Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Preview

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Sox Drawer: A Winter Meetings Preview

Friday, December 4th

Its three days before baseballs winter meetings in Indianapolis. What is Kenny Williams thinking? Judging by his opening comments on a Friday conference call with the media, he certainly isnt going to tell us.

Kenny Williams here, he began. Ready to not answer any questions that you might have.

Okay

But in the 20-minute session, the Sox GM did provide some glimpses into their current mind-set, and what might happen between now and Opening Day.

The 2010 team:

Were going to pitch, and were going to play defense, and were going to scrap like hell to score runs, Williams said. Sounds like the blueprint from 2005. But will he have enough cement and bricks to build a winner?

The rotation is already one of the best in the majors. The defense is in the process of getting an upgrade. Adding Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones, along with re-signing Mark Kotsay also gives the Sox one of the best benches in the majors.

And speaking of the bench, if another person makes a crack at how old those three guys are, Im going to send your antiquated thinking straight to a local nursing home where you will have nothing but a television and rabbit ears for White Sox information.

Sorry about that. Gotta vent here.

When it comes to a bench, you have to ask yourself one question, are the players major league competent? Seriously, thats all you want and all you need from your bench. Wilson Betemit, Brian Anderson (minus his glove), Brent Lillibridge, and DeWayne Wise (minus the Buehrle perfect game and 2008 playoff HR) = not competent.

Even if Jones shows up in Glendale weighing 250 pounds with McDonalds wrappers trailing his Rolls Royce on the freeway, if he can find his way to hit 15 homers for the Sox next season (which is completely attainable because he will run through a wall for his good friend Ozzie Guillen), you should take it.

Kenny added that Jones has accepted his role as a back-up, but wants to have the opportunity in spring training to compete for a starting job. Sounds like a guy preparing for career redemption. I like it.

And did you notice that Vizquel did not make a single error last season playing second, shortstop, and third? Again, take it.

Williams also gave a hint about his possible outfield, saying that Jones and Kotsay are insurance in case they decide to carry a youngster in the outfield. Jordan Danks, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

As for the rest of the squad..

The Sox leadoff situation:

There are two questions Kenny Williams never wants to hear ever again. One is Are you trading Bobby Jenks? And two, Who is going to bat leadoff? When the latter question was asked, I think another gray hair shot out of Kennys noggin, into his phone, and pierced every media member on the line.

Replied a sarcastic Williams, We wont forfeit that spot in the order. There will be someone there.

As for exactly who (forget about the Chone Figgins pipe dream. Hes likely headed for Seattle), dont get your hopes up. Williams pointed to the fact that as much as 90 percent of teams in the league dont have the ideal leadoff hitter.

So unless hes able to open up the Jerry Reinsdorf vault (Were always trying to find some wiggle room. It probably annoys Jerry to no end), or someone falls into their laps, or Scott Podsednik asks for less yearsmoney, or Rudy Law drinks from the fountain of youth and plays for 1983 money, the Sox will likely have to settle for an experiment in the leadoff spot. Sorry to break the news, but hope is not lost. As Williams put it, Just like we had Orlando Cabrera a couple years ago. It wasn't the ideal situation, but we won a division title with it.

Alex Rios, anyone? He is a career .282 hitter in the 1-spot. Just saying. Hopefully he shortens that swing. Greg Walker, do your magic. Maybe Frank Thomas can talk to him.

Theres always Jerry Owens. Oh wait. There isnt.

Bobby Jenks:

There have been so many rumors about Bobby Jenks, he could probably have his own special section on TMZ.

If the Sox want to upgrade somewhere on their roster without taking on more salary, their large closer (Im not going to call him overweight for fear that he might sit on me at spring training) remains one of their biggest (and by that I do not mean heavy) bargaining chips.

However, Kennys fuel gauge in regards to the Jenks trade question currently has a flashing yellow light. Hes about done with it. Or at least, thats what hes telling us, which is what keeps the Jenks trade rumors going. Is this a Kenny smokescreen or is he legitimately going to keep him here next season? Once a players name gets on the hamster wheel, its tough to make it stop.

