Chicago White Sox: Chicago White Sox

Rapid Reaction: Royals 2, White Sox 1

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

Konerko to soak in Fenway one last time

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
3:50
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Paul Konerko's farewell tour hits Boston this week and the Chicago White Sox captain believes he might start the process of getting some closure with his pending retirement approaching.

To this point, Konerko has remained relatively unaffected as he begins to see certain ballparks for the last time. The American League parks he has already played in for the last time include the homes of the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastPaul Konerko will make his last trip as a player to Fenway Park this week.
Heading to Boston's Fenway Park will be much different since Konerko is a New Englander by birth, before moving with his family to the Phoenix area where he completed high school and continues to make his residence.

Most of Konerko's family still lives in New England, especially Rhode Island, and his wife and children were already visiting family there before the White Sox arrived in Boston on Sunday evening.

"Fenway is a cool place," Konerko said. "That was one of the first places I went as a kid. I went to Yankee Stadium first, but when I was maybe 12 or 13, I went to Fenway. I think it will be one of the stadiums I definitely take note of that, 'Hey, this is the last time you'll play here; the last time you'll be here as a player.' "

The only other time Konerko seemed affected by making a final visit to a ballpark was in early May when the White Sox traveled across town for a brief two-game series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs were even the first team to acknowledge Konerko's pending retirement, presenting him with a No. 14 (his uniform number) from the famed Wrigley Field scoreboard in center field. Konerko said afterward that he genuinely appreciated the gesture and said the memento will definitely end up being displayed somewhere.

While Konerko expects an unknown number of family members to attend each game of the four-game series with the Red Sox, he admits that it won't be a crush of people like it may have been in his younger days.

As Konerko goes through the process of having his immediate family travel with him to key cities for the last time, he continues to balance family time with what he needs to be doing at the ballpark.

"For me, the framework of the day of getting ready to play, whatever my role is that day, that to me is always in the forefront," he said. "I don't want anything to change that because that's what I came back here for, to do it right. I will be more proud if I do that. I don't want it to become where the game that day is the secondary thing because I'm sightseeing and doing this and that. I want to enjoy it, but it's always about the game and getting ready. I don't want to change that."

If there have been any surprises for Konerko on his farewell tour, it has been the number of coaches and players that have approached him this season.

"That's probably been the best part or the most unexpected cool part is that I have had a lot of people go out of their way to come up for like two minutes and tell me their feelings, or to say 'Hey man, I appreciate how you did it,'" Konerko said. "And it's people I don't even know, I haven't even spoke to before that would go out of their way to speak to me. That makes you feel good."

For Konerko it's validation that if you have the utmost respect for your teammates, it will turn into respect from people around the league.

Perhaps it's fitting that the game that Konerko will likely start in the upcoming series is the final one of the four Thursday. The Red Sox will have left-hander Jon Lester on the mound, somebody that Konerko has hit well in his career.

Whether or not the Red Sox will recognize the departing Konerko is unknown, but the series will still feel special to him either way. He knows that there will be more New England days in his future, even though he has no intention of moving from his Scottsdale, Ariz., home.

"I don't really get back to the East Coast to see my family," Konerko said. "Because of our schedule, the last thing I feel like doing in the wintertime is going all the way back there. It gets tough to travel. When I'm done playing I feel like I'll head back there more to spend time with family, things I haven't done over the years because there's just too much going on at home.

"But as far as the play, I don't know until I get there how it will hit me, but I'm guessing it will resonate a little more than maybe other stadiums would, not to downplay Texas or a place like there where there is no connection. It will have a little bit more feeling than that I would imagine."

Stock Watch: Has a closer been found?

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
3:06
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

RISING

Streaking
Jake Petricka, relief pitcher: The right-hander has made eight consecutive scoreless appearances spanning 11 innings. The most impressive of the bunch was Sunday when he recorded a six-out save against the Seattle Mariners. Manager Robin Ventura won't commit to naming Petricka the exclusive closer just yet, but expect him to be on the mound the next time a save situation arises.

Jose Abreu, first base: The rookie's hitting streak might have ended at 18 games over the weekend, but his stock remains perpetually on the rise. Abreu is hitting .316 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs over his last 25 games, not to mention the 1.022 OPS he has posted over that time. And oh yeah, he was named as a reserve on the American League All-Star team.

Jose Quintana, starting pitcher: As good as Chris Sale has been of late, Quintana has been slightly better. Over his past four starts, all quality, he has posted a 0.94 ERA with 31 strikeouts. He had 10 strikeouts Saturday against the Seattle Mariners, but if there is one thing you can count on with the left-hander it's no-decisions. He got one Saturday despite his lights-out outing and of the eight times he has worked at least seven scoreless innings, he has just one victory and seven no-decisions.

