Chicago White Sox

Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

259315.jpg

Sweep dreams fade fast as Twins roll in opener

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
Updated 12:18 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen spent Monday dancing, gladhanding, and otherwise earning thousands of dollars for his charity. Judging by his vocal rasp on Tuesday, he was jigging late into the night, spinning through one of his favorite days all summer.

But one night later, with the bane of Guillens existence in town to begin a three-game visit, the manager watched his troops suffer yet another fall-from-ahead loss to the Minnesota Twins. The 9-3 setback pushed Minnesota seven games up with 18 games remaining, and little short of a rampant case of vertigo speeding through the Target Field clubhouse will stand in the way of a second straight division title for the Twins.

Losing is tough to swallow every timeyou go as hard as you can go but sometimes you come up empty, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. I wish we were in first, but I dont feel like weve given them anything, theyve just taken it. Theres some peace with that. Sometimes you just get beat.

The manner of victory was anything but peaceful, however.

As per norm, the Piranhas drew first blood with a Delmon Young solo shot to lead off the fifth, chased by a two-out single from Denard Span, scoring J.J. Hardy. Cutting against recent form that being a 6-21 post All-Star break record vs. Minnesota since 2008 the White Sox came right back, posting two runs in the bottom half on an Alexei Ramirez single.

In the sixth, the White Sox pushed ahead 3-2 in typically inefficient form, A.J. Pierzynski turning a gift-wrapped, bases-loaded, no-out opportunity into a run-scoring double-play.

A couple times we had men on third base or bases loaded, no outs or one out, bases loaded, we score only one run, Guillen said. That was the difference in the game. We got a lot of opportunities and good chances, but we couldnt get the big hit.

Sometimes you have a runner at third base with no outs and youre not going to bring him in, sometimes hes going to be on first base with two outs and you bring him in, said designated hitter Manny Ramirez, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and five left on base. Thats part of the game.

Turning such potential bounties upside down into frowns was certain to turn tragic, and sure as soft serve, Minnesota stormed back with two in the top of the seventh, as Guillens favorite new Piranha, Danny Valencia, singled in a run and then scored one batter later, when Hardy doubled high off the wall in left-center.

The Chisox had their own chance to counterpunch in the seventh, loading the bases on singles by Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre and a walk to Alex Rios. But with the sacks packed and just one out, Konerko and Manny Ramirez were whiffed by Jesse Crain.

Im swinging the bat great and I did everything I wanted to do in the at-bat, Konerko said. Crain beat me. I can live with that. Thats the way it is.

Not content with a 5-3 lead, the Twins proceeded to slap a wicked little critta of a crooked number up on the board in the eighth, beginning with a run-scoring double from Jason Kubel, chased by J.J. Putzs walk to Valencia forcing in a run, and trumped altogether by a three-run error-ruled-double off the glove of Rios.

Chicago starter John Danks wasnt his sharpest, logging seven innings and giving up nine hits and four earned runs. Ultimately he paid for the effort by getting slapped with his 11th loss of the season.

I felt like I had enough stuff to get us a better result, said the self-critical southpaw. Give the Twins credit, theyre playing well right now. But I had plenty of stuff to give a better effort, and I let us down.

Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano wasnt sharp, but he pitched well enough to improve to 14-7, scattering six hits and three earned runs over six innings.

With futility vs. the Twins continuing to reign, to say there is urgency pulsing in the White Sox skipper is an understatement.

I dont know if the playoffs are impossible, but its going to be tough, Guillen said. Everybody is fighting right now, today we just came up short. We all know how important the next two games are. Hopefully well play better tomorrow than we did today and we win the next two games. Theyre going to be very big for us, huge.

The improbable and fuzzy math that equates to a White Sox division title was a topic of discussion in the clubhouse as well.

The White Sox have to win not only the next two, Ramirez calculated, but we have to win every game.

Were through the wall right now, Konerko said with regard to Chicago having its back against the wall. Before the series, you know coming back is tough and that you have to probably sweep. But now you just continue to play hard. You keep battling until they tell you that you cant battle any more. When the uniform goes on, you give it everything you got, whether youre 20 games out or seven.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Top 10 storylines from the White Sox minor league season

moncada-eloy.jpg
USA TODAY

Top 10 storylines from the White Sox minor league season

White Sox prospects received more attention from fans and media this year and on Sunday the White Sox minor league season concluded with rookie level Great Falls dropping the decisive game in the Pioneer League Championship.

Here's a look at some of the standout players, storylines and moments from the season that was, from Yoan to Eloy to Robert.

