Chicago White Sox: Erik Johnson

Rotation challenges exposed in twin bill

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
12:07
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The two weak links that have been in the Chicago White Sox's starting rotation since the season started were both exposed in one evening Tuesday.

Hector Noesi and Scott Carroll were asked to get the best of the Los Angeles Angels in a doubleheader, and neither could come through, with walks playing a huge factor.

Noesi walked seven over five innings in his Game 1 defeat, while Carroll walked three, but two of those came to start the seventh inning when the Angels eventually added an insurance run that helped them to a sweep.

[+] EnlargeHector Noesi
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsHector Noesi walked seven over five innings in his Game 1 defeat.
The Angels won the opener 8-4 and took the second game 7-5.

When the season started, Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino were supposed to be the rotation answers, but both fell flat. Since then, Noesi, Carroll and Andre Rienzo have all been given the chance to start, while Charlie Leesman has even gotten one turn.

Noesi has done the best with his opportunity, but his outing Tuesday shows that he remains a work in progress after pitching out of the bullpen before stretching out his pitch count on the fly as a starter with the White Sox.

Manager Robin Ventura was asked if the team is playing catch-up ever since Johnson and Paulino started slowly.

“Today it looks like that but Hector has thrown well for us his last few starts,” Ventura said. “That fifth sport has rotated around with Scotty and Rienzo. You have to make do; you have to find somebody to do it. It’s that simple.”

Noesi had actually gone 2-1 with a 3.59 ERA over his past six starts, but was nowhere near that form Tuesday, even though he held the Angels hitless through the first four innings and ended up striking out seven.

“I didn't really feel my release point, you know,” Noesi said. “Seven walks you can see, that's my first time doing that. I was trying to do my best.”

Ventura said he has no plans to remove Carroll from the rotation after the right-hander returned to a starting role just last week.

“I definitely want to take control of that spot and show them that I have the ability and talent to do so,” Carroll said. “I made really good pitches early on in the game. Sometimes the ball just doesn't go your way. I'm going to continue to work hard and train to be better next time.”

It’s not like the White Sox have a bunch of starting options right now, so the best way to get the most out of the guys they have is to cut down on the combined 10 walks issued by Tuesday’s starters.

“That’s a point where all you’re doing is giving them free baserunners,” Ventura said. "You want to make them work for [it], and you’re not. The intention has to be if you’re giving up runs you can’t make it too easy. On our side, we realize how tough it is if you’re not going well. You’ve got to throw strikes.”

Baines recalls 25-inning marathon ... barely

May, 8, 2014
May 8
7:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – On the 30th anniversary of one of the craziest games in Chicago White Sox history, Harold Baines was frowning.

It isn’t as if the quiet Baines didn’t want to talk about the White Sox's marathon affair against the Milwaukee Brewers that began on May 8, 1984, and ultimately ended a day later on his home run in the 25th inning. Baines’ issue: “I don’t remember anything about it.”

As it turns out, Baines -- now the White Sox assistant hitting coach -- could recall a lot more than he was letting on.

[+] EnlargeSox
AP Photo/Fred JewellHarold Baines delivered the winning home run on May 9, 1984, in the 25th inning of a game that began the previous day.
“The only details I know is that [Tom] Seaver won both games [a day later],” Baines said. “Obviously I hit the home run in the 25th inning, but I don’t remember anything more than that. Oh, and I remember the error by Randy Ready when they had a three-run lead or something like that.”

Seaver did indeed get both victories. After the teams played 17 innings the previous day, the game was resumed May 9 before the regularly scheduled contest. Seaver was scheduled to start the latter game, but he was brought into the resumed game in the 25th inning.

Baines proceeded to win it a half-inning later with his home run; in the nightcap, Seaver pitched the White Sox to another victory.

So does Baines see another 25-inning game happening again?

“Impossible,” Baines said. “It’s not going to happen again.”

His point is that teams in this era would use position players to pitch rather than extending a reliever as the White Sox did with Juan Agosto, who contributed seven scoreless innings. Position players on the mound mean runs are likely, as was the case in a 14-inning game with the Boston Red Sox on April 16, when infielder Leury Garcia took the loss for the White Sox.

Making Agosto’s 1984 relief outing even more memorable was that his first four innings came on the first day and he pitched three more when the game resumed the following evening.

