Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: Buehrle, Obama & The Big Reunion

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Sox Drawer: Buehrle, Obama & The Big Reunion

Tuesday, Apr. 6, 2010
11:04 AM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Mark Buehrle may not have thrown another perfect game, but it was certainly a perfect day Monday for the White Sox. So with the first game of 2010 in the books, here are 9 innings of observations from their 6-0 victory over the Indians:

1. MARK BUEHRLE = LEGEND

I joked with Mark before the game that he was making another ho-hum Opening Day start. Do something original for once! I said.

What do you want me to do? he replied. Skip it?

No, thats something Carlos Zambrano should have done.

Mark? He just went out and threw another Buehrle classic. Sure, he held the Indians to three measly singles over seven innings. But thats become ordinary for 56. Hes done it before. Oh, like the last time he won on Opening Day. It was also at home. Also against the Indians. Also a shutout. The year was 2005.

Omen?

So what does a pitcher do when hes already got a no-hitter, a perfect game, a major league home run, and a World Series ring?

You make a play that defies the laws of physics and causes Hawk Harrelson to pierce the eardrums of every CSN viewer from Alsip to Alabama.

MERCY!!!!

Buehrles no-look scoop through his legs into the barehand of Paul Konerko will go down as one of the best plays ever made by a pitcher.

Maybe the best.

You see the play happening, you run over there saying, Do I slide and spin, or do I grab the ball and throw it? Buehrle said. I think every thought went through my head. It just happened the way it did.

Yes, it did.

2. FRANK AND KENNY: LET THE HEALING BEGIN

Driving to the ballpark on Monday, I was a little nervous about having Frank Thomas and Kenny Williams sit side-by-side one another on our pregame show. In 2006, they both had an explosive falling out that fractured their relationship to the point where I thought they would never speak again.

But in a matter of hours, the two were going to be about an inch away from each other, live on television, and I was either going to be the host of this reunion or the referee.

What did I get myself into?

Fortunately, no whistle was needed. Or bandages.

As it turned out, they both wanted to put the whole thing behind them.

I began the segment by asking, Are you guys good?

Were fine, Thomas said.

Kenny went a little further.

We had our say. We certainly werent shy about expressing something at a given time. But prior to that we had a great relationship. We had that bump in the road, and are going on to the next phase in life.

And with that, Thomas sucker-punched Williams right in the kidney.

I kid.

3. PRESIDENT OBAMA REPRESENTS!

After the Sox First Fan was roundly booed last summer for wearing a White Sox jacket at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, youd think that he would learn his lesson.

Uh-uh.

There was Obama on Monday at the Washington Nationals home opener, taking the mound in a shiny new Nationals jacket, only to rub it in all of their faces by donning his scrubby old Sox cap for all eyes to see (including several White Sox players who watched with glee on TV before the game in the clubhouse).

Our President has some guts. No arm. But guts.

4. THEY DON'T PLAY BASEBALL IN CANADA.

Speaking of bad arms, we bring you the Chicago Blackhawk Olympians.

Gulp.

Who taught them how to throw a baseball? Charlie Brown?

Canadian Duncan Keith might be one of the best defensemen in the NHL, but theres no defense for his throw to John Danks which was about 10 feet short and another 8 feet wide.

Brent Seabrooks self-described fastball went straight into the dirt, but he did deliver a great line to Blackhawks TV afterwards:

Its hard throwing with a gold medal around your neck.

The third Canadian was Jonathan Toews, who like the captain that he is, threw the best pitch, which was still about 4 feet above the strike zone, but it at least hit Danks glove.

The one American, Patrick Kane, did the same, but he almost threw the ball to the backstop.

These are professional athletes, right?

5. CARLOS QUENTIN IS ON PACE TO GET HIT BY 236 PITCHES IN 2010

The White Sox better have a lot of ice in the trainers room. And their fingers crossed.

