Chicago White Sox

Why Chris Sale thinks White Sox are in good shape with Rick Renteria

Why Chris Sale thinks White Sox are in good shape with Rick Renteria

BOSTON -- He can’t identify many current faces, but the direction in which the White Sox are headed is recognizable and Chris Sale thinks it could be successful.

The Boston Red Sox pitcher spent Thursday afternoon catching up with old White Sox teammates, coaches, etc. at Fenway Park. But the bulk of the lengthier conversations have been with staff members because of the tremendous amount of roster turnover that has occurred since Sale was traded eight months ago. Seven of the nine players moved have come in the two months since Sale first returned home as the White Sox are in the midst of the franchise’s first rebuild since 1997. But no matter who fills out the uniform, Sale thinks the White Sox will be in good shape with Rick Renteria as their manager.

“I’ve said it before, I think with Ricky leading the way, he’s got a great presence over there,” Sale said. “Obviously talking with a few of the guys stuff like that, they said he’s really set a tone over there. It’s good to see. It’s good to see. It’s good to hear about.”

Sale’s in a great spot with the first-place Red Sox. He currently leads the American League in wins (13), ERA (2.70), innings (153 1/3), strikeouts (216) as well as FIP, WHIP, hits per nine, strikeout per nine and strikeout to walk ratio. As evidenced by Tuesday’s start when the Red Sox rallied twice for a 12-10 victory over Cleveland, Sale is also confident his loaded team can win even when he has a poor performance.

The six-time All-Star loves pitching in the electric atmosphere of Fenway Park. He attributes the endless energy for an uptick in velocity. Aside from the inability to find good late-night food — he and his family live about 15-20 minutes outside of Boston — Sale is pretty pleased with his new life.

“I definitely am appreciative of it,” Sale said. “This is a perennial team to go to the playoffs and realistic goals of winning the World Series. The history not only with this team but in this ballpark. Pitching here is as fun as any place in baseball. I even said that when I was with Chicago, that I loved it down here.”

Sale has tried to keep an eye on what’s transpired on the South Side, where he played from 2010-16. He lobbed a text message to Jose Quintana after he was traded to the Cubs to tell him he’d look good in blue. While he’s sad to see that era come to an end, Sale is happy for Quintana to land in a great spot.

“It’s one of those things that’s bittersweet,” Sale said. “You are sad to leave your friends but you are obviously excited for the new opportunity. Seeing him go to the North Side where they are in the thick of things, I’m just happy for him.”

But the veteran pitcher also thinks the new direction the White Sox have taken can have them competitive for years to come. He knows about the talent the team has acquired in all these deals. And with Renteria in place and setting the tone, Sale thinks the White Sox should be in great shape —even if there are fewer familiar faces.

“It’s different, but it’s baseball,” Sale said. “That’s how it works. They know the direction they are going in. They could be pretty darn good here in a few years.”

The White Sox made sure Rob Brantly's father celebrated retirement from Air Force in style

The White Sox made sure Rob Brantly's father celebrated retirement from Air Force in style

The surprise that Master Sergeant Robert Brantly received on his final day of work is one he’ll never forget.

The father of White Sox catcher Rob Brantly, the elder Brantly was honored on the field on Monday night as the team’s Hero of the Game and joined by his son, who presented him with an autographed bat. The 37-year Air Force veteran, who also celebrated his 56th birthday, wasn’t informed he would be recognized by the White Sox on the field with his son until late Sunday.

“When I saw my son there and gave him a big hug and he told me I was his hero, it meant the world,” the elder Brantly said. “I can’t express it any other way than just gratitude for this organization, this team and my family putting up with me being away for so many different occasions with the military.

“I will never forget coming here to Chicago.”

The White Sox backstop said he informed the club that his father, an Angels fan, would be in town on his final day of employment in the Air Force. Brantly’s first day as a civilian is Tuesday.

“It’s a pretty emotional moment for me just knowing that my dad in the service he put into this country for almost 40 years fighting for our freedom, but also fighting to give me, his son, every opportunity in the world to succeed and he gave me this opportunity to be here and to be able to play Major League Baseball not only as a service man but as a father teaching me everything to know about baseball and the passion that comes along with the game,” the younger Brantly said.

“He would tell me he puts on that uniform every day so I don’t have to. It carries a lot of weight. To be able to do something like that for him and to finish off his career, his first day of retirement, tipping his cap to a Major League Baseball crowd giving him a standing ovation, it was a special moment for him and our family. I was glad I was able to be there to share that with him.”

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Will James Shields stick with 'different' look in 2018?

Ever since James Shields dropped down his arm angle, the strikeouts have increased considerably.

The White Sox pitcher struck out eight more batters in Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Shields, who pitched seven innings to earn a victory, has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning since he began to throw from a three-quarters angle in the middle of an Aug. 5 loss at Boston. While Shields still hasn’t perfected the new look -- he’s not even sure he’ll bring it back in 2018 -- it has caught the attention of opposing hitters.

“That was definitely a different Shields,” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said. “He was moving the ball around tonight.”  

Shields might consider sticking with the lowered angle. The veteran often insists the adjustment is a work in a progress, though his results have continued to improve (he’s got a 3.51 ERA in his past four starts).

Overall, since Shields made the switch he has a 4.33 ERA in 60 1/3 innings, nearly two points below the 6.19 ERA he produced in his first 56 2/3 frames. Shields has also seen a reduction in home runs allowed per nine innings from 2.38 to 1.79.

But the most drastic change has been in strikeouts. Shields has increased his strikeout-rate to 23.5 percent, up from 16.6 percent. He’s whiffed 59 batters since making the adjustment after only 44 prior.

“He already curls, he closes off,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He's got a cross-angle delivery, so you see his back a lot. But I think the variance in velocities, the breaking ball, he'll run the fastball, sink it. He's doing a lot with it, there's a lot of action going on so it's going to both sides of the plate. But the variance of velocity, especially with the breaking ball, sometimes it pops up there as an eephus or something. He's doing a real nice job.”

Shields has one season left on his current deal and seems likely to return to anchor a young White Sox rotation in 2018. Whether or not he’ll stay with the current setup remains to be seen.

“We’ll see,” Shields said “I’ll make some assessments in the offseason, and see how that works out, see how my body is feeling. Over the last month and a half, it seems to be working out. we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m revamping every year man. This being my 12th season, you’re always trying to refine your game every year, no matter what, whether it’s a pitch or mechanical adjustment. The league makes adjustments on you. I’ve faced a lot of these hitters so many times. I think Robbie Cano I’ve had almost 100 at-bats in my career against. But at the end of the day, you always have to make adjustments.”