Sox Drawer: Johnny (Damon) Quest

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Sox Drawer: Johnny (Damon) Quest

Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010
12:13pmBy Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.comIf you believe the headlines spreading across the internet on Thursday, youd probably assume that the White Sox were on the verge of signing a certain two-time World Series champ.

Or you might conclude that he was going to diss the Sox, and maybe even his wife (whod reportedly rather spend the summer in Chicago), and head to Motown to play for the Tigers.

And lets not forget about the Atlanta Braves who have reportedly offered Damon a one-year deal, one similar to the White Sox, and had Braves slugger Chipper Jones, like A.J. Pierzynski, do his very best recruiting pitch, trying to persuade Damon to come over to the NL.

Whos right? Whos wrong? Who knows?

But when asked about the reports that the Sox were on the verge of signing Damon, a White Sox front office source said on Thursday, We are currently not interested in adding to the misinformation out there and classified the Damon negotiations as private.

What has become public is Damons round of golf with Pierzynski on Monday at a charity golf tournament in Florida. Hawk Harrelson was also there. Because of wrist problems, Hawk didnt play, but rode along for nine holes. Speaking with the Sox broadcaster by phone on Thursday, Harrelson said he made his own sales pitch to Damon.

I told Johnny that were going to win the division whether hes with Detroit or not. And when I left after nine holes, I looked at him and said, Ill see you at Camelback Ranch (the White Sox spring training facility). He smiled back and said, I hear what youre saying.

But despite he and Pierzynskis recruiting mission, Harrelson said he left the golf course that day believing that Detroit was the favorite to land Damon.

And now?

Since Ive had some time to think about it, I would say that right now its 50-50 or that the Sox might be a little bit ahead.

Considering the Sox tense relationship with Damons agent Scott Boras, its a surprise that the negotiations have gotten this far. But Harrelson looks at it a different way.

It just so happens that this particular player that (Boras) has in Johnny Damon is a guy the White Sox would like to have. They need a left-handed bat regardless of who his agent it. As far as their relationship, I dont think its changed. Harrelson then laughed, I dont think its the best relationship.

What Hawk likes the most about Damon is like A.J., hes a winner. Hes an asset, and brings a lot of positives to the clubhouse, to the airplane, to the playing field and certainly in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. Thats when your real stars shine and Johnny has been a great 7th, 8th, and 9th inning player.

If the Sox are willing to pursue Damon, and use him as a DHback-up outfielder, one could argue that the Sox could just bring back Jermaine Dye and use him in that role.

Harrelson is surprised that Dye is still a free agent, and agrees with what Frank Thomas told CSN last week, that Dye will retire if he does not a receive a fair offer.

If he doesnt get the money he feels he deserves, it wouldnt surprise me to see Jermaine retire at all, Harrelson said. I think thats the kind of person he is. Hes a stand-up guy a lot of integrity. If he feels he cant get the money he thinks he should be getting, then hell hang them up.

The lack of interest in Dye isnt so much a reflection on Jermaine as a player. Hawk says its all about money, or lack thereof.

Things have changed. The culture of the game has changed since the economy took a downturn. Its almost like a virus that goes through, and everybody has caught it. And now it looks like a lot of guys who thought theyd get a lot money to sign for a respectable contract are finding out thats not the case. I think last year was the first time in eight or nine years that clubs have lost money. Theres definitely a different philosophy now in terms of signing older players.

Damon is two months older than Dye. But as Harrelson put it, Its a good thing Johnny can play baseball, because he cant play golf.
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.

White Sox catcher Kevan Smith has a ball after drawing first career walk

White Sox catcher Kevan Smith has a ball after drawing first career walk

Rookie Kevan Smith wanted his first career walk in the worst possible way on Tuesday night.

The White Sox catcher was so intent upon ending a lengthy walk drought to start his career that he determined to lean in against one of the hardest throwers in the league.

Ahead 3-0 in the count with one out in the ninth inning against New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, Smith inched closer to the plate. The four-pitch walk Smith drew in career plate appearance No. 130 not only ended the second longest walk-less streak to start a career since 1990, it also jumpstarted a game-winning White Sox rally. Smith was afforded plenty of time to enjoy the moment, too, as manager Rick Renteria immediately pulled him for a pinch runner.

“Oh yeah (I knew),” Smith said. “One hundred percent. I got way on the plate and was like, ‘You’re either going to hit me or walk me’ because I’m not letting this one slide. I’ve been to a few 3-0 counts, but finally got the first one out of the way. Everybody was laughing at me.

“It was a celebratory thing. I got to come off the field on my first one.”