6. FRANK THOMAS A.K.A. "ROOKIE"

Monday was the Big Hurts debut on White Sox Pre and Post-Game Live. Frank will join Bill Melton and I for all Sox home games on Comcast SportsNet this season. Thomas obviously has a ton of baseball knowledge, which hell bring to the set. But Im just as interested in bringing out his sense of humor, and the off-camera daggers he and Melton can throw at each other.

It was on full display in the green room while they watched the game together. Its only a matter of time before it unfolds on the set.

Plus, Frank is letting me call him rookie. That is until he sits on me.

7. ALEX RIOS, HELLO AGAIN...HELLO

Not to take anything away from Buehrles gem, but what Alex Rios did on Opening Day may turn out to matter most for the Sox in the long run.

After his disastrous Sox debut last season (batting .199 in 41 games), Rios came to spring training with a clear mind and corrected swing.

If there was one guy on the Sox team who really needed a big game, it was him. And he delivered with that massive solo homer to center in the 8th, and that game-ending diving catch in the 9th.

Thomas played with Rios in Toronto in 2007, and was blown away by his five-tool talent. Before the game he said that Rios was his Comeback Player of the Year.

He could be right.

8. I NEED A HAIRCUT

Hows that for baseball analysis!

9. JERMAINE DYE: MISSING IN ACTION

Yeah, his game took a sharp nosedive in the second half of last season, but are you serious? Jermaine Dye sitting on the couch on Opening Day??

Teams have expressed interest. The Cubs, Brewers, and Nationals to name a few. But Dye has a lot of pride (as well as a ton of money in the bank), and hes not going to play for what he perceives is under his market value.

Hell probably stay in shape for the first couple months in case somebody gets hurt somewhere. But the longer that goes on without a phone call, the tougher it is to keep up training by yourself.

Big Frank learned this while sitting on the sidelines last season. By June, he knew he was done.

My prediction: if Dye doesnt sign somewhere soon, hell miss the 2010 season entirely. Then come the fall, hell realize how much he misses the game, hell swallow his pride, and sign a minor league contract with someone for next season.

In the end, Jermaine is a baseball player. Its what he does. Its what he knows. To just walk away cold turkey? Dont see it happening.

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.

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A strong relationship with pitching coach Jose Bautista allowed Michael Kopech to make a midseason adjustment he thinks is critical to his dominant stretch.

The Double-A Birmingham pitcher said he’s learned a ton about himself during a very good first season with the White Sox. Much of Kopech’s newfound knowledge is related to the direction of his throwing motion and how he needs to be more consistent with it. The suggestion came courtesy of Bautista, who’s in his ninth season as a White Sox coach.

Kopech, who next pitches for the Barons on Friday night, has found the necessary amount of consistency since he and Bautista made the switch in early July. Since then Kopech, 21, has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in 41 innings.

“He really trusts Jose’s information,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “They did some mechanical stuff fixing his direction. He just took off from there once they corrected that direction and make him understand, strike one, how important it really is. He had one good game where he got into the seventh inning and he came out and he says, ‘That’s the longest outing I’ve had.’ And it was like right after he had corrected the direction and he just took off from there. He’s done great. He’s a great kid. He works hard. Fantastic teammate.”

Kopech is pleased with the insight he has gained from Bautista.

“I feel like I’ve learned more about myself this year,” the right-hander said. “Just that I’m more successful as a starter when I’m able to repeatedly stay in one motion.”

Bautista’s fix came on the heels of a six-start run where Kopech posted a 7.46 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. The club used a nine-day window between starts from July 5-13 to work on his direction. Kopech had only one appearance, a scoreless inning in the Futures Game.

“I may be a guy that goes toward the plate and spins off,” Kopech said. “But I can’t be a guy that goes toward the plate and stays toward the plate and the next pitch goes toward the plate and then spins off. I just have to follow in that some pattern no matter what I’m doing. It’s about consistency and I’ve learned my most consistent patterns as a pitcher. That’s put me in a good position.”

Rather, it’s put Kopech in an elite position.

The No. 12 prospect in baseball has perhaps begun to outperform the lofty expectations that have been in place since he arrived last December from Boston in the Chris Sale trade.

