Chicago White Sox

'Very very very' bad ninth inning stings Sox

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'Very very very' bad ninth inning stings Sox

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: April 8, 10:26 p.m. Updated: 12:06 a.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
CHICAGO It was much too early in the season for Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to be this exasperated.

But after Matt Thornton blew his second save in two tries on the young season in a ninth inning punctuated by very bad baseball, leading to a fall-from-ahead 9-7 loss to the heretofore-winless Tampa Bay Rays, Guillen was wiped out.

WATCH: Ozzie's unique plan

Asked whether he would shuffle his bullpen roles to take some of the pressure off Thornton, who drew the dreaded BS-L for the game, Guillen lost patience for the first time this season.

I might put a bomb out there and kill everyone, Guillen said in frustration. What are my plans? Hmph You look at the game, Thornton gave up the runs, but we didnt help him. What is the plan? Right now, what should I do? I dont think I should do anything right now.

Thornton was shaken but otherwise measured after the game, exuding confidence even in the face of his toughest setback of the season.

Its a three-run lead and inexcusable to give that up in that situation, he said. The team played so good all game long and did such a great job with our offense, once again. They had a nice little cushion for us but I couldnt shut the door on it.

Finishing off a somewhat preposterous first week of the White Sox season, Thorntons miss blew the win for John Danks, who himself struggled to get an out in the seventh and left the game as disgusted as hes ever been in a Chicago uniform.

In the seventh, that was just embarrassingtheres no other way of putting it, Danks said. You have a guy trying to give you an easy out and I cant even get the ball to him. I dont know. Its embarrassing We had it set up to make a play and help me get out of the inning. I couldnt help myself. Its in the past and you move on. It would have been nice to get out of that inning on my own.

Jesse Crain came on to relieve Danks with none out and the bases loaded and did well to allow just one run to pass, on a failed double play-turned-fielders choice.

Jesse did a hell of a job, Danks said. I left him in a pretty crappy situation, and he came in and did a great job.

The White Sox escaped the seventh leading 5-4 and were further buoyed by a two-run single from Mark Teahen in the eighth, providing what seemed to be icing on the cake and capping a terrific 3-for-4, three-RBI night.

Individually, it felt good to get out there and get some chances and produce, Teahen said. The goal is to win, and we came up short of that goal. Well get after it tomorrow.

Indeed, Teahens two-out knock turned out to be the equivalent of spitting on a cupcake and calling it frosting, as a half-frame later, the game fell apart for the Pale Hose.

Four hits off Thornton were spaced by a throwing error by Alexei Ramirez and a fielding error by Juan Pierre, culminating in the worst inning of baseball the White Sox have played all season.

In the ninth inning we played very bad baseball, Guillen said. People can point or do whatever they wantwe played a very good baseball game, all the way to the ninth. Thats Thorntons job, to go out there and save games but obviously we did not help to make the inning very easy.

The death knell was a game-winning, three-run homer by Dan Johnson, which propelled the Rays to their first win of the season, in front of a chilly and stunned Chicago crowd. It wasnt just Tampas first lead of the season, it allowed it to avoid dropping to 0-7, which would have been the worst start by a defending division champion in baseball history.

Aside from that pitch to JohnsonI made a mistake over the plate against himI felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well. They did the job putting it in play and making things happen for them.

Gordon Beckham (3-for-5 with three extra-base hits), Ramirez and Teahen had home runs for the White Sox.

For one night, the White Sox were left to traipse dangerously close to clich and line up behind a fallen teammate.

As clich as it sounds, its only one game, Danks said. We know these guys are going to play great defensethey did the whole game for me. It just happens. There really is no explanation for it. Matt threw the ball well and these guys made plays, a couple of plays didnt get made but all in all, we like our chances.

Keeping it in perspective

Thornton again was brutally honestand awfully sweetwhen asked when he will forget tonights ninth-inning meltdown.

Maybe when I see my daughter in the morning Ill forget about it.

1900 style

Taking until the ninth inning of their seventh game to hold their first lead made Tampa Bay the team taking the longest to hold a lead since the 1900 season.

