Chicago White Sox

Why teaching phase of White Sox rebuild has Don Cooper excited

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USA TODAY

Why teaching phase of White Sox rebuild has Don Cooper excited

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Don Cooper has been waiting for this portion of the season to begin after watching the dismantling of the pitching staff piece by piece.

As difficult as the departures of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and many others has been, the White Sox pitching coach agreed with the organization’s decision to head in this new direction all along. This spring, Cooper said he was excited for the learning environment the team had begun to create for its young prospects and the future they brought with them.

Now that many of the franchise’s young pitchers have graduated to the majors, Cooper is enthralled to have reached the teaching phase. He’s found working with Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer and Tuesday’s starter Reynaldo Lopez to be rejuvenating after a trying process in which eight pitchers were traded since December, including seven since mid-July.

“The rebuild is underway,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t underway prior to them getting here. It was still the gutting of the team that was happening. And it’s been fun seeing where they’re at and what we might do to improve and how we improve in those areas.”

Giolito doesn’t mind it, either.

He’s comfortable knowing he’ll be with the White Sox for some time in this final stage of development. Rick Hahn said last December the team intended to first let Giolito work things out at Triple-A Charlotte before he would be promoted. They wouldn’t start Giolito in the majors and send him back for more development if he struggled.

Last season, Giolito bounced around the Washington Nationals organization. The Nationals were in a pennant race and needed the rookie to contribute and he struggled. Giolito liked the motivation offered by the challenge, but also appreciates the comfort he has with the White Sox. He and Cooper like working together to determine how Giolito can improve.

This week they’ve focused again on getting ahead in the count early after Giolito walked four batters in Friday’s loss. Giolito wasn’t pleased with the strike zone (Pitch Tracker made it appear that at least 10 low strikes were called balls) and was ejected. But on Monday, Giolito said he thought he was erratic on the edges and at the top of the zone, which can result in missed strike calls. If he faces that situation again, Giolito plans to attack hitters more often with his fastball.

“The learning experience to take from that is when you’re getting squeezed a little bit you just have to pound the zone to the best of your ability,” Giolito said. “Challenge hitters. Take those opportunities to challenge yourself -- I’m going to throw my fastball in there and see what happens.

“Just to have that comfort of I’m going to go out there and give my 100 percent and whatever happens happens. But I know that I’ll be able to continue to work on things at this level and I’ll get another opportunity.”

As Cooper noted, no bad game or even a rough stretch is going to cost Giolito or Lopez or Fulmer. They’re all a big part of the franchise’s plans and the White Sox will exhaust every effort with each.

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It’s the teaching phase and Cooper is relishing it.

“All of the kids that are coming up, there’s nothing they can do negatively that’s going to get us off of them and stop what we’re trying to do and stop where we’re trying to head because they’re part of the future,” Cooper said.

“It’s refreshing.”

Geovany Soto details ‘total destruction’ of Puerto Rico after speaking with family

Geovany Soto details ‘total destruction’ of Puerto Rico after speaking with family

Geovany Soto’s family in Puerto Rico is safe after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island, leaving at least 24 people dead and virtually all residents without power.

The White Sox catcher said he spoke to his family Wednesday on the phone and they were in good spirits. Soto’s mom, dad and in-laws are in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while his wife and kids are with him in the U.S.

Soto said it’s “total destruction” on the island right now, and the best thing he can do to assist is sending necessary items.

“It’s really tough,” Soto said. “I talked to my parents and the toughest part is you have the money, you can buy batteries but there’s nothing left. So, the best thing I could probably do is kind of from over here is sending batteries, sending anything that I can think of that’s valuable for them right now.” 

Puerto Rico is still in emergency protocol as rescue efforts continue two days after the storm plowed onto land as a Category 4 hurricane. Just seeing the images was hard for Soto. 

"It was unbelievable," he said "You know it’s coming. It’s an island. It’s not like you can evacuate and go where? We don’t have a road that goes to Florida. It is what it is. We try to do the best that we can do with the preparation that they gave us. After you’ve done everything you just kind of brace yourself and keep good spirits and hope for the best."

Soto usually travels to Puerto Rico after the season, but because of the damage, he has yet to make a decision on when, or if, he'll go. 

The veteran catcher is the only Puerto Rican player on the Sox, but manager Rick Renteria's wife also has family on the island. 

"They're doing fine, thankfully," Renteria said. "I think that we expect to hear a little bit more in the next couple days."

Carson Fulmer wants one more start for White Sox this season

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USA TODAY

Carson Fulmer wants one more start for White Sox this season

Carson Fulmer doesn’t want his last start of the season to be one in which he recorded only one out, but another appearance isn’t guaranteed quite yet.

The White Sox 2015 first-round pick was forced from Thursday night’s game after struggling with a blister on his throwing hand. He lasted only three batters, two of which he walked.

“Obviously, nothing’s really wrong with me physically,” Fulmer said. “Arm feels great, body feels awesome, just a blister that got kind of raw. I just need to take a couple days, let it come back and make my next start.”

Whether he gets the ball again depends on the healing process. With only eight games remaining, Rick Renteria won’t commit to giving the 23-year-old another start until he knows the blister won’t be an issue.

“It’d be premature for me to say anything about that,” Renteria said. “Obviously when you’re holding the baseball in a very sensitive spot with your fingers, you got to be able to feel comfortable with it.”

The blister came during Fulmer’s best stretch in the majors. He threw six innings in each of his past two starts, allowing only one earned run in both. On his Sept. 10 start against the Giants, he whiffed a career-high nine batters.

Despite having to, in essence, miss Thursday’s start, Fulmer isn’t worried about being taken out of his groove.

“I don’t think my momentum is going to go anywhere,” he said. “The bullpen I threw yesterday before the game was really, really good. Just had some issues with some of the stuff that was covering it, started cutting some balls here and there and it was tough to throw a cutter sometimes just because of the pressure I put on it.”

Even with the White Sox seemingly taking a cautious approach to protect their young prospects, each start is valuable experience for Fulmer. He will likely be competing against the likes of Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and possible veteran free agent signings for a back end rotation spot come Spring Training, and pitching well against big league hitting now could go a long way in securing the role.

"I threw 160, 170 innings this year and haven't had an issue with (injury)," Fulmer said. 

"I'm going to do everything I can to get back out there."