Opposing hitters have a .414 OPS against him over the last month. He has completed at least six innings in each of his last six starts and has gone seven frames or more four times.

“He’s going deeper into games,” player development director Chris Getz. “A lot of it has to do with that fastball command and really its staying within his delivery and going after hitters early with that fastball, trusting it, because he’s got good action on the fastball, not just the upper-90s straight fastball. He’s got natural two-seam action to his ball.”

Undoubtedly, throwing more strikes has played a big role in Kopech’s dominance. In his first 16 starts, Kopech threw strikes 61 percent of the time en route to a respectable 4.02 ERA. He’s increased that figure to 67 percent in his last six games.

Ultimately, Kopech credits Bautista for getting him back in the right direction.

“Getting a little bit of success with one mechanical adjustment kind of made the mental adjustments easier,” Kopech said. “It made me feel a little bit more comfortable with myself.

“I stayed in line. I stopped spinning off so much. The solution to that was getting out there and throwing more strikes. One thing became another and after that I started feeling a lot more comfortable with myself.

“A lot of it has to do with Jose and him being in my ear and telling me when I’m coming off and when I’m doing certain things.

“It’s the best I’ve been all year, the most consistent I’ve been all year. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”

White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

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White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Eloy Jimenez’s goal is to show the White Sox that his performance at Winston-Salem wasn’t a fluke.

At this rate the No. 7 prospect in baseball won’t need long to prove it.

The White Sox prospect celebrated his promotion to Double-A Birmingham on Wednesday night with a home run in his first at-bat and a double. Fellow prospect Zack Collins also homered in his first game with the Barons after both were promoted from Advanced-A Winston-Salem earlier in the day.

“It’s a big step for my career again,” Jimenez said. “I’m just focused more to show the White Sox I can do the same I did in Winston-Salem. Just keep working hard. That’s it.”

Both players learned of their impending promotion after Sunday’s game at Winston-Salem. They played in Monday’s 11-inning loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs) with Collins doubling, tripling and walking and Jimenez going 0-for-5. Jimenez had also gone hitless in five at-bats on Sunday.

But the organization’s co-minor league player of the month for July got going immediately on Wednesday. He drove a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line in the first inning and snuck it inside the foul pole for an opposite-field home run, a 368-foot drive. His next time up, Jimenez doubled to deep center after he produced an exit velocity of 109 mph. Collins also drew a walk in his fourth plate appearance.

The White Sox player development department promoted both players to Double-A to prepare them for next season as this is where each is expected to start the 2018 campaign.

“It’s just to get their feet wet and to know what to expect,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “It’s a great philosophy because now they come into next year and they know already, this is what they do at this level. Even if they don’t do great here in the next couple of weeks, they know what to expect to now. Now they’ve got all offseason where they can work on certain things and come back and be ready for it. I think it’s a great experience that we give them and I really love the way we handle that.”

[MORE: Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season]

Collins wasn’t sure if he would be moved up. Originally, the plan was to keep him at Winston-Salem if the Dash was in the playoff hunt. Several losses erased that idea and Collins is appreciative of his new opportunity. The catcher struck out in his first two at-bats before he hammered one 420 feet for a solo home run in the fourth inning. The exit velo on Collins’ homer was 110 mph.

“(The promotion) means a ton to me,” Collins said. “Obviously, that’s the goal to keep on moving up and eventually to the big leagues. Just to get that next step in and get here and get my feet wet a little before the season ends is great.”

After he was acquired from the Cubs on July 13, Jimenez appeared in 29 games for Winston-Salem. He finished the month with 38 hits, including 11 doubles and eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 12 walks.

Jimenez produced a .345/.410/682 slash line for the Dash. He said he tried to avoid thinking about the promotion so he didn’t get distracted.

“Yes, (I was ready), but really, really I don’t think about it because when I think about it I struggle,” Jimenez said. “If God wants to take me here, whenever he feels I’m ready, I’m going to do my best job here. When they told me two days ago, I said ‘Ok. This is the time to keep working hard and just do whatever I’m going to do.’ ”