Peavy Watch

Jake Peavy threw 71 pitches in his rehabilitation start on Friday for Double-A Birmingham at Montgomery, piling up strong numbers although failing to get through the fourth inning.

Everything went well tonight, he said. It was a step in the right direction. My arm felt better than it has in quite a while. I made some good pitches and some bad pitches. Overall, I was very, very pleased the way the night went.

The goal for the start was 75 pitches and five innings, so Peavy fell short of both in his effort, pitching 3 23 innings and giving up two unearned runs on five hits, with four strikeouts measured against a walk and a wild pitch.

I didnt command the ball the way I hoped, he said. But it was nice to be under some lights in a nice competitive atmosphere.

Unlike a controlled setting of a side session or simulated game, Peavy found that pitching against an aggressive Montgomery club scuttled his strategy for the start.

I didnt work on anything particular, he said. I was down here, and not speaking down about anything but they had very aggressive hitters tonight. I had to pitch a little backwards. When your command wasnt the best in the world as far as fastball and youre facing aggressive guys, you want to change speeds. I did a good job of that, keeping the ball off the barrel.

Peavy will work out on Saturday, with some running, lifting, and shoulder program work, then will join the White Sox for his first games with the teamstill inactive, watching from the dugout, of course.

But if you ask Peavy, hed be pitching for the White Sox next week.

Im going to let the White Sox make those decisions, he said. I dont want to stay down here working on anything. When my pitch count is where it needs to be I want to pitch in the big leagues five days from now. If it was up to me, I would throw 90 in the big leagues on Wednesday. Thats not realistic. So you do what the team asks you to do, and be smart.

"I feel like my arm strength is getting there. During Spring Training, I was facing big league hitters and big league lineups. I believe Im going to get outs. If it was reasonable to have a starter on 75 or 90 pitches, I would pitch in the big leagues tonight. But you have to be reasonable. I want to take the mound close to how Im used to taking it-- for the most part healthy and feeling like I can go out and do what Edwin did at times and on the days I dont have it battle to keep the team in it."

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

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

Working relationship: Trust in pitching coach Jose Bautista key to Michael Kopech's dominance

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A strong relationship with pitching coach Jose Bautista allowed Michael Kopech to make a midseason adjustment he thinks is critical to his dominant stretch.

The Double-A Birmingham pitcher said he’s learned a ton about himself during a very good first season with the White Sox. Much of Kopech’s newfound knowledge is related to the direction of his throwing motion and how he needs to be more consistent with it. The suggestion came courtesy of Bautista, who’s in his ninth season as a White Sox coach.

Kopech, who next pitches for the Barons on Friday night, has found the necessary amount of consistency since he and Bautista made the switch in early July. Since then Kopech, 21, has a 0.66 ERA and 54 strikeouts with only seven walks in 41 innings.

“He really trusts Jose’s information,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “They did some mechanical stuff fixing his direction. He just took off from there once they corrected that direction and make him understand, strike one, how important it really is. He had one good game where he got into the seventh inning and he came out and he says, ‘That’s the longest outing I’ve had.’ And it was like right after he had corrected the direction and he just took off from there. He’s done great. He’s a great kid. He works hard. Fantastic teammate.”

Kopech is pleased with the insight he has gained from Bautista.

“I feel like I’ve learned more about myself this year,” the right-hander said. “Just that I’m more successful as a starter when I’m able to repeatedly stay in one motion.”

Bautista’s fix came on the heels of a six-start run where Kopech posted a 7.46 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. The club used a nine-day window between starts from July 5-13 to work on his direction. Kopech had only one appearance, a scoreless inning in the Futures Game.

“I may be a guy that goes toward the plate and spins off,” Kopech said. “But I can’t be a guy that goes toward the plate and stays toward the plate and the next pitch goes toward the plate and then spins off. I just have to follow in that some pattern no matter what I’m doing. It’s about consistency and I’ve learned my most consistent patterns as a pitcher. That’s put me in a good position.”

Rather, it’s put Kopech in an elite position.

The No. 12 prospect in baseball has perhaps begun to outperform the lofty expectations that have been in place since he arrived last December from Boston in the Chris Sale trade.

