. That’s where people — for a lot of players who are calm or even-keeled, they have fire, they have desire, but they know how to compartmentalize and separate those things and try to gain something from every moment, positive or negative.”

Moncada already took that clear-eyed approach to self-evaluation in the minor leagues, and said that hasn’t changed now that he’s at baseball’s highest level. 

“I’m just keeping the same routine that I was using in the minors,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “And the whole year, I’m just keeping with the things that have been giving me results.”

There’s not much of a common thread between Moncada’s brief call-up with the Boston Red Sox last September and his first few games with the White Sox. Moncada was overmatched in his 2016 debut, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances and only drawing one walk. He had four hits, though, so his way-too-small-sample-size BABIP was .571. 

Moncada looks like a different player this year, carrying over his strong Triple-A walk rate (13.6 percent) to his nascent tenure with the White Sox. Eventually, the hits are likely to start falling as long as he doesn’t get out of the approach that got him here — and made him baseball’s biggest prospect in the process. 

“He’s been doing all the work that he has to do to adjust to this level,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “He’s been doing his same routine from Triple-A and I think that’s something good because you have to stick with the things that are giving you good results.” 

Anthony Rizzo: More than talent needed for successful rebuild

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo: More than talent needed for successful rebuild

Nearly eight months into their rebuild, the White Sox have accrued an eye-popping amount of young talent. The franchise continues to receive kudos even in trading a pair of relievers this week to add depth to what might be the best farm system in baseball.

But having the best farm system -- the White Sox have eight of MLBPipeline.com’s top 100 prospects -- won’t mean much until it’s realized.

Well versed on the subject having experienced it on his own, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo acknowledged before Thursday’s 6-3 win over the White Sox just how uncertain the rebuilding process can be. In Rizzo’s eyes, it wasn’t just talent that got the Cubs over the hump, it was timing, too.

“It happened fast, but it could have went the other way, too,” Rizzo said. “We’re lucky with how everything turned out. Plus, a lot of hard work has gone into it.”

[MORE: Aaron Bummer on what it's like to get called up to the majors]

Similar to Yoan Moncada’s arrival last week, Rizzo was the first [hyped prospect to be promoted] after Theo Epstein’s plan went into place. Acquired the previous winter from San Diego, Rizzo reached the majors midway through the 2012 season with the Cubs only a few months into their rebuild. The three-time All-Star didn’t know it at the time, but he was the first new face the Cubs would introduce to their audience. While Rizzo often [was aware of skepticism of Epstein’s plan], he said he never felt the same pressure from fans. Rizzo also said he can understand why not all the Cubs faithful were on board.

“I think I was naïve and happy to be back in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “You’ve just got to focus on playing baseball and not worry about everything else that you can’t control.

“I didn’t feel (pressure) at all. I know people were calling for the upper front office’s jobs. But they had a plan and they had a vision and they preached it the entire time.”

“As a fan I can understand why you get upset because you want to win. As a fan of football or whatever sport, if my team doesn’t win, I get mad. But obviously they knew what they were doing.”

So far the White Sox fan base has been mostly supportive of Rick Hahn’s efforts and embraced the idea of building through the farm system. But not everyone is on board with a 25-man roster teardown that appears to have the club hurtling toward its first 100-loss season since 1970.

This week’s Crosstown series is a reminder there are tough times ahead for the White Sox.

The Cubs lost a combined 197 games in 2012 and 2013 and 89 games in 2014. The second half of the 2017 season could be extremely difficult for a White Sox club that has traded Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak and Dan Jennings all since December.

Rizzo thinks the way the Cubs handled those difficulties played into their success in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s life,” Rizzo said. “There are tough times in anything. There are going to be good times and bad times so it’s all about how you approach it and how you handle it.

“We always knew the potential we had, it was just a matter of going out and doing it. Ball’s bouncing your way, calls going your way and staying together.”