White Sox, Ramirez agree to contract extension

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White Sox, Ramirez agree to contract extension

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
Posted 12:02 p.m. Updated 5:02 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The surprising news out of the press conference announcing Alexei Ramirezs contract extension is less that he hopes to be a lifetime Chicago White Sox, but that he may well pass the torch to a son once his time on the South Side is through.

While the slender shortstop on Thursday laughed off the idea that his 2010 Silver Slugger was just the first of many future awards for him, he noted that the silver bat will find a home in his two sons room. His oldest boy (who also goes by Alexei, pronounced Alex-ay as opposed to his fathers Ales-ay) already has hit at U.S. Cellular Field, at just five years old spraying the ball around the infield during batting practice last summer.

Perhaps that adds additional meaning to Ramirezs wishes to forever remain in Pale Hose?

I have always talked with agent Jaime Torres about being a lifetime White Sox, and Im proud of what Ive done so far for the team, Ramirez said. I hope to accomplish much more in the future. If Im lucky enough to play for the White Sox my entire career, Ill be happy to do that.

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Ramirez freely admitted that the extension was more a question of when, not if, saying he and Torres have been in constant contact with the White Sox and he decided to extend once we felt we had the best deal we could. GM Ken Williams told CSNChicago.com at the time of Adam Dunns signing last December that he hoped to at least have extension framework in place by spring training, so the relative speed of Ramirezs extension indicates that the proceedings were exceedingly cordial.

Ramirezs four-year, 32.5 million contract extension keeps him on the South Side at least through the 2015 season. The contract will pay the rising star 5 million in 2012, 7 million in 2013, 9.5 million in 2014 and 10 million in 2015. The White Sox will have an option to keep Ramirez for 2016 at a price of 10 million, or buy him out for 1 million. To finish up the final year of his original contract, Ramirez will be paid 2.75 million in 2011. It goes without saying this is the largest contract bestowed on a shortstop in White Sox history, and fuzzy math pegs only seven other shortstops in baseball history having garnered bigger deals than Ramirezs.

Ramirez originally signed with the White Sox on Jan. 22, 2008 and carries a career .283 average, 54 home runs and 215 RBI into 2011, which will be his fourth major-league season. While his rookie campaign of 2008 was a slightly better offensive season, the Cuban Missile dominated AL shortstops offensively in 2010. Ramirez proffered a .313 on-base percentage and .431 slugging percentage (first among shortstops) for a .734 OPS. He led AL shortstops with a .282 batting average, 18 home runs and 252 total bases. He finished second among campocortos with 70 RBI, third with 165 hits and tied for third with 29 doubles.

Ramirezs .282 batting average qualifies is the fourth-best in history by a White Sox shortstop and his 18 longballs were the sixth-most. He was named to the Sporting News 2010 AL All-Star Teamin Pale Hose annals, only Luke Appling (1936, 1940, 1943) and Luis Aparicio (1968, 1970) have been so honored. The three-year vet is the first White Sox player since Carlos Quentin in 2008 to win a Silver Slugger, and just the ninth player in team history overall.

READ: Different directions for Alexei, Freddy

Comfort with the White Sox threaded throughout Ramirezs media session on Thursday, a comfort that began from his very first moments with the White Sox in the form of support from a former Gold Glove shortstop, manager Ozzie Guillen.

It really comes down to when I first got to the White Sox, I felt at home, like in Cuba, Ramirez said. I felt comfortable, like it was the right place for me. Ozzie didnt know me, but Ive polished by game under him and Im appreciative of him for his faith in me.

Guillen has long promoted Ramirez as a future Gold Glove winner and was aghast to hear that it was Derek Jeter and not Ramirez winning the honor in 2010.

The main thing Ozzie has instilled in me is confidence, Ramirez said. He trusts what I can do on the field and the decisions I make. He played shortstop, and knows it takes confidence to succeed there. Hes trusted me with the position, and thats helped.

As for a Gold Glove, Ramirez laughed at the notion hell be a future winner and again mentioned how honored he was just to be under consideration.

I dont expect to win awards, he said. I just want to play better, every game, every season. Leaving Cuba, that was always my goal.

The AL Gold Glove was thought to be a two-man battle between Ramirez and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers, but in a surprising and disheartening move, AL managers and coaches bestowed the honor on Jeter, forever one of the weakest shortstops in the league.

The Fielding Bible Awards, which are selected by an expert panel of 10 analysts who study defense and defensive metrics for a living, felt differently. Only one player is honored across baseball per positionthus Troy Tulowitzki was the 2010 FBA shortstopbut Ramirez finished third in the polling, well ahead of any other AL candidate. A number of factors are taken into consideration by the panel, but Ramirezs AL-leading 768 chances, indicating supreme range, surely didnt hurt.

