X marks a tough spot for Guillen, White Sox

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X marks a tough spot for Guillen, White Sox

Friday, Sept. 16, 2011Posted: 7:50 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
READ: Six-man saving sputter out

KANSAS CITY With the Chicago White Sox finally eliminated, the reality sunk in for manager Ozzie Guillen, whose combination of head cold and depression over losing out on the playoffs stringing his pregame sessions longer and longer.

This is a hard moment, especially when your expectation was to win the division and fight all the way through it, he said. Mentally, you have to overcome whatever it is to finish strong. Me? I have a passion and love for the game. Every game to me, I dont want to say I treat the same, but I take the same approach. Im not going to change anything for whatever reason; after opening day, there are 161 to go. Same thing here.

The White Sox are measurably worse this year than a year ago, when on Sept. 16 they were 79-67 and still had a faint flicker of life in the division race. Of course, a year ago marked the finish of sweep in Chicago at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, who would go on to win the division by six games over the White Sox. The Twins wouldnt clinch over Chicago until Sept. 20.

We get paid to deal with this thing the right way and the best way we can, Guillen said. No matter the excuses, you have to perform the right way. Obviously, the drive maybe is not there. But as soon as the game starts everybody has to go about their business.

For a manager who claims to rarely take games home with him, Guillen admits to being struck by the swift elimination of the White Sox this season.

I just talked to my wife about how very tough it is to go through it everything goes through your mind, like Wow, what did we do wrong? I put a lot of questions to myself, and the front office people and players do the same stuff: What could have been better? But at 7:05 or 7:10 game time, you have to play the game right. Thats what I expect from the players; I dont care if they have the desire or not. When the national anthem is over, they should be prepared to play, and play to win.

While all players cope in different ways with losses and elimination, the customarily quiet White Sox clubhouse remained no more so before Fridays game.

It should hit everyone: Im done. Its over with., Guillen said. How do you prepare yourself for the next day? Do you want to come back to the ballpark tomorrow? We play for pride, to win, finish off strong, but when its over, its over. When the referee counts 10, you cant get up anymore, its done. Throw in the towel, take a shower, and go home.

But as Guillen points out, baseball is not a 12-round prize fight.

This is baseball unfortunately we have to play another 10-12 days, he said, calling himself 'the loser.' I wish I could keep my quotes and remember how excited I was in spring training: Look at this ballclub, wow. Look at me now, what am I talking about? Second place, third place, wow.

A guy with less love for the game, Guillen said, wouldnt go through such suffering.

If I dont have the passion and love for this organization, for baseball, bro, Id pick up my stuff and go, Guillen said. What dont I have in baseball, a Silver Slugger? Everything else, I have: Playoff experience, coaching experience, manager experience, Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year, a lot of stuff, championships, everything.

Thus for Guillen, without winning, theres nothing.

Theres nothing better than winning, I dont care what people say, he said. Winning is the best thing. The accomplishment of what you went through, you dont care if the owner was mad at you in April, if you had a confrontation with a player, people dont care what I say in the paper, its all beautiful. When you lose, all the stuff comes out, boom boom. This guys fault, that guys fault, blame this guy and that guy. At the end of the day were all here together, were all pulling on the same rope.

And Guillen finished his thoughts on this lost season again by defending those who put this team together and paid the bills.

If you want to blame somebody, dont blame the man, Guillen said. Blame me, because we didnt do what we were supposed to do. A lot of people are going to say Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham, we only have two guys win 10 games but as a team, you have to blame all the Chicago White Sox. The players, coaches, were the only ones who can control winning. We didnt do that, we didnt do the job. We failed once again.

"A lot of people think Don Cooper is an unbelievable f------ pitching coach but nobody has won 15 games yet. Everybody thinks Im the greatest manager in the g----- game, but I only won once. Its about what you win, what you can do, what you bring to the table We just didnt perform the way we thought we were going to perform. Whoever was here for 162 games and whoever wrote the lineup, blame them. Dont blame Jerry or Kenny, or anybody else. They did a good job putting this team together. Whoever was wearing this uniform failed.

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

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

After missing nearly two months, Alex Avila happy to be back with White Sox

Alex Avila is ready to play baseball again after being out of action for almost two months with a right hamstring injury.

The White Sox catcher was activated from the disabled list on Friday and started behind the plate and bat eighth during Saturday's contest against the Seattle Mariners.

“I feel like it’s opening day for me right now,” Avila said.

