Sox Drawer: Alive and kicking

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Sox Drawer: Alive and kicking

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

They were down and out. Dead and buried. A baseball team whose obituary had already been written. It went something like this:

Here lies the 2010 Chicago White Sox, who died in early June of massive underachievement. An autopsy found that their hearts were in the right place, but their brains often failed to produce enough confidence to win more than one game in a row. They are survived by a fan base mourning the teams unrealized expectations. In lieu of flowers, please send extra shovels and something for Bill Melton, Frank Thomas and Chuck Garfien to talk about on White Sox Postgame Live for the next three months.
It was looking like a very long summer.

A thorough investigation would reveal that the Sox officially flat-lined on June 8. Nursing a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning against the Tigers, Matt Thornton, who had given up only six runs all season, got tagged for five in one-third of an inning. The Sox lost, 7-2. They were embarrassed at home to one of their main rivals. It dropped them a season-low nine games under .500. They trailed the Twins by 9 12 games in the American League Central. And the next day, White Sox general managerfuneral director Kenny Williams delivered the grave news to the assembled media:

Some changes need to take place," he said. "I dont know what and I dont know when, but some changes need to take place. Things arent happening the way that we envisioned, and when they dont happen the way you envision, youve got to make an adjustment. It is what it is. I have to listen to trade offers. Its not that I want to, but Im not blind.

Trouble was, the Sox often played like they were.

But suddenly, later that same evening, against those same Tigers who humiliated the Sox the day before, something strange took place. A spiritual phenomenon that would compel priests, rabbis and ministers to call U.S. Cellular Field, inquiring about a certain celestial event.

A mere two hours after Williams made that grim diagnosis about his struggling team, a miracle occurred at 35th and Shields, and it wasnt just because Brent Lillibridge hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer.

After two months of mediocre, inconsistent, uninspiring baseball, everything just magically clicked.

And I mean everything.

Besides the Lillibridge home run (which was hit so far, Frank Thomas shouted, He hit that to Hurtville!), backup catcher Ramon Castro homered and drove in four. Immediately after Castro went deep, Gordon Beckham hit a double off the wall -- his first extra-base hit in 112 at-bats.

Every single player in the Sox lineup got a hit that night. They scored seven runs in the fourth inning and seven more in the eighth, batting around twice in the same game for the first time since 1981.

Want more?

Five-foot-nothing Juan Pierre leaped over the fence to rob Brennan Boesch of a home run. He then made a spectacular diving catch to end the same inning. The Sox went 10-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Omar Vizquel came THIS close to hitting a grand slam.

Apparently there was a cap on miracles that night, but no problem. The 43-year-old homered the very next day, just his second since 2007. He also drove in a run on a suicide squeeze.

I hope they check his bat, joked manager Ozzie Guillen.

Overnight, the Sox were no longer a joke. Now it was their turn to deliver the punchline. Detroit would be their first victim, something that seems to have been forgotten. The Sox crushed the Tigers, 15-3, then blanked them, 3-0. That was followed by their historic road trip (yes, historic), going 8-1, the Sox seventh-best road trip ever.

But on every sidewalk along the way there were skeptics who looked at the competition (the Cubs, Pirates and Nationals, who are a combined 34 games under .500) and questioned whether the Sox could match up with a team thats actually good.

The Atlanta Braves are good. Potentially great. They came into Tuesday with the best record in the National League and they sent to the mound their best pitcher, Tommy Hanson, who in his previous four interleague starts was 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA.

Who did he beat in those games? Just the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles.

However on this night, he would receive one serious beatdown. The white hot White Sox torched Hanson, who gave up nine runs on 13 hits, both career highs, in just 3 23 innings.

And just like that, the Sox are suddenly back in it. One game over .500 for the first time since beating Cleveland on Opening Day.

Am I surprised it happened this fast? Um, yeah. But Im hardly the only one.

I didnt expect us to be back to .500 so quickly, Williams said before Tuesdays victory. This team has responded and showed some resiliency. At this time, those efforts should be commended and acknowledged in the form that, OK, they are going to keep pushing. We have to see what possibilities are out there to help them out.

