Thornton earns title of 'Grandpa' among teammates

807620.png

Thornton earns title of 'Grandpa' among teammates

Hes but 35 years old and his daughter is three, but that hasnt stopped Matt Thorntons manager nor his young teammates from calling him Grandpa.

With several veteran relievers currently injured or recently released, Thornton is the senior statesmen in a White Sox bullpen loaded with rookies. His seven-plus years of service time dwarfs the 51 days combined owned by the White Sox five rookie relievers when the season began. While the moniker is part playful, its also a sign of respect the rookies have for their elder. So despite the absurdity of it all, Thornton not only indulges manager Robin Ventura and the rookies, he has actually begun to embrace his nickname.

Im the only one with any kind of time out there, Thornton said with a laugh. (Being a grandpa) is a long, long, long ways away for me. (Ventura) is just picking on me and having fun. I guess him and Kenny Williams were joking around about it.

A rookie himself, Ventura is asked almost daily about the makeup of the teams bullpen and how they will fare in a pennant race.

Closer Addison Reed is 23. Hector Santiago is 24. Nate Jones and Leyson Septimo are 26 and Brian Omogrosso is 27. Septimo made his major league debut on Friday and Omogrosso is still waiting for his chance.

And then theres Thornton, who made his major league debut on June 27, 2004 and has 510 big league appearances to his credit. This season, Thornton is 2-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 38 games.

Besides the grandpa out there, its a pretty young group, Ventura said. But theres energy that comes with that. Theres excitement and a lot of good things that come with it. Some people view it as a negative. Im looking more at the positives.

One positive influence Thornton has is the example he sets for his teammates. Both Thornton and pitching coach Don Cooper said the left-hander isnt one for being a vocal presence. And thats not what Cooper wants from Thornton, nor what Thornton wants. Cooper just wants a good performance.

Its much more important to get the job done on the field and to lead the way that way and he has done a great job for us all the years he has been with us, Cooper said. The work on the field is what really matters (in the pennant race) and thats where Id like him to lead the way.

Still, Thornton picks his spots to offer advice. When Santiago was removed from the closers role earlier this season, Thornton didnt take long to make sure he was OK.

He came up to me, hes like Youre giving up home runs. When I first came up I was walking the bases loaded and trying to pitch out of it and giving up home runs. Right now youre on a better path than I was going and look where Im at, Im seven years in the big leagues, Santiago said. Hes great to pick his mind. He picks you up for sure.

Were 23 and 24 and then weve got Grandpa Thornton, Reed said. Its pretty funny. Hes out there kind of holding us down. We dont need that guy in here trying to pumping us up with words. Everybody goes out there and plays and thats enough to fuel everybody else.

Thornton is definitely okay with the ribbing. He knows his teammates are inexperienced, but he likes the signs he sees. He loves Reeds demeanor during a tight situation and after a bad game. Hes impressed by how Santiago handled a rough period early in his career. He likes how Jones has overcome some of the control issues that dogged him in the minors and attacks the strike zone.

Most of all, Thornton likes the work ethic his teammates display and how they believe in their abilities.

We have a great group of kids out there. They go about things the right way. They continue to work hard, to continue to improve their craft. (The nickname) is okay, Thornton said with a laugh. Theyre all doing good. They all do things right. They just need to keep going out there and attack the strike zone. Thats all I tell those guys is Just go after it.

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”