And using a starter in relief isn’t likely. Well, not one the stature of Seaver, anyway. The White Sox went 11 innings against the Minnesota Twins on April 2 this season, and starter Erik Johnson made his way to the bullpen but never pitched.

Baines’ home run might have come late, but it was timely enough to allow Seaver to pull off the rare double. It also allowed Baines to redeem himself after coming into the at-bat 1-for-9 in the game.

“You didn’t have to bring that up,” Baines said. “For me it’s about wins and losses. I could have gone 0-for-10 as long as we won. But to be a part of history, that was pretty nice.”

Series preview: White Sox at Indians

May, 2, 2014
May 2
4:10
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Division play is what railroaded the Chicago White Sox last season, yet it has been much improved in 2014, even after just getting swept in a brief two-game series at home against the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox are 8-8 against American League Central teams this season, a year after going 26-50 against the clubs they face off against the most.

The major embarrassment in 2013 came against the Cleveland Indians, who the White Sox will face over the next three games beginning Friday night at Progressive Field. The White Sox won just two of 19 games against the Indians last year, with Cleveland using that advantage to springboard themselves into the playoffs.

Powered by a new offense, the White Sox have already made headway on their issues with the Indians. Their three victories in a four-game home series during the second week of the season were early signs that this team is far more dynamic than last year's.

Pitching continues to be an issue, though. While the bullpen is much improved after a brutal start, the White Sox are scrambling with their rotation after an injury to Chris Sale, not to mention struggles from Felipe Paulino and Erik Johnson.

Scott Carroll and Andre Rienzo, who both started the season at Triple-A Charlotte, will get starts in the upcoming series. Carroll will look to build off an impressive major league debut on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays when he outdueled Cy Young winner David Price by allowing just one earned run over 7 1/3 innings.

Rienzo has given up a combined six runs in his first two starts of the season, but has picked up support in the form of 13 runs from his teammates in those two games and has an early 2-0 record.

HEAD TO HEAD

Alexei Ramirez is 6-for-7 (.857) against Indians starter Danny Salazar, with a double and a home run. … Dayan Viciedo has never had a hit against Indians starter Justin Masterson in 14 at-bats, while Ramirez is just 9-for-51 (.176) against him. … The Indians' Ryan Rayburn is 13-for-37 (.351) against John Danks with three home runs and nine RBIs. … Rienzo's first ever major league game took place last season at Cleveland when he gave up three runs on six hits over seven innings and ended up taking the loss.

NOTES


After struggling in early April, the White Sox's bullpen has not allowed an earned run over its last 14 1/3 innings. ... White Sox relievers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam have each delivered three consecutive scoreless appearances, with Petricka pitching six innings in that span and Putnam going 5 2/3 innings. ... Ramirez has at least one hit in 27 of the White Sox's first 29 games. ... Viciedo has reached base in 12 consecutive games, with five multi-hit games and two multi-RBI games in that span. … Jose Abreu has 31 hits this season, 18 of which have gone for extra bases. ... Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis is dealing with an abdominal strain, but has not been placed on the disabled list.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday: White Sox LH John Danks (2-1, 3.48 ERA) vs. Indians RH Danny Salazar (0-3, 6.04), 6:05 p.m. CT.
Saturday: White Sox RH Scott Carroll (1-0, 1.23) vs. Indians RH Justin Masterson (0-1, 4.84), 5:05 p.m. CT.
Sunday: White Sox RH Andre Rienzo (2-0, 4.05) vs. Indians RH Corey Kluber (2-3, 4.14), 12:05 p.m. CT.

Carroll newest elixir for pitching staff

April, 26, 2014
Apr 26
11:07
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
John DanksAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhJohn Danks threw 123 pitches but could not make it out of the sixth for the White Sox.

CHICAGO – Player-personnel moves are coming fast and furious for the Chicago White Sox now, and the calendar hasn’t even reached May 1.

The latest was to call up career minor leaguer Scott Carroll from Triple-A Charlotte to make his major league debut Sunday opposite Tampa Bay Rays Cy Young Award winner David Price.

To make room for Carroll on the major league roster, rookie starter Erik Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte in hopes of getting him on track after a rocky five starts to open the 2014 season. Johnson not only had a 6.46 ERA, he had 15 walks in 23⅔ innings and a 1.77 WHIP to go along with it.

"He just needs to go and get his stuff back, get that competitive stuff that we’ve seen before," manager Robin Ventura said. "He can work on it down there. We’ve got Carroll going tomorrow."