Ramirez has added muscle while retaining his flexibility this offseason to bolster his thin frame, but laughingly said he doesnt know how much, because I havent been on a scale.

White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham noticed his double-play partners increased strength right away, while the two worked out together last month in Miami at Camp Cora. Both infielders have noted their need for unorthodox communication, but both are very optimistic about their future together.

We dont speak the same language, but we get along really well, Ramirez said. I feel comfortable with him as my double-play partner, and weve been getting better all along.

A hidden key to a successful all-in 2011 season is the performances of the middle infielders; Beckham labored through an atrocious beginning to his 2010 season, while Ramirez historically has been a slow starter (sporting a career .511 OPS in MarchApril, almost 200 points worse than his mark in any other months).

The weather and cold have affected me to a point, but Ive learned to adapt to it, Ramirez said. I have some ideas on how to do even better early this season. I know what to expect now.

While doubtlessly Ramirez is not so comfortable with the cold hed like to be in Chicago digging out of this Februarys blizzard, he was seen grasping at snowflakes during SoxFest last month, reporting that it was the first time hed ever witnessed a snowfall. Ramirez admitted rather sheepishly that after playing in the cold for three seasons hed like to put all those slow start questions to rest. Still, he knows that he wasnt the only one to blame for getting out of the gate sluggishly in 2010.

This spring training we need to get working and focused on coming out of the gate a little better, he said. Were all working hard toward doing that and having a great year.

As of February and this record-breaking extension, its already been a pretty good year for Ramirez.

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

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe adjusts to new organization, playing without his twin

White Sox prospect Luis Basabe adjusts to new organization, playing without his twin

Luis Alexander Basabe’s roommate received a phone call on the road on July 9 in which he learned he had been traded by the Boston Red Sox. What would be a strange experience for most teammates was even more difficult for Basabe and his.

The player traded was his identical twin brother, Luis Alejandro Basabe.

“I was like, ‘Man, I don’t believe that,’ ” Luis Alexander Basabe said.

Nearly five months later, Luis Alexander received a similar call from the Red Sox to inform him he was included in a four-player package headed to the White Sox in exchange for five-time All-Star Chris Sale. Having already experienced the trade of a brother he describes as younger (by five minutes), shorter and weaker, Basabe wasn’t rattled.

While he later found that acclimating to a new organization was "weird" at first, Basabe said he already feels at home with the White Sox. The center fielder currently has a 10-game hitting streak and is slashing .260/.351/.400 with four stolen bases in 58 plate appearances for Single-A Winston-Salem.

“So far everything has been very good,” Basabe said. “When (my trade) first happened it didn’t feel weird or anything because it was in the offseason.

“I felt a little more comfortable because I had been through it with my brother. But I know it’s a business and no matter where I go I’ve got to do my job and play the way I do.

“ ‘Yeah, that’s all right. I don’t care because I’m here with a chance.’ ”

Plentiful opportunity is potentially there with the White Sox.

The No. 8-ranked prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, Basabe, 20, has all the tools needed to be a top-notch defensive outfielder. His speed and arm are both graded at 60 on the 20-80 scout scale and his fielding rates at 55. Basabe’s manager thinks he has everything necessary to play a critical spot.

“He’s a true center fielder to me,” Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris said. “Speed, arm. It’s still a little early to tell if he’s going to hit. Who knows? But from the defensive side of the game, he knows what’s going on. He’s going to learn as he goes on and he’s going to be very, very good.”

Everything may come down to whether or not the switch-hitting Basabe performs at the plate. His hit tool grades at 45, according to MLB Pipeline, which is more in line with the bat of a fourth outfielder.

But so far the White Sox are optimistic Basabe can make the proper adjustment.

“He’s got a sweet swing,” White Sox hitting coordinator Mike Gellinger said. “He’s got a timing thing to handle. But he’ll get it and it should be very helpful.”

The biggest help will be repetitions. Basabe spent almost the entire 2016 season at Single-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League. Only at the end of the season was he promoted to Advanced-A Salem in the Carolina League, the same league he’s in now.

“He’s got a little bit of everything,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He can run, he has the ability to hit and he’s aggressive on the bases.

“He’s still only 20 and he’s had some success. But we feel the more at-bats he gets he’s going to be successful.”

Despite that young age, Basabe, whom his parents call “Chande”, and his twin, “Jandro”, have already learned about the harsh realities of baseball. They had just arrived at the ballpark to play the Lexington Legends that night when Greenville manager Darren Fenster summoned Luis Alejandro to his office with the news of his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would be assigned to Single-A Kane County.

