Sox Drawer: The Juan Pierre Early Bird Special

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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.

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox have no plans for Tim Anderson to take the same path as the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.

An hour before the Cubs announced their shocking news Thursday that the World Series hero is headed to Triple-A, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he thought Anderson’s struggles could be addressed in the majors.

Playing in his first full season, Anderson has had an up and down campaign. He leads the majors with 16 errors committed and has struggled at the plate, hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 265 plate appearances. The roller coaster ride has led to some aggravation for Anderson, who slammed his batting helmet in frustration during Wednesday’s loss. Anderson said the helmet slam was the topic of a postgame conversation he had with Renteria on Wednesday.

“I feel like this year has been the toughest year I’ve dealt with since I’ve started playing baseball,” Anderson said. “I have to keep playing, lock in and control it.

“(Slamming the helmet) doesn’t make you feel better. It’s just a little frustration. You get mad at times, but you just try to control it and keep playing.”

Anderson, who turns 24 on Friday, has had a lot to manage in 2017.

It’s his first full season in the majors. He signed a contract extension in March. Since May he’s been dealing with the loss of his close friend, who was shot to death. Throw in the on-field struggles and Renteria realizes there’s a lot with which Anderson had to deal.

“You just make the sure the perspective they’re having at any particular moment is the correct perspective,” Renteria said. “You try to make sure that the underlying frustrations he might be having, that he’s able to separate it.

“You have ups and down, they’re not always going to be in the best place mentally at times. But for the most part you address it, you talk about it because you understand it, you’ve lived all those things and you just try to give him a little insight and keep it going in the right direction.”

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Anderson made a pair of miscues in a costly third-inning Twins rally on Wednesday night.

But Renteria expressed his confidence in the second-year player, calling him one of the premier shortstops in the league.

The White Sox manager has seen Anderson make the necessary corrections after infield work with bench coach Joe McEwing. The effort and preparation have been there. Renteria just wants to make sure his player can compartmentalize and stay focused. He realizes there’s going to be mistakes from time to time and wants to make sure Anderson is handling them well.

“To say he’s not going to continue to make mistakes every now and then, yeah that’s going to happen,” Renteria said. “It’s there for everybody to see. That’s why everybody takes notice and that’s natural. I think the one thing we have to do as a staff and players also is step back and stay away from the fray of that attention and stay focused on what you have to do. Minimize how all the noise affects you and continue to play the game.”

Renteria remembers his own struggles as a young player and knows how much more scrutiny Anderson faces. Every game is televised and highlights are streamed on the internet. Any little gaffe can be magnified. Anderson admits that at times he’s dealt with frustration he’s never before experienced and it’s caught up to him. Now he just needs to learn how to cope with the stress a little better.

“Nobody wants to go through tough times and struggle,” Anderson said. “Slamming helmets is not the right way to go about it because you could get injured, so try to handle it in a better way.

“It’s been tough times and a lot of frustration, but I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does. I try to balance it out and keep going.

“I’m just trying to manage it, balance it out and separate it from each other.”

Jose Berrios gave the Twins exactly what the White Sox could use most right now

Jose Berrios gave the Twins exactly what the White Sox could use most right now

MINNEAPOLIS — Jose Berrios gave the Minnesota Twins exactly what the White Sox could use most right now on Wednesday night: a deep, dominant outing.

The young Twins pitcher overcame a slow start to deliver eight sharp innings as the struggling White Sox fell 4-2 in front of 33,316 at Target Field. Starter David Holmberg lasted only 3 1/3 innings for the White Sox, losers of three straight. It was the 23rd time in 28 games a White Sox starter has failed to deliver a quality start.

“These guys are trying to give us length,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It just hasn’t happened. I get it. I don’t anticipate that’s what’s going to continue to happen as we move forward. I don’t think anybody could sustain over a long haul using your starters for three or four innings. It’s impossible. You would wear out your arms in the pen. Today we were fortunate in that we just used two guys for quite a few innings and outs. … They did a very nice job. That type of work is unsustainable.”  

There are many reasons why the White Sox rotation has struggled through the first 70 games of the season. Injuries to four starters is the most significant factor, the biggest being to Carlos Rodon. The White Sox were hopeful their third-year starter would step into the rotation and deliver 33 starts and 200 innings. But Rodon is only now nearing a potential return to the majors and his first start of the season after he went on the disabled list in March with bursitis in his left shoulder. James Shields, Miguel Gonzalez and Dylan Covey, who originally replaced Rodon, have also been placed on the DL.

While replacements Mike Pelfrey and Holmberg have pitched well enough, neither starter has gone deep into games. The pair is averaging 5 1/3 innings in 16 starts with two six-inning performances by Pelfrey marking the longest efforts to date.

Combine those figures with the inconsistent performances of Derek Holland and Jose Quintana and you have a White Sox bullpen working overtime.

Holmberg limited the Twins to a run through the first two innings. But a combination of hard-hit balls — four straight registered at 95 mph or better to start the inning — and shoddy defense helped Minnesota pull ahead for good in the third.

Miguel Sano blasted a game-tying solo shot, Max Kepler singled in a run and Ehire Adrianza’s fielder’s choice brought in another as the Twins made it 4-2. Mixed in was a Tim Anderson error, a liner that Jose Abreu didn’t catch and a bobbled turn of a potential inning-ending double play by Anderson.

Holmberg recorded only 10 outs before he gave way to Gregory Infante and Michael Ynoa, who pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

“Feel like I got behind a couple guys, had to make a pitch a few times,” Holmberg said. “Labored through some innings. I would have like to get some quick outs and gone a little deeper into the game.

“Ultimately it’s up to Ricky. He’s going to do what’s best for the team. But that goes hand in hand with performance. We get some quick outs, quicker through the order, that’ll tie in.”

The White Sox scored in the first and third innings against Berrios before he began to find a rhythm. In the first, Avisail Garcia singled in Alen Hanson, who led off the game with a walk, to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Then in the third, Melky Cabrera grounded into a double play to score Adam Engel, who started the inning with a double.

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But that was all the White Sox would get against Berrios, who has allowed 34 hits in 54 innings this season. Berrios retired 14 of 15 hitters after Hanson singled in the third inning. The only man to reach was Garcia on an error in the fourth inning.

Berrios didn’t allow another hit until Omar Narvaez singled to start the eighth inning. He allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings with eight strikeouts and one walk.

It was a performance of which the White Sox are desperately in need. Through 70 games, the team’s rotation has also only had a pitcher go at least seven innings eight times. Jose Quintana was the last to do so on Friday. Before that it was Gonzalez on May 28. Over their last 28 games, White Sox starters are averaging a tick over 4 2/3 innings.  

Renteria is confident the trend will turn. Quintana starts on Thursday and has been good in two of his last three outings. Shields just returned from the DL and Rodon is right around the corner, if he stays on track. But Renteria also knows his bullpen can’t keep this up and hope to remain effective.

“It’s not sustainable,” Renteria said. “It just isn’t.”