Chicago White Sox: Bryan LaHair

Experience the reward for Chicago's Stars

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
12:00
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This combined tale of one city’s teams in the 83rd All-Star Game is highlighted by first-time appearances from Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale and Chicago Cubs outfielder/first baseman Bryan LaHair.

Although none of the six Chicago All-Stars factored in Tuesday’s final outcome, an 8-0 National League victory, the experience was unforgettable for the two newcomers.

“It was awesome and more than I could have even thought [it would be],” said Sale, who pitched a scoreless sixth inning, allowing two hits and striking out David Freese to end his work day.

[+] EnlargeChris Sale
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesChris Sale pitched a scoreless inning, allowing two hits and striking out one.
“I loved the whole thing, packed crowd, it was nuts,” Sale said.

LaHair entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement for Freese. The 29-year-old journeyman seemed to enjoy every moment he had on the field.

“It was awesome because the team came out banging and we had a dugout that was excited from the first inning on,” LaHair said.

The night was highlighted for LaHair when he batted against Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning.

“I tried to ambush his fastball but it didn’t work for me,” LaHair said of his groundout to shortstop. “I put it in play but I did not get enough barrel on it.”

Both Chicago players walked away from the game with an added feeling that they belong with the best.

“I leave with even more confidence,” LaHair said. “I had a good talk with Chipper Jones and took a little advice, hopefully use that to my advantage in the second half.”


Jones was a factor in Sale’s experience as well. The Sox starter had to step off the mound when the Atlanta Braves superstar was announced to a standing ovation by the Kansas City crowd.

“It was a special moment for him and the player he has been,” Sale said. “He has been a class act over his career. It’s not too often I like giving up hits but that one is a little easier to handle.”

Jones apparently fired up the entire National League squad with a short speech to the team before they took the field.

“Chipper said this is his last game and he didn’t come here to lose,” said Starlin Castro, who flew out to centerfield in his only at-bat. “That got us all going in this clubhouse.”

Change is in the air

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
11:37
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- With the wind swirling at U.S. Cellular Field at 25 mph, with gusts up to 41, Alfonso Soriano stepped out of the visiting dugout before the game and offered his weather report.

“What the [bleep]?” said Soriano, who served as designated hitter. “I’m glad I’m not out there in left today.”

Soriano wound up taking advantage of the wind, hitting one of the Chicago Cubs' season-high five home runs in their 12-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. Soriano didn’t need too much wind. His two-run shot went 440 feet to dead-center.

But it wasn’t just the actual wind blowing on the Cell. The “Wind of Change” was howling too. And no, the Scorpions didn’t play a pre-game concert.

While Soriano served as designated hitter, Bryan LaHair went from first base to right field for the first time this season. He homered in the second inning after making a nice running catch in the first. LaHair hadn’t played the outfield since appearing there in 14 games last season, but he could find himself there often soon.

Rizzo’s coming.

Read the entire column.

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 12, White Sox 3

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
10:06
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 12-3 win over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday.

How it happened: The Cubs abused White Sox pitchers on Monday. Bryan LaHair, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Luis Valbuena all hit home runs for the Cubs. The Cubs sent 11 hitters to the plate and scored six runs in the seventh inning. Cubs leadoff hitter David DeJesus was hit twice by pitches in the inning. Cubs starter Matt Garza improved to 3-5 after allowing three runs in six innings. White Sox pitcher Zach Stewart struggled in his first start of the season. He allowed nine hits, six runs and four home runs in 5 2/3 innings. Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski hit home runs for the White Sox.

What it means: The Cubs snapped the White Sox’s three-game winning streak over them. The White Sox have now lost five of their last seven games. The Cleveland Indians, who defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, moved within half a game of the Sox for first place in the American League Central.

Outside the box (White Sox): Konerko has often produced during interleague play. With Monday’s home run and two RBIs, he’s up to 57 home runs and 162 RBIs in interleague play. He’s second all-time in both categories in interleague play.

Outside the box (Cubs): Castro had consecutive games of at least three hits for the first time this season. The last time he had three hits in consecutive games, he did it in three straight Aug. 1-3 of last season, all in games against the Pirates. That was in the midst of a run when he had four three-hit performances in a span of five games. Castro’s three hits Sunday, combined with his fifth-inning home run Monday, gave him the cycle over two days.