Smith’s moment was worthy of a celebration.

Whereas Tim Anderson’s base on balls-free stretch to start his career got a ton of notoriety in 2016, Smith’s received almost none despite the fact that he soared past Anderson. A highly touted rookie known for his aggressive approach at the plate, people kept close tabs on Anderson’s stretch when he went 85 plate appearances without a walk to start his career. But Smith eclipsed that mark with a strikeout in his lone trip to the plate on June 9. It wasn’t until 44 plate appearances later that Smith could walk the walk.

Since 1990, only Jeff Francouer had gone longer among all major leaguers when he didn’t draw a free pass until his 131 plate appearance in 2005. Smith tied the Yankees’ Oscar Azocar (who walked in his 130th trip in 1990) when he ended the seventh inning with a strikeout against New York starting pitcher Luis Severino.

Other notable White Sox players with lengthy walk-less streaks to start their careers include: Jeff Abbott (84, 1997-98), Dayan Viciedo (83, 2010) and Josh Phegley (83, 2013).

“Dang,” Anderson said with a smile. “Nobody made a big deal about his though.”

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Similar to Anderson, Smith has always been fairly aggressive at the plate. His career walk-rate in the minor leagues is 8.7 percent (195 in 2,229 plate appearances). But that aggression hasn’t prevented Smith from finding offensive success during his third stint in the majors. After going 5-for-42 to start his career, Smith has heated up, hitting .313/.322/.422 with six doubles, one home run and eight RBIs in his last 87 plate appearances.

“The more at-bats he gets up here it's natural to start getting a little more comfortable,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's certainly showing that he's able to do a few things at the plate. He's handling at-bats more a little more calmly.”

The calmer demeanor has helped Smith stick to an approach in which he has confidence. In seven minor league seasons, Smith carried a .285/.361/.449 slash line. He believes staying with what works will be the key to whether or not he can continue to perform.

“I think what makes guys successful up here is they stick to their approach,” Smith said. “I always use (Joe) Mauer as an example. He stays so true to his approach and looks for what he wants to hit that it’s almost frustrating as a catcher and a pitcher. But there’s a reason he’s been around for so long and I’m envious of what he does in the box. I’m just going to keep trying to get as comfortable as I can and strive for that approach each game and each at-bat.”

Confident Jose Quintana gets 'back to who he's always been'

Confident Jose Quintana gets 'back to who he's always been'

The White Sox said all along they were confident Jose Quintana would rebound and now that he has no seems the least bit surprised.

Quintana provided yet another round of proof that he’s far removed from those May woes when he silenced the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. While the left-hander earned a no decision, he was rewarded when the White Sox rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field. Quintana finished June with a 1.78 ERA.

“We have a very good relationship, very good communication,” teammate Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “When (Quintana) was passing through that, the first two months, I let him know, just keep your confidence, don’t hesitate, do your job, keep working hard because we have confidence in you. Now he’s just showing us what he’s capable of doing and doing what he’s been doing his whole career. We’re glad he’s the same Jose Quintana he’s been the last couple of years.”

Quintana has gone from a period where many of his mistakes got hit to a spot where he’s been borderline untouchable. He limited the second-best offense in the American League to two hits and four walks in 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Tuesday. With good fastball command and a sharp curve, Quintana had New York hitters out of whack.

This is a much different pitcher than the one who was tagged by the Boston Red Sox on May 30, an outing after which he said he was embarrassed. Since losing to Boston, Quintana has lowered his ERA from 5.30 to 4.37. In that span, Quintana has allowed 21 hits and six earned runs with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.

“Sometime bad games are going to happen,” Quintana said. “But when it happens, I go check the video to see if I’m doing something wrong and try to make adjustments. But I feel pretty good and I have my confidence high and for me I turn the page and focus on the next one.”

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The 2016 All-Star thrived in the few instances when he got into trouble on Tuesday.

He struck out Tyler Austin with two men in scoring position to end the fourth inning and erased a leadoff walk in the fifth with an Austin Romine double play. After Quintana surrendered a two-out double to Judge in the sixth inning, he got Sanchez to pop out to strand the tying run.

Quintana only threw strikes on 55 of 101 pitches on Tuesday. But, of those 55, 10 were swings and misses.

“It's just been him commanding the zone, attacking,” manager Rick Renteria said. “A lot more strikes. He still had some at-bats today where he got to 3-2, but then he'd execute, he'd finish and make a pitch that induced a very weak fly ball or groundballs. That's who he is, I mean you all have seen him like this before. For us it's just seeing him get back to who he's always been.”