The problem is that the White Sox have too many pitchers who need to work on things -- and it’s causing an innings backlog that is wreaking havoc. Starter John Danks threw 123 pitches in Saturday's 4-0 loss to the Rays, the third time this season a White Sox pitcher has gone over the 120 mark.

The issue has become cyclical. A starter struggles, so the White Sox have to lean on their bullpen, and then, the bullpen struggles. In turn, the starting staff has to absorb more innings to get the relievers some recovery time.

To Danks’ credit, he didn’t mind the heavy workload Saturday despite being less than two years removed from shoulder surgery.

"I love it," Danks said afterward. "I've been on [pitching coach Don Cooper] for a few years now, trying to get the pitch count up. It seems like for a few years there it was 100 pitches and you’re out. I feel like 80 pitches or 120, I’m going to feel the same the next day. I was glad to be able to go back out there and tried to get as deep as possible. I didn’t do myself any favors, but I’m trying to save the bullpen, trying to do everything I can to get us a chance."

The White Sox’s issues with walks are well documented at this point and Danks added four more to the pile against the Rays. Reversing that recent trend might not come so easily.

The rotation's most steadying influence, Chris Sale, is on the disabled list. Johnson and Felipe Paulino have had their issues, and neither is on the starting staff right now with Paulino on the DL due to shoulder soreness.

Andre Rienzo and Charlie Leesman have already been called up from Charlotte, and Carroll will make it a third starter to join the staff with just 25 games gone in the season.

Carroll fills Sunday’s rotation void, but with Johnson no longer with the club, another will come for Wednesday’s homestand finale against the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox pride themselves on turning reclamation projects into serviceable major league pitchers, but their ability to get the most out of guys is being pushed to the limits. Cooper knows the more guys he can turn around, the longer he will have a job, but he isn’t alone in the project.

"I think one thing that has been the strength of our organization, that predates me, back to when Kenny [Williams] was the farm director, is our continuity of instruction on the pitching side of things," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Coop was the [minor league] coordinator at that time and there was essentially a … I don’t want to say a White Sox way, but an approach to teaching pitching and what we felt we could get out of guys, guys we could get better and guys we would be a little challenged to improve upon.

"And not only has Coop sort of set that tone at the big league level, but it trickles through the system to the messages that guys hear right out of the draft on the pitching side. The messages they hear then are the same messages they essentially hear from Coop. Our scouts know the types of players we feel we can get better and which ones we want to stay away from."

So enter the 29-year-old Carroll as the next project for Cooper. He nearly quit the game after needing Tommy John surgery following the 2012 season, but he continued the journey and his perseverance will be rewarded.

His longevity will likely hinge on his ability to throw quality strikes -- a plan not too many White Sox hurlers have been able to follow to this point.

Danks was simply the latest who wasn’t able to deliver the desired outing. He wasn’t awful Saturday, and the offense failed to provide run support, but Danks was stand-up enough to blame his long innings for keeping his teammates on the field too long and not at the plate, where they could work on getting into a groove.

"I just tried to bow my neck like I always do," Danks said about trying to work out of trouble all evening. "I'm going to do everything I can to give us a chance, and, unfortunately, I didn’t have it tonight. These games happen. They’re not any easier to swallow. But certainly, it’s something that happens every now and again, and you just try to be better for next time."

High walk totals signal issues aplenty

April, 26, 2014
Apr 26
7:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Getting Chicago White Sox pitchers to throw the ball over the plate won’t be as easy pointing them toward the catcher’s glove.

Manager Robin Ventura admitted there are multiple issues plaguing his hurlers, who have opened the season with an aversion to the strike zone.

The staff entered play Saturday with 114 walks; no other pitching staff in baseball had reached the 100 mark. Nobody is free from blame. The Chicago starters had issued 59 walks, which led all rotations in baseball, while the bullpen was far and away the most generous with free passes, handing out 55.

"There’s a combination of command issues and just maybe pitch selection in certain counts, guys trying to get guys to swing and miss instead of just letting them put it in play," Ventura said. "You know, last year, I would have understood because of the way we played defense, but this year we’ve been playing with a better defense, and I think you can pitch into the zone to have him hit it."

Closer Matt Lindstrom said more than a week ago it was time to let teams put the ball in play and give the defense a chance to do its part. He even planned to make it the topic of discussion the next time the relievers gathered in the bullpen.