Play of the game: White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez dove for a grounder up the middle, fielded it, spun on the ground and threw out Darwin Barney at first base in the second inning.

Up next: Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91) will start for the White Sox on Tuesday, and the Cubs will counter with Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58). Game time is 7:10.

Yesterday's journeymen become 2012 stars

June, 9, 2012
6/09/12
8:12
PM CT
By Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Bryan LaHair Benny Sieu/US PresswireBryan LaHair, 29, is in the top five in the National League in slugging, OBP and OPS.


At 28 years old and after spending much of the previous five seasons in Triple-A, Bryan LaHair was a purportedly “known” quantity -- Quadruple-A bat, perhaps a fill-in first baseman. In his one brief shot at The Show in Seattle in 2008, he split time at first base with utilityman Miguel Cairo and Jose Lopez. He didn't shine, and it was back to Tacoma the next year. In short, he seemed a man doomed to a dim star on an obscure walk of fame to be named later, perhaps in Tacoma, maybe in Iowa.

He changed that in his sixth campaign in the Pacific Coast League, changing the minds of scouts and analysts alike with 28 homers and a 1.070 OPS. And this year, taken seriously for the first time, he's a 29-year-old getting his first real shot at everyday play in the major leagues ... and blowing the league away. He's third in the National League in slugging, fourth in OBP, and fourth in OPS. And all it took to bring him to Wrigleyville was a minor-league contract, after the Mariners let him slip away as a minor league free agent.

By simultaneously shredding expectations and opposing pitchers, LaHair is providing a fine example that players' career paths aren't simply a matter of forecasting off past performance. That works on the macro level, for most players. But whether as a matter of changing their game or finally getting opportunities they'd long deserved, a few past-prime players are making the most of their opportunities this season.

You can't quite come up with a full lineup's worth of these guys, but beyond LaHair, here's my off-the-cuff list of this season's other “surprise stars,” some of whom will belong in Kansas City as full-fledged All-Stars in a month's time.

C A.J. Ellis, Dodgers: Say what you will about catching always being in short supply -- and it isn't -- Ellis had to wait until this year to get a clean shot at a catching job. Now 31, he's pretty much the perfect example of an organizational soldier: He spent his first two full seasons after getting picked in the 18th round out of Austin Peay as a backup at High-A, caddying for Russell Martin and then Edwin Bellorin (once upon a time a well-regarded Venezuelan prospect).

Ellis finally became a regular in Double-A in 2006. From the start, he showed tremendous ability to get on base, but the Dodgers kept him at the same slow pace, as he spent two years in the Southern League and two years in the PCL before graduating to two years as a big-league backup. That sort of long-form apprenticeship that seemed certain to lock him into little more than membership in the International Brotherhood of Backup Backstops.

Perhaps only taken seriously as a starter as a matter of grudging last resort this past winter, when the market offered slim pickings as far as catching help, Ellis is second only to Yadier Molina among NL catchers in his production at the plate while throwing out 41 percent of opponents' steal attempts. Ellis might be this group's best bet beyond LaHair to be headed to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.

SS Mike Aviles, Red Sox: It has been a bumpy road for Aviles since his old-rookie debut as a 27-year-old with the Royals in 2008. In K.C., he had to contend with injuries and the idea that he wasn't really a shortstop. This year, shortstops are putting up the collectively lowest OPS (.678) or OPS+ (88), so Aviles' .711 OPS/90 OPS+ clip is just a wee bit above average, not shabby considering he's also doing fine at short according to advanced fielding metrics. Beyond buying time for Jose Iglesias, this has proven a relatively high-yield, low-expense gamble for the Sox: League-average shortstops usually cost millions on the market, but Boston got him for an organizational arm (Kendal Volz) and Yamaico Navarro, a utility player so interesting that K.C. flipped him to the Pirates, who have already ditched him in Indianapolis.

