Chicago White Sox: Chicago White Sox

Konerko had a hunch about these Royals

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
3:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While much of the country is catching Kansas City Royals fever, retired Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is probably the least surprised of anyone.

Konerko
When Konerko boldly claimed nine days ago that the Royals look an awful lot like the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, he probably didn't have a white-knuckle wild-card victory in mind. The Royals needed 12 innings to dispatch the Oakland Athletics 9-8 last week and advance to the division series.

Now that the Royals have swept the Los Angeles Angels in the division series, though, the 2005 connection is becoming clear again, and not just because of the composition of Kansas City's roster. The White Sox also tallied a division series sweep in 2005, blowing through the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox to do it.

Keeping the comparison going is only going to get tougher for the Royals. The White Sox not only went on to win four of five games in the 2005 American league Championship Series, they closed with four consecutive complete games from their starters.

But Konerko's comparison was more about a Royals team that was pitching well heading into the postseason, especially from its bullpen, with an offense that might not be one of the best in baseball, but knows how to deliver when it needs to.

Konerko made the connection at none other than his speech to White Sox fans during Paul Konerko Day, one day before the club's season ended. Konerko took a moment early in his speech to congratulate the Royals for earning a postseason spot.

"Good luck to you guys," Konerko said, microphone in hand while turning toward the Royals dugout. "Represent the (American League) Central. You guys remind me of a team I played for once. You guys can go do it. Represent."

Now the Royals sit eight victories from their wildest dream, while Konerko is closer to saying, "I told you so," if he ever did things like that.

Asked about recognizing the Royals in his speech, Konerko stood by what he said. He wasn't giving praise, just because the Royals were in the room.

"What I told them was true," Konerko said. "That team right there looks a lot like the team that won the World Series here as far as how they're built. Good luck to them. I hope they do it. I hope they get the same feeling I had. It was great."

Sox don't want to be second guessing

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
11:08
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The next generation of Chicago White Sox second basemen had a rough go of it Tuesday in an 11-2 defeat to the Oakland Athletics.

The White Sox are loaded with no fewer than three prospects ready to break through at middle infield, and two of them got a chance to show what they can do. With Carlos Sanchez actually playing second base Tuesday, Marcus Semien was asked to tap in to his versatility and play third.

In the end, it wasn’t pretty. Semien made three errors while going 0-for-3 at the plate with a strikeout. Sanchez had his own issues. He collided with Oakland’s Craig Gentry while late to cover first base in the fifth inning, and Gentry had to leave the game with a concussion. Then, on his RBI double in the seventh inning, Sanchez appeared to lose track of the ball and was easily thrown out while trying to stretch his hit into a triple.

Growing pains aren’t unexpected at this time of the year, and the White Sox know the issues they saw from their young infielders Tuesday all are correctable.

“You want them to get it out of their system,” manager Robin Ventura said. “They're good players -- bad night. We've seen Marcus make plays. Sanchez, same thing. They're up here, and you try to get that experience and get it out of your system and play better. That's a part of being up here. There's been guys that have been around a long time that had nights like that.”

Not in action Tuesday was probably the most talented second-base option of the bunch, Micah Johnson, whose season ended after he developed hamstring issues late in the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Johnson ultimately projects as the long-term answer at second base, with his ability to use speed, his occasional power and an improving glove that has the White Sox excited for the future. Johnson entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the fastest base runner in the Chicago system.

Where Semien and Sanchez fit into the mix remains to be seen. One or both could be used as trade bait this winter, which makes their time on the major league stage over the next few weeks a valuable showcase.

Then there is the idea that Semien or Sanchez takes over at second base for perhaps another year, until Johnson is ready to assume the job. But Johnson will already be 23 next year, and the White Sox might be ready to give him his chance.

In 2009, Johnson was a ninth-round draft pick out of Indiana University. He didn’t get his first taste of Triple-A until this season, after he started the year at Double-A. He batted a combined .294 with five home runs, 44 RBIs and 22 stolen bases, though he was caught 13 times.

