Chicago White Sox

Walk talk: He's not gonna take it

Walk talk: He's not gonna take it

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 3:52 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT The Chicago White Sox opened the season on fire, pounding out 23 runs in their first two games and 40 in the first five. In the last 11 games, the Sox are hitting just .201 with 32 runs scored.

Pardon hitting coach Greg Walker for being a little irritated at not being chatted up when times were good and being under fire since theyve turned.

Actually, our scuffles are way overblown, Walker said. Were averaging five 4.7, in fact runs a game . Were fourth in the league in runs scored. Weve got a couple of high-profile guys who havent got going yet. One of them got operated on a week ago actually April 6. Im not worried. Were good. Were averaging five runs a game and we got two of our big boys not even started. Im just sort of sick of the negative s---, I really am. Were not that bad.

Overall, the White Sox are hitting .251, with a tumbling .710 OPS. Just two regulars, Carlos Quentin (1.107) and Paul Konerko (.943) are producing beyond expectations so far.

Both Walker and manager Ozzie Guillen have pointed to the fearsome starting pitching the White Sox have faced over the past week as a reason for the offensive cooling.

We faced the toughest pitching, Walker said. You media said that, and you guys are smart. Sit down and figure out who is going to be pitching in the All-Star Game Have we faced any of them? Or all of them? Were good. Were doing good. Weve scored more runs off these tough guys than anyone else is doing off any of them. We have had a tough stretch against tough pitching. We scored some runs off them. Were battling. Were not giving them away.

Guillen is fond of praising the offenses battling, as well, often citing long at-bats that may even end in an out. But there is a fallacy in the facing aces argumentits Chicagos poor showing against them that helps build their cases as aces.

Rallying behind the offense is fine and predictable, but to round up everyone the White Sox are facing, including raw rookie Tyler Chatwood of the Los Angeles Angels, is disingenuous. Even Walker realizes there are some limits.

Theres been one game where I was disappointed in our focus and effort, the second game against Anaheim vs. Chatwood on April 16, he said. Other than that, our guys have been there battling, got a couple high profile guys scuffling a bit. But overall, were scoring runs. Were doing fine. When we do get everyone healthy overall, I dont look at this as being a negative situation as its been portrayed. I dont see it that way.

Dunns Feel

Adam Dunn is first on the list of White Sox fans concerns, first because of his health (due to his April 6 appendectomy), second due to his struggles at the plate since.

Ive been up, and Ive been down, the affable slugger said. It will even itself out.

Dunn has 22 strikeouts and carries a .620 OPS into Saturdays action. His .293 on-base percentage is nearly 100 points worse than his .380 career mark, an indication the DH is pressing. Last year, Dunn swung (and missed) at many more pitches, in a situation he ascribed to the Washington Nationals anemic offense. Through the first three weeks of the season, Dunn when healthy has been pressing, clearly indicated by his poor OBP.

Hey, the guy was a dominant force until he had an appendectomy, Walker said. Hes had, what, six, seven, eight days back? Sit around and watch. Hell be fine.

Dunn struggled to elucidate on his slump, saying that he just didnt have the feel at the plate hes used to. He pointed to his seventh inning, second-to-last at-bat in Fridays loss to the Tigers as a good one despite the foul pop out to second baseman Ramon Santiago, while his final plate appearance (a K vs. Jose Valverde in the ninth) as expletive.

Walker sees the same thing, although he ascribes it to poor timing and direction by Dunn.

His timing is off, Walker said, insistently. Hes a big man. Hes got a lot of moving parts. Hes got to get his timing back. Because his timing is off, Hes been getting beat and cheating, trying to get the fastball. When he starts hitting fastballs, watch out, because a lot of people are going to pay.

Dunn said that despite his hitting woes being a feel thing, there is some stuff Walk sees that the two work on together. But mostly, the gentle giant knows its a matter of him getting his own act together.

You never can tell when the switch flips, he said. Its not always a solid gapper or a home run. Last year, it clicked for me when I took a pitch for a ball. Then I drew a walk, and I was off to the races.