“It was at 2 p.m. and the manager called my brother outside to come talk to him,” Luis Alexander said. “And then he told me ‘They traded me.’ ‘Really?’

“But then, (you learn) it really was a business and he got more chance over there.”

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

How Jose Quintana's silent leadership resonated with Michael Kopech

He absorbed a ton of information in spring camp, but perhaps it’s what Michael Kopech observed watching Jose Quintana that could help most.

For five weeks in big league camp, the extremely motivated White Sox pitching prospect gleaned every piece of information he could from more experienced teammates.

Kopech and veteran starting pitcher James Shields discussed pitch sequencing and the importance of the changeup. Infielder Tyler Saladino talked with the No. 14-ranked prospect in baseball about visualizing success. Catcher Geo Soto told Kopech pretty much everything about life in the majors.

But even though he didn’t say much, Quintana’s practice sessions may have provided the most valuable lesson of all. The key takeaway, Kopech said, is how Quintana performs every action with a purpose. The young pitcher knows how critical the example Quintana provided is to his development and wants to implement a similar approach.

“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) likes to call it focused practice,” Kopech said. “For me that’s one thing I haven’t done well, is get locked in. You have to be locked in all the time. That’s something that came from Coop and all the big leaguers I was around. Quintana is a great guy to watch when it comes to stuff like that.

“That’s a guy that is a definition of a silent leader. He doesn’t talk about much. He goes and gets his work in and you can just watch him and know that’s the way the game should be played.”

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Kopech took a nice step forward in his development on Tuesday night when he pitched a season-high six scoreless innings for Double-A Birmingham. He struck out eight and allowed a hit while walking four and lowered his ERA to 2.50. The Texas native had only compiled 12 innings in his previous three outings because of “hit-and-miss” fastball command that led to 10 walks.

Along with perfecting his fastball command, one of the keys to Kopech reaching the majors is an increase in workload. Kopech — the 33rd overall pick of the 2014 draft — has never pitched more than 78 2/3 combined innings he produced last season. The White Sox would love for Kopech to reach the 180-inning mark by 2019.

“He doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He hasn’t been able to have that build up so that’s something we’re going to make sure he can focus on. We’re going to make sure he’s in the right spot so we can do that properly.”

In order for Kopech to eventually hit that mark, he’d need to pitch between 110-130 innings this season and then throw around 160 innings in 2018. But to reach those figures, Kopech must first pitch deeper into games.

Through his first three starts, Kopech worked on a strict pitch count that varied based on performance. If he was on, he could throw as many as 85 pitches. But if he ran into command issues, Kopech might only throw 75.

On Tuesday, Kopech pitched well enough to throw 95 pitches (65 strikes) against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. He thinks the key to consistency in games is directly tied to his effort in between. It’s yet another area where Kopech — who reads self-help books, is into Cryotherapy and salt baths and eats meals on the road pre-prepared by his nutritionist — strives to improve.

“From Day 1 to Day 4, you need to be just as focused as Day 5,” Kopech said. “I can’t stress that enough. If my bullpen tomorrow I lose a little focus, then I know I need to get right back into it to prepare for my next start. That’s something that’s going to have to kick in sooner than later.”

Birmingham manager Julio Vinas likes how Kopech has handled himself early in the season. Vinas thinks Kopech has the proper mindset and tools to be a special pitcher.

‘He’s got the right mentality and now it’s executing and it’s going to be there,” Vinas said.

He may have been there this spring, but Kopech preferred to not be seen or heard by his veteran teammates. Kopech couldn’t do anything about the onslaught of attention the media paid to him after he came over with Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale trade. But he could control the rest of his time around teammates. Little by little, he’d engage the veterans without drawing too much attention.

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“I just didn’t want to make it about me,” Kopech said. “It was my first big league camp and a lot of those guys are getting ready for a big league season and I’m competing for a job that’s not necessarily on a big league roster right away. I was just trying to take care of my business. All ears, not really any talk and take away as much as I could without pissing anybody off, really.

“I got the chance to face some good hitters and take away a lot of knowledge from older guys and I think that’s the best I could do to prepare for the season.”

But Kopech agrees the best preparation came from watching Quintana, who Cooper always lauds for his practice effort. Kopech hopes to be able to emulate how the 2016 All-Star pitcher handles himself soon enough.

Kopech thought he focused well from the second through the fourth inning in an April 20 start at Tennessee. But he wasn’t as pleased with his effort in the first and fifth innings.

“That’s the way I want to lock in when I’m on the mound,” Kopech said of Quintana. “I haven’t been doing that, but it’s something I’m going to work on going forward.

“I have to remind myself to stay locked in even though I’m doing what I always do because I need to have the same focus (in practice) I do when I’m pitching on the mound.”