He either never went ahead with his planned chat or nobody was listening. Right-handers Maikel Cleto and Jake Petricka each had eight walks, tied for fourth among all MLB relievers, while left-handers Scott Downs and the long-departed Donnie Veal were tied for 14th with seven.

On the starting side, Erik Johnson's 15 walks were tied for sixth in the American League, while fellow righty Felipe Paulino's 12 were tied for 15th -- though Paulino hadn’t pitched in more than a week after going on the disabled list.

Though good feelings reigned Friday after the White Sox rallied in the ninth inning and won on Jose Abreu's grand slam, the earlier innings were marred by the 11 walks issued by White Sox pitchers.

"It’s never good, but there are teams doing the same thing," Ventura said. "[During Friday's comeback], we wouldn’t have had the opportunity unless we worked some walks ourselves. We know we want to cut down on them, and they know they want to cut down on them, so that just has to get better."

Rapid Reaction: White Sox 9, Rays 6

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
11:33
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox opened a six-game homestand with a dramatic, come-from-behind 9-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

How it happened: Jose Abreu hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning for the game-ending victory. The White Sox rallied for five runs in the ninth inning after Matt Lindstrom gave up two in the top of the ninth to give the Rays a 6-4 lead. White Sox pitchers gave up 11 walks, five to Matt Joyce alone. Abreu hit his first home run of the night in the third inning for his third multihomer game in the season's opening month. He also set the MLB rookie record for home runs in the opening month of the season. White Sox rookie starter Erik Johnson lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits and four walks. Other White Sox pitchers to give up walks: Jake Petricka (three), Zach Putnam (two) and Lindstrom (two).

What it means: The White Sox have become equal parts must-see and can't-bear-to-watch at the same time. The offense that led the AL in OPS at the start of the night continues to reach amazing heights behind the production of Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo. The pitching, however, continues to have its issues with multiple underperformers, as well as injuries. Johnson's 15 walks lead the team, while John Danks has 13.

Outside the box: Albert Pujols (2001), Carlos Delgado (1994) and Kent Hrbek (1982) all had eight home runs in the opening month as rookies, but Abreu passed them all on one night with his eighth and ninth home runs. And Abreu still has five more games remaining to pad the record before May starts. Abreu also tied Pujols' record for 27 RBIs in the first month of the season.

Off beat: The White Sox's struggles to find the strike zone were so bad in the early going that, at one point, Johnson and Petricka had combined to walk six batters while recording six outs. The White Sox now have 114 walks in 24 games, an average of 4.75 per game. For some perspective, they had 10 more walks than the next closest team, and that was before they gave up 11 free passes Friday.

Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander John Danks (2-0, 2.84 ERA) to the mound against Tampa Bay in the second game of the three-game series. The Rays will counter with left-hander Cesar Ramos (0-1, 4.91) in the 6:10 p.m. start from U.S. Cellular Field.

Adam Eaton good enough to give it a go

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
7:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox are making slight progress when it comes to their injury issues, as Adam Eaton returned to center field and the leadoff spot for the opener of Friday’s six-game homestand.

Eaton missed the past five games after suffering a mild left knee and hamstring strain during a game at Texas. He had been in a bit of a rough patch before the injury, going 3-for-23 (.130) over his past six games after collecting multiple hits in five consecutive contests.

Third baseman Conor Gillaspie remained out action, though, with a bruised left hand. Gillaspie, who has missed the past three games, could be headed toward the disabled list if he doesn’t show progress by Saturday, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

Eaton, who prides himself on toughness, will have to take some precautions for the injury.

"Something will be on my knee just to help support it, but I'm sure I could play without it," Eaton said. "You gotta follow certain rules and protocol when you go in the trainer's office. We'll be good to go, though."

His hard-nosed style is an admitted concern for the White Sox but one they are willing to live with. Since the day he joined the White Sox, Eaton has said his maximum effort might one day limit his big league days, but he doesn’t know how to play any other way.

"No, I’ve had that since the day we first started scouting him, and we’ve talked about it with him," general manager Rick Hahn said. "The thing about him is part of the great benefit he brings to us is his energy, his intensity, the way he plays the game. We don’t want to take that away from him."

The White Sox aren’t just letting him run completely free, though. They have gotten him to stop diving into first base on everything but pickoff plays.

"Yes, there’s an element of potential risk of injury, I suppose, with that type of player, but we think the good far outweighs the bad," Hahn said.

