Poetry in Pros: White Sox Indispensables

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Poetry in Pros: White Sox Indispensables

Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Last November, CSNChicago.com counted down the top 30 Chicago White Sox, taking into account each players value to the team in 2011 and beyond.

With an offseason to add and subtract players and a nearly-completed spring training in the books, heres an update to that list, this time focusing only on how crucial each player is to White Sox success in 2011. (In other words, how lost are the White Sox without them?)

The Indispensables

1. Gordon Beckham, 2b
Beckham topping the list seems nutty at first blush. But the third-year man is being put in a position of great responsibility, be it as the best fielding second baseman on the club, the crucial No. 2 hitter on a team full of non-No. 2s, and his status as an up-and-coming hitter (a hot second half of 2010 and an .896 OPS this spring) who could well surpass Alexei Ramirezs offensive output in 2011.

2. Paul Konerko, 1b
Indeed, there is little reason to believe that Konerko can duplicate his 2010 campaign this season. And unlike a year ago, PK has a legitimate backup in Adam Dunn behind him. But in the ideal lineup, Dunn is busy designated hittingwhich leaves Mark Teahen at first base. Konerko may be a subpar fielder, but the step down both offensively and defensively to Teahen makes Konerko indispensable at the first sack.

3. Alexei Ramirez, ss
There may be no player more crucial to White Sox success than Ramirez. But in terms of being irreplaceable, Omar Vizquel has proven that at least for short stretches, he can still throw some leather at short, and swing the bat as well.

4. Alex Rios, cf
Rios anchors the White Sox outfield as a fielder who eats acreage and can throw the pill as well. Sans Rios, the White Sox are faced with moving Juan Pierres weaker arm to center, or spot-starting Brent Lillibridge or Lastings Milledge. All of those options are a significant step down, especially defensively, where the corner outfielders feed off of Rios range.

5. Adam Dunn, dh-1b
Teahen is also the primary backup at DH. Which is the only place you really want him to be the primary backup.

6. Juan Pierre, lf
The baseball world isnt so kind to Pierre, highlighting how many outs he makes per season and chiding his laughably soft arm in left. So why is he indispensable to the Chisox? Hes the only legitimate leadoff hitter (Milledge? Vizquel?), he gets to everything in left and then some, steals bags to set in motion manager Ozzie Guillens speed offense oh, and he plays in nearly every inning of every game. Hes so taken for granted, even a Pierre champion like me has probably ranked him too low on this list.

7. Matt Thornton, closer
Yes, Thornton is the closest thing the White Sox have to a proven closer, and hes been aces almost since the day he first fastened on a White Sox cap. But the truth is, no one knows if he can handle the closer roleand if he doesnt, the White Sox have options. Sergio Santos is a closer-in-training, rookie Chris Sale sports a live arm, and Jesse Crain closed all through his tour of the minors. Thornton is the most crucial arm on the White Sox this season; indispensable as a closer, no.

8. Jake Peavy, starter
Yeah, its the guy on the shelf hogging all the attention again. But a healthy Peavy has the potential to anchor a very strong White Sox rotationa fact borne out by his performance as the teams best starter three or four times through the rotation until his shoulder tendinitis flared up. Without Peavy, the White Sox are forced to grab a begging bowl and long wistfully for the days when Freddy Garcia suited up for them.

9. Sergio Santos, reliever
Santos is no longer the sweet The Club story from a year ago, but a viable live arm with closer potential. Any notion that the third-year pitcher was due for a setback (as fellow young gun Sale was shackled) can be dismissed, as Santos was Chicagos strongest pitcher all spring (nine games, 0.00 ERA, .097 batting average against, .194 on-base percentage against, 10 strikeouts in 9 23 innings). Despite never being seriously looked to as Chicagos closer, Santos earned the right to be the first option behind Thornton to finish games.

10. Edwin Jackson, starter
Wait a minute, Jackson and not John Danks, or another rotation member, is the most indispensable healthy starter? Last year, Jackson was the White Soxs best starter in the second half and brings a consistency and electricity that fellow righty Gavin Floyd does less often. Danks is the White Soxs most valuable starter, but Jackson spreading his entire 2011 campaign out like his second half of 2010 is the difference between a playoff berth and sitting at home watching the Minnesota Twins get swept out of October once again.

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

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

The way he dominated the Pioneer League had to boost to Alec Hansen’s confidence. It also prompted his promotion.

When the White Sox sent their second-round pick to Great Falls last month it was in the hope he could rebound from a rough junior season at Oklahoma that caused his draft stock to fall. Once thought to be the potential first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Hansen was selected 49th after he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 batters in 51.2 innings. But Hansen — who made his first start at Single-A Kannapolis on Friday — looked every bit the first-rounder at Great Falls with a 1.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.

“We wanted to put him in a position where there was a little less pressure to start off the season,” White Sox player development director Nick Capra said. “There's always pressure, but it's a little less magnified in the Pioneer League. We wanted to get him on the right road. We did a couple things with him mechanically and he took off with it.”

“We kind of held him hostage in Great Falls a little bit too long. He’s been really good. He’s double-digit strikeouts every night. He’s not walking people.”

Hansen is expected to make two starts at Kannapolis before the team’s season ends. He earned a no decision after he allowed three earned runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Columbia Fireflies on Friday.

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Capra described the mechanical changes the White Sox made with Hansen as minor. Essentially, they want Hansen to take advantage of his 6-foot-8 frame and stay taller and release the ball more quickly. They believe it will help him better command his pitches.

Through 11 minor-league starts, Hansen has walked 18 batters in 49 innings (he also pitched seven innings in Arizona). That’s compared with the 96 batters he walked in 145 innings in college.

“Our player development guys deserve so much credit for the way they've handled it,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “There was a little bit of concern about the confidence part of it, just him taking the ball every fifth day and knowing that we believe in him. Our pitching guys and PD guys deserve a huge amount of credit for just the time they put into it. They really, really know how to make these guys excel and succeed. Been a pretty fun ride to watch and I hope it continues.”

White Sox hope pitcher Colton Turner can 'build' on strong season

White Sox hope pitcher Colton Turner can 'build' on strong season

The White Sox acquired minor-league pitcher Colton Turner from the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday in exchange for catcher Dioner Navarro.  

Turner, 25, has a 1.33 ERA in 44 games this season across three levels with 70 strikeouts in 54 innings. The White Sox assigned Turner, who missed all of 2014 after he had reconstructive elbow surgery, to Double-A Birmingham.

“Ever since he got back (from pitching in Australia), he seems to have hit his stride well,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Fastball/slider mix, good command.

“You can obviously see from the numbers he has done impressive work against righties for a left-handed reliever, which is nice to see.

“We’re going to wait to get to know him better. He’s had a real nice year and we like the stuff, we like the command and we’ll see if he’s able to continue to build on what he has done this year and try to figure out that more in 2017, the role he’ll play going forward.”