Yep, the Sox went from sellers to buyers about as fast as a Stephen Strasburg fastball. Two weeks ago, the Sox GM warned that his team had about 24 hours to live. Now, they appear saved, thanks to a special elixir the whole team is drinking by the keg-load. Its a remedy for all that ails you.

Winning. It cures everything.

Now if only it continues ...

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

Carlos Rodon slated for MRI, could start season on disabled list with bicep tightness

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Rodon has been scratched from Friday’s start with tightness in his upper left bicep and it could land him on the disabled list to start the 2017 season.

Though the development came as a surprise, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said that the team’s initial exam of their third-year starter was “positive” because they don’t believe he has any structural damage. But the White Sox intend to be extremely cautious with Rodon, who was headed for an MRI on Friday instead of the mound and is also likely to receive a second opinion early next week.

Rodon had been scheduled to face the Oakland A’s at Mesa, Ariz.

“We’re going to err on the side of caution here, even if it winds up costing him his first couple starts because we’re slowing down the schedule now by scratching him,” Hahn said.

“It’s too early to speculate how long we’re going to be without Carlos. I hate to speculate, but since we are slowing down his schedule by having him miss the start today, the odds are probably that he starts the season on the DL. But again we’ll know more after he takes his further exams.”

Both Hahn and White Sox manager Rick Renteria admit they’ve been caught off-guard by the sequence of events. Rodon informed the White Sox he felt some tightness in his bicep on Thursday, which led to an internal examination. But it was only Wednesday when Rodon said he felt great following a Tuesday bullpen session and asked about the possibility of his first regular season start being moved up. Rodon, who had been online to make his first start on April 8, had also responded well in the aftermath of striking out five batters over four scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut at Tempe, Ariz. on Sunday.

“As far as we know right now he’s OK,” Renteria said. “From the physical, clinical tests it seems like he’s fine, but obviously he’s going to get checked up. He still wanted to pitch. I think that even talking to him yesterday or two days ago, he was feeling great. For all of us it’s a little bit of a surprise.”

Rodon requested to make his start against Oakland after the initial exam, but the team declined and opted for an MRI.

With the intent of helping him avoid the fatigue he experienced last summer and also reaching the 200-inning mark this season, the White Sox took a slow approach with Rodon this spring. Similar to how they handled Chris Sale last spring, much of Rodon’s work this February and March on back fields and in simulated games.

Rodon -- who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA in 28 starts last season, striking out 168 batters in 165 innings -- finally debuted in the Cactus League on Sunday and flourished. Though his slow start drew some suspicion along the way as to whether or not Rodon was healthy, Hahn said his bicep issue is a total coincidence.

“I don't know if ironic is the right word, but we obviously tried to come up with a plan to keep him healthy for the long term and toward the end of this plan he expressed this discomfort yesterday,” Hahn said. “Again, he was feeling great, he was saying, with how he was coming along, with the program we had set up. Sometimes you make plans and the baseball gods laugh.”

While it’s too early to know how the length of Rodon’s absence, the White Sox have begun to develop contingency plans. The team has a few days off in April that could help them navigate through the issue, primarily on April 4 and April 10. Rodon originally was scheduled to pitch in the team’s fifth game, an April 8 home contest against Minnesota.

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Hahn suggested that despite the uncertainty he knows one tactic he won’t use is call upon one of the team’s top prospects. Reynaldo Lopez is close to major league ready and Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer have also already each accrued service time. But Hahn wants to avoid a taxi situation with frequent trips back and forth to the minor leagues.

He listed Saturday’s starter Dylan Covey and minor leaguers David Holmberg and Tyler Danish as among the possible replacements for Rodon.

“Our intention is to not have any player in Chicago simply because there’s a need in Chicago,” Hahn said. “It’s because they’ve answered all the questions that they have to answer developmentally at the minor league level and are ready for further development in Chicago. This is particularly true in the situation where it could just be a spot start or a few starts. None of us are inclined to potentially derail anyone’s development by moving them up and down, up and down. Our young pitchers, when the time comes for them to come to Chicago, will be guaranteed to get the ball every fifth day. We don’t have a specific plan for where it goes with Carlos, we need further examination and studies. And we don’t have a plan for how we’ll fill the void if one is created.”