Roster changes, White Sox winning stays the same

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Roster changes, White Sox winning stays the same

Friday, July 30, 2010
Updated 11:45 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

While there was one significant change for the Chicago White Sox on Friday, a key constant remained: Home winning.

Mere hours after swapping rookie fifth starter Daniel Hudson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson, the Chicago 9 trotted out onto the familiar turf of U.S. Cellular Field for yet another win, 6-1 over the Oakland As. The White Sox have won 12 straight and 19 of their last 20 at home.

Rookie Lucas Harrell, an early-morning call-up from the Class AAA Charlotte Knights, wound his way through six eventful innings to earn the win. In his first big-league start, the righty scattered four hits and five walks, striking out one. Harrell became the first White Sox starter since Kip Wells in 1999 to win his major league debut.

When I got the call this morning, I thought it was Brent Morel playing a trick on me, a beer-soaked Harrell said postgame. Then I heard, No, this is really Buddy Bell.

Thats a big day for Harrell, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. I was glad. It was a special day for everyone. It doesn't get better than that.

The White Sox, who are now 3-1 in the rotation spot vacated by Jake Peavy, struck first, beginning with an Ozzieball run in their first at-bats: Juan Pierre leading off with an infield single, a one-out steal, and an Alex Rios RBI base knock.

Yesterday, we had four home runs, Guillen said. Today, we scored in different ways. We pick each other up. We dont have to wait for just one guy.

Despite just getting the call to the Show this morning, Harrell admitted being amped on the plane ride north. With no Major League Debut Motorcade available paging Mayor Daley, Harrell was tied up in traffic and didnt hit the clubhouse until 5:15, when he was embraced by former Knights teammate Dayan Viciedo, who started at third base and cruised to a 3-for-3 night.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski trotted to the mound on more than one occasion to calm the rookie, who admitted both pregame and in-game jitters.

A.J. just came out and said, 'be yourself, thats what got you here, Harrell said.

That simple advice worked, as Harrell worked out of several jams, stranding seven As baserunners. His biggest scare came in the second, when Harrell walked the bases loaded with two outs and escaped when Daric Bartons deep fly to center fell five feet short of a grand slam.

We were pulling for him, said Paul Konerko, who admitted he didnt have a feel for how Harrell was pitching because he wasnt sure if hed ever played behind him in a spring training game. They werent getting great swings on him, but that ball to the warning track carries a little, that would have been a different game.

In the fourth, the As briefly tied the game when Mark Ellis led off with a single to center and was advanced to third on Gabe Gross and Rajai Davis groundouts. Oakland scratched what would be its only run off Harrell when Cliff Pennington lined a single off the pitcher, scoring Ellis.

The tie didnt last long, as Konerko led off the fifth with a blast to right-center that fell just a few feet short of a home run, which would have made for his fifth straight game with a round-tripper. The first baseman settled for a double, and was driven home by Pierzynskis single. Viciedo pushed the feisty backstop to third with a double, and both runners would score before the inning was extinguished, Pierzynski on an Andruw Jones ground out and Viciedo on a Gordon Beckham single.

Chicago added two more tallies, in the sixth on another RBI single from Beckham and the seventh on a Konerko sacrifice fly.

Oaklands rally attempt in the eighth, having put two men on with none out, was extinguished with the first pitch from Tony Pena, who induced a double play from Kevin Kouzmanoff, then retired Ellis on a ground out to tourniquet the As on two pitches.

That was a big thing for us, Guillen said of Penas work. We didnt want to have to use Matt Thornton or Bobby Jenks. Two pitches, three outs, thats perfect.

Beckham, who made his major-league debut last season under slightly less tense circumstances, was full of admiration for Chicagos spot starter.

The first game is tough, and Harrells circumstances were not easy, he said. He was asked to help keep us in first place.

The rookie is already on his way back south to make room for new acquisition Edwin Jackson, but on a key transition day at the end of July, he did just that.

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

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe adjusts to new organization, playing without his twin

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe adjusts to new organization, playing without his twin

Luis Alexander Basabe’s roommate received a phone call on the road on July 9 in which he learned he had been traded by the Boston Red Sox. What would be a strange experience for most teammates was even more difficult for Basabe and his.

The player traded was his identical twin brother, Luis Alejandro Basabe.

“I was like, ‘Man, I don’t believe that,’ ” Luis Alexander Basabe said.

Nearly five months later, Luis Alexander received a similar call from the Red Sox to inform him he was included in a four-player package headed to the White Sox in exchange for five-time All-Star Chris Sale. Having already experienced the trade of a brother he describes as younger (by five minutes), shorter and weaker, Basabe wasn’t rattled.

While he later found that acclimating to a new organization was "weird" at first, Basabe said he already feels at home with the White Sox. The center fielder currently has a 10-game hitting streak and is slashing .260/.351/.400 with four stolen bases in 58 plate appearances for Single-A Winston-Salem.

“So far everything has been very good,” Basabe said. “When (my trade) first happened it didn’t feel weird or anything because it was in the offseason.

“I felt a little more comfortable because I had been through it with my brother. But I know it’s a business and no matter where I go I’ve got to do my job and play the way I do.

“ ‘Yeah, that’s all right. I don’t care because I’m here with a chance.’ ”

Plentiful opportunity is potentially there with the White Sox.

The No. 8-ranked prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, Basabe, 20, has all the tools needed to be a top-notch defensive outfielder. His speed and arm are both graded at 60 on the 20-80 scout scale and his fielding rates at 55. Basabe’s manager thinks he has everything necessary to play a critical spot.

“He’s a true center fielder to me,” Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris said. “Speed, arm. It’s still a little early to tell if he’s going to hit. Who knows? But from the defensive side of the game, he knows what’s going on. He’s going to learn as he goes on and he’s going to be very, very good.”