The glut of options is why the White Sox were finally comfortable severing ties with longtime second baseman Gordon Beckham. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in August, though he still had one more season of arbitration eligibility remaining before he hits his free-agent years.

It was Semien who started at second base on Opening Day when Beckham was out with an oblique injury. He showed flashes of brilliance early, especially with clutch hitting, but he was prone to striking out -- something he still needs to work out of his game.

As for his defense, Tuesday wasn’t a proud moment, but the White Sox won’t let one game change their feelings about him.

“You know what, you just have to move on,” Semien said afterward. “There are some plays I should have made -- I didn’t make ’em. We had a tough night tonight, so that’s it.”

Maybe next the White Sox will find out how Semien can put the rough days behind him, something Beckham always seemed to struggle with.

“Yeah, I can look at the plays all I want, [and] I can practice them,"Semien said. "I just want to come back tomorrow, have a good day at work, and if I’m in there, forget about today and move on."

Did Ventura meltdown inspire change?

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
6:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Sometimes a child-like temper tantrum is just what is needed to get your point heard.

Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura pulled off a dirt-kicking meltdown the past month that might have been extremely influential in a likely change to the interpretation of the home plate collision rule, a ruling of which went against his club Aug. 13 in San Francisco.

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark has reported there soon could be clarity to Rule 7:13, which was originally intended to protect catchers from getting bowled over at the plate. What baseball seems intent on fixing is that runs won’t be able to score on a technicality when runners have been thrown out by a substantial margin.

During an interleague game the past month, the Giants’ Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate by at least 20 feet, but umpires ruled White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers impeded the direct path to the plate, and the run was allowed to score. A day earlier, the White Sox did not get a call overturned when a nearly identical play went against them.

After Blanco’s run was allowed to score, Venture blew up at the umpires and went as far as to kick dirt on the plate before he left the field.

“If you look at the spirit of the rule, of what they are trying to do and what it's actually doing, it's a joke,” Ventura said then. “They don't take into consideration that the guy was out by a long shot.”

Well, they are about to. Ventura, though, is modest about his impact on the changes.

“I don't think that has anything to do with it,” he said. “I think plays eventually, probably, bring that discussion up more than anything because there’s been enough of the plays where it seems like a guy would normally be out, and he's ruled safe. I think that's what happens when you don't really have a clear-cut rule that's pretty decisive and can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It just needs to be to a point where, if a guy you can tell he's going to be out, he should be out.”

In fact, an unnamed source in Stark’s report referenced multiple similar plays that have led to the likely rule interpretation change. The most high-profile of those plays at the plate came July 31 in a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins, in which the Reds were given a run on the rule interpretation technicality.

Even before an official announcement is made, it seems the rule already is being interpreted differently.

On the White Sox’s latest homestand, Ventura tried to get a call overturned when a White Sox runner was thrown out at home by a large margin. Ventura asked for a replay to see if the path to the plate was blocked. The call was not overturned.

As long as the rule is now within the spirit of the game, Ventura seems fine if umpires don’t give him back the run he lost against the Giants.

“I understand protecting the catchers,” Ventura said. “I think most of their injuries and things like that probably come from foul tips instead of actual plays at the plate. You don't want guys targeting catchers coming into the plate -- [I] get that. But in the end, when you get a guy out and you make the play, and everything's done effectively, you want the guy to be out.

White Sox to open 2015 at Royals

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
12:58
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's 2015 schedule marks a return to a pair of three-game series against the cross-town rival Chicago Cubs and interleague games against the National League Central division.

The club released a tentative schedule for next season with Opening Day taking place at Kansas City on April 6. The White Sox will play host to their home opener April 10 against the Minnesota Twins. It is just the fourth time in the past 11 seasons the White Sox will open the season on the road. They were in Cleveland in 2008 and 2011 and in Texas in 2012.

After the past two seasons, when games against the Cubs were reduced to two games at each ballpark, the White Sox will travel to Wrigley Field for a three-game series July 10-12 and then wait to play host to the Cubs on Aug. 14-16. Both series will be on a weekend.

