Sox Drawer: The Juan Pierre Early Bird Special

396165.jpg

Sox Drawer: The Juan Pierre Early Bird Special

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 7:48 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - Its 5:53 a.m., a pitch-black morning in front of the White Sox spring training facility. Look up in the sky, you see the moon. Across the barren parking lot, nothing but darkness.

Suddenly there are headlights in the distance, the same as yesterday and the day before. Rest assured, theyll be back again, same time tomorrow.

The car stops. A silhouette appears.

You guys are serious! says the voice.

Yes we are, just doing our jobs. But then again, so is he.

Most guys are nestled in their beds right now.

Probably, but not him. Not Juan Pierre.

One of the hardest working players in baseball, this is how his day begins every morning during spring training. Hes a man with an internal clock thats always ticking, ready to rock well before the rooster crows.

Its just a routine. Something I follow and believe in. Its kept me around this long, says the speedy White Sox outfielder, who stole a career-high 68 bases in 2010, his 11th in the big leagues and first on the South Side.

Nothing stops Pierre from his early morning ritual. Well, except for one thing: The front door.

Juan is here so early, its locked. He walks around the building where he spots a training intern who lets him inside.

In a couple hours, Pierres teammates will be flooding the White Sox clubhouse, talking, laughing, prepping for the day ahead. But right now, its just Juan, me, a CSN cameraman, and possibly a nearby cricket.

Pierre goes to his locker and takes out his favorite workout shirt. Its black and grey camouflage with the words Beast Mode written across the front.

Its a mind-set, Pierre says. Never use any excuses no matter what. Trust me, I would like to be sleeping right now, but I know the sacrifice I have to make to remain in this game. Thats what the Beast Mode stands for in a nut shell.

By 6:15 a.m., Pierre is in the White Sox gym, on the bike for a 10-minute warm-up.

Gotta get the legs loose.

In walks Allen Thomas, the White Sox Director of Strength and Conditioning. Hes one of the best in the business, and marvels at Pierres work ethic.

This is my 16th year doing this, and Ive been around a lot of great players who love to train. Juan is a step above, Thomas says. Sometimes a lot of athletes like to do this for attention, but this has been a part of his regiment since he stepped into a baseball uniform. And he doesnt miss. You can put him on a timer, its like clockwork.

Four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) Thomas puts Pierre through a high-intense workout, one that would probably make your everyday gym-goer lose his lunch in the first five minutes.

I push him, because I know what he has in the tank, Thomas says.

This quickly becomes apparent as Pierre shuffles through a speed ladder with resistance bands attached to his waist. An exercise normally used by NFL cornerbacks, Pierre flies through the rope ladder to strengthen his legs and feet to prepare him for his number-one job: stealing bases.

Everything we do in here has a purpose, says Pierre. (Allen) always tells me why were doing it, and relates it to baseball terms. Thats what separates A.T. from the rest of the strength coaches.

After that theres stretching, free weights, ropes to emulate his swing and work his core. Theres a grunt here, a grunt there. Sweat here, sweat everywhere.

By 7 a.m., Juan is back at his locker for a quick breather. Like a minute.

Pretty intense, Pierre describes it. That went well, but its only phase one of the day.

Whats next?

The cage. Gotta go hit in the cage. I got my stamina with weight training done. But if you cant hit, you cant play.

With the sun starting to peek across the horizon, Pierre walks over to the outdoor hitting cage holding a battered piece of wood that could probably use its own walking stick. Its a black Louisville Slugger that Juan practices with, and has hit so many times, the paint has been completely wiped off the barrel.

As you can see its worn out, right where you want it to be worn out, Juan says as he points to its sweet spot. Ramon Castro and those guys hide it from me, and tell me to get a new bat. Im like old school, if I find something I like, I use it until the wheels fall off.

Is there a name for that bat?

I call her Old Faithful. Shes been with me the last three years, so Im going to ride her out until she breaks.

Most major leaguers live for the home run. Juan knows better. For a guy who has gone deep only 14 times in his major league career, hes all about the line drives.

Thats what I like to pride myself on, or survive, because all my fly balls get caught. I might have one fly ball that dont get caught a year. You cant have a whole bunch of teams full of Konerkos and Dunns. Their job is to drive me in, my job is to get on base.

Juan goes through a hitting drill hes done thousands of times, placing a pair of tees side by side with a ball on top of each of them.

Im going to come right over the top of this ball and hit the one in front of it, he explains. If I hit the back one, that means Im getting underneath it, which I dont want to do. This drill definitely helps me.

He begins.

Im always out here with a purpose.

