Chicago White Sox

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.

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A strong relationship with pitching coach Jose Bautista allowed Michael Kopech to make a midseason adjustment he thinks is critical to his dominant stretch.

The Double-A Birmingham pitcher said he’s learned a ton about himself during a very good first season with the White Sox. Much of Kopech’s newfound knowledge is related to the direction of his throwing motion and how he needs to be more consistent with it. The suggestion came courtesy of Bautista, who’s in his ninth season as a White Sox coach.

Kopech, who next pitches for the Barons on Friday night, has found the necessary amount of consistency since he and Bautista made the switch in early July. Since then Kopech, 21, has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in 41 innings.

“He really trusts Jose’s information,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “They did some mechanical stuff fixing his direction. He just took off from there once they corrected that direction and make him understand, strike one, how important it really is. He had one good game where he got into the seventh inning and he came out and he says, ‘That’s the longest outing I’ve had.’ And it was like right after he had corrected the direction and he just took off from there. He’s done great. He’s a great kid. He works hard. Fantastic teammate.”

Kopech is pleased with the insight he has gained from Bautista.

“I feel like I’ve learned more about myself this year,” the right-hander said. “Just that I’m more successful as a starter when I’m able to repeatedly stay in one motion.”

Bautista’s fix came on the heels of a six-start run where Kopech posted a 7.46 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. The club used a nine-day window between starts from July 5-13 to work on his direction. Kopech had only one appearance, a scoreless inning in the Futures Game.

“I may be a guy that goes toward the plate and spins off,” Kopech said. “But I can’t be a guy that goes toward the plate and stays toward the plate and the next pitch goes toward the plate and then spins off. I just have to follow in that some pattern no matter what I’m doing. It’s about consistency and I’ve learned my most consistent patterns as a pitcher. That’s put me in a good position.”

Rather, it’s put Kopech in an elite position.

The No. 12 prospect in baseball has perhaps begun to outperform the lofty expectations that have been in place since he arrived last December from Boston in the Chris Sale trade.

Opposing hitters have a .414 OPS against him over the last month. He has completed at least six innings in each of his last six starts and has gone seven frames or more four times.

“He’s going deeper into games,” player development director Chris Getz. “A lot of it has to do with that fastball command and really its staying within his delivery and going after hitters early with that fastball, trusting it, because he’s got good action on the fastball, not just the upper-90s straight fastball. He’s got natural two-seam action to his ball.”

Undoubtedly, throwing more strikes has played a big role in Kopech’s dominance. In his first 16 starts, Kopech threw strikes 61 percent of the time en route to a respectable 4.02 ERA. He’s increased that figure to 67 percent in his last six games.

Ultimately, Kopech credits Bautista for getting him back in the right direction.

“Getting a little bit of success with one mechanical adjustment kind of made the mental adjustments easier,” Kopech said. “It made me feel a little bit more comfortable with myself.

“I stayed in line. I stopped spinning off so much. The solution to that was getting out there and throwing more strikes. One thing became another and after that I started feeling a lot more comfortable with myself.

“A lot of it has to do with Jose and him being in my ear and telling me when I’m coming off and when I’m doing certain things.

“It’s the best I’ve been all year, the most consistent I’ve been all year. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”

White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

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White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Eloy Jimenez’s goal is to show the White Sox that his performance at Winston-Salem wasn’t a fluke.

At this rate the No. 7 prospect in baseball won’t need long to prove it.

The White Sox prospect celebrated his promotion to Double-A Birmingham on Wednesday night with a home run in his first at-bat and a double. Fellow prospect Zack Collins also homered in his first game with the Barons after both were promoted from Advanced-A Winston-Salem earlier in the day.

“It’s a big step for my career again,” Jimenez said. “I’m just focused more to show the White Sox I can do the same I did in Winston-Salem. Just keep working hard. That’s it.”

Both players learned of their impending promotion after Sunday’s game at Winston-Salem. They played in Monday’s 11-inning loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs) with Collins doubling, tripling and walking and Jimenez going 0-for-5. Jimenez had also gone hitless in five at-bats on Sunday.

But the organization’s co-minor league player of the month for July got going immediately on Wednesday. He drove a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line in the first inning and snuck it inside the foul pole for an opposite-field home run, a 368-foot drive. His next time up, Jimenez doubled to deep center after he produced an exit velocity of 109 mph. Collins also drew a walk in his fourth plate appearance.

The White Sox player development department promoted both players to Double-A to prepare them for next season as this is where each is expected to start the 2018 campaign.

“It’s just to get their feet wet and to know what to expect,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “It’s a great philosophy because now they come into next year and they know already, this is what they do at this level. Even if they don’t do great here in the next couple of weeks, they know what to expect to now. Now they’ve got all offseason where they can work on certain things and come back and be ready for it. I think it’s a great experience that we give them and I really love the way we handle that.”

[MORE: Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season]

Collins wasn’t sure if he would be moved up. Originally, the plan was to keep him at Winston-Salem if the Dash was in the playoff hunt. Several losses erased that idea and Collins is appreciative of his new opportunity. The catcher struck out in his first two at-bats before he hammered one 420 feet for a solo home run in the fourth inning. The exit velo on Collins’ homer was 110 mph.

“(The promotion) means a ton to me,” Collins said. “Obviously, that’s the goal to keep on moving up and eventually to the big leagues. Just to get that next step in and get here and get my feet wet a little before the season ends is great.”

After he was acquired from the Cubs on July 13, Jimenez appeared in 29 games for Winston-Salem. He finished the month with 38 hits, including 11 doubles and eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 12 walks.

Jimenez produced a .345/.410/682 slash line for the Dash. He said he tried to avoid thinking about the promotion so he didn’t get distracted.

“Yes, (I was ready), but really, really I don’t think about it because when I think about it I struggle,” Jimenez said. “If God wants to take me here, whenever he feels I’m ready, I’m going to do my best job here. When they told me two days ago, I said ‘Ok. This is the time to keep working hard and just do whatever I’m going to do.’ ”