The White Sox also will travel to Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis in interleague play, while the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals, in addition to the Cubs, visit U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox will be required to make three, three-city road trips next season, including the final trip to Cleveland, Detroit and New York to face the Yankees from Sept. 18-27. They will close the season on a six-game homestand against the Royals and Tigers.

While drastic changes to the schedule are not expected, the team won't make the dates official until at some point over the winter.

Adam Eaton officially reinstated from DL

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
12:16
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox made it official Tuesday, reinstating center fielder Adam Eaton from the 15-day disabled list.

The leadoff man, who is batting .304 with 55 runs scored this season, had been on the disabled list since Aug. 9 with a strained right oblique. He was 37-for-85 (.435) over his last 22 games before going on the DL.

Eaton will take the roster spot of outfielder Jordan Danks, who was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte on Monday.

The White Sox open a three-game series Tuesday night at home against the Cleveland Indians.

Eaton makes up for his occasional blunders

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
1:04
PM CT
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Despite a late base-running mistake that Adam Eaton took particularly hard after Saturday’s two-run loss to the Twins, Robin Ventura reiterated Sunday morning that he appreciates his centerfielder’s aggressiveness on the basepaths.

“He rolls the dice a little bit by running hard and I think by him running hard, he puts himself in situations where he has to make that split decision whether to go or not go just because he's faster than everybody else,” Ventura said. “He gets to certain spots in the field when the ball's coming in that most people -- it wouldn't have been a problem for me, I know I would've been at first base. I think that's part of his aggressive style, and a lot of it's worked out. Every once in a while you're going to get burned by that. Do you wish that it never happened? Yeah. But in the end he's going to make more positive things happen by doing that.”

[+] EnlargeAdam Eaton
AP Photo/Andrew A. NellesAdam Eaton is having a solid first season with the White Sox on both offense and defense.
Eaton has been everything the White Sox had hoped he’d be when they acquired him a three-team deal last December with the Arizona Diamondbacks. On the season he’s putting up a strong slash line of .306/.371/.40 with 19 doubles and seven triples.
Eaton’s strong performance has helped rejuvenate an offense that had stagnated after a hot start, but has now scored five or more runs in seven of their last nine games. Add in the fact that he plays a strong center field and Eaton is certainly a welcome addition to the White Sox roster.

“When he's going well, we're scoring a lot of runs, that much is simple,” Ventura said of his spark-plug leadoff man. “I think even watching him in center field, I was not aware as good a center fielder as he is. We didn't get that report, at least I didn't. He covers a lot of ground, has a great arm, that's the stuff that you don't really know until you get somebody here. You see balls hit here the last couple years and you wonder where he's going to be at, but he gets great jumps on balls and it's been a really good find for us.”

After missing 14 games in May with a hamstring injury, Eaton came back and had some struggles late in May and into June. However, in his last 47 games, Eaton’s bat has heated up with a very impressive .911 OPS. All this despite a having a broken middle finger in his right hand that he sustained prior to the All-Star break.

“He's just been putting it on the ball. I think the injury might've helped in some way of just shortening up his swing,” Ventura said. “Sometimes when that happens, guys don't like to swing and miss so they're very conscious about making sure they make good contact. In Detroit he had a swing-and-miss that cost him about 15-20 seconds just to kind of collect himself. When guys have something like that, there just becomes a focus they're not really aware of. They're just trying to put it in play.”

Garcia, Lindstrom ready for rehab duties

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
6:41
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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DETROIT -- Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia and reliever Matt Lindstrom will join Triple-A Charlotte on Friday to begin injury rehab assignments.

Garcia, who has been out since April after shoulder surgery, will begin his rehab assignment as a designated hitter before advancing to full games in the outfield, according to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.

Lindstrom, out since May after undergoing ankle surgery, might need just a handful of appearances before returning to the White Sox.

The original timetable on Garcia was that he would return by spring training in 2015, although the White Sox were open to him playing winter ball. Hahn has stood by that original plan, although now he seems open to Garcia returning this season. White Sox manager Robin Ventura already has said there is a chance Garcia could return this year.

