Pair of White Sox top pitching prospects promoted

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USA TODAY

Pair of White Sox top pitching prospects promoted

White Sox fans located in Chicago and Charlotte will get a glimpse into the future next week.

The White Sox announced they will promote pitching prospect Lucas Giolito to the majors and he will start in Monday's doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. Michael Kopech, the White Sox No. 3 overall prospect, has been promoted to Triple-A Charlotte and will start on Monday night against Norfolk, the team also announced on Friday.

Giolito, who the White Sox acquired along with Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning in an offseason trade from the Washington Nationals for Adam Eaton, is MLB Pipeline's No. 59 overall prospect.

After a shaky start to begin the 2017 season, Giolito has turned the corner as of late.

In his last five starts with the Knights, Giolito has a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings pitched. During that span, Giolito has a 28/11 K/BB ratio and opposing hitters are slashing just .221/.288/.319. The 23-year-old Giolito has a 6-10 record with a 4.48 ERA in 24 starts in 2017.

Giolito, a former first round pick of the Nationals in 2012, had a brief stint in the majors last season and had a 6.75 ERA in six games with Washington.

Kopech, who was a key piece the White Sox acquired in a blockbuster offseason deal with the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale, has been nothing short of dominant in the minors.

Kopech has a 0.66 ERA with 54 strikeouts and seven walks in his last 41 innings with the Birmingham Barons. In 22 minor league starts this season, Kopech has a 2.87 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP with 155 strikeouts in 119.1 innings.

Kopech is currently MLB Pipeline's No. 1 pitching prospect in the minors.

What Miguel Montero’s brutal honesty meant for Cubs and Kyle Hendricks

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AP

What Miguel Montero’s brutal honesty meant for Cubs and Kyle Hendricks

Miguel Montero picked the worst possible time to second-guess the way Joe Maddon handled the bullpen during the World Series and communicated with his players — a radio interview on the same day (!!!) as the championship parade through the streets of Chicago and a Grant Park rally that may or may not have been one of the largest gatherings in human history.

The cameras also caught Montero popping off at a time when the Cubs were hovering around .500 and running out of ideas to spark the defending champs. So team president Theo Epstein didn’t hesitate to DFA Montero in late June when the veteran catcher ripped Jake Arrieta for letting the Washington Nationals run wild on the bases. Eating almost $7 million in salary and shipping Montero to Canada became another button to press to shake up the clubhouse.

But Montero also came along at exactly the right time for Kyle Hendricks, who had 13 major-league starts for a last-place team on his resume heading into the breakthrough 2015 season that set up last year’s transformation into an ERA leader, Cy Young Award finalist and World Series Game 7 starter.

Montero doesn’t deserve a tribute on the video board when the Toronto Blue Jays come into Wrigley Field this weekend, but he also shouldn’t be remembered only as a loose cannon or a cartoon character.

“Miggy was huge for me,” Hendricks said on this week’s Cubs Talk podcast. “I know he didn’t go out the way he wanted to. He’s even texted all of us here. We have the utmost respect for him around this clubhouse. We know who he is, the teammate he was around here.

“For me in particular, he was probably the biggest influence right when I came up, from the catching side. He taught me a lot about pitching, especially at the big-league level. (He made) me feel comfortable at the big-league level.

“My development, I think, sped up a lot just because of him being around here, his experience, how much he knew the hitters, his feel and his ability just to talk to you. He could sit down and just have a conversation with you whenever.

“I owe a lot to him. And I’m excited to see him back here.”

The Cubs knew they were getting the good, the bad and the ugly when they traded for Montero during the 2014 winter meetings in San Diego, where they also closed the $155 million megadeal with Jon Lester and dramatically reshaped the franchise.

The Cubs wanted Montero’s edge, which only sharpened as he got stuck in various three-catcher rotations. But Montero welcomed Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras into the clubhouse, delivered a wake-up call to Albert Almora Jr. during a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee and worked with Arrieta as he blossomed into a Cy Young Award winner. Montero also became a bilingual intermediary last summer when Aroldis Chapman initially refused to talk to the media after making his Cubs debut.

After handling so many different personalities and styles with the Arizona Diamondbacks — everyone from Randy Johnson to Dan Haren — Montero made the case that Hendricks didn’t need to throw 97 mph to thrive when he could nail the edges and deceive and outthink hitters with movement and sequences. Street smarts from Venezuela and an Ivy League education became a great match.

“He always had that confidence in me, from Day 1, when I showed up in this clubhouse,” Hendricks said. “He caught my bullpens. He kind of saw what I could do with the baseball. He probably had more confidence in me than I had in myself when I first came up.

“That’s just how it is. You’re trying to find your footing. He just kept preaching that to me, telling me what he saw in me, what I could do, the ability I had against these hitters. And then we went out there together and kind of saw it happening.”

One Arizona official who knows Montero well theorized that he — like any former All-Star in his mid-30s nearing the free-agent market — simply had trouble coming to grips with the reality that he was no longer The Man.

Even if you may be right on both counts — and no matter how fast Montero patched it up with Arrieta — the backup catcher can’t blast a star manager and a star pitcher like that.

“It was too bad to see him go,” Hendricks said. “But that’s just baseball. That’s how it goes. You got to learn what you can from who’s around while they’re there and then move on. That’s just the nature of the game.”    

Why the White Sox are excited about Reynaldo Lopez: 'His time has come'

Why the White Sox are excited about Reynaldo Lopez: 'His time has come'

The White Sox like what they have in Reynaldo Lopez and are ready to see how his talent translates to the majors.

Lopez arrived at Guaranteed Rate Field on Thursday afternoon, a day ahead of his White Sox debut. Lopez will pitch for the White Sox in the opener of a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals. The No. 59 prospect in baseball spent Thursday assimilating himself to the clubhouse, playing catch and soaking up an atmosphere that has been energized by his promotion. Similar to last month’s call up of Yoan Moncada, Lopez’s first game has excited both the team’s fans and its members.

“Everybody has kind of been anticipating his arrival as we wait for a lot of the other guys who are going to be developing over the course of the next couple of years to get here,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Certainly, we’re all looking forward to getting him out there on the hill and see how he’s doing.”

The White Sox got a pretty good look at Lopez this spring after he came over in a December trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals. Lopez made five starts and posted a 3.72 ERA over 19 1/3 innings, striking out 14 and walking five. The right-hander made a strong impression on Don Cooper with his three-pitch mix.

“You could tell right away he had good stuff, he had three pitches, the fastball curveball and changeup,” Cooper said. “I enjoyed the conversations we had. I remember going to the film room with him looking at stuff. And now his time has come. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

While the two talked shop -- they moved Lopez on the rubber to improve his command -- Cooper said most of his intent this spring was to build a foundation with Lopez, who pitched 44 innings for Washington in 2016, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and others. The veteran pitching coach hopes those conversations and film sessions help he and Lopez pick up where they let off in March.

“It was more establishing a relationship because I knew he was going to be here,” Cooper said. “I wanted to feel comfortable with him and I want him to feel comfortable with me.

“I didn't want anything to slip through the cracks with my thoughts. I wanted him to know exactly where I was coming from and what I thought of him. Anytime he has questions or wants to know something, I want it to be clear for him.”

One thing is evident -
W- Lopez is as ready as he’s going to be. Lopez, 23, was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the month after he posted a 2.10 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30 innings in July. He said on Friday he’s believes he’s ready to be here and the White Sox think so, too.

“He's had to wait his time and now his time has come,” Cooper said.