CF Alejandro De Aza, White Sox: If LaHair is the slugging surprise of the season, De Aza is the out-of-nowhere leadoff solution most teams need. Back in 2007, he got an opportunity with the Marlins, leading off on Opening Day, but injuries to first one ankle and then the other derailed that season and the next. In 2009, he gave the first indication that he wasn't just going to be a speed guy, slugging .506 for New Orleans; the Marlins were so impressed they let him slip away on a waiver claim by the White Sox. Finally getting a shot at everyday play as a 28-year-old in the one-hole, he's hitting .299/.381/.425 and he's holding his own in center. Juan Pierre never looked this good, but a crowd of quality center fielders in the American League will keep De Aza from All-Star status.

OF Gregor Blanco, Giants: Melky Cabrera isn't the only Giants outfielder having a season well beyond anything he's done before. A Braves prospect they lost interest in, he was dealt to the Royals, who dealt him to D.C. before the Nationals ditched him. All he's ever done is get on base; he just needed an opportunity. He got one when general manager Brian Sabean fished him off the discard pile this past winter. Pushing his way past Nate Schierholtz, Blanco has hit his way into everyday play in right field and the leadoff job with a .387 OBP as a 28-year-old journeyman. Blanco may rival Sabean's “discovery” of Andres Torres in 2009 before all's said and done.

RF Justin Maxwell, Astros: Nobody has doubted Maxwell's power or talent, but his ability to stay healthy has been an annual concern. The Nats decided they had better uses for his spot on the 40-man and traded him to the Yankees, but he spent more time on the disabled list in 2011 with a bum shoulder than he did in pinstripes. The talent-hungry Astros snagged the 28-year-old off waivers this spring, and he's been a free-talent find as a fourth outfielder, providing power against lefties and strong-armed defense.

SP Jerome Williams, Angels: Back in the day, Williams was a top prospect in the Giants organization, ranking in Baseball America's top 20 for all baseball. That all seemed merited after a fine 2003 rookie season in which he drew an NL Division Series start for them against the Marlins. It was almost unrelentingly downhill from there; he needed elbow surgery in 2004, got dealt to the Cubs in 2005, and then bouncing through the Nationals, Twins, A's (twice) and Dodgers organizations, as well as a stint in the independent leagues. After making a nice impression on the Angels down the stretch last season, the 30-year-old Williams is getting regular rotation work in the majors for the first time in seven years as their fifth starter. More of a finesse righty these days, he's been an exceptional salvage-project success, putting up eight quality starts in 10 turns, far better work than most teams reasonably expect from a No. 5.

Quite simply, what these guys reflect is that not all replacements are “replacement level.” Just when you think you know what a player is capable of, a happy few beyond their expected peak age of 27 have demonstrated the delightful capacity to surprise and exceed the modest expectations even their fans harbored for them. I don't know about you, but I like these kinds of surprises -- here's hoping we see more of the same from all of them.

Humber's pitch to LaHair subject of debate

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
8:09
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber and Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair disagreed Friday whether Humber intended to throw at LaHair in retaliation for White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko being hit by a pitch.

Konerko was hit in the head by a splitter from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija in the top of the third inning. Konerko suffered a small laceration above his eye and swelling and was taken to the hospital for testing. He did not return to the game.

[+] EnlargePhilip Humber
David Banks/Getty ImagesSox starter Phil Humber said he didn't throw intentionally at the Cubs' Bryan LaHair.
After pitching to Samardzija and three other Cubs hitters in the bottom of the third, Humber’s first pitch to LaHair in the bottom of the fourth, a high fastball, soared behind LaHair’s head. The pitch resulted in home plate umpire Tim Timmons issuing warnings to both dugouts.

“That just got away from me,” Humber said. “It’s one of those things that happens during the game.”
LaHair didn’t see the pitch the same way.

“Definitely felt like it was intentional,” LaHair said. “They waited a whole inning and then the first pitch was right at my head. I'm all right with getting hit and stuff like that, I understand, but when you start getting around people's heads that can be scary. It is what it is. Nothing happened. I didn't get hurt or anything so move on from it.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.319 35 103 77
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 35
RBIJ. Abreu 103
RA. Ramirez 78
OPSJ. Abreu .975
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.20
SOC. Sale 198