The White Sox’s complete lineup Friday against Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer:

Adam Eaton, CF
Marcus Semien, 3B
Jose Abreu, 1B
Adam Dunn, DH
Dayan Viciedo, RF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Alejandro De Aza, LF
Tyler Flowers, C
Gordon Beckham, 2B

Right-hander Erik Johnson is pitching for the White Sox.

Series preview: Rays at White Sox

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
2:47
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's offense continues to flourish, although problems continue to rise all around it, and now the Tampa Bay Rays come to town for a four-game series that kicks off a six-game homestand.

The White Sox lead the American League in total runs scored with 125, a full nine ahead of the next closest team. They are also the AL leaders in OPS (.767), while they are second in slugging percentage (.435) and home runs (28), and tied for second in doubles (44).

Yet for all the heads the offense has turned, it's shut-your-eyes time when it comes to the pitching staff, as well as health concerns.

Gordon Beckham returned from the disabled list this week, but Avisail Garcia, Nate Jones, Jeff Keppinger, Chris Sale and Felipe Paulino all remain on the DL. Not only that, but Adam Eaton (hamstring) and Conor Gillaspie (bruised left hand), have missed games of late.

The bullpen has been an issue all season and is now carrying a 5.48 ERA, 14th in the 15-team AL. Their 48 strikeouts are also 14th, as is a 37.5 save percentage. Now there are serious issues with the starting staff as Sale and Paulino's spots need to be filled.

Andre Rienzo has moved into one starting rotation spot, but one remains spot vacant after left-hander Charlie Leesman got a chance to start earlier this week and struggled. He was sent back to Triple-A Charlotte after Wednesday's game.

An overall record of 11-12, though, is pretty much what was predicted of a White Sox team that is rebounding from a 99-loss season last year.

This year was always going to be about realizing what pieces needed to be improved upon while moving forward. Not that anybody in the front office was writing off this season, but that's what rebuilding seasons are all about.

So while Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez have taken off this season with the first and third best batting averages in the AL, respectively, and Jose Abreu closes in on the AL rookie record for home runs and RBIs in March/April, more areas of improvement remain.

This weekend will provide the offense an interesting test since the Rays are going with three unheralded starters, along with one established veteran in David Price. But success will require more than the offense meeting its challenges.

HEAD TO HEAD



Nobody on the White Sox has more than three at-bats against Rays starters Chris Archer, Cesar Ramos or Jake Odorizzi, and nobody has ever faced Odorizzi. ... Dayan Viciedo is 2-for-2 against Ramos with a home run. ... Look for Paul Konerko to get a start Sunday since he is 10-for-20 with two home runs in his career against Rays left-hander David Price. ... Gordon Beckham has not been as good against Price, going 3-for-22 (.136). ... The Rays' Evan Longoria is just 3-for-15 (.200) against White Sox starter John Danks, while Ben Zobrist is just 2-for-16 (.125) against the lefty. ... Erik Johnson and Andre Rienzo have never faced the Rays in their young careers.

NOTES



The White Sox went 2-5 against the Rays last season, winning the first two games, but losing the next five by a combined score of 22-7. ... The White Sox lead the all-time series 69-54 and are 35-24 at U.S. Cellular Field. ... Adam Dunn needs two walks to tie him with Jack Clark for 48th place all time at 1,262. ... Abreu has seven home runs, one behind the opening-month rookie record shared by Albert Pujols (2001), Carlos Delgado (1994) and Kent Krbek (1982). ... The White Sox are batting a combined .308 over their past five games, four of which were played in Detroit. ... Johnson has given up just two earned runs over his last two starts (11 2/3 innings), while allowing four hits. He has walked seven, though.

PITCHING MATCHUPS


Friday: White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson (1-1, 5.32 ERA) vs. Rays right-hander Chris Archer (2-1, 3.65), 7:10 p.m. CT.
Saturday: White Sox left-hander John Danks (2-0, 2.84) vs. Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos (0-1, 4.91), 6:10 p.m. CT
Sunday: White Sox TBA vs. Rays left-hander David Price (3-1, 4.04), 1:10 p.m. CT.
Monday: White Sox right-hander Andre Rienzo (1-0, 4.91) vs. Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi (1-2, 6.52), 7:10 p.m. CT.

Series preview: White Sox at Rangers

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
11:30
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
After a heartbreaking series defeat to the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox will take their act out on the road for seven games, starting Friday with a three-game series at Texas.