Smack!

This is just preparation to do what I have to do to survive.

Whack!

I hit one good in the cage, I say Oh, yeah, thats a home run!

Cuhh-rack!!!

By now, the sun has arrived, just in time for the end of Juans workout. Birds are chirping, cars are rolling in. The day has begun.

But not for Juan. He treats the day like he does first base: making sure hes got a nice, big lead on it, and when youre not looking... hes gone.

Which is exactly what happened here.

Juan said thanks, good-bye, and disappeared onto the next thing on his non-stop agenda. Where did he go? Breakfast I think, the mans got to eat.

Where is he now? Not sure.

But I do know where hell be tomorrow at 5:53 a.m., and the day after that.

Back to do it all over again.

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

Preview: White Sox face the Mariners Thursday on CSN

ranaudo-08-24-16.jpg

Preview: White Sox face the Mariners Thursday on CSN

The White Sox take on the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo vs. James Paxton

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields allowed his fewest runs in a month on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a loss.

Shields yielded two more home runs in six innings and his offense couldn’t keep pace as the White Sox lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in front of 15,630 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields gave up four earned runs and seven hits. Dioner Navarro homered in the loss, which snapped a three-game White Sox winning streak.

“We’ve seen better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “(Shields) got to two strikes, two outs and gave up a couple there and that’s tough. The homer to left, that’s just one you get in this ballpark. The biggest one, for him, mistake-wise was the homer to Joseph. I think that’s the one that he wants back. But as far as going out there and getting us to a point, he’s still got room to improve on. But he got through it.”

The six innings pitched marks the most by Shields since July 26.

In between, Shields allowed 28 runs (27 earned) and 33 hits in 14 innings over four turns, good for a 17.36 ERA.

He fell behind 3-0 by the third inning before he settled in and retired nine of 11 batters. The Phillies pieced together a two-out rally in the second inning to go up two runs as Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis doubled with an Aaron Altherr singled sandwiched in between.

Cesar Hernandez opened the third inning with a solo homer just inside the left-field foul pole.

Joseph also homered with two outs in the sixth inning to put Philadelphia ahead 4-0.

Shields has allowed 31 homers in 143 innings this season, including 22 in 75.2 innings for the White Sox. Eleven of those have come in his last four starts.

He walked none and struck out six.

“I think the only pitch I made a mistake on was that last one, the home run in the sixth inning there,” Shields said. “The ball kind of slipped out of my hand a little bit and kind of left it over the plate. Other than that I felt good with my location tonight. I was hitting my spots consistently. They were getting hits here and there. That’s part of it. One of the positives things, I didn’t walk anyone and I was getting some swings and misses. But we have to move on and move forward and build off that.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox didn’t have much success against Phillies starting pitcher Jerod Eickhoff, who retired the first nine batters he faced. Avisail Garcia led off the sixth inning with a single and Navarro belted a two-run homer to right to make it a 4-2 game.

Eickhoff limited the White Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings.

Garcia kept the White Sox alive with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. But Jeanmar Gomez retired Navarro with runners on the corners to end the threat.

“Until Dio hit the homer there wasn’t much going for us,” Ventura said. “We got one --- I think Adam was the one that breaks it up and gets it going. But (Eickoff) was tough on us. A great curveball. That’s the biggest thing that sticks out. When he got in trouble, that curveball was the pitch for us. After that, it just wasn’t a good night offensively. I don’t think we swung it that well.”

White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez felt good in bullpen session

White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez felt good in bullpen session

If all continues to go well, Miguel Gonzalez could pitch in a rehab start as soon as Friday.

On the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin, the White Sox starter said he felt good during a second bullpen session on Wednesday.

Gonzalez, who is 2-6 with a 4.05 ERA in 19 games (18 starts), threw 30 pitches. He previously threw a bullpen session on Friday and felt some discomfort the following day. But Gonzalez said he has made progress since he received treatment on Saturday.

“A lot better,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t feel anything while I was throwing my bullpen, which is great. I’m happy with the results today and come back tomorrow and we’ll see.”

Gonzalez left an Aug. 11 start at Kansas City in the bottom of the second inning. Though he wasn’t yet sure if he’d head out on a rehab assignment, Gonzalez said he was on the third day of a five-day schedule in which he was supposed to start. But it’s also possible the White Sox could have Gonzalez first throw a simulated game.

“We're going to have him go back out there again and do a little bit more, that looks more like starting in a game where he's going to throw for a little while, sit down, get back up,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Simulate some innings and hopefully after he does that a couple time he can go out for a rehab assignment.”