GMs view: White Sox in good hands with Hahn

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GMs view: White Sox in good hands with Hahn

DETROIT -- A.J. Hinch has known Rick Hahn since the days before he started to report to work on Chicagos South Side.

Hinch, a former player and manager, and currently a San Diego Padres assistant general manager, was a client of then-agent Jeff Moorad when he first met Hahn in the late 1990s. At the time, Hahn worked as an associate who specialized in contract work for Moorad and agents Leigh Steinberg and David Dunn.

Hahn, who on Friday was elevated by the White Sox to the role of general manager after 12 seasons as an assistant GM, made a positive impression on Hinch quickly.

Though Hahn -- who has degrees from the University of Michigan, Harvard Law School and Northwesterns Kellogg Graduate School of Management -- was focused mainly on contract work, his quest for baseball knowledge stood out to Hinch.

Hinch and several other baseball executives spoke to CSNChicago.com on Friday and said they believe the White Sox will continue to experience success under Hahn, who took over as GM for Kenny Williams. The teams GM for the past 12 seasons, Williams was promoted to executive vice president and will oversee the franchises baseball operations department while handing off the daily duties to Hahn, 41.

Hes so balanced and hes got enough intellectual curiosity and intelligence, Hinch said by phone on Friday morning. He has a great blend of a lot of different approaches and experience. What stands out is how clear a thinker he is at all times. Hes never rattled and thats a great characteristic to have in a leader.

Another aspect Hahn brings to the table is experience. San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean referenced Hahns 12 seasons as Williams right-hand man when he was told of the promotion during a World Series workout on Friday night.

Not only does Hahn possess the ability to handle the contractual side of the job, he also has been around Williams on a daily basis and seen what comes with his increased duties of player evaluation and assembling a roster.

He has a good reputation, Sabean said. Rick has been there every step of the way. My gut reaction: I dont see how theyd skip a beat.

Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said Hahn has been largely involved several of the six trades he has made with the White Sox over the years. Byrnes, the former GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, said Hahns knowledge, preparation and direct nature have helped foster a positive reputation throughout baseball. Over the past three years, both Sports Illustrated and Baseball America identified Hahn as a top candidate to become a GM.

Byrnes said Hahn has an added ingredient beyond the intelligence, which should allow him to be successful even in the tough times.

Hes on the ball, respectful and has a good sense of humor, Byrnes said by phone. He can be self-deprecating. The more youre in the game, the more you can look back at decisions youre not proud of.

Hinch agrees. He believes its how, over the years, Hahn has handled the areas hes less familiar -- ie: talent evaluation -- which allows him to stand out.

He never came across like he has it all figured out, Hinch said. Hes invested a lot of time. He knows what he knows and works on the things that didnt come as natural.

Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

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Jose Quintana giving White Sox another ace to play as early season success rolls on

The White Sox newfound brand of crisp, clean baseball is suiting Jose Quintana awfully well. 

The 27-year-old left-hander pitched another gem Tuesday night, firing eight innings of one-run ball to propel the White Sox to a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox in front of 15,025 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Anchored by improved offensive and defensive support, Quintana lowered his season ERA to 1.40. But more jarring — in a positive way — is that in earning the win on Tuesday, Quintana for the first time in his career won three consecutive starts. 

“It’s way better this year,” Quintana said. “The offense is, for me and for everybody, everybody tries to do his job. We’re off to a really good start and we believe this year is a good year for us, and we’ll try to do everything to stay in first place.”

Quintana’s posted consistently solid results since the White Sox plucked him from Double-A Birmingham to start in a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians four years ago. His decidedly-not-flashy-but-effective pitching style didn’t make headlines like his prolific teammate Chris Sale, but a 3.46 ERA and an unfairly poor win-loss record landed him on plenty of lists and social media takes focused on the most underrated or overlooked players in baseball. 

That’s changed this year. Before his stellar start Tuesday, Quintana was given 8/1 odds by the sports betting website Bovada to win the American League Cy Young, the third-best of anyone (Sale led the way at 6/5). It’s still early, of course, but these six starts to begin the 2016 season stand is one of the best stretches he’s had in his career. 