Everything may come down to whether or not the switch-hitting Basabe performs at the plate. His hit tool grades at 45, according to MLB Pipeline, which is more in line with the bat of a fourth outfielder.

But so far the White Sox are optimistic Basabe can make the proper adjustment.

“He’s got a sweet swing,” White Sox hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger said. “He’s got a timing thing to handle. But he’ll get it and it should be very helpful.”

The biggest help will be repetitions. Basabe spent almost the entire 2016 season at Single-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League. Only at the end of the season was he promoted to Advanced-A Salem in the Carolina League, the same league he’s in now.

“He’s got a little bit of everything,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He can run, he has the ability to hit and he’s aggressive on the bases.

“He’s still only 20 and he’s had some success. But we feel the more at-bats he gets he’s going to be successful.”

Despite that young age, Basabe, whom his parents call “Chande”, and his twin, “Jandro”, have already learned about the harsh realities of baseball. They had just arrived at the ballpark to play the Lexington Legends that night when Greenville manager Darren Fenster summoned Luis Alejandro to his office with the news of his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would be assigned to Single-A Kane County.

“It was at 2 p.m. and the manager called my brother outside to come talk to him,” Luis Alexander said. “And then he told me ‘They traded me.’ ‘Really?’

“But then, (you learn) it really was a business and he got more chance over there.”

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

He absorbed a ton of information in spring camp, but perhaps it’s what Michael Kopech observed watching Jose Quintana that could help most.

For five weeks in big league camp, the extremely motivated White Sox pitching prospect gleaned every piece of information he could from more experienced teammates.

Kopech and veteran starting pitcher James Shields discussed pitch sequencing and the importance of the changeup. Infielder Tyler Saladino talked with the No. 14-ranked prospect in baseball about visualizing success. Catcher Geo Soto told Kopech pretty much everything about life in the majors.

But even though he didn’t say much, Quintana’s practice sessions may have provided the most valuable lesson of all. The key takeaway, Kopech said, is how Quintana performs every action with a purpose. The young pitcher knows how critical the example Quintana provided is to his development and wants to implement a similar approach.

“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) likes to call it focused practice,” Kopech said. “For me that’s one thing I haven’t done well, is get locked in. You have to be locked in all the time. That’s something that came from Coop and all the big leaguers I was around. Quintana is a great guy to watch when it comes to stuff like that.

“That’s a guy that is a definition of a silent leader. He doesn’t talk about much. He goes and gets his work in and you can just watch him and know that’s the way the game should be played.”

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Kopech took a nice step forward in his development on Tuesday night when he pitched a season-high six scoreless innings for Double-A Birmingham. He struck out eight and allowed a hit while walking four and lowered his ERA to 2.50. The Texas native had only compiled 12 innings in his previous three outings because of “hit-and-miss” fastball command that led to 10 walks.

Along with perfecting his fastball command, one of the keys to Kopech reaching the majors is an increase in workload. Kopech — the 33rd overall pick of the 2014 draft — has never pitched more than 78 2/3 combined innings he produced last season. The White Sox would love for Kopech to reach the 180-inning mark by 2019.

“He doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He hasn’t been able to have that build up so that’s something we’re going to make sure he can focus on. We’re going to make sure he’s in the right spot so we can do that properly.”

In order for Kopech to eventually hit that mark, he’d need to pitch between 110-130 innings this season and then throw around 160 innings in 2018. But to reach those figures, Kopech must first pitch deeper into games.

Through his first three starts, Kopech worked on a strict pitch count that varied based on performance. If he was on, he could throw as many as 85 pitches. But if he ran into command issues, Kopech might only throw 75.

On Tuesday, Kopech pitched well enough to throw 95 pitches (65 strikes) against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. He thinks the key to consistency in games is directly tied to his effort in between. It’s yet another area where Kopech — who reads self-help books, is into Cryotherapy and salt baths and eats meals on the road pre-prepared by his nutritionist — strives to improve.

“From Day 1 to Day 4, you need to be just as focused as Day 5,” Kopech said. “I can’t stress that enough. If my bullpen tomorrow I lose a little focus, then I know I need to get right back into it to prepare for my next start. That’s something that’s going to have to kick in sooner than later.”

Birmingham manager Julio Vinas likes how Kopech has handled himself early in the season. Vinas thinks Kopech has the proper mindset and tools to be a special pitcher.

‘He’s got the right mentality and now it’s executing and it’s going to be there,” Vinas said.

He may have been there this spring, but Kopech preferred to not be seen or heard by his veteran teammates. Kopech couldn’t do anything about the onslaught of attention the media paid to him after he came over with Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale trade. But he could control the rest of his time around teammates. Little by little, he’d engage the veterans without drawing too much attention.

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“I just didn’t want to make it about me,” Kopech said. “It was my first big league camp and a lot of those guys are getting ready for a big league season and I’m competing for a job that’s not necessarily on a big league roster right away. I was just trying to take care of my business. All ears, not really any talk and take away as much as I could without pissing anybody off, really.

“I got the chance to face some good hitters and take away a lot of knowledge from older guys and I think that’s the best I could do to prepare for the season.”

But Kopech agrees the best preparation came from watching Quintana, who Cooper always lauds for his practice effort. Kopech hopes to be able to emulate how the 2016 All-Star pitcher handles himself soon enough.

Kopech thought he focused well from the second through the fourth inning in an April 20 start at Tennessee. But he wasn’t as pleased with his effort in the first and fifth innings.

“That’s the way I want to lock in when I’m on the mound,” Kopech said of Quintana. “I haven’t been doing that, but it’s something I’m going to work on going forward.

“I have to remind myself to stay locked in even though I’m doing what I always do because I need to have the same focus (in practice) I do when I’m pitching on the mound.”