Feeling more and more comfortable, Dunn nonetheless warns of expecting too much, too soon.

Baby steps, brother, he said, laughing in self-deprecation. Ive got to hit the ball first. But Im getting there.

Fond memories of Motown

It was last AugustAugust 4, the rookie will remind youthat Chris Sale walked into the clubhouse for the first time as a member of the Chicago White Sox. And it was hereno, a few locker stalls over, the rookie is quick to point outthat Sales legend began.

Detroit is definitely a special place, the first ballpark I walked into as a major-leaguer, Sale said, recalling with a laugh at how green he was just a summer ago.

Konerko was walking him through all getaway day protocols, Sale recalled, but otherwise, his call-up was just a blur.

On the plane ride I didnt sleep a wink, he chuckled. I must have gone to the bathroom six times. My mind was going a mile a minute. Everything was going so fast.

Sale didnt make his major-league debut until the next series of the road trip, August 6 in Baltimoreone of just three poor outings he had of his 21 appearances in 2010). But the southpaw had no concrete expectations upon entering Comerica Park.

Every scenario was going through my mind on the way to Detroit, he recalled. But once I made it here, I was just excited to be pitching for the White Sox in a major league game.

He knew no one on the White Sox at the time, and took out his checkbook to tip the clubhouse attendants on getaway day. Now, hes part of the fabric of the team, so much so that Edwin Jackson interrupted the start of our interview to introduce himself as Sales new agent, and Chris doesnt speak on Saturdays.

Sale laughs at how far hes come in the gamealthough still designated as a rookie and with just 29 career appearances under his beltplayfully poking me jokingly on the shoulder on reflection: Now, its all just easy for me!

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

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Wednesday’s homer may only have been Yoan Moncada’s first, but he predicts plenty more are headed this way.

The White Sox second baseman and baseball’s top prospect crossed off another first when he blasted a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs. Moncada’s 417-foot drive to center field sent Cubs starter Jake Arrieta to the showers, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox fell to the Cubs 8-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The round-tripper came in the 47th plate appearance of Moncada’s young career and 27 th this season.

Acquired from the Red Sox in December, Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 18 and picked up his first hit on Friday.

“It means a lot because it was the first one of many that are coming, and I’m happy,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “It has been a nice week for me.”

Moncada had already walked and struck out looking by the time he faced Arrieta in the seventh inning. The rookie fell behind Arrieta 0-2 in the count but didn’t panic and belted an 0-2 curveball on the outside corner for a solo shot to center. The drive left Moncada’s bat at 105 mph and bounced off the green tin roof in straightaway center.

“He really put a good charge into that ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right off the bat, too. I mean the ball really jumped off his bat. I think it was a breaking ball, too. Stayed on it, really good swing. I think his at-bats in general were pretty good. I think both sides probably got squeezed a little bit, but I think most of the guys put together some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada has managed to put together a nice little memorabilia package in his first eight days in the big leagues. He received the lineup card from Renteria after he debuted against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday. Moncada also retrieved his first home run ball and hoped to get the lineup card from Renteria, too.

Arrieta was satisfied with his pitch but not the location. Still, the Cubs pitcher sounded impressed by the swing Moncada put on it and the result.

“It was a good breaking ball, but not in an 0-2 count where a guy’s in swing mode,” Arrieta said. “And he put a good swing on it, especially to hit it to dead center. Pretty balanced swing. You can tell that that guy is going to have a lot of potential. He’s pretty balanced in the box, but the pitch wasn’t supposed to be there.”

The offensive production hasn’t been there as much as Moncada would like early in the season. But, he suspects that will change.

“The results are going to come step by step,” Moncada said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and try to take advantage of the experience and the opportunity to play here. I’m just happy I’m having this opportunity here.”

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

There’s nothing fun about losing, as the White Sox are finding out first hand.

Wednesday night featured another defeat, this one coming at the hands of the visiting Cubs, the North Siders taking Game 3 of this edition of the Crosstown series by an 8-3 final score.

But should the White Sox need commiserators — and inspiration — they need look no further than the team across the field.