FALLING

Slumping
Tyler Flowers, catcher: The White Sox's everyday backstop keeps slip sliding away after his hot start. Flowers is hitless over his past four games (0-for-11) and has just one hit over his 19 at-bats. Going back a month (28 games) he is only slightly better with 10 hits in his last 97 at-bats (.103). One thing going against Flowers is a heavy workload. Because backup catcher Adrian Nieto has very little experience, Flowers as played in 72 games with only four catchers in baseball playing more.

Gordon Beckham, second base: Coming off the disabled list in late April, Beckham needed about a week and a half worth of games before he was off and running with his production. That has waned considerably over the past 24 games. Since Beckham raised his batting average to .298 on June 9, he has batted .156 with a .243 on-base percentage.

Alexei Ramirez, shortstop: Perhaps Ramirez's spot on his first All-Star team is just the elixir he needs to get back on track. After two months of the season, he was batting .329 with a .361 on-base percentage, but hasn't looked the same since. And the struggles have only intensified of late with Ramirez going 3-for-24 (.125) and posting a .192 on-base percentage since the calendar turned to July. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Ramirez take off again now that he has been named to his first All-Star team.

Series preview: White Sox at Red Sox

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
1:37
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
There is no time like the present for the Chicago White Sox to solve their recent matchup issues against the Boston Red Sox.

The White Sox will head to Fenway Park for a four-game series starting Monday night, knowing they have lost 14 of the last 19 games to the defending World Series champions.

The White Sox starters have been solid the last time through the rotation, although the weakest link of the bunch starts Monday as Scott Carroll takes the mound. Carroll, who has never faced the Red Sox, is just 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA over his seven starts this season and is 0-3 with a 6.30 ERA on the road.

If the White Sox can get through Carroll's start on Monday there could be smooth sailing ahead. John Danks, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Hector Noesi combined to deliver a 0.87 ERA and a .190 opponents' batting average over the past four games.

Sale's start Wednesday has some added intrigue. The last time he faced the Red Sox in April, he gave up just one run over seven innings and threw 127 pitches. The bad news was that he not only lost the game, but went on the disabled list after that with a sore arm.

Of further added interest is that Wednesday's start will come one day before online voting ends for the final American League All-Star roster spot. Sale is in consideration for the spot with four other pitchers: Houston's Dallas Keuchel, Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the Los Angeles Angels' Garrett Richards and the Tigers' Rick Porcello.

HEAD TO HEAD

Paul Konerko is 7-for-15 (.467) with a home run in his career against Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, but probably won't start against the right-hander Monday. Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez each have a home run against Buchholz. ... No White Sox player has more than one at-bat against Tuesday's Red Sox starter Brandon Workman. ... Konerko likely will start Thursday since he is 10-for-28 (.357) in his career against Red Sox starter Jon Lester, with three home runs. ... Scott Carroll, who starts for the White Sox on Monday, has never faced the Red Sox. ... The Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia is just 3-for-20 (.150) against John Danks, who starts for the White Sox on Tuesday. ... Members of the Red Sox's 40-man roster are batting a combined 4-for-41 (.098) against Sale, who starts for the White Sox on Wednesday. ... The Red Sox's Will Middlebrooks, David Ortiz and Pedroia are a combined 2-for-14 (.143) against Jose Quintana, who will start for the White Sox on Thursday.

NOTES



The White Sox's pitching staff has recorded two shutouts this season, with both coming in the past seven games. ... After struggling at the start of the previous road trip, the White Sox have won six of their last nine games. ... The White Sox bullpen has a 2.63 ERA over the last eight games, all while adjusting to a closer-by committee situation. ... The White Sox have a 27-24 record against teams above .500, while posting a 15-23 record against teams that are under .500, and the Red Sox are 10 games under at 39-49. ... The White Sox's offense had just two hits in Sunday's victory and have just six hits over their past two games (23 innings). ... In 13 2/3 innings since coming off the disabled list, Buchholz has allowed five runs in two starts for the Red Sox.

PITCHING MATCHUPS



Monday: White Sox RH Scott Carroll (2-5, 5.05 ERA) vs. Red Sox RH Clay Buchholz (3-4, 6.22), 6:10 p.m. CST
Tuesday: White Sox LH John Danks (7-6, 4.12) vs. Red Sox RH Brandon Workman (1-2, 4.17), 6:10 p.m. CST
Wednesday: White Sox LH Chris Sale (8-1, 2.16) vs. TBA, 6:10 p.m. CST
Thursday: White Sox LH Jose Quintana (5-7, 3.20) vs. Red Sox LH Jon Lester (9-7, 2.73), 3:05 p.m. CST

Noesi shows Mariners what they're missing

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
5:54
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Revenge is a dish best served in the blazing sun with a touch of humidity on the side. At least that’s how it worked for Chicago White Sox pitcher Hector Noesi on Sunday.

