Sox Drawer: Kenny Downplays Matsui Rumors

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Sox Drawer: Kenny Downplays Matsui Rumors

Wednesday, December 9th

5:07 pm

If the White Sox are unable to sign free agent reliever (and Matt Thornton buddy) J.J. Putz, I guess you can put the blame on Sun-Times Sox beat writer Joe Cowley. Joe reported yesterday that the Sox had asked Thornton to place a call into Putz about coming to the Sox. Once the story spread across the World Wide Web, Williams sensed a change in talks, and now feels like a deal won't happen.

"We thought we had something going on," Williams said. "But as I've told you guys many times before when things become public to a large degree the entire game changes and most times or not, you're not going to get a deal. So something we thought we might be a little closer on becomes public. Now it's not so close."

3:26 pm

Don't buy those White Sox Hideki Matsui jerseys just yet.

Kenny Williams used his media session today to downplay reports that the Sox are close to a deal with the longtime New York Yankees outfielder.

"All I've said is he's a great player," Williams said.

Actually Kenny called Matsui a "good" player yesterday, so reading between the lines, it means...ummmm...nothing. Sorry.

He continued, "I never said that we were pursuing him. I'm not going to say that we're not because I don't know how the rest of the off-season is going to develop. But certainly in recent times I haven't had any discussions with regards to him. More interest has been written and spoken about than we've pursued recently."

One of the hurdles for Matsui might be his desire to return to the Yankees. However, with the Bombers getting Curtis Granderson and with Johnny Damon also a free agent, there are some serious question marks about what New York plans to do with its outfield.
Matsui might wait until he hears definitively from the Yankees about their plans before listening to other offers.

Still, Williams is up to something. If not Matsui, there could be another deal in the picture.

"I can do something within the next 5 minutes, or it could be nothing. I don't know," Williams said.

Minutes later, he then lowered expectations of a move when asked about the amount of money he has to play with. "We're tight. We're really tight. I don't know that we'll do anything. I don't anticipate it."

So there you go.

One of the most interesting comments from Williams came when he was asked about the Cubs Milton Bradley, who as I write this, is still Cubs property.

"The funny thing is, I've had the pleasure of talking to Milton in the past, and it saddens me to a great extent actually some of the things he's been put in or put himself in. I'd like to see this guy go out there without all the distractions and everything and do what he can do, because this guy can play."

Well, the White Sox can use a left-handed bat (or switch hitter in Milton's case) who plays the outfield, can DH, and has a high on-base percentage. Would the Sox dare enter the Bradley sweepstakes?

"I don't know that I see a fit for us," Williams said. "And I probably shouldn't even be talking about him because he's not our player, but Milton Bradley can play. And it's just too bad because he's a more thoughtful person and a better person than I think he has been portrayed or he's shown or however it has manifested itself. It's too bad."

Williams ended his Bradley comments with "I'm staying out of Cubs business."

But after his session with Chicago media, Kenny had other business to attend to, like the massive Japanese media contingency that was anxiously waiting outside the door, ready to pepper the Sox GM about Japanese icon, Matsui.

It was quite a scene. We'll have it for you tonight on SportsNite at 6:30 and 10pm.

Williams repeated his Matsui stance saying, "We haven't had enough substantial conversations with his representatives or himself to even think there could be a real possibility right now."

Whether the Sox get Matsui or anyone for that matter, Williams made one thing very clear.

"I will not disrespect anyone by calling them or making contact until I'm serious. And then when I'm serious about something, things move very quickly. We're either in or we're out."

10:16 am

Not sure if you've noticed, but a seismic dose of economic reality has hit the American League Central, and it has taken a thunderous whack at the White Sox main competition. In fact, the Sox should be theoretically better because their rivals are on the road to getting worse.

Let's take a look at the recent damage:

The Twins lost Johan Santana. They couldn't afford him. The Indians traded away C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Ditto and ditto. And now comes the latest exodus: The Tigers have waved bon voyage to Curtis Granderson, their center fielder, their leadoff hitter (tough to find, ask the Sox), not to mention their charismatic face of the franchise.

The Tigers did trade for and sign Miguel Cabrera to that monster eight-year, 156 million contract in 2008. Something tells me he'll be the next to go. Maybe not this year, but eventually.

So where did all of these former Central All-Stars end up?

Santana to the Mets. Sabathia to the Yankees (via Milwaukee). Lee to the Phillies. And now Granderson joins Sabathia in the Bronx.

See a pattern?