Opposing hitters have a .414 OPS against him over the last month. He has completed at least six innings in each of his last six starts and has gone seven frames or more four times.

“He’s going deeper into games,” player development director Chris Getz. “A lot of it has to do with that fastball command and really its staying within his delivery and going after hitters early with that fastball, trusting it, because he’s got good action on the fastball, not just the upper-90s straight fastball. He’s got natural two-seam action to his ball.”

Undoubtedly, throwing more strikes has played a big role in Kopech’s dominance. In his first 16 starts, Kopech threw strikes 61 percent of the time en route to a respectable 4.02 ERA. He’s increased that figure to 67 percent in his last six games.

Ultimately, Kopech credits Bautista for getting him back in the right direction.

“Getting a little bit of success with one mechanical adjustment kind of made the mental adjustments easier,” Kopech said. “It made me feel a little bit more comfortable with myself.

“I stayed in line. I stopped spinning off so much. The solution to that was getting out there and throwing more strikes. One thing became another and after that I started feeling a lot more comfortable with myself.

“A lot of it has to do with Jose and him being in my ear and telling me when I’m coming off and when I’m doing certain things.

“It’s the best I’ve been all year, the most consistent I’ve been all year. I’m feeling pretty good about myself.”

White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

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White Sox prospects Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins homer in Double-A debuts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Eloy Jimenez’s goal is to show the White Sox that his performance at Winston-Salem wasn’t a fluke.

At this rate the No. 7 prospect in baseball won’t need long to prove it.

The White Sox prospect celebrated his promotion to Double-A Birmingham on Wednesday night with a home run in his first at-bat and a double. Fellow prospect Zack Collins also homered in his first game with the Barons after both were promoted from Advanced-A Winston-Salem earlier in the day.

“It’s a big step for my career again,” Jimenez said. “I’m just focused more to show the White Sox I can do the same I did in Winston-Salem. Just keep working hard. That’s it.”

Both players learned of their impending promotion after Sunday’s game at Winston-Salem. They played in Monday’s 11-inning loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs) with Collins doubling, tripling and walking and Jimenez going 0-for-5. Jimenez had also gone hitless in five at-bats on Sunday.

But the organization’s co-minor league player of the month for July got going immediately on Wednesday. He drove a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line in the first inning and snuck it inside the foul pole for an opposite-field home run, a 368-foot drive. His next time up, Jimenez doubled to deep center after he produced an exit velocity of 109 mph. Collins also drew a walk in his fourth plate appearance.

The White Sox player development department promoted both players to Double-A to prepare them for next season as this is where each is expected to start the 2018 campaign.

“It’s just to get their feet wet and to know what to expect,” Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said. “It’s a great philosophy because now they come into next year and they know already, this is what they do at this level. Even if they don’t do great here in the next couple of weeks, they know what to expect to now. Now they’ve got all offseason where they can work on certain things and come back and be ready for it. I think it’s a great experience that we give them and I really love the way we handle that.”

[MORE: Lucas Giolito feels as good as he has all season]

Collins wasn’t sure if he would be moved up. Originally, the plan was to keep him at Winston-Salem if the Dash was in the playoff hunt. Several losses erased that idea and Collins is appreciative of his new opportunity. The catcher struck out in his first two at-bats before he hammered one 420 feet for a solo home run in the fourth inning. The exit velo on Collins’ homer was 110 mph.

“(The promotion) means a ton to me,” Collins said. “Obviously, that’s the goal to keep on moving up and eventually to the big leagues. Just to get that next step in and get here and get my feet wet a little before the season ends is great.”

After he was acquired from the Cubs on July 13, Jimenez appeared in 29 games for Winston-Salem. He finished the month with 38 hits, including 11 doubles and eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 12 walks.

Jimenez produced a .345/.410/682 slash line for the Dash. He said he tried to avoid thinking about the promotion so he didn’t get distracted.

“Yes, (I was ready), but really, really I don’t think about it because when I think about it I struggle,” Jimenez said. “If God wants to take me here, whenever he feels I’m ready, I’m going to do my best job here. When they told me two days ago, I said ‘Ok. This is the time to keep working hard and just do whatever I’m going to do.’ ”