Sox Drawer: Sox best in giving Twins their worst

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Sox Drawer: Sox best in giving Twins their worst

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
12:26 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Frank Thomas was driving into the city before the game on Tuesday when he suddenly heard a booming sound coming from his luxury automobile, stopping his car dead in its tracks off the Kennedy Expressway.

Little did Frank know that he was living the perfect metaphor of the Minnesota Twins, a team notorious for putting sugar in the Sox gas tank, taking the nuts off their wheels, the air out of their tires, stalling their playoff hopes with the delicate touch of a jack-hammer.

Frank would need a tow truck. The White Sox need something more, like a brand new car, one that can drive around (or over) the likes of Mauer, Kubel, Liriano, and even mans best friend, Jim Thome, who when I told him before Tuesdays game to take it easy on his former team, he laughed and replied, But this has been good for me.

Yeah, we know.

Tuesdays crushing 9-3 defeat makes the White Sox 5-and-11 against the Twins this season. When the season is over, and youre looking for a reason why your team didnt win the division, look no further than that.

The Twins seem to get up for the White Sox every time, Thomas said last night on a spirited U.S. Cellular White Sox Postgame Live. Were their biggest rival. They come to play us like its the World Series every time.

The rivalry officially took shape in 2004 when Torii Hunter famously barreled into Sox catcher Jamie Burke at home plate. Bill Melton has done about 600 White Sox postgame shows since then, and there is nothing on the planet that irks the former South Side slugger more than the pesky Twins.

Maybe because theres nothing Bill can do about it. But the Sox sure can.

Playing the Minnesota Twins is tough, and youll never turn it around until you start to beat them like they beat you, said Melton, who explained that you need to play better defense, with fewer errors, less walks, and make their hitters feel like they are being squeezed in a 7-foot vise whenever they come to the plate.

Thats not happening. Instead, its the White Sox who are feeling the pressure, as well as the pain. Theyve been hit eight times by Minnesota pitchers this season, while the Sox have only hit the Twins three times. In fact, no team in the American League has gotten hit more (71), and no team has hit batters less (30) than the White Sox.

Theres something wrong there. And when the Twins see that, they find a way to make it a right, which annoys Melton to no end.

You look at their averages, you go Well, theyre good, Melton said. But why is this guy not hitting .320? They hit .350 off of us. A lot of it is they just feel relaxed at the plate. They feel good. Theres no pressure on them. You know why? Because they know the White Sox will throw it away.

Manny Ramirez is one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.
But give him a White Sox uniform, send him to the plate against the Twins, and watch him fold under pressure. Tuesday, Ramirez struck out three times and left six men on base.

Thomas, a former first baseman who became a DH, has one theory:

This is the first time he has ever been a designated hitter full-time. Going down the stretch hes used to playing left field. That has a lot to do with timing also. Its really tough. For the first time, hes not out in left field relaxing, goofing off in the outfield and not thinking about hitting as much.

Manny has to be Manny.

That could have something to do with him, not swinging the bat as well, Thomas said.

Melton has another idea. It might have something to do with the drinking water inside the Sox clubhouse, or more likely, inside the Sox noggins.

The Twins beat the White Sox every year. That becomes a mental thing after a while. I dont care how many times you change your lineups and your players, thats something you always take with you on the field. You wish you could forget it, but you cant.

Nor can Bill, who when I asked him what it will take for the Sox to win the division replied:

It would be a miracle. Its not so much the White Sox, its about the Twins. They just dont lose.

Hes right. One of these days the Sox need to make that a wrong.

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

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

Single-A Winston-Salem's Zack Collins is experiencing some newfound confidence when it comes to the catch and throw.

He should.

After he made a minor technical adjustment this spring, the White Sox first-rounder has dramatically improved his results in throwing out base runners early this season. The catcher has consistently reduced his throw time to second base by a tenth of a second. After he only threw out three of 21 stolen-base attempts in 2016, Collins has nailed 10 of 14 would-be thieves early this season.

Collins' correction is due in large part to a small change he and White Sox catching coordinator John Orton made in how the catcher positions himself as he releases the ball.

"What we noticed was when he tried to be quick throwing, his ball would seem to kind of die," said. "We looked at some video compared to some other guys that throw well and he wasn't using his front side, he wasn't on his legs enough to where he could use his lower half. 

"We saw it, he made the adjustment the next day and he felt it right away. He's basically carried that into the season. He's throwing great right now. 

"It doesn't normally work that way."

It's more than just a repositioning that has helped Collins. The No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 draft changed his dietary habits in the offseason and dropped 15 pounds. Collins also did Pilates to improve his mobility behind the plate.

Those aspects along with a strong attention to detail and quiet presence behind the plate had the White Sox pleased with how Collins showed in big league camp this spring. Early in camp, Orton said it didn't matter if Collins ever grew into a standout thrower because there are so many other important aspects of catching. He listed receiving/blocking, game-calling/handling the staff and hitting ahead of throwing in terms of importance.

But then Collins added a wrinkle and made what could be a significant adjustment. Prior to making the change, Collins' glove and front shoulder were pointed toward shortstop when he released to second base on a stolen-base attempt. Orton changed Collins' positioning and now has him throwing directly at the base. Collins instantly could feel a difference and his throws have been on target more often.

"I kind of closed myself off to second base," Collins said. "I get a lot more behind my throws and a lot better accuracy. That's the biggest thing.

"It feels great. It kind of feels normal now. Before it was a little weird, like I was closing myself off too much. But it kind of feels normal now and I get a lot of pressure off my arm and obviously the throw percentage is there."

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More important, the drastically-reduced times are there. 

Prior to making the change, Collins' throws to second base were somewhere around 2.08 to 2.10 seconds. In the first week of the season, Collins had reduced the time to 1.97 seconds and registered a 1.92 on one throw. He even posted several 1.87s in between innings.

"If you're under 2 and accurate you'll get most guys for sure," Orton said.

Collins has eliminated many attempts in the early going. He's throwing with confidence, too.
 
Recently, late in a tied game, Collins threw out a man headed to second base with a runner on third for the final out of the inning.

Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris was stunned to learn that Collins had improved from throwing out 14 percent of all base runners last season to 71 percent so far.

"Hell no I wouldn't even believe that," Harris said. "He's made some serious adjustments behind the plate.

"Collins is definitely a pro. He's going to have a very long career at the major league level. He does a lot of things right. He runs the staff. He knows when to make mound visits. He picks runners off at first, third, second."

The confidence the University of Miami product feels has carried over to social media. After Collins threw out another runner on Sunday, the team's Twitter account made a plea to Carolina League opponents to #KeepRunningOnZack. Colorado Rockies farmhand Willie Abreu, a former teammate of Collins at Miami, chimed in to inform the catcher he'd run on him all day.

Collins fired back: "You'd run on the other Zack Collins. Not the new one."

"It definitely helps and kind of gives me a little confidence behind my back knowing that I've found something that has helped me catch and throw," Collins said. "Obviously last year the numbers really weren't there during my first pro season. At the same time, I was kind of tired last year and didn't have as much behind my arm as I do now. I feel a lot better now."

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