And what did the Sox rivals get in return? We'll probably know in a couple of years. But in the Twins case, the verdict is about to be read:

The Twins, guilty on all counts for not spending enough money.

Granted, they still made the playoffs in 2009, and were a Blackout game from getting there in 2008, but if they were able to keep Santana, arguably the best pitcher in the game, they could have gone much further.

But instead, the Twins traded him to the Mets before he became a free agent, and hoped the deal would give them a bright and cheaper future.

The trade hasn't been. Bright that is.

The key player for the Twins in the Santana trade was Carlos Gomez. Two years later, where's Carlos? Sent to the Brewers this offseason for J.J. Hardy. As for the three other players the Twins received, Kevin Mulvey was dealt to Arizona in September as the player to be named later in a deal for pitcher Jon Rauch. Philip Humber pitched nine innings for the Twins last season, giving up eight runs and nine walks. Deolis Guerra went 6-3 with 5.17 ERA in Double-A.

Advantage: Mets.

The Twins are hoping to see an added revenue stream in their new outdoor ballpark. But I'm not sure how many people want to eat frozen hot dogs come April and September. Maybe they can serve them on a stick.

What will Kenny Williams be serving when he meets with the media later this afternoon? Matsui on a platter? Putz a la king? Coco Crisp for dessert?

As the Sox GM said Tuesday, "We might as well do something. Jerry Reinsdorf is paying a lot of money for the rooms."

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe adjusts to new organization, playing without his twin

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe adjusts to new organization, playing without his twin

Luis Alexander Basabe’s roommate received a phone call on the road on July 9 in which he learned he had been traded by the Boston Red Sox. What would be a strange experience for most teammates was even more difficult for Basabe and his.

The player traded was his identical twin brother, Luis Alejandro Basabe.

“I was like, ‘Man, I don’t believe that,’ ” Luis Alexander Basabe said.

Nearly five months later, Luis Alexander received a similar call from the Red Sox to inform him he was included in a four-player package headed to the White Sox in exchange for five-time All-Star Chris Sale. Having already experienced the trade of a brother he describes as younger (by five minutes), shorter and weaker, Basabe wasn’t rattled.

While he later found that acclimating to a new organization was "weird" at first, Basabe said he already feels at home with the White Sox. The center fielder currently has a 10-game hitting streak and is slashing .260/.351/.400 with four stolen bases in 58 plate appearances for Single-A Winston-Salem.

“So far everything has been very good,” Basabe said. “When (my trade) first happened it didn’t feel weird or anything because it was in the offseason.

“I felt a little more comfortable because I had been through it with my brother. But I know it’s a business and no matter where I go I’ve got to do my job and play the way I do.

“ ‘Yeah, that’s all right. I don’t care because I’m here with a chance.’ ”

Plentiful opportunity is potentially there with the White Sox.

The No. 8-ranked prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, Basabe, 20, has all the tools needed to be a top-notch defensive outfielder. His speed and arm are both graded at 60 on the 20-80 scout scale and his fielding rates at 55. Basabe’s manager thinks he has everything necessary to play a critical spot.

“He’s a true center fielder to me,” Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris said. “Speed, arm. It’s still a little early to tell if he’s going to hit. Who knows? But from the defensive side of the game, he knows what’s going on. He’s going to learn as he goes on and he’s going to be very, very good.”

Everything may come down to whether or not the switch-hitting Basabe performs at the plate. His hit tool grades at 45, according to MLB Pipeline, which is more in line with the bat of a fourth outfielder.

But so far the White Sox are optimistic Basabe can make the proper adjustment.

“He’s got a sweet swing,” White Sox hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger said. “He’s got a timing thing to handle. But he’ll get it and it should be very helpful.”

The biggest help will be repetitions. Basabe spent almost the entire 2016 season at Single-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League. Only at the end of the season was he promoted to Advanced-A Salem in the Carolina League, the same league he’s in now.

“He’s got a little bit of everything,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He can run, he has the ability to hit and he’s aggressive on the bases.

“He’s still only 20 and he’s had some success. But we feel the more at-bats he gets he’s going to be successful.”

Despite that young age, Basabe, whom his parents call “Chande”, and his twin, “Jandro”, have already learned about the harsh realities of baseball. They had just arrived at the ballpark to play the Lexington Legends that night when Greenville manager Darren Fenster summoned Luis Alejandro to his office with the news of his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would be assigned to Single-A Kane County.

“It was at 2 p.m. and the manager called my brother outside to come talk to him,” Luis Alexander said. “And then he told me ‘They traded me.’ ‘Really?’