Williams referred to the Jenks speculation as the media running with something, and added, I havent had any conversations with anyone about trading Bobby Jenks. Im really surprised that this has continued on. I think what keeps the Jenks rumor alive was Williams next sentence: This is the same stance Ive taken since Day One sitting in this chair. If the right opportunity presents itself, well travel down that road.

And the hamster wheel just took another violent spin.

Williams predicted that the Sox will be busier after the Winter Meetings than during it. So with that line of thinking...expect an interesting week in Indy. Always is, even if nothing happens.

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

Miguel Gonzalez throws six perfect innings as White Sox take series against Tigers

For six innings Sunday, Miguel Gonzalez was perfect.

The White Sox right-hander put the baseball world on perfect-game alert and conjured memories of Mark Buehrle and Philip Humber with his dazzling work through six innings. Gonzalez lost his bids for a perfect game, no hitter and shutout in the span of three batters to lead off the seventh inning, but that didn’t take away much from how good he was in a 7-3 win for the South Siders at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He was dominant,” shortstop Tim Anderson said, providing an accurate if brief summation of the day’s proceedings.

Gonzalez, who entered with a 3-5 record and a 4.55 ERA in nine previous starts this season, set down the first 18 hitters he faced in order, with the visiting Detroit Tigers rarely even coming close to reaching base. That streak of 18 straight hitters retired to start the game was the longest by a White Sox starter since Chris Sale sat down the first 19 he faced back in May 2013.

Of course, whenever a performance nears no-hitter territory, players know it and stay away from the pitcher in the dugout, afraid of jinxing things. And the White Sox weren’t immune to that baseball tradition on Sunday.

“It was getting quiet,” Gonzalez said. “I was just trying to do my thing. Just go out there and make pitches, let them make the plays and that’s how things went.”

The Tigers — who trailed big after the White Sox gave Gonzalez a 7-0 lead — finally broke through to start the seventh. Austin Romine reached on an infield single, Alex Avila singled through the right side of the infield, and Miguel Cabrera dumped an RBI base hit into right field.

Detroit added two more runs on three extra-base hits in the eighth, but Gonzalez still finished with a great line, yielding just three runs on six hits in 7.2 innings of work.

Gonzalez’s gem snapped a streak of rough outings that started, coincidentally enough, against this Tigers team, when he was crushed for seven runs on 14 hits in an April 30 loss in Detroit. Entering Sunday’s game, Gonzalez was a nasty 0-5 with a 6.99 ERA in his previous five starts. He hadn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his previous three starts.

“I started off really good. I was struggling for a couple outings, and all you can do is keep working hard and things are going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “I think if you work hard in between your starts you have a pretty good chance of getting back on track and that’s how I felt today.”

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That seventh-inning blip by the Tigers ended the day’s only drama, as the White Sox offense put the result of the game out of question earlier, tagging opposing starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs in his five innings of work.

Zimmermann entered the day struggling on the 2017 campaign, and that didn’t change Sunday. Willy Garcia tripled in Omar Narvaez for the game’s first run in the third and scored on the same play thanks to a throwing error. Two hitters later, Melky Cabrera hit a solo home run to make it 3-0.

Matt Davidson led off the bottom of the fourth with his 10th home run of the season, and Narvaez drove in Yolmer Sanchez to make it 5-0. Todd Frazier tacked on two more in the fifth with a two-run shot that also scored Jose Abreu.

“As an offense, we’re trying to give that (big cushion) every night. That’d be nice,” Davidson said. “And it really relaxes them. And you can see what happens when they’ve got a lead and you let them do their thing.”

The White Sox took three of four from the Tigers in this weekend series that featured a doubleheader split Saturday. It’s a positive start to this home stand — which continues with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox — after going 3-7 on a recent 10-game road trip.

“I'm very happy with it, but again I'm not surprised by it, simply because I think they come out every single day to try to play good baseball and do what they need to help each other out and win ballgames,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It's just their character, the way they're put together. They keep battling.”

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.

When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.

But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.

In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.

“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.

“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”

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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”

Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.

While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.

Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.

“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”

Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.