A better bullpen performance either Wednesday or Thursday against the Red Sox would have given the White Sox their third consecutive series victory at home, but instead they lost a 6-4 heartbreaker in 14 innings in the second game of the series and dropped a 3-1 decision in a pitchers' duel that marked the homestand's finale.

The White Sox's primary agenda this weekend would seem to be Jose Abreu and getting him out of his current doldrums. Manager Robin Ventura gave Abreu a breather Thursday by having on the bench to start the game against the Red Sox, but did give him a pinch-hit chance late.

After grounding out to end Thursday's game, Abreu now has just one hit in his last 22 at-bats (26 plate appearances).

Talking about it Thursday, Ventura says there is a mental aspect to the downturn as Abreu is coming to grips with the attention he received from his hot start and the realization that he must produce as the leader of the offense. But there is also the challenge of learning a new league where Abreu has admitted that the pitching is far superior.

While much improved at home, the 8-8 White Sox had their issues on their first road trip of the season at Kansas City and Colorado. They were just 2-4 on their maiden voyage and now head to Texas where the Rangers are a solid 7-3 at home.

At least there will be one less factor working against the White Sox this weekend as Arlington, Texas, is expected to have high temperatures in the 70s on Friday and Saturday, and over 80 degrees for Sunday's day game.

After their home stumble this week, the White Sox would like to build some momentum in Texas before heading to Detroit next week and showing the rival Tigers their new look.

HEAD TO HEAD


The Rangers' Prince Fielder is 4-for-8 lifetime against Felipe Paulino with two home runs, five RBIs and five walks. ... The Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo has two hits against Jose Quintana in five career at-bats, and both hits are doubles. ... Alexei Ramirez is 4-for-13 (.308) lifetime against Colby Lewis, but he has struck out five times. ... Players on the current White Sox roster have combined to go 2-for-14 against Rangers left-hander Robbie Ross, with no RBIs and no extra-base hits.

NOTES


The White Sox will run into a pair of old friends in Texas in reliever Neal Cotts and outfielder Alex Rios. In a three-game series against the White Sox, shortly after his trade last year to the Rangers, Rios went 3-for-13 with a home run off Hector Santiago. ... Adam Dunn has 13 career home runs against the Rangers in 100 career at-bats, the most home runs vs. any opponent he's had 150 at-bats or less against. He has also reached base in 13 consecutive games this season. ... Dayan Viciedo has just three career hits at the Rangers' home ballpark and is a .136 hitter there in 22 at-bats. By contrast, Alexei Ramirez is a career .308 hitter there (28-for-96). ... Ramirez has a hit in all 16 games, the longest hit streak to start a season in White Sox history. ... Tyler Flowers has a hit in nine of his 13 games and has four multi-hit games this season after getting nine all of last season.

PITCHING MATCHUPS


Friday: White Sox RH Felipe Paulino (0-1, 7.98 ERA) vs. Rangers LH Martin Perez (2-0, 2.70), 7:05 CT.
Saturday: White Sox LF Jose Quintana (1-0, 2.37). vs. Rangers RH Colby Lewis (0-1, 5.60), 7:05 CT.
Sunday: White Sox RH Erik Johnson (0-1, 6.35) vs. Rangers LH Robbie Ross (1-0, 1.00), 2:05 p.m. CT.

Bullpen gets some redemption in win

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
12:43
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- While the Chicago White Sox’s walk-off victory stole the show, the much maligned bullpen stood up and made itself noticed Tuesday.

The White Sox improved to 8-6 with the 2-1 victory, scoring the difference-maker in the ninth inning when Alexei Ramirez came in from second base on a throwing error to first base by Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Had the throw to first been on the money instead of in the dirt, the game would have shifted into extra innings.

[+] EnlargeScott Downs
Brian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesScott Downs set the tone for the bullpen, getting out of a seventh-inning jam and tossing a scoreless inning.
Making the rally possible, though, was the performance of a bullpen that had a 6.93 ERA over the first 13 games, the highest for a White Sox team since the 1973 bullpen had a 7.24 ERA over the same stretch of games.

New closer Matt Lindstrom has been far from sharp in the early going, while veteran newcomers Ronald Belisario and Scott Downs have been unable to reach past standards. Downs was at least able to contribute Tuesday with a scoreless inning that tells only part of the story.

