Thome's revenge: Winning blast puts Sox four back

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Thome's revenge: Winning blast puts Sox four back

Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010
Updated 12:19 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

MINNEAPOLIS Before Tuesday night's game, Bobby Jenks was nonplussed by the Minnesota Twins.

These three games, yeah, they are important, but not that important, said the erstwhile Chicago White Sox closer. Its not going to matter what we do here if we cant go out and beat the rest of our division.

True enough. But the White Sox would do well to at least stay in Minnesotas rear-view mirror, eh?

Such a goal is becoming less and less of a physical possibility, as the Pale Hose struck two unlikely rallies but still could not drop the Twins.

Jim Thome hit a walk-off, two-run homer to lead Minnesota to a 7-6 win in 10 innings, before a 54th straight sellout at Target Field.

It feels good, Thome said after the game, bleary-eyed from a shaving cream pie dealt him for his heroics. I know I was in for a challenge against Matt Thornton. I couldnt get his first fastball, but then I caught him. Its such a great win for us.

If it was Denard Span who hit the winning home run, Id be crying right now, said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who declared that hed take the matchup of Thornton vs. Thome over and over again. But Jim Thome has what, 600 home runs? Tip your hat, come back tomorrow ready to win.

Alexei Ramirez had extended the game to extra innings with a leadoff, ninth-inning home run off of Minny closer Matt Capps, then pushed home the apparent winning run in the 10th with a single to center field. But the White Sox could muster no more; after rallying to load the bases with one out, Paul Konerko hit into a 4-6-3 double play to extinguish the threat.

As far as can be told, the hustle points the White Sox receive for battling back from a 4-0, first-inning deficit, or tying the game at five in the ninth, or pushing ahead 6-5 in the 10th dont count in the standings. Chicago dug a four-run hole for the second straight game, and starter John Danks put it all on himself.

I put us in a hole against a good team, he said. Ive relied on my cutter all year, and I didnt have it today. We fought back, but I didnt do us any favors.

Tuesdays mugging came in the first frame and was perpetrated by Orlando Hudson (solo homer), Jason Kubel (two-run triple) and Thome (RBI single through the shift), threatening to bury the White Sox early.

Yet as the early night air in the Great White North squeezed wafer-thin, balls started flying off the White Sox bats as well. Konerko led off the second inning with a solo shot, followed two batters later by Mark Kotsay, who deposited out a two-run bomb. Two innings later, it was A.J. Pierzynski scoring Kotsay with a double that completed the comeback.

Minnesota took the lead on Delmon Youngs seven-iron shot in the fifth inning, which put the Twins up by one and reliever Glen Perkins in line for the win. Perkins, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain strung together 3 13 innings of scoreless relief seemingly to ice the game for Minnesota.

Danks indeed may have deserved a better fate, having fought back after tossing 48 pitching in the first two innings and spreading just 56 over the next five frames.

Despite assuming the responsibility for the loss, it was Danks who sounded determined after this disappointing loss even as he was encumbered by the sobriety of a four-game deficit in the standings.

We know we have a good team over here, and weve rallied hard all season. Were a tough bunch of guys, Danks said. Were not going to stop fighting until they tell us theres no reason to fight any more.

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

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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