“This rehab assignment is the next step in the process,” Hahn said. “Getting him in live game action on a consistent basis, not only to get him back to a playing standpoint he’s accustomed to, but also a physical standpoint. Making sure that he can withstand it and is physically able to perform at the big league level.

“It certainly is done with the hope that the next stage is activation to the major league roster but, at the same time, as we’ve done for the past several months with his rehab, we’re going to respond to how he feels physically and how he is from a symptomatic standpoint and obviously err on the side of caution.”

As far as arm strength goes, Lindstrom seems ready to return. Getting his ankle to respond to the rigors of the game is the focus now.

“Part of it is going to be the lateral movement, getting off the mound, a lot of the drills he’s been put through and some of the things that were tested in the two simulated games he had,” Hahn said. “The arm strength, he’s been able to maintain that fairly decently through his layoff. But it is a matter of making sure the stuff and the arm strength is at the previous level before he’s activated.

“We’re just going to have to react to what he shows during the assignment before bringing him back.”

One day before the non-waiver trade deadline, chatter of deals involving the White Sox has been quiet. But adding Lindstrom and Garcia before the season ends gives the sense of being a buyer rather than a seller, since an influx of talent will be on the way for the closing months.

“I think there’s a sense of that,” Hahn said. “Certainly Matt has the ability to help solidify the back end of the bullpen, and Avi would be a big piece for us not only in the lineup but as part of our future plans, and being able to continue the process of getting to where we want to be.

“We’ve missed them both throughout this stretch. And if and when they return to the active roster, we certainly think it’s going to be a nice shot in the arm.”

One thing Hahn refuses to do is torture himself with what would have been -- had guys like Lindstrom, Garcia and Nate Jones had their health this season.

“Yeah, I get enough torture on a nightly basis, I don’t need to add that,” Hahn said. “I prefer to stay away from that because every [team] has to suffer through it. It’s part of the game. It’s unfortunate for us, but I’m sure every club is lamenting the loss of a player here or there that they felt would make something different.

“Instead, I’m just trying to be more focused on when we are getting them back and what improvements that will lead to in our performance.”

Rapid Reaction: Royals 2, White Sox 1

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
4:17
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox were in it late but fell 2-1 on Wednesday in the series finale against the Kansas City Royals.

How it happened: Norichika Aoki drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning for the Royals against reliever Zach Putnam. An expected pitchers' duel between the White Sox's Jose Quintana and the Royals' James Shields came to fruition. Quintana gave up one run on seven hits over seven innings, while Shields gave up one run on six hits over seven innings. Both runs came home in the first inning as the Royals scored on Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly and the White Sox tied it on Adam Dunn's single.

What it means: On the cusp of winning a series against the Royals, the White Sox fell again to their division rival. The White Sox won the series opener, but lost the next two games and still haven't beat the Royals in a series at home since April of 2013. The White Sox are now 2-12 in their last 14 home games against Kansas City.

Outside the box: Tyler Flowers' hot run at the plate continued with two more hits. In an offensive funk heading toward the end of the first half that saw his batting average dip to .213 and his on-base percentage fall to .270, Flowers has turned things around quickly with three multi-hit games over his last five contests.

Off beat: The incredible no-decision tally continued yet again for Quintana. The left-hander was left with a no-decision after a hard day of work for the ninth time this season. Since 2012, nobody in baseball has more than Quintana's 36 no-decisions. It was his 16th quality start of the season after entering the day fifth in the American League in that category. Opponents were hitting .43 home runs per nine innings against him, fifth best in the AL.

Up next: The White Sox will send right-hander Hector Noesi (4-6, 4.55 ERA) to the mound Thursday at Minnesota in the opener of a four-game series. The Twins will counter with right-hander Phil Hughes (10-6, 4.05) in the 7:10 p.m. start from Target Field.

Series preview: Royals at White Sox

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
11:22
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox will return to American League Central play this week, set on tracking down not one, but two break-even points in the standings.

The White Sox will play host to the Kansas City Royals for a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field starting Monday night with a 17-21 record in division play and a 47-51 overall record.

Monday's game is the start of a 13-game run all against AL Central rivals. After the Royals, the White Sox will head to Minnesota and Detroit, before coming home to start August with a series against the Twins.

