Sox Drawer: The return of Beckham

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Sox Drawer: The return of Beckham

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
12:25 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

For three months, Gordon Beckham remained stuck in a baseball abyss; a dark, lonely existence where its just you, your mind, your bat, and that embarrassing batting average that pops off the scoreboard for everyone to see when you come to the plate.

.202
.195
.191
.186
.182

How low could it go? And for how long? Beckham wasnt sure.

"I was supposed to come into Chicago this year and hit just like I did last year and then some," Beckham said by phone from Seattle before the White Sox played the Mariners. "I understand that a lot of people were wondering what was going on."

That includes the White Sox, who were suddenly faced with the possibility of sending their prized second baseman back down to the minor leagues. Did Gordon think it could happen?

"Yeah, that always goes through your head."

No one seemed to have the answer for Beckhams struggles at the plate.

Well, except for one Sox fan, who recently sent a letter to Gordon, a letter that begins with the words:

"Im 78 years old, so I think I know a little something about baseball"

Beckham picks up the story from there.

The guy says, You obviously have an upper cut in your swing. The Japanese guy from Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki) does not have an upper cut in his swing and hes hitting around .330. It seems to be working for him.

Sound advice. Entertaining as well. So much so that the letter is currently taped to a wall inside the White Sox clubhouse. Its the same place where Beckham and hitting coach Greg Walker have hunkered down, as Gordon puts it, "a million times trying to get his swing back.

"I know its been tough on Walker to watch me struggle, but hes been good. Hes helped me out a lot.

And it was advice that Walker gave to Beckham before the All-Star break that suddenly clicked with last years rookie sensation.

"We talked about the swing and the swing plane," Beckham said. He told me to almost swing underneath the ball as opposed to firing at the ball from the top. So its basically an easy path, an easy swing under the ball which is actually the way youre supposed to swing."

And lately, Beckham has started swinging like Tarzan from a tree.

In just 8 games, Gordon raised his batting average from .205 to .241, going 16-for-28 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs.

Beckham and Walker had something to do with it, but so did that 78-year-old fan, and a countless number of Sox supporters who came to Beckhams emotional rescue when times were tough.

"People have been stopping me on the street, not really giving me advice, but just saying were still behind you and we know youre going to come through," Beckham said. "Thats always nice when people dont abandon you when youre struggling, and people could have for sure. A lot of people could have. The White Sox, everybody could have. People have stayed with me. It has obviously helped. And I have taken that with me. Im glad Im over the hump, and hopefully Ill give back to them in the second half of the season."

In one way, Beckham already ismusically.

Last month, his struggles had bottomed to the point where he had to ask the White Sox to stop playing his wildly popular intro song "Your Love" by The Outfield when he came to the plate.

Fortunately, Josies no longer on a vacation far away.

"If youve been listening closely, every time I get a hit now, The Outfield should be playing over the loud speakers, so weve turned it from a negative into a positive."

Personally, I hadnt noticed.

"Youve got to pay attention, Chuck. Youve got to pay attention."

My apologies. Ive been locked in the studio lately with Frank Thomas and Bill Melton.

As it turns out, the musical change was Gordons idea.

"I got a lot of flack from people saying they wanted the song back, so I said why dont we just put it back when I get a hit and that way everybodys happy."

Right now everybody is. Gordon, his fans, and probably the members of The Outfield, who are back raking in the royalties.

As for Beckhams hitting woes, "If I dont hear another question about that, it would be fantastic."

Agreed.

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

The Crosstown Classic continues on Wednesday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (1-0, 17.18) vs. Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35)

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

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— 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.

'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.

It was the sort of performance that earned him the nickname “Big Game” earlier in his career.

The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense did enough for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields lowered his earned-run average over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. The White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs, and in doing so retained the Crosstown Cup. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries with a perfect ninth.

“This is the guy we were thinking of when we got him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He came up big tonight, especially the way the bullpen is. I know he takes a lot of pride in that, he really does, of going out there and going deep into games. This is another one that we needed and he came through for us.”

An individual turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its apex on Tuesday.

Since an atrocious three-start introduction to the White Sox, Shields has rediscovered some of the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.

With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. White Sox relievers recorded only four outs and threw 19 pitches at time they needed it most. A number of close games and Chris Sale’s skipped start Saturday have White Sox relievers working in shifts to rest.

Shields provided that breather.

“He was a bulldog today, man,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He came out there and did what he had to do, saved the bullpen a little bit. You saw him out there. He was yelling at everybody, getting everybody fired up. That’s all you can ask for from him.”

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All Shields could request of his teammates is to spare a few runs. They produced three for a pitcher who entered the game ranked 130th among 138 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs-per game support average.

Jose Abreu made it 1-0 in the first with an RBI single to score Adam Eaton, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Kyle Hendricks. Tyler Saladino also forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk, the third straight free pass issued by reliever Travis Wood.

Shields took advantage of the limited support and put himself in better position to pitch deep into the game with quick innings in the fourth and fifth. At 56 pitches after three, Shields needed only five to retire the side in the fourth and nine more in the fifth.

He had more than enough to get out of trouble in the sixth inning. Having retired 12 of 13 into the sixth, including the first two outs, Shields walked Addison Russell and Jason Heyward singled. But Shields -- who also got Dexter Fowler to pop out on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the second inning -- retired the dangerous Javy Baez on a foul ball down the left-field line to keep the White Sox ahead by two.

“They worked the count in the second inning,” Shields said. “I had a few walks there. We had La Stella out, but he had catcher’s interference. I probably threw a little extra that inning, and I had to get myself back in the game as far as pitch count, and I ended up doing that the very next inning.”

The ability to make big pitches and pitch deep into games stems from the comfort Ventura thinks Shields has rediscovered on the mound. The stretch of four starts, including his last with the Padres, in which he allowed 31 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings and was singled out by his former team’s owner for poor performance, couldn’t have done Shields any favors. But little by little, Shields has worked his way back.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino said the renewed confidence is easy to see when Shields is on the mound. Saladino said Shields will engage his infielders and even position them at times, knowing and trusting where they are.

“He starts to feel that confidence that he’s making his pitches, he’s getting his outs, he’s in charge,” Saladino said. “And when you’re behind him watching all that going on, and he’s giving you feed back when you come back in, you just know that he’s locked in. So you just go with it, the flow of him and everything.”