Noesi, who started the season with the Seattle Mariners before being designated for assignment and traded to the Texas Rangers, dominated his former teammates. He allowed just five hits over 6 2/3 innings of an eventual 1-0 White Sox victory.

[+] EnlargeHector Noesi
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhHector Noesi has been quite a find for the White Sox, as evidenced by the five-hit ball he pitched into the seventh inning against his former team Seattle.
Noesi has plenty of scores to settle since the Rangers eventually put him on waivers, which is where the White Sox moved in and scooped up the right-hander for their pitching staff. All of those moves happened before the calendar had flipped over to May.

With some new mechanical touchups recommended by pitching coach Don Cooper, the White Sox have been able to showcase a brand-new muscle car in a lineup that includes left-handers Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks.

With his career seemingly salvaged, at least to this point, Noesi has no problem acknowledging the best pitching coach he’s ever had.

“I’m going to say I’m sorry to the others, but I think, yes, [Cooper is] because every day with me he says, ‘You have to do this,’” Noesi said. “It’s not like you throw a bullpen and I’ll fix you in the bullpen and that’s it. He asks every day.”

Of course, there haven’t been many between-start bullpen sessions of late for a pitching coach to fix things.

Between last year and a handful of appearances this year, Noesi had made just one big league start since the start of the 2013 season, working primarily out of the bullpen instead.

The White Sox saw him as a potential starter down the road, but nobody could have predicted the quick transformation that has occurred.

Noesi tried to say after beating the Mariners that revenge was not on his mind. Maybe not, but it certainly was on everybody else’s.

Manager Robin Ventura acknowledged that it was probably a factor, and then there was the hand-written word above his locker supplied by one of his teammates that read, “Revenge.”

Noesi rolled his eyes and smirked when he saw it.

“He's a tough kid,” Ventura said. “He's confident, and he knows what he can do. Sometimes you get an opportunity and you run with it, and I think that's what he's done.

“Anytime you go through the route that he's been out on and you get a chance to show what you've got, he's going to do it. You tip your hat to him. He's been able to do that for us, and he's been a big lift for us.”

With Sale, Quintana and Danks all heading into the upcoming road trip pitching about as good as they have all season, having one more pitcher they can trust would have the White Sox feeling that much better about themselves.

Ventura no longer wants the three left-handers pitching on consecutive days in the second half of the season. Noesi could even find himself potentially pitching in potentially in the second or third game after the All-Star break, especially if the White Sox want to give Sale some extra rest, assuming he makes the American League All-Star team and pitches in the July 15 Midsummer Classic.

With Cooper at his side, Noesi believes he can be the pitcher he wants to be. He has the self-confidence anyway.

“Well, when I got here Cooper said, ‘I’m going to fix you,’ you know?” Noesi said. “So I believe everything he says, and he’s doing good with me. They gave me the opportunity to start and they said we just want you to go do what you have to do, so I try to take advantage of that spot right now.”

Rapid Reaction: White Sox 1, Mariners 0

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
4:25
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox clinched the three-game series over the Seattle Mariners with Sunday's 1-0 victory.

How it happened: White Sox starter Hector Noesi made a single run stand up in a dominating performance against his former team. The right-hander started the season with the Mariners, was traded to the Texas Rangers and then was picked up off waivers by the White Sox in April. Noesi gave up no runs and just five hits over 6 2/3 innings. The White Sox scored in the first inning when Conor Gillaspie came home on a wild pitch. Gillaspie later left the game when he was hit in the right knee by a pitch. Jake Petricka picked up the save with two scoreless innings. The White Sox won despite collecting just two hits.

What it means: If there is one thing the White Sox know as well as anybody, it’s the close games. The White Sox have now played 56 games (out of 89) that have been decided by three runs or less. That number also includes 14 of the past 17 games. The White Sox are 27-29 in games decided by three runs or less, going 17-13 in one-run games, 6-10 in two-run games and 4-6 in three-run games.

Outside the box: Much was made of Chris Sale’s chances Friday against the left-handed hitting Mariners, but Noesi was able to take advantage of that, too. Heading into Sunday’s start, left-handers were hitting .236 against the right-handed Noesi in 157 at-bats, while right-handers were hitting .340. Lefties did have nine of the 11 home runs off Noesi this year. The Mariners started seven left-handed hitters Sunday.