The White Sox are currently nine games behind the first-place Tigers in the AL Central, but are just two games behind the third-place Royals. The Cleveland Indians are 5 1/2 games behind the Tigers in second place.

"(Division games) are very important, and we see it as such, especially when you're playing with guys ahead of you," leadoff man Adam Eaton said. "I'm not sure where we rank right now, but they're very important, and we'll continue to battle day in and day out and take the same approach as we did today, yesterday and the day before: Good pitching and timely hitting."

John Danks had a rocky start Sunday against the Houston Astros, but likes the team's chances in the kickoff game against division foes Monday.

"We've got to win all the games we can," Danks said. "We've dug a little hole in the first half. There's plenty of baseball left, but we've got to get on a roll. We've got the right guy going Monday."

That "right guy" is left-hander Chris Sale, who will bring an 8-1 record and a 2.08 ERA into his first start since appearing in last week's All-Star Game.

HEAD TO HEAD



The White Sox's Alexei Ramirez is just 8-for-45 (.178) against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie in his career, while Adam Eaton is 3-for-7 (.429) with two walks. ... If it seems that Royals starter Bruce Chen is always matched up against the White Sox, he must feel the same way. The left-hander's 124 2/3 innings against the White Sox are easily his most against any team and his 3.47 ERA is third-best among AL clubs, trailing only his 3.46 mark against the Tampa Bay Rays and his 2.97 number against the Toronto Blue Jays. ... Ramirez feasts on Royals starter James Shields, going 20-for-48 (.417) against him in his career with two home runs. ... The Royals' Mike Moustakas is just 4-for-20 (.200) in his career against Sale, but Alcides Escobar is 15-for-39 (.385). ... White Sox starter, and Kansas City-area native, Scott Carroll has faced the Royals twice, giving up six runs and eight hits in a no-decision in May and then giving up one run in a three-inning relief appearance in June. ... The Royals' Billy Butler might hit Sale well (14-for-37 with three home runs), but he doesn't do that much against White Sox starter Jose Quintana (5-for-24, no home runs).

NOTES

Jose Abreu has hit safely in 29 of his past 30 games and is batting .353 over that stretch. He is also on an 11-game hitting streak where he is batting .400 (18-for-45). ... Eaton is on a modest seven-game hitting streak where he is 12-for-28 (.429), and has three multi-hit efforts over his past five games. ... The White Sox's pitching staff is coming off a game where it matched a season high by allowing 17 hits. It also happened May 13 against the Oakland Athletics. ... The White Sox are just 3-5 over their past eight games. ... Conor Gillaspie is batting .419 (13-for-31) with four doubles, three home runs, six RBIs and nine runs scored over his past nine games. ... The Royals opened the second half by getting swept over the weekend in a three-game series at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. ... Guthrie, who starts the series opener for the Royals, has a 10.43 ERA over his past three outings.

PITCHING MATCHUPS



Monday: White Sox LH Chris Sale (8-1, 2.08 ERA) vs. Royals RH Jeremy Guthrie (5-8, 4.56), 7:10 p.m. CST
Tuesday: White Sox RH Scott Carroll (4-5, 4.19) vs. Royals LH Bruce Chen (1-2, 6.46), 7:10 p.m. CST
Wednesday: White Sox LH Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.26) vs. Royals RH James Shields (9-5, 3.70), 1:10 p.m. CST

Rodon's pro debut set for next week

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
2:22
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox first-round draft pick Carlos Rodon is on his way to Arizona and is expected to make his professional debut with the Arizona Rookie League White Sox early next week.

The left-handed Rodon, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the June draft, received a signing bonus of $6.582 million last week.

It is expected that the White Sox will have Rodon make a few appearances in the desert and then send him to Single-A Winston-Salem later in the month.

Chris Sale, who was the last White Sox No. 1 pick in 2010, started his professional career at Winston Salem, moved to Triple-A Charlotte after four outings and made his major league debut on Aug. 6 of that year.

Rodon is widely believed to be the player who could move fastest to the major leagues out of this year’s draft, but making his White Sox debut this season figures to be a long shot. The minor league season ends at the end of August.

