Youkilis returns to Boston with Middlebrooks scuffling

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Youkilis returns to Boston with Middlebrooks scuffling

Both Joe Crede and Frank Thomas received rousing ovations from White Sox fans in their first trips to U.S. Cellular Field as a member of another team. Both players homered immediately after those ovations, too, trotting around the bases in Twins and Athletics uniforms, respectively. It was, to put it bluntly, kind of a weird sight.

Red Sox fans will probably give Kevin Youkilis the same kind of reception when he returns to Boston tonight (6 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) wearing a White Sox uniform. Maybe he won't hit a home run, but given how he's played with the White Sox, chances seem good that he'll at least get on base.

Youkilis joined the White Sox hitting .233.315.377 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. Thanks to the lights-out production of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks -- who had a .949 OPS and nine home runs in 41 games on the day Youkilis was dealt -- and a strained relationship with manager Bobby Valentine, the Red Sox had to deal Youkilis. That's why the return for him was only a utility player and a pitcher who had serious home run issues, not to mention Boston sending a load of cash to Chicago with Youkilis.

But since that June 24 trade, Youkilis has looked like his old self, while Middlebrooks has rapidly regressed.

In 16 games with the White Sox, Youkilis is hitting .295.397.475 with three home runs, 15 RBIs and a 1012 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He's looked like his old self, serving as an ideal No. 2 hitter for a team that's gone 11-5 since acquiring him.

The same laudatory statements can't be said for Middlebrooks since the trade. He strained a hamstring and missed some time in early July, but post-Youkilis he's hitting .205.220.410 in 10 games.

That's an incredibly small sample size, but the 23-year-old was due for a regression. Middlebrooks' pre-trade BABIP sat at .380; since the deal it's at .214.

Like most young hitters, Middlebrooks doesn't have good plate discipline, walking in 4.6 percent of his plate appearances with a 23.9 percent strikeout rate. He has one walk and 10 strikeouts since the Youkilis trade, and as his BABIP regresses to the mean, his on-base percentage will continue to drop.

Consider this: On the season, Youkilis is hitting .251.340.406, while Middlebrooks is hitting .301.335.546. Despite Youkilis passing Middlebrooks in OBP, the younger third baseman is still offensively superior (.325 wOBA for Youkilis, .374 for Middlebrooks).

The Red Sox shouldn't have egg on their face over the trade with the White Sox -- their hands were tied, and Youkilis had to go. Maybe he improves if he stays in Boston, but maybe a move to Chicago to play for Robin Ventura was a breath of fresh air.

Regardless, as Youkilis receives a standing ovation from the Fenway faithful, kudos should be in order for the White Sox front office. Because 16 games in, the Youkilis trade has been an absolute steal.

White Sox ace Jose Quintana puts on a show in victory over Reds

White Sox ace Jose Quintana puts on a show in victory over Reds

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Those pesky, persistent trade rumors continue to be no match for White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana. 

The 2016 All-Star was outstanding on Thursday afternoon as he made his first Cactus League appearance in nearly a month. Still waiting on word if he'll be the team's Opening Day starter, Quintana pitched seven scoreless innings against a thin Cincinnati Reds lineup in a 4-2 White Sox victory at Camelback Ranch. 

Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts, Quintana limited Cincinnati to two hits in a 79-pitch outing and struck out three.

"I just try to turn the page quick and keep going," Quintana said. "Never watch behind me and try to go ahead every time I can. I want to put my team in a good position to win games. It's good when you win games in spring training. It brings good energy for the season."

Quintana on Thursday followed the same format he did for Colombia against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Reds hitters he faced. Even after he surrendered a hit, Quintana got back to work. Featuring a fastball that sat between 91-93 mph early, Quintana had Cincinnati hitters off-balance all day. After he exited the game, Quintana sprinted to the right-field bullpen to throw 15 more pitches as he continues to build arm strength.

The outing is more of the same consistency the White Sox have come to expect from their trusted lefty. It's also why they refuse to remove the high sticker price attached to Quintana, who has competed at least 200 innings the past four seasons with a 3.32 overall ERA in that span.

As Opening Day approaches, the White Sox continue to listen to offers for Quintana but have refused to budge on their price. Manager Rick Renteria said on Wednesday he needed a few more days before naming his starter for the April 3 opener, which suggests the team would still trade Quintana at this late date. But unless one of the team's suitors finally antes up, it's hard to believe that anyone other than Quintana would take the mound against the Detroit Tigers when the 2017 season kicks off at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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Quintana is on target to pitch again Tuesday, though perhaps in a minor league game as the White Sox face Kansas City that day. His next turn would come on April 2, which would easily afford the team the chance to push him back one day. 

Giving Quintana the nod in the opener would be the latest honor bestowed upon him. Earlier this month, Quintana dominated the eventual WBC champion as he didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the sixth inning. That performance came after an outstanding campaign in which Quintana finally appeared in an All-Star Game.

All of the above has Quintana feeling pretty good about his abilities. 

"I have confidence in me, and every time I go out there I just try to have fun and enjoy that time," Quintana said. "I spend good time with my teammates. Every time I go to the mound, I feel pretty good."

Nicky Delmonico homered and singled in a run in the victory for the White Sox. He drove in three runs and hit his third homer of the spring. Leury Garcia also had two hits and made a pair of nice defensive plays at second base.

With first big contract in hand, Tim Anderson planning a run to the Pepsi machine

With first big contract in hand, Tim Anderson planning a run to the Pepsi machine

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tim Anderson plans to buy one very expensive Pepsi.

When it comes time to make his first big purchase, the White Sox shortstop already has a good idea what he's going to do.

As he quickly rose through the minors, Anderson — who signed a six-year deal Tuesday that could pay him $50.5 million through 2024 — talked to his mother about her retiring if he ever reached the big leagues. But all Lucille Brown joked that she has wanted from Anderson is a Pepsi, just one Pepsi. Anderson said on Thursday morning that he intends to make good on his promise and then some.

"She always told me, 'I don't want anything from you, I just wish you the best. The only thing I want from you is for you to buy me a Pepsi,'" Anderson said. "Pepsi is her favorite soda. The first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to buy her a Mercedes and I'm going to buy a Pepsi and put it in the cup holder for her."

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An outpatient healthcare worker, Brown and her husband Roger — who are Anderson's aunt and uncle — raised Anderson along with their three children. Anderson said he and Brown have discussed her retirement over the past few years and will broach the topic again in the future.

If Lucille decides to retire, Anderson thinks she might take up decorating houses, which she did for the second-year player after he recently purchased a home in North Carolina. But for now, Anderson wants to take care of his family for helping him attain his goal of playing in the big leagues, which led to the "life-changing" contract.

"I think she's going to retire," Anderson said. "We haven't picked up on that conversation yet, but we'll talk about it.

"I feel like nothing but good people have been in my circle from the time that I got drafted."