The left-hander replaced starter Erik Johnson with runners on first and second base in the seventh inning of a tie game. Downs quickly retired Jackie Bradley Jr. on a strikeout to end the threat, and then retired the first two batters of the eighth inning before giving way to Jake Petricka.

“Everyone knows what kind of player [Downs] is,” Johnson said. “He’s been around for so long, he has the experience and he has the knowledge. I think for him it’s just a matter of time. You saw tonight that he was lights out.”

Before Tuesday’s outing, Downs had pitched five times in a White Sox uniform and failed to record an out in three of the outings. This time, he was able to set the tone for what was to come. Petricka got out of the eighth and recorded the first out of the ninth before allowing a walk to Mike Napoli.

Donnie Veal came on to record an out but hit A.J. Pierzynski with a slow breaking ball that put two runners on base. That threat was no problem for reliever Daniel Webb, who threw one pitch before getting a comebacker from pinch hitter Mike Carp to end another threat.

The White Sox then won it with their run in the ninth inning, with Webb picking up the victory.

“[Manager] Robin [Ventura] said it’s the easiest one I’ll ever get,” Webb said afterward. “First win, it doesn’t matter how you got it. It feels good. I got the lineup card, and I think they are getting the ball.”

He also got the traditional beer shower from his teammates after recording his first major league victory.

“It was nice,” Ventura said of the bullpen’s night. “It started off with Erik, he was as good as he’s pitched this year. He was sharp, and the ball was coming out with life. The bullpen coming in and doing what they did, you know that’s what you are looking for. It was sharp. Downs came in and did his job. Everyone came in and did the job. They give you an opportunity to score runs.”

Maybe Webb hasn’t been around a long time –- Tuesday was his 14th career outing and fifth on the season –- but he knew a much-needed group effort when he saw one.

“I don’t know if that was pressure since everybody wants to do well,” Webb said. “The older guys want to do well just like the younger guys want to do well. We had our struggles early, but tonight we showed that we can pitch well.

“Coming out tonight like that, everybody pitched well, and it was a good team win.”

Rapid Reaction: White Sox 2, Red Sox 1

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
11:02
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox pulled off their second consecutive walk-off victory, beating the Boston Red Sox 2-1 on Tuesday.

How it happened: Alexei Ramirez scored the winning run on a throwing error by Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts that first baseman Mike Carp was unable to dig out of the dirt. Rookie starter Erik Johnson gave up only one run on a home run by Daniel Nava in the fourth inning. Former White Sox starter Jake Peavy went six innings, giving up a run and three hits. That run came on Adam Dunn's third home run of the season, a blast into the right-field seats in the second inning. Peavy was over the 50-pitch mark after two innings but settled down to throw 113 in his six innings.

What it means: The rotation's next generation met the former generation and Johnson was able to deliver the best outing of his young career. The right-hander went toe-to-toe with Peavy by setting a career high with nine strikeouts and matching a career best with 6 2/3 innings. In two starts against the White Sox since joining the Red Sox, Peavy has given up a combined three runs over 13 innings.

Outside the box: White Sox manager Robin Ventura issued an unsuccessful replay challenge in the second inning. Jose Abreu appeared safe at first base when the Red Sox's Mike Napoli seemed to pull his foot off the bag, but replays were inconclusive and Abreu remained out. The play was even more costly for the White Sox when Dunn followed with his solo home run -- which would have produced two scores had the call been overturned.

Offbeat: Peavy and Dunn were very close when they played together for the White Sox. So Dunn's home run will give him bragging rights when they hang out again. The next time up, Peavy walked his buddy. And to let him know he was keeping an eye on him, Peavy threw over to first base, twice, even though Dunn was essentially standing on the bag the whole time.

Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander John Danks (1-0, 4.15 ERA) to the mound Wednesday against the Red Sox in the middle game of the series. Boston will counter with left-hander Clay Buchholz (0-1, 6.97) in the 7:10 p.m. CT start from U.S. Cellular Field.

Series preview: Red Sox at White Sox

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
1:31
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Jake PeavyAP Photo/Elise AmendolaJake Peavy has a 2.13 ERA in two starts this season with the Red Sox.
CHICAGO -- The early-season tests only get harder for the Chicago White Sox as the World Series champion Boston Red Sox roll into U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday for a three-game series.

Along with the opportunity to measure themselves against last year's best, this series also represents the return of Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski.