The North Carolina State product had a 2.01 ERA over 17 outings this past season, and 117 strikeouts with 31 walks in 98 2/3 innings, using a slider as his most dominating pitch.

Highs, lows: Abreu soars, pen a headache

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
12:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- When putting all the pieces together, a shaky first half for the Chicago White Sox still had more positives than negatives when considering the bigger picture.

Jose Abreu was definitely the brightest light for the White Sox over the opening three-plus months, but there were other positives, as well, mostly on the offensive side.

While deficiencies still remain, and were largely responsible for a first-half record that was six games under .500 at 45-51, the team has proven that the roster rebuild that began last season has the chance to turn the White Sox into a contender again in far less time than some predicted.

With that, let's review what went right in the first half of the 2014 season and what didn't go exactly as planned.

THE POSITIVES


The rebuild: Things got off to an intriguing start last season when the White Sox managed to flip Jake Peavy for a long-term answer in the outfield in Avisail Garcia. While an injury robbed Garcia of most of the 2014 season, offseason additions such as Abreu and Adam Eaton have shown that the retooling of the roster is headed in the right direction, although more additions are necessary.

[+] EnlargeAlexei Ramirez, Jose Abreu
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastAlexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu turned in big first halves for the White Sox.
Abreu: The six-year, $68 million investment in Abreu this past winter has been nothing short of a bargain so far. Abreu is much more than baseball's home run leader at the midway point with 29. His foul-pole-to-foul-pole approach at the plate suggests a multi-dimensional hitting approach that can avoid long slumps, while his strong work ethic is the perfect example for a clubhouse that is turning to youth. Abreu isn't just the next generation of White Sox run producers, he is the next generation of baseball's offensive stars.

Eaton: If turning Peavy into Garcia last season was impressive, getting Eaton essentially for Hector Santiago has been general manager Rick Hahn's best trade of the past year. A firecracker at the top of the order, Eaton has flashed speed along with an ability to get on base. Add that to some steady defense in center field and the White Sox now have a leadoff man that much of the league can envy. First-half leg issues are a concern, but Eaton seems to have gotten past that speed bump.

Alexei Ramirez: Ever since Ramirez signed a contract extension before the 2011 season he seemed to plateau, not necessarily getting any worse but not getting better, either. Well, he has skyrocketed this season, essentially ascending to a point that the White Sox figured he would have been climbing to for the past three years. His production has dipped since June, but he has shown that offensively, as well as defensively, he has plenty left in the tank. It is making his current contract, potentially through 2016, look very team friendly again.

John Danks: Two years removed from shoulder surgery, the veteran has finally started to look like his old self. Since making some minor adjustments to his mechanics in mid-May, the left-hander has posted a 2.69 ERA over his past 10 starts. With a changeup he can count on again, Danks has solidified a dynamic trio of left-handers at the top of the rotation along with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

THE CONCERNS


The bullpen: Trading former closer Addison Reed for third baseman Matt Davidson has yet to yield the White Sox anything but a headache in the late innings. Nate Jones' back injury didn't do the team any favors, either. Davidson might be one of the home run leaders at the Triple-A level with 17, but other deficiencies in his game have prevented him from being called up. Meanwhile, the White Sox still haven't found a dependable closer, going from Matt Lindstrom to Ronald Belisario to a bevy of candidates who have played hot potato with the job in recent weeks. With their roles now up in the air, the relief corps has looked lost. Lindstrom could return at some point in August, with Jones' return unknown.

[+] EnlargeRonald Belisario, Ichiro Suzuki
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhRonald Belisario hasn't been the answer at closer for the White Sox.
Back end of the rotation: The White Sox took a flier on Felipe Paulino this winter, and what seemed to be a calculated gamble when they put Erik Johnson in the rotation out of spring training. Neither move worked, and the club has been scrambling to fill those spots ever since. The best starting option to fill one of those spots so far has been Hector Noesi, a struggling reliever who was cut from two teams this year only to reinvent himself as a starter. If the next wave of the rebuild needs a main target, this area of the roster would be a fine choice.

