Santiago lends a hand in Newtown healing efforts

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Santiago lends a hand in Newtown healing efforts

Hector Santiago visited with Newtown, Conn. school kids nearly a month after the shooting, but evidence of the tragedy remains.

Earlier this month, the White Sox pitcher drove just over an hour from his home in New Jersey to visit students at St. Rose of Lima Church. As he exited his vehicle, Santiago recalls he immediately noticed a police car on campus. A short while later, Santiago, who is in competition for the fifth spot in the Sox rotation this spring, noticed another police car -- and then another.

"Every morning when they go to school they have to see that," Santiago said at SoxFest on Sunday. "Even if it's over, it happened, the tragedy is done, they're still affected by it. I'm sure they didn't have three police cars by their school (before). That can bring back memories."

Santiago wasn't directly affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. None of his family members was killed or injured in the catastrophe.

But living in Newark, N.J., Santiago's grade school had a view of the New York City skyline. He remembers how he could see smoke from the Twin Towers from his classroom and how a teacher's assistant believed her son, who worked at the World Trade Center, was in the buildings only to later learn he was safe because he had fallen asleep on the train and was late to work.

So as he flipped channels on Dec. 14 and came across news of the massacre that left 27 dead, including 20 first-graders, Santiago -- who was still in Puerto Rico -- began to experience the same emotions. Friends whom he was staying with raced out of their apartment to pick up their children from school. Santiago knew he needed to get involved. Five days later, he and his advisor decided they would try to arrange a visit.

More than a month later, Santiago was in Newtown but not certain what he should say to a group of mostly fourth through eighth graders. He was advised to introduce himself, tell the children his story, how he made the majors after six seasons in the minors and open the floor to questions. After his introduction, Santiago fielded questions for nearly an hour.

"At first you don't know what to say, what to expect, what the reaction will be," Santiago said. "They took off. It was 45 minutes of straight questions, no break, no hesitation. There were hands all the over the place. It was awesome."

Just like that, Santiago accomplished what he set out to do -- give the students a break from their reality. For 45 minutes there were no camera crews, no police cars and no stories revealing another detail of the tragedy.

"They were all smiling," Santiago said. "There were no sad faces. It felt like they didn't think about that when I was in there. They forgot about anything else outside of it, learned about baseball and talked about it. Just watching all those kids have fun was awesome."

Preview: Carlos Rodon, White Sox open final series of season vs. Twins on CSN+

Preview: Carlos Rodon, White Sox open final series of season vs. Twins on CSN+

The White Sox open their final series of the season tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon (8-10, 4.08 ERA) vs. Tyler Duffey (9-11, 6.18 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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White Sox five-game winning streak snapped with loss to Rays

White Sox five-game winning streak snapped with loss to Rays

The playoffs were the ultimate goal and he probably would have liked another victory on Thursday night.

But Jose Quintana has plenty to be proud about when he takes stock of his 2016 campaign, which ended with a 5-3 White Sox loss to the Tampa Rays in front of 14,792 at U.S. Cellular Field. The first-time All-Star’s record dropped to 13-12 after he allowed two earned runs in six innings in his final start, but not before Quintana established career highs for innings pitched, strikeouts and earned-run average. The loss guaranteed a fourth straight losing season for the White Sox, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2008.

“I’m happy with my year,” Quintana said. “But every time I say it’s not about me. It’s about the team. We’ll try to finish strong in the next series against the Twins and come back next year to have a better year than this one.”

Quintana had the best individual season of his career. If he’d received any kind of run support from his teammates, he’d be at or near the top of the leaders for wins, too.

But same as he has for the past four seasons, Quintana didn’t receive any run support yet again on Thursday, though this time can be attributed to a stellar performance by Chris Archer.

Archer held down early an offense that had Quintana ranked 116th out of 132 qualified starting pitchers in run support. The White Sox only had two runners reach scoring position in the time Quintana pitched (one scored). By the time Archer slowed down, the White Sox bullpen allowed three runs and the contest was nearly out of reach at 5-1.

Still, Quintana was good enough to win yet again in a season full of comparable efforts.

He allowed a run in the second inning on a bloop RBI single by Alexei Ramirez and another in the fourth on a solo homer by Mikie Mahtook. Other than that he was his normal efficient self, striking out seven and limiting the Rays to two runs and five hits in six innings.

The effort lowered Quintana’s ERA to 3.20 (his previous low was 3.32 in 2014). He also surpassed his previous high-inning mark of 206 1/3 with 208 this season. And, Quintana, who eclipsed the 10-win mark for the first time in his career, finished with 181 strikeouts, three more than he in 2014.

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White Sox manager Robin Ventura thinks the overall production was a byproduct of the first All-Star nod for Quintana, who surpassed 200 innings for a fourth straight season.

“You wouldn’t think that would mean a lot, but it really does,” Ventura said. “I think that’s the stuff that can catapult somebody into things that are better and pushing him into the offseason, the optimistic stuff of going into next year.”

Quintana’s name often surfaces as an easy fix to some of the White Sox’ woes when it comes to next season.

With two guaranteed seasons and two club-friendly options left on his current contract, Quintana — who entered Thursday valued at 19.7 f-WAR for his career — is viewed as a stellar trade chip given the weak free agent class. It is believed the White Sox could solve several problem areas on the roster or add considerable depth to their farm system were they to make Quintana or Chris Sale available. Quintana knows the possibility exists but hopes he’s back with the White Sox next season and helping them end their postseason drought.

“I don’t have control about that,” Quintana said. “I don’t know nothing about trades. I’m here as a Chicago White Sox, and I want to be here for a long time. I’ll go home, rest and am going to be ready to start with my preparation for next year. I’ll be ready for that, but I don’t have control about trades.”