Manager Robin Ventura attributed Quintana’s ace-like success in part to pitching with a little less pressure than in the past. 

“There is something to be said for going out there thinking if you give up one you’re going to lose,” Ventura said. “It’s been a few years for him. Right now (with) the feeling going on in there, he knows if he just pitches his game those guys are going to scratch out some runs for him.”

The White Sox continue to show signs of ending a head-scratching inability to support Quintana. 

Jose Abreu’s first-inning RBI triple got the White Sox scoring started and his double in the eighth added two insurance runs (a Todd Frazier groundout in the third inning plated the White Sox other run). For the fifth time in six starts this season, Quintana was supported by four or more runs, and Adam Eaton and Austin Jackson made sparkling defensive plays to keep hard-hit balls from inflicting any damage. 

Having the offense score four or more runs in 83 percent of Quintana’s starts seems unlikely — if he makes 32 starts this year, that’d mean he’d get that support in about 27 of those — but it is an improvement off the last few seasons. The White Sox scored three or fewer runs in 54 percent of Quintana’s starts from 2013-15, a span in which it’s worth noting the club also was rated as having the third-worst defense in baseball by DRS and UZR. 

“There’s more of a confidence level of him knowing he doesn’t have to do an extraordinary thing — and he might do it, like tonight,” Ventura said. “But he doesn’t feel like he has to do it on his own.”

Quintana isn’t throwing harder this year and hasn’t added a new pitch or anything like that. But Ventura’s theory on why the Colombia native is pitching better makes sense — perhaps the next step in Quintana’s career was getting a good, reliable team playing behind him.

“He’s probably one of the best right now in the league,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through a translator. 

That’s not hyperbole. Quintana has a top-10 ERA that’s backed up by a 2.12 FIP, which is a good indicator that his early-season success isn’t necessarily a small sample size-generated mirage. 

Quintana is a shining example of how so much has gone right for the White Sox this season — even on the day in which the team announced it would eat over $11 million to cut ties with veteran left-hander John Danks. Not only is he pitching better, but everyone around him is playing better. And the combination of that, so far, has taken Quintana and the White Sox to another level. 

“Everything changed,” Quintana said. “Everything is going in a good direction this year. We believe in that.”

Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

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Today on CSN: Lester, Cubs go for sweep in Pittsburgh

The Cubs look to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11 a.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (2-1, 1.83) vs. Juan Nicasio (3-2, 3.33)

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

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Rick Hahn: Filling fifth spot in White Sox rotation a 'fluid situation'

Erik Johnson gets the first chance at the No. 5 spot in the White Sox rotation, but the situation is hardly finalized.

The White Sox announced Tuesday that they would promote Johnson from Triple-A Charlotte in time to make Thursday’s start in place of John Danks, whom they will officially designated for assignment later this week. But just because Johnson gets the first start doesn’t mean he’s here for good, general manager Rick Hahn said.

Hahn and the White Sox have made it clear they want better production from the fifth spot, whether it's from an internal or an external option.

“It’s going to be a bit of a fluid situation,” Hahn said.

Hahn is comfortable with the team’s internal options at Charlotte beyond Johnson.

Miguel Gonzalez, who started last Monday in Toronto, has a solid major league track record. Then there’s Jacob Turner, who has 27 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings with a 3.04 ERA in five starts.

But Hahn also said the White Sox wouldn’t shy away from looking outside the farm system, either. Hahn declined to answer whether or not the White Sox would watch Tim Lincecum’s tryout Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz. before he noted the club has “scouts everywhere.”

The White Sox could also try and use their internal options to get by for several months before adding another pitcher ahead of the trade deadline.

No matter whom they turn to, the expectation is better results than the White Sox received from Danks, who was 0-4 with a 7.25 ER in four starts.

“Obviously, Erik starts on Thursday,” Hahn said. “After that, we may well make another move next week as we try to accomplish two things with that spot -- first and foremost, get greater production than we’ve been receiving thus far this year.”

“We do have a few internal options.

“If it does get to the point where we’re better off going outside the organization, obviously we’ve never been shy about doing that.”