Offbeat: White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham had an adventure on a single from Brad Miller in the fifth inning. Beckham tried to backhand the ball up the middle, but it ricocheted off his glove and went into center field. Adam Eaton got to the ball quickly and his off-balance throw back to the infield was off track. Beckham ended up crashing into umpire Dana DeMuth while chasing the ball, knocking him to the ground. DeMuth left the game at the end of the half-inning.

Up next: The White Sox will send right-hander Scott Carroll (2-5, 5.05 ERA) to the mound Monday at Boston in the opener of a four-game series. The Red Sox will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (3-4, 6.22) in the 6:10 p.m. CT start at Fenway Park.

Trio of White Sox players await All-Star fate

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
1:44
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
White SoxGetty ImagesWhite Sox fans will know soon whether Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Alexei Ramirez are All-Stars.
CHICAGO -- The three Chicago White Sox All-Star Game candidates likely know their fate by now, but the official word on who will be going to the July 15 contest at Minnesota won’t be revealed until 6 p.m. CT.

Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and Alexei Ramirez all stand a solid chance of receiving baseball’s highest midseason honor. If any of the three isn't selected, there also is the five-man final vote, which the White Sox have been successful with in the past to get players like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski on the American League squad.

Abreu figures to be the sure bet for All-Star Game inclusion. He started Sunday tied with the Orioles’ Nelson Cruz for the most home runs in MLB at 27, and his 69 RBIs were one back of the major league lead. Abreu easily leads MLB with a .621 slugging percentage.

The decisions on Sale and Ramirez aren’t as clear cut.

Sale’s dominance can’t be argued with an 8-1 record and a 2.16 ERA, but he has pitched just 87 1/3 innings after missing a month with a strained left forearm muscle.

He doesn’t have enough innings yet to qualify for the ERA title. If he did, Sale would be second in the American League to the Seattle MarinersFelix Hernandez, who has a 2.11 mark. Hernandez not only is expected to make the AL squad, he is the solid candidate to start the game, along with the Toronto Blue JaysMark Buehrle.

About a month ago, Ramirez looked like a lock for All-Star Game inclusion, but he has cooled off considerably of late. Since the start of June, Ramirez is batting .215 with a .246 on-base percentage, far under his season totals of .288 and .320. He had .329 and .361 marks on the last day of May.

It’s possible that Sale ends up getting voted into the game by the players and Ramirez ends up on the final fan ballot.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura was a two-time All-Star (1992, 2002) and considers a spot in the contest to be among the ultimate honors, especially for potential first-timers like Abreu and Ramirez.

“That’s always special to go, just be part of it,” Ventura said. “You are considered one of the better players in the game, and you get to represent your team, your city. You are playing against that kind of competition. Hopefully we get a few guys who get that call.”

Extra Bases: Deadline offers less trepidation

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
9:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The non-waiver trade deadline is exactly four weeks away and the Chicago White Sox figure to be busy, even though this year's team is much improved from last year's squad.

It isn't as if the White Sox will be open to moving as many players as they were willing to give up in 2013.

While everybody seemed to be on pins and needles last July, the team now has an established young core that will remain intact once the calendar flips to August.

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Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Avisail Garcia aren't going anywhere. And unlike a year ago when the White Sox might have been willing to deal Alexei Ramirez, the shortstop's rebound this season figures to keep him out of any trade talk -- unless a return package is significant.

Trade candidates include Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo. Matt Lindstrom might have been in that group had he not needed surgery to heal an ankle injury.

“Yeah, I think with everybody, that [trade] stuff comes up,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It's natural for every team to have those kind of things. For us, it's just taking care of playing the game. You're looking at spurts of us where we'll play well, and then there will be a spurt where you don't do things well and you get beat.

“It has to be more consistent to be able to make an extended run at that.”

It still doesn't feel as though there is as much tension in the White Sox clubhouse this July as there was exactly a year ago, before Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain were moved.

“It was bad last year,” Ventura said. “I think that was a little more in your face. Here, you see, it's just better, as far as being able to compete with certain teams and playing better. It's been pretty inconsistent, but last year was just bad.”

Read all about it: Here is the Rapid Reaction from Wednesday’s 3-2 walk-off victory over the Angels. … Abreu won the American League rookie of the month award for the second time. … Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels is impressed with Abreu.

Keep an eye on this: With an infield single in the fourth inning Wednesday, Eaton has reached base in 25 of his past 26 games.

Question of the day: If the White Sox make moves before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, will they aim to bring aboard major league-ready players or prospects for the farm system?

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.294 30 79 54
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 30
RBIJ. Abreu 79
RJ. Abreu 54
OPSJ. Abreu .963
WC. Sale 10
ERAC. Sale 1.88
SOC. Sale 122