Sox Drawer: Manny Time

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Sox Drawer: Manny Time

Monday, Aug. 30, 2010
Updated 4:40 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

When I asked White Sox general manager Kenny Williams on Friday if he was any closer to acquiring a certain dreadlocked slugger, he coyly replied, its going to be an interesting weekend. Get ready, because this White Sox season, already loaded with interest and intrigue, has the potential to explode through your television set.

Manny Ramirez is coming to the South Side.

The White Sox and Dodgers finalized the deal on Monday, with the Sox picking up Ramirez and the 3.8 million remaining on his contract.

Once the trade was made, Williams spoke by phone with Ramirez, who will make his White Sox debut Tuesday night in Cleveland on Comcast SportsNet at 6pm.

Hes excited, Williams said. Hes a funny guy too, and really wanted to get going and show that hes still one of the premier hitters around. What better way to do it than to come to a club thats competing for a championship and help us along the way.

Yes, Williams doesnt have his sights set on just winning the AL Central. Hes thinking bigger, and believes that once you get into the post-season, having a special bat like Mannys is critical for success.

We not only want to get into the playoffs, but once we get into the playoffs, we want the chance to do something special, and there are some teams that have some good pitching, and you need a hitter that can not only hit good pitching, but can hit good pitching in the clutch, and this guy has been there and done that in the past.

Want proof? Check out Ramirez career numbers against some of the American Leagues top pitchers, some of whom the White Sox might face in the days and weeks ahead:

John Lackey: .429 5 HR 12 RBI

CC Sabathia: .583 4 HR 8 RBIs

Cliff Lee: .429 2 HR 6 RBIs
Andy Pettitte: .405 5 HR 20 RBIs
Dan Haren: .514 3 HR 6 RBIs
Matt Garza: .455
A.J. Burnett: .500

The White Sox are known for their firework shows. With Manny, they get a player who comes to town with his own pyrotechnics. Williams is hoping that a change of scenery will suddenly light Mannys fuse, and add some spark in the process.

Whats wrong with a little flare, whats wrong with a little character and have a little fun in the process, Williams said. As long as he plays hard and goes about his business as a pro, there will be no issues here. Weve got a lot of personalities around here if you havent noticed.

Williams certainly noticed what Ramirez can do late in the season in the right situation. Just see the Dodgers in 2008.

Los Angeles acquired Ramirez from the Red Sox, and he produced two of the greatest months of offense in Dodgers history, hitting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in August and September, almost single-handedly guiding Los Angeles into the playoffs, and past the Cubs in the first round.

But that was 36-year-old, pre 50-game drug suspension Manny. Now at 38, we are left to wonder how much he has left in the tank.

For the season, Ramirez is hitting .311 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 66 games. Not jaw-dropping numbers, but keep in mind, they occurred from April through June. The Sox got Ramirez for September and October, otherwise known as Manny Time.

One of the most clutch hitters over the last 20 years, Ramirez is legendary for seizing the moment. Hes hit 93 career home runs in September and October. With the bases loaded, hes a career .332 hitter (with 21 homers and 252 RBIs). With runners in scoring position, hes batting .328. With 2 outs, its .311.

Hes hit 55 home runs in the eighth inning, 31 homers in the ninth.

And against the Minnesota Twins?

Hes a lifetime .331 hitter with 39 doubles, 29 homers, and 114 RBIs. Dont think the White Sox havent checked.

When Ramirez became a target for the White Sox last month, Williams said he didnt need to do much to convince Jerry Reinsdorf. The Chairman, who is a savvy baseball man, was in from the beginning.

A lot of people dont know this, but (Reinsdorf) is ultra competitive, so my selling job didnt have to be me pounding the table, Williams said. He wants to win just as much as I do. Hes not adverse to taking a shot, taking a chance.

When I asked CSN analyst Bill Melton on Sunday what made Frank Thomas such a special hitter, he said When you were leaving the ballpark whether the White Sox were winning or losing, he was the type of hitter where fans would actually stop in the middle of the aisles and say, Lets watch Frank hit one more time.

Ramirez is the same way.

Youll love him. Youll hate him. But one thing is for sure, youll watch him. You cant help it.

Thats Manny.

And now, hes headed to the White Sox. Right in the heat of a pennant race and in the middle of a KennyOzzie love triangle.

One thing is for sure: fireworks are coming, either on the field or off it.

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

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The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

Alex Avila is ready to play baseball again after being out of action for almost two months with a right hamstring injury.

The White Sox catcher was activated from the disabled list on Friday and started behind the plate and bat eighth during Saturday's contest against the Seattle Mariners.

“I feel like it’s opening day for me right now,” Avila said.

The 29-year-old had been on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury since July 6. He thought his return was going to be a lot sooner, but a setback negated that during his first rehab assignment on July 20.

Avila said that he “probably tried to rush back a little too quick and wasn’t ready,” so this time around, he was being extra cautious.

“It definitely took longer than I expected it to,” Avila said of his recovery process. “But at the same time I couldn’t jeopardize coming back and reinjuring it again. At this point in the season I feel like I’m definitely ready to play and can get through the last few games.

“It’s been a rough few weeks, personally, but sometimes there’s things you can’t control and you gotta make sure you let mother nature take its course and play that out. It can be difficult when you’re on the DL because at times you feel a little disconnected. Stuff like that. But you have to really worry about yourself and getting healthy, then once you are you can get back to being a team player.”

Avila is .236/.362/.358 on the season with three homers and six RBI in 41 games played.

“It’s been awhile. I know it’s been tough on him to be able to do that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He has worked hard to get back where he was. Even when he came back, to have an injury happen fairly quickly. He was swinging it great. That’s the part of baseball that’s tough. You get back, and something like that happens. You don’t really plan for it. It’s nice to have him back.”

To make room for Avila, the White Sox traded catcher Dioner Navarro to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 25-year-old pitcher Colton Turner, who the White Sox are hoping can continue to build on his strong season.

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For now, Avila and Omar Narvaez will split the catching duties.

“He’s a very mild-mannered kid. He works hard,” Avila said of Narvaez. “He’s been asking all the right questions as far as how to call games and what to do in certain situations and we’ve talked a little bit. At the same time it’s about him gaining that experience and having those experiences on the field is one thing I’ve told catchers that I’ve come across.

“Coaches and veteran players can say all the right things you need to hear (and) can give you all the advice you want. But it comes down to getting that playing experience on the field with the pitcher, with guys on base, in the sixth inning with two outs and a guy on third. All those experiences mean so much more than any advice I can give him.

“One thing I can do and what coaches can help him do is have an idea going into it. But he’s got a good head on his shoulders and up to this point he’s shown that up here hasn’t overwhelmed him and he’s been playing well."

Narvaez is .325/.426/.375 in 14 games with the White Sox this season.

Miguel Gonzalez is also getting closer to a return.

“I know (Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer) will be in there at some point to get their starts,” Ventura said. “How we do it when they’re in there, we haven’t really nailed that down. It’s an open dialogue at this point of being able to figure out the right spot to get them back in there.”

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”