1. Yoan Moncada gets called up to make his White Sox debut after seven-player trade with Yankees

Yoan Moncada wasn't only the top White Sox prospect but the top prospect in baseball according to some, so when he was the first big prospect in the club's rebuild to get called up, it was a significant moment. Moncada mania began with a standing ovation from the home fans in his debut. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance and later said his White Sox debut had a similar feeling to his major league debut with the Red Sox.

2. Eloy Jimenez’s arrival and immediate hot streak

Trading Jose Quintana to the Cubs wasn't an easy pill for White Sox fans to swallow. With that in mind, it's a good thing that Eloy Jimenez quickly turned public perception of the trade in the White Sox favor. Jimenez had good, but not great numbers with the Cubs' Carolina League affiliate Myrtle Beach (.271/.351/.490) when he was traded. Jimenez had missed some time due to injury, but staying in the same league, he erupted with the Winston-Salem Dash. In 29 games with the Dash, Jimenez hit .345/.410/.682 and blasted eight home runs.

One of the highlights was when Jimenez told teammate Ian Clarkin, who arrived from the Yankees just days after the Quintana-Jimenez trade, that he was going to hit a home run. After Jimenez did in fact go yard that game, Clarkin shared Jimenez's prescient call on Twitter.

Jimenez provided more magic by blasting a home run in his first at-bat for Double-A Birmingham. In 18 games with the Barons, Jimenez hit .353/.397/.559 and solidified his spot as one of the best hitting prospects in the game. He has impressed the White Sox and Jimenez thinks he is ready to play in the majors.

3. The Luis Robert saga

With the major league team struggling on the field, the off the field moves attracted most of the attention. The chase for Cuban free agent Luis Robert riled up Sox fans, who were eating up the latest news and rumors about the then-teenage prospect.

When the Sox landed Robert, it was another big move for a quickly improving farm system. The outfielder has received high praise from around baseball.

After signing Robert played in the Dominican Summer League. He missed some time with minor injuries, but finished hitting .310/.491/.536.

4. Michael Kopech dominates in Double-A

Along with Moncada, Kopech was a big part of the Chris Sale trade. When the White Sox got him he was a hard-throwing 20-year-old who had plenty of strikeouts, but also plenty of walks.

After continuing that trend for the first three months of this season, something appeared to click for Kopech. The former first-round pick walked 11 batters in 44 1/3 innings in his final eights starts with Birmingham. He struck out a whopping 58 during that stretch and earned a late-season promotion to Triple-A Charlotte.

When he was in Birmingham, Kopech created buzz the Barons hadn't seen since Michael Jordan. He finished tied for fifth in the minors with 172 strikeouts on the season, which impressed the White Sox front office and earned him Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher.

5. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez make White Sox debuts

Moncada was the first major prospect to get promoted in the White Sox rebuild, but Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito represented the first pitching prospects to join the big league club. Both joined the White Sox in the Adam Eaton trade in the offseason, had major league experience and began the year in Triple-A.

Lopez's debut came first. After rolling off a hot July in which he posted a 2.10 ERA, Lopez pitched a quality start on Aug. 11 in his White Sox debut.

Meanwhile, Giolito waited a little bit longer after struggling for much of the year in Charlotte. He had a 5.40 ERA in his first 16 starts for the Knights, but found some consistency later in the year and drew rave reviews when he made his Sox debut on Aug. 22.

6. Breakout years for Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning

Lopez and Giolito received most of the attention in the Eaton trade, but in the early part of the season it was Dunning who was making the most noise in the minor leagues. The 2016 first-round pick utterly dominated the opposition in Single-A Kannapolis with a 0.35 ERA and 33 strikeouts against just two walks in 26 innings. Dunning got promoted to Winston-Salem and finished tied for 11th in all of the minors with 168 strikeouts, capping off a stellar first full season in pro ball.

Amazingly, Dunning may have been outshined by his own teammate. Alec Hansen, who the White Sox drafted in the second round last year, didn't get promoted out of Kannapolis as quickly, but dominated in Winston-Salem and finished the year in Birmingham. He ended up leading all of minor league baseball with 191 strikeouts and he thinks 2018 could be even better.

7. White Sox draft Jake Burger in the first round and he hits for a cycle

The White Sox will have a higher draft pick next year, but this year the Sox picked up Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger with the No. 11 pick.

Burger began his pro career hot by hitting .358 in Kannapolis, but slumped the rest of way. Burger hit .219 in August and September, but did hit for a cycle on Aug. 24.