See, the Cubs have been where the White Sox are right now. Last season’s curse-smashing World Series championship was the fruit yielded by a lengthy rebuild on the North Side, one with a similar level of minor league focus and future expectations as the one currently underway on the South Side.

And as the Cubs and their fans well know, major league losing is a part of the process.

The White Sox dropped to 39-59 on Wednesday night, mired in last place in the American League Central. The Cubs spent five straight seasons in fifth place in the National League Central, methodically accruing top prospects with top draft picks.

The kind of nasty outing James Shields turned in Wednesday? The Cubs have seen that before, too. Wearing blue at the time were the likes of Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad and Carlos Silva, the precursors to Shields, who hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in four of his last six starts. The stories aren’t much different for the rest of the White Sox current rotation, with veterans like Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey struggling most times out.

The White Sox bats did a whole lot of nothing against Jake Arrieta on Wednesday, silenced offensively the same way the Cubs were repeatedly a few years back, in seasons when guys like Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney led the North Siders in Wins Above Replacement.

Heck, they even had the same manager. Rick Renteria skippered the Cubs in 2014, the final fifth-place finish before Joe Maddon took over.

“We’re just going to have to keep going,” Renteria said Wednesday night, sounding like an echo of himself when he used to helm the Cubs. “There’s no lamenting or anything. This is the situation we’re in, and I think the guys want the ball every time I give it to them and they want to do a good job. We’re going to try to keep it respectable as much as we can, and in some cases win some ballgames.”

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Thing is, a look across the diamond Wednesday and once more Thursday in the Crosstown finale at Guaranteed Rate Field will allow the White Sox to see something else they share with those Cubs teams of the recent past: hope.

In the same way White Sox fans are currently gobbling up minor league reports on the organization’s fleet of highly ranked prospects, Cubs fans did that, too. They did it with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. White Sox fans are doing it with Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez. They’ll soon do it with Luis Robert and, a former Cubs prospect, Eloy Jimenez.

Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in baseball bringing Bryant-like hype to the South Side, gave White Sox fans plenty to smile about Wednesday night, smoking a 0-2 pitch from Arrieta over the center-field fence for his first career home run.

If you need a glimpse into the future of the White Sox, at what things should look like when the rebuild reaches its apex, go watch Moncada’s home run again. And again.

While the Cubs and their World Series rings own bragging rights that stand above all others, the White Sox can also look into the third-base dugout and know they’re going about things differently — and perhaps even better — than their North Side counterparts did.

While Theo Epstein built his farm system with much-hyped draft picks (in addition to a couple extremely meaningful trades) over the years, Rick Hahn has built his in what has seemed like one fell swoop. The lightning-fast pace of the White Sox rebuild could make the five years of fifth-place finishes the Cubs experienced a non-factor on the South Side. Hahn has built arguably baseball’s best farm system in a matter of months, trading All-Star caliber big leaguers to stockpile highly touted minor leaguers and acquiring other prospects through trades and the draft who provide depth to the system.

“It’s improved,” Hahn said of the depth of his farm system before Wednesday’s game. “It has absolutely been a goal from the start, not just a matter of getting as much potential impact talent as we can but trying to set up layer upon layer of that talent, trying to get to the point when inevitably some of these guys don’t develop the way everyone has projected them to develop or an injury occurs that we have other options, that we have guys that perhaps developed a little more quickly or improved beyond what we projected as their ceiling. And the only way you get there is by having a critical mass of prospect depth.

“I would say that while we are pleased with the strides we’ve made in the last year or nine months, however long you want to draw the line, we know we still have work to do. We know we’re going to have a really important draft in 2018 and before that, another few days before this (trade) deadline and then some offseason maneuvering to take place.”

The Cubs have forever been a symbol of hope for their fans, a team that no matter how sorry the finish would always have expectations and a new chance every spring.

Though White Sox fans are unlikely to embrace the team on the other side of town, they’d be well served to take a step back and look at what has happened there. Because the Cubs’ successful rebuild, one that ended in a World Series title, could provide hope for White Sox fans, too.