“But then, (you learn) it really was a business and he got more chance over there.”

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

He absorbed a ton of information in spring camp, but perhaps it’s what Michael Kopech observed watching Jose Quintana that could help most.

For five weeks in big league camp, the extremely motivated White Sox pitching prospect gleaned every piece of information he could from more experienced teammates.

Kopech and veteran starting pitcher James Shields discussed pitch sequencing and the importance of the changeup. Infielder Tyler Saladino talked with the No. 14-ranked prospect in baseball about visualizing success. Catcher Geo Soto told Kopech pretty much everything about life in the majors.

But even though he didn’t say much, Quintana’s practice sessions may have provided the most valuable lesson of all. The key takeaway, Kopech said, is how Quintana performs every action with a purpose. The young pitcher knows how critical the example Quintana provided is to his development and wants to implement a similar approach.

“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) likes to call it focused practice,” Kopech said. “For me that’s one thing I haven’t done well, is get locked in. You have to be locked in all the time. That’s something that came from Coop and all the big leaguers I was around. Quintana is a great guy to watch when it comes to stuff like that.

“That’s a guy that is a definition of a silent leader. He doesn’t talk about much. He goes and gets his work in and you can just watch him and know that’s the way the game should be played.”

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Kopech took a nice step forward in his development on Tuesday night when he pitched a season-high six scoreless innings for Double-A Birmingham. He struck out eight and allowed a hit while walking four and lowered his ERA to 2.50. The Texas native had only compiled 12 innings in his previous three outings because of “hit-and-miss” fastball command that led to 10 walks.

Along with perfecting his fastball command, one of the keys to Kopech reaching the majors is an increase in workload. Kopech — the 33rd overall pick of the 2014 draft — has never pitched more than 78 2/3 combined innings he produced last season. The White Sox would love for Kopech to reach the 180-inning mark by 2019.

“He doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He hasn’t been able to have that build up so that’s something we’re going to make sure he can focus on. We’re going to make sure he’s in the right spot so we can do that properly.”

In order for Kopech to eventually hit that mark, he’d need to pitch between 110-130 innings this season and then throw around 160 innings in 2018. But to reach those figures, Kopech must first pitch deeper into games.

Through his first three starts, Kopech worked on a strict pitch count that varied based on performance. If he was on, he could throw as many as 85 pitches. But if he ran into command issues, Kopech might only throw 75.

On Tuesday, Kopech pitched well enough to throw 95 pitches (65 strikes) against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. He thinks the key to consistency in games is directly tied to his effort in between. It’s yet another area where Kopech — who reads self-help books, is into Cryotherapy and salt baths and eats meals on the road pre-prepared by his nutritionist — strives to improve.

“From Day 1 to Day 4, you need to be just as focused as Day 5,” Kopech said. “I can’t stress that enough. If my bullpen tomorrow I lose a little focus, then I know I need to get right back into it to prepare for my next start. That’s something that’s going to have to kick in sooner than later.”

Birmingham manager Julio Vinas likes how Kopech has handled himself early in the season. Vinas thinks Kopech has the proper mindset and tools to be a special pitcher.

‘He’s got the right mentality and now it’s executing and it’s going to be there,” Vinas said.

He may have been there this spring, but Kopech preferred to not be seen or heard by his veteran teammates. Kopech couldn’t do anything about the onslaught of attention the media paid to him after he came over with Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale trade. But he could control the rest of his time around teammates. Little by little, he’d engage the veterans without drawing too much attention.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“I just didn’t want to make it about me,” Kopech said. “It was my first big league camp and a lot of those guys are getting ready for a big league season and I’m competing for a job that’s not necessarily on a big league roster right away. I was just trying to take care of my business. All ears, not really any talk and take away as much as I could without pissing anybody off, really.

“I got the chance to face some good hitters and take away a lot of knowledge from older guys and I think that’s the best I could do to prepare for the season.”

But Kopech agrees the best preparation came from watching Quintana, who Cooper always lauds for his practice effort. Kopech hopes to be able to emulate how the 2016 All-Star pitcher handles himself soon enough.

Kopech thought he focused well from the second through the fourth inning in an April 20 start at Tennessee. But he wasn’t as pleased with his effort in the first and fifth innings.

“That’s the way I want to lock in when I’m on the mound,” Kopech said of Quintana. “I haven’t been doing that, but it’s something I’m going to work on going forward.

“I have to remind myself to stay locked in even though I’m doing what I always do because I need to have the same focus (in practice) I do when I’m pitching on the mound.”