8. Zack Collins struggles at the plate, but shows defensive improvements

When Zack Collins was drafted by the White Sox with the 10th pick in 2016, he was thought of as a sure-thing bat with question marks about his ability to play catcher. So naturally, his 2017 played out in exactly the opposite way.

He hit .223 in Winston-Salem while striking out 118 times in 426 plate appearances, but got promoted to Double-A Birmingham anyway. He got promoted the same day as Eloy Jimenez and both homered in their Birmingham debuts. Collins posted an .893 OPS in Birmingham, but still hit just .235.

Collins received better reviews about his defense, which he owes partially due to training with Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, a fellow University of Miami product.

9. Zack Burdi’s Tommy John Surgery

When Zack Burdi was with the White Sox in spring training, he was trying to act like he belonged in big league camp. The fire-balling relief prospect was in line to be the White Sox closer of the future.

After beginning the season in Triple-A Charlotte and producing uneven, but promising results, the White Sox learned in July that Burdi would need Tommy John Surgery. A look at the White Sox bullpen now shows a lot of young, unproven pitchers and Burdi likely would be among them had he stayed healthy.

Now, it's all about the recovery for the 22-year-old, whose upside combined with the lack of proven arms in the White Sox bullpen means he remains a potentially key part of the team's future.

10. Micker Adolfo flashes power potential

Micker Adolfo wasn't a high-profile prospect at the start of the year, but had a breakout season. The 21-year-old was a big international signing back in 2013, coming with a $1.6 million signing bonus.

He was named the White Sox minor league player of the month for both May and June. He began to show his power potential with Kannapolis and helped the team make it to the South Atlantic League Championship Series. Adolfo slowed in the second half, but finished with 16 home runs, tied for fifth in the league.

Bonus: Nicky Delmonico shines in short big league stint

It wasn't a big deal at the time, but Nicky Delmonico's promotion has looked like a potentially significant moment for the White Sox rebuild. He has had a breakout performance in the majors and has made a strong case that he could be a significant part of the team's future.

White Sox prospect Alec Hansen thinks 2018 season could be even better than breakout season

alechansen.jpg

White Sox prospect Alec Hansen thinks 2018 season could be even better than breakout season

Look out for Alec Hansen.

The White Sox prospect thinks 2018 could be even better with all that he’s learned about managing himself in his first full season. That's pretty scary when you consider that Hansen, who finished at Double-A Birmingham, led the minors in strikeouts and earned two promotions in 2017.

The No. 6 White Sox prospect (No. 95 overall according to MLBPipeline.com) is even more optimistic about his second full season.

“(The first full season) was great that it taught me about my arm and how my arm is going feel in between every start and how my body is going to feel throughout the season,” Hansen said on a conference call. “I can go into this offseason and work out and get my body the way I want it to going into spring training and be able to maintain that throughout the season next year.”

“I'll have a lot more confidence and experience. By the end of next year that experience and confidence in my body will be where it needs to be to be in the major leagues for good.”

Hansen has plenty of reason to feel confidence. The No. 49 pick of the 2016 draft followed a stellar pro debut with an outstanding 2017 campaign in which he struck out 191 batters in 141 1/3 innings. Believed to have No. 1-starter type stuff, Hansen put it all together and carved a niche for himself in an organization loaded with pitching prospects.

Hansen said the final two starts of the season at Double-A Birmingham, in which he struck out 17 batters in 10 1/3 innings, further convinced him how his stuff would play at higher levels.

"That’s something I'll remember for the rest of my life that I led the minor leagues in strikeouts this year, which is pretty cool,” Hansen said. “You got to think, it was at the lower levels, it was in A-ball where guys swing a lot and are pretty aggressive at the plate. But it was nice to see I went up to Double-A and still had quite a few strikeouts. That was kind of reassuring.”

So, too, were the promotions.

Hansen started the season at Single-A Kannapolis and made 13 starts before he was sent to Single-A Winston-Salem after striking out 92 batters in 72 2/3 innings. He also excelled for the Dash, striking out 82 batters in 58 1/3 innings. Right before the season ended, Hansen got the call one last time. He went 11-8 with a 2.80 ERA and struck out 191 batters in 141 1/3 innings over 26 starts.

“Honestly, I had no idea what was going to happen to me this year,” Hansen said. “If you asked me at the beginning of the season where do I expect to end up, I wouldn’t have said Double-A. But if you asked me toward after the All-Star break and after a couple of starts at Winston-Salem where I started to pick it up a little bit, then I was kind of hoping I was going to finish at Double-A.”