Sox Drawer: Running Strasburg diary

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Sox Drawer: Running Strasburg diary

Friday, June 18, 2010

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

5:37 PM

By now, youveheard all about him. Stephen James Strasburg...the pitcher, phenom, andbaseball messiah who tonight will once again put the weight of severalplanets on his 21-year-old shoulders, taking the mound against theWhite Sox at 6:00 pm on Comcast SportsNet.

In his first majorleague start against Pittsburgh, he struck out 14 batters in 7 inningsand got the win. In his second start at Cleveland, he struck out 8 more(walked 5),but won again. Its pretty obvious that his stuff is offthe charts, said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman.

Yeah, but hes never thrown a pitch to Gavin Floyd. Gavin, may the force be with you.

Strasburgsfastball consistently hits 99 and 100. He also has a knee-bucklingcurveball and change-up. And much to the chagrin of my people, hes notJewish. A major disappointment.

At least we have Sandy Koufax. Yes, well always have Sandy.

Sowith Baby Jesus getting set to throw his biblical stuff at the Soxtonight, Ill be here throughout the game, reporting on anything andeverything that happens. The good, the bad, or when Gavin gets in thebox...the ugly.

6:17 PM

Well, you can forget about a Strasburg no-hitter. Juan Pierre leads off with an infield hit.

Hawk Harrelson sets a record by canceling the post-game show 30 seconds into the game.

Omar Vizquel is next with a bloop double to right. By the way, Vizquel is Strasburgs grandfather.

Other facts about the Chosen One that you may not know:

Hespeaks 46 languages. He is allergic to kryptonite. If he was in Chicagoduring that crazy storm this afternoon, he would have stopped it withone arm. His left one.

Alex Rios sends a dribbler to the rightside. Pierre scores. White Sox lead 1-0. Okay, thats it. Strasburg iscompletely overrated. Whats up with all of this hype?

(Strasburg proceeds to strikeout Konerko and Quentin to end the inning).

Okay, hes for real. Sick. Filthy. Nasty.

6:30 PM

Sitting onthe third base side in the suite is none other than the Sox FirstFan...President Obama. Just saw him sipping a beer during thecommercial break. Hes still wearing that ratty, old Sox cap. The teamhas tried to give him a new one, but he always refuses. He likes theone hes got.

Who is operating the camera above homeplate.NASA?When a ball is hit into the outfield I feel like Im watching from aspace station.

Frank Thomas is watching the game from his home in Vegas. Asked him what he thinks of Strasburg, he texted backcomposed.

A 1-2-3 inning for Strasburg in the second. Gavin Floyd leads off in the third! Odds of him making contact: 85-to-1.

6:51 PM

Despite the best intentions, Floyd strikes out. Pierre does too.

Strasburgreminds me of Dwight Gooden when he came into the big leagues in 1984.At just 19-years-old, he went 17-and-9 with 276 strikeouts in just 218innings. The next year, he was basically unhittable. Gooden was24-and-4 with a 1.53 ERA.

This is the Sox first game inWashington, DC since July 16, 1971. The Sox won the game 2-0...thanksin large part to my TV partner Bill Melton, who hit accounted for bothruns with a 2-run homer in the sixth innings, his 21st of the season.

Bill also committed an error at third base. Well talk more about this on the post-game show. Mainly his error.

Vizquel grounds out to second. Still 1-0 White Sox. Floyd has his A stuff tonight.

6:56 PM

So Imreading the media game notes provided by the Washington Nationals.They also wrote about the Sox last game in DC, but mistakenly calledBill Melton Pete.

Pete Melton?

After giving up hitsto Pierre and Vizquel to start the game, Strasburg has retired 12 in arow, 7 on strikeouts. While in the dugout, Im told he is in deepdiscussions with President Obama on how to fix the oil leak in theGulf. Expect Stephen to have it all figured out by the 8th inning.

7:25 PM

The Phillies are thumping the Twins 8-0 in the 4th inning. Just sayin.

Withall the attention on Strasburg, Floyd is matching him. Just one hitthrough 5. Hes retired 8 in a row. But thats what humans can do.

Strasburg?His 9 strikeouts give him 31, which is the most in baseball history fora pitcher in his first 3 games. He breaks the record of 29 set byformer Astros pitcher J.R. Richard.

BREAKING NEWS: Gavin Floyddoesnt just make contact off Strasburg, he just got a hit!!! Thisjust might be the greatest achievement I have seen on a baseball fieldsince Mark Buehrle homered last year at Miller Park. Floyd was 2-for-48at the plate in his career.

Meanwhile, this game is flying and Ihave a postgame show to do. Maybe this running blog wasnt such a greatidea. Melton feels neglected. Im too busy to talk to him.

Strasburghas given up two home runs in his first two starts. Im predictingsomeone gets to him next inning. Konerko or Quentin.

Still 1-0 White Sox in the 6th.

7:56 PM

Thats itfor Strasburg. Despite a 100-pitch limit, they pull him after throwing85. He gives up 1 run over 7, finishes with 10 strikeouts and zerowalks. He really is amazing.

And I gotta get ready for the postgame show. If you have an email for Bill Melton, submit it by clicking here. Well get to as many as we can. Thanks for reading everyone!

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

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.

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“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.”