Catcher: Sacrificing power for plate coverage appeared to be just the answer Tyler Flowers needed when the season started. Flowers had a .357 batting average as of May 3, but it has been all downhill from there. He has done a solid job of handling the pitching staff, but at some point the White Sox are going to need some consistent offense from their catcher. Adrian Nieto has been a nice find as the backup catcher, but he is too green to take over the everyday job. Josh Phegley is having a solid season at Triple-A and remains an option.

Defense: One of the best defenses in 2012 became one of the worst in 2013 and this year, the White Sox expected to settle somewhere in the middle of those two performances. Instead, 2014 has been more like last year. Ramirez and Eaton have improved things at shortstop and center field, respectively, but the White Sox are still 27th among the 30 teams in baseball with a .982 fielding percentage, and their 66 errors are 26th. They are particularly vulnerable at the corner outfield spots with Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza.

The trade market: It remains to be seen if the White Sox have enough assets to make any deals of significance at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which sits just two weeks away. With a number of second base prospects in the system, Gordon Beckham could be used as trade bait, but Beckham alone in a deal might not get the White Sox the kind of impact player that can fit into the team's young core like they are looking for. Viciedo remains a possibility to be traded, and it isn't even out of the question that Adam Dunn could be moved to a contender that needs some left-handed power down the stretch.

Jeter passes torch to Chicago's Ramirez

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
11:43
PM CT
Saxon By Mark Saxon
ESPNChicago.com
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Jeter/RamirezJesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsAlexei Ramirez admitted he was nervous when told he'd be in the middle of such a grand spectacle -- taking over for Derek Jeter during the All-Star Game.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, in town to do some broadcast work, recognized a Chicago beat writer he knew and yelled, “Hey man, when are you going to start writing about my boy Alexei? This guy’s been good for five or six years. Nobody talks about him.”

Guillen must be right; Alexei Ramirez must be good. He took the place of a future Hall of Famer in an All-Star Game, after all.

[+] EnlargeJeter/Ramirez
Elsa/Getty Images"To go out there and take the place of a baseball legend was a tremendous honor," Ramirez said through an interpreter.
In the third inning, American League manager John Farrell approached Ramirez on the bench and told him he would be replacing Derek Jeter the next inning. That’s kind of how All-Star Games work. The starters go a few innings, and then, in comes the cavalry.

But this wasn’t just any substitution. Jeter was allowed to take his shortstop position before Ramirez went out to replace him, the game was paused for several minutes while “New York, New York” blared over the Target Field speakers, and everybody in the stadium –- players from both leagues included –- gave Jeter a standing ovation. It was the moment of the 2014 All-Star Game -- Jeter’s last -- and none of it was lost on Ramirez, who grew up in Cuba.

Ramirez admitted he was nervous when told he’d be in the middle of such a grand spectacle.

“To go out there and take the place of a baseball legend was a tremendous honor,” he said through an interpreter. “I just bowed my head to show my respect. It was a great moment.”

Ramirez, a defensive whiz, has begun to show his offensive value in recent seasons. Batting .282 with eight home runs and 15 stolen bases so far this season, he was picked for his first All-Star Game, and he made the selection look like a solid one. He doubled down the left field line and scored the final run in the American League’s 5-3 win.

Abreu doesn't regret skipping HR Derby

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
5:36
PM CT
Goessling By Ben Goessling
ESPN.com
Archive
MINNEAPOLIS -- Major League Baseball’s leading home run hitter was planning to be a spectator for the Home Run Derby on Monday night at Target Field, still without any regrets about his decision not to participate in the contest.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu said he was still fine with his decision to bypass the showcase, which he’d initially passed up out of fear that it would alter his swing mechanics during his dynamic first season in the majors. Abreu’s 29 homers are the most in the majors, and the 27-year-old has a chance to break Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 homers.

Former White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas criticized Abreu’s decision to skip the derby in an interview with ESPN Chicago on Sunday, but Abreu -- who participated in five homer-hitting contests in his native Cuba -- didn’t sound like he’d be missing much.