The 29-year-old had been on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury since July 6. He thought his return was going to be a lot sooner, but a setback negated that during his first rehab assignment on July 20.

Avila said that he “probably tried to rush back a little too quick and wasn’t ready,” so this time around, he was being extra cautious.

“It definitely took longer than I expected it to,” Avila said of his recovery process. “But at the same time I couldn’t jeopardize coming back and reinjuring it again. At this point in the season I feel like I’m definitely ready to play and can get through the last few games.

“It’s been a rough few weeks, personally, but sometimes there’s things you can’t control and you gotta make sure you let mother nature take its course and play that out. It can be difficult when you’re on the DL because at times you feel a little disconnected. Stuff like that. But you have to really worry about yourself and getting healthy, then once you are you can get back to being a team player.”

Avila is .236/.362/.358 on the season with three homers and six RBI in 41 games played.

“It’s been awhile. I know it’s been tough on him to be able to do that,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He has worked hard to get back where he was. Even when he came back, to have an injury happen fairly quickly. He was swinging it great. That’s the part of baseball that’s tough. You get back, and something like that happens. You don’t really plan for it. It’s nice to have him back.”

To make room for Avila, the White Sox traded catcher Dioner Navarro to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 25-year-old pitcher Colton Turner, who the White Sox are hoping can continue to build on his strong season.

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For now, Avila and Omar Narvaez will split the catching duties.

“He’s a very mild-mannered kid. He works hard,” Avila said of Narvaez. “He’s been asking all the right questions as far as how to call games and what to do in certain situations and we’ve talked a little bit. At the same time it’s about him gaining that experience and having those experiences on the field is one thing I’ve told catchers that I’ve come across.

“Coaches and veteran players can say all the right things you need to hear (and) can give you all the advice you want. But it comes down to getting that playing experience on the field with the pitcher, with guys on base, in the sixth inning with two outs and a guy on third. All those experiences mean so much more than any advice I can give him.

“One thing I can do and what coaches can help him do is have an idea going into it. But he’s got a good head on his shoulders and up to this point he’s shown that up here hasn’t overwhelmed him and he’s been playing well."

Narvaez is .325/.426/.375 in 14 games with the White Sox this season.

Miguel Gonzalez is also getting closer to a return.

“I know (Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer) will be in there at some point to get their starts,” Ventura said. “How we do it when they’re in there, we haven’t really nailed that down. It’s an open dialogue at this point of being able to figure out the right spot to get them back in there.”

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

[MORE: White Sox trade catcher Dioner Navarro to Blue Jays]

Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

White Sox hope second-rounder Alec Hansen's 'fun ride' continues at Kannapolis

The way he dominated the Pioneer League had to boost to Alec Hansen’s confidence. It also prompted his promotion.

When the White Sox sent their second-round pick to Great Falls last month it was in the hope he could rebound from a rough junior season at Oklahoma that caused his draft stock to fall. Once thought to be the potential first overall pick of the 2016 draft, Hansen was selected 49th after he posted a 5.40 ERA and walked 39 batters in 51.2 innings. But Hansen — who made his first start at Single-A Kannapolis on Friday — looked every bit the first-rounder at Great Falls with a 1.23 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.

“We wanted to put him in a position where there was a little less pressure to start off the season,” White Sox player development director Nick Capra said. “There's always pressure, but it's a little less magnified in the Pioneer League. We wanted to get him on the right road. We did a couple things with him mechanically and he took off with it.”

“We kind of held him hostage in Great Falls a little bit too long. He’s been really good. He’s double-digit strikeouts every night. He’s not walking people.”

Hansen is expected to make two starts at Kannapolis before the team’s season ends. He earned a no decision after he allowed three earned runs and five hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Columbia Fireflies on Friday.

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Capra described the mechanical changes the White Sox made with Hansen as minor. Essentially, they want Hansen to take advantage of his 6-foot-8 frame and stay taller and release the ball more quickly. They believe it will help him better command his pitches.

Through 11 minor-league starts, Hansen has walked 18 batters in 49 innings (he also pitched seven innings in Arizona). That’s compared with the 96 batters he walked in 145 innings in college.

“Our player development guys deserve so much credit for the way they've handled it,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “There was a little bit of concern about the confidence part of it, just him taking the ball every fifth day and knowing that we believe in him. Our pitching guys and PD guys deserve a huge amount of credit for just the time they put into it. They really, really know how to make these guys excel and succeed. Been a pretty fun ride to watch and I hope it continues.”