“I’ve always felt (that) what I do, I need to do with a goal and objective,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I’ve done the Home Run Derby five times in Cuba. I never won it. I always said, when I was asked about it, I wasn’t going to participate. If given the opportunity in the future, maybe I’ll consider it, but no, I don’t have any regrets about that.”

Abreu, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox last winter, posted a .630 slugging percentage in the first half, which also leads the majors. He’s hitting .292, and is among the favorites for American League Rookie of the Year honors. Abreu said he wasn’t aware of McGwire’s rookie homer record -- or that he was only four homers behind where McGwire stood at the All-Star break as a rookie -- but admitted he’s even been surprised by his production in the majors so far.

“What I’ve done in the first half has surpassed what I (expected),” Abreu said. “I hoped to have a good season and play well for the White Sox, but I’ve been blessed in the first half. That really has been a gift.”

Sox's Ramirez (back) expects to play in ASG

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
2:38
PM CT
Goessling By Ben Goessling
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Ramirez
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who left Saturday's game in Cleveland with back stiffness and sat out Sunday's game against the Indians, said on Monday he's feeling better and plans to play in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Ramirez was out of the lineup as a precaution on Sunday, and said the therapy he did with the team's medical staff helped loosen up his back. By game time on Sunday, he said, he was feeling good enough to play. Now, he plans on being on the field for his first All-Star Game.

The 32-year-old is one of five Cuban-born players to make an All-Star team, joining teammate Jose Abreu, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman and Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

"It makes me happy," Ramirez said through an interpreter. "We can show the world the level of baseball and the level of talent we have in Cuba."

Sale leads in bid for final AL spot

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
2:21
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Chris Sale's bid for a third consecutive All-Star Game appearance remains on track, as early returns in online voting for the final spot on the American League team had the left-hander in the lead.

[+] EnlargeChris Sale, Tyler Flowers
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhChris Sale has an 8-1 record with a 2.16 ERA going into his last start of the first half on Wednesday.
According to mlb.com, which spearheads the Final Vote process, Sale was ahead in a "tight" race. The Colorado Rockies' Justin Morneau was leading the voting process in the National League.

Listed in order behind Sale were Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels, Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians. The Houston Astros' Dallas Keuchel was said to be in last place.

When Sale was announced as being part of the Final Vote, he promised that he wouldn't vote for himself. On ESPN Chicago 1000's "Carmen & Jurko Show" on Tuesday, Sale was asked if his teammates were stuffing the cyber ballot boxes for him.

"Well, not so much my teammates but just like friends and family have been holding it down for me," Sale said.

Sale has an 8-1 record and a 2.16 ERA this season, but missed a month with a strained forearm muscle, keeping his innings at a relatively low 87 1/3 for starting pitchers. While some have called his omission from the team, so far, one of the biggest snubs in All-Star Game history, Sale has taken it all in stride.

"I knew just because of the time that I had missed that there would probably be something like that," Sale said. "But by no means am I upset. Having an opportunity to make an all-star team is an honor every day of the week."

The White Sox have pulled out all the marketing stops for Sale, getting the word out on social media, creating the "#TargetSale" slogan/hashtag and also working on a cross-promotion plan with the Washington Nationals, who have second baseman Anthony Rendon up for the Final Vote in the NL.

If any team knows what it takes to get through this process it's the White Sox, who have gotten A.J. Pierzynski, Scott Podsednik and Paul Konerko into the All-Star Game in the same fashion.

Perhaps most important for Sale is his start Wednesday at Boston in front of AL All-Star manager John Farrell. It will give him one last chance to show what he can do before the voting ends Thursday.

If Sale makes the squad, he will join teammates Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez for the July 15 game at Minnesota. Abreu, who is just the fifth White Sox rookie to be named an All-Star, has endeared himself quickly to his new team.

"He's been awesome," Sale said. "I don't think anyone on our team has one bad thing to say about him, not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well. He's a guy that is very serious, but behind the scenes he's laughing and joking a lot. He's really fun to be around because he's just a big guy and he's really funny and likes to have a good time. I'm definitely glad he's on my team."

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.317 36 107 80
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208