The sometimes contentious battery mates on the South Side came to Boston from different routes. Peavy was traded to Boston on July 30 of last year as the White Sox roster reshaping began in earnest. A three-team deal, that also included the Detroit Tigers, had Peavy going to Boston, Avisail Garcia going to the White Sox and infielder Jose Iglesias going to Detroit.

In an odd twist, it is the youngsters Garcia and Iglesias who are out with injuries, while the often-injured Peavy is going strong with a 2.13 ERA in the early part of the season.

Pierzynski signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason after finishing up a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers last season. The durable catcher played in another 134 games last season, while collecting 529 at-bats. He batted a solid .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs. In 11 games this year, he is batting .314 with one home run and four RBIs.

While the setting might look the same to both former White Sox players, the product on the field will certainly require a double-take. Aside from stretches in 2012, the White Sox have struggled to put runners on base and to deliver the clutch hit. The 2014 White Sox have been the antithesis of that.

Heading into Tuesday night's series opener, the White Sox lead all of baseball in runs scored with 80, on-base percentage at .356 and are second in OPS at .816. Alexei Ramirez leads the AL in hitting with a .420 batting average, a whopping 35 points higher than the next closest player, the Minnesota Tiwns' Jason Kubel. Ramirez also leads in hits (21) and OPS (1.143).

Peavy will pitch in the series opener Tuesday and after his outing is finished he can resume his friendship with a number of players on the White Sox. Starting Wednesday he will get a chance to watch his old buddies from his former rotation take the mound.

"I told Chris Sale, 'I know you wanted Old Man Peavy but you're going to get our left-hander [Jon Lester] Thursday night," Sale told ESPNBoston.com. "If you want to be the best left-hander in the league, you got to surpass this guy that we're throwing at you.

"Chris Sale is such a good kid, one of my dear, dear buddies. I pull for him, keep in contact with him on a weekly basis. I tried to be the best role model I could be, the best friend I could be period. He's young, kind of in the same place I was. He had a son at a very young age, we kind of walked through the same path of life. Both from the South, him Florida, me Alabama, we hit it off.

"Johnny Danks, the same way. The three of us are really close."

Pierzynski remains a fan favorite on the South Side, and his bond to Chicago, which started in 2005, remains strong.

"I don't think you can beat Chicago in a lot of things," Pierzynski said. "Lake Shore Drive is about as good as it gets. The city's clean. Nice people, they look out for you and take care of you."

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Paul Konerko could start in Wednesday's game, especially since Clay Buchholz will be on the mound for the Red Sox. Konerko is 7-for-15 (.467) lifetime against the left-hander with a home run, three RBIs and two walks. ... The Red Sox's Mike Napoli has 27 career at-bats against Danks, who is scheduled to start Wednesday, and has 13 strikeouts with a .222 batting average. ... Peavy and Adam Dunn are good friends. So how have they fared against each other? Dunn is 5-for-11 with two doubles in his last three games against Peavy, but just 5-for-31 with 11 strikeouts lifetime.

NOTES



Alexei Ramirez has a hit in all 13 White Sox games this season and needs a hit in two more games to tie Frank Thomas' club record for longest hit streak to open a season. ... White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton has multiple hits in five consecutive games, the longest such streak for the team since Alex Rios did the same in 2012. ... Conor Gillaspie is on an 11-game hitting streak. ... Jose Abreu has four home runs and 14 RBIs for the White Sox, but is just 1-for-11 over his past three games. ... Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa (wrist) and closer Koji Uehara (shoulder) are day to day. ... The Red Sox won last year's series 4-2 and have won 12 of the past 16 games played between the teams going back to 2011.


PITCHING MATCHUPS



Tuesday: Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (0-0, 2.13 ERA) will face White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson (0-1, 9.58).
Wednesday: Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz (0-1, 6.97) will face White Sox left-hander John Danks (1-0, 4.15).
Thursday: Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (1-2, 2.57) will face White Sox left-hander Chris Sale (3-0, 2.66).

Carroll emerges as rotation possibility

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
11:08
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox minor-league pitcher Scott Carroll was named the International League pitcher of the week after two dominating starts for Triple-A Charlotte.

In the process, he has quickly emerged as a rotation-replacement candidate in Chicago if struggles from pitchers like Felipe Paulino or Erik Johnson continue. Carroll is not on the White Sox's current 40-man roster.

The 29-year-old right-hander did not allow an earned run over 13 innings last week. On Tuesday, he went six innings against Durham, allowing two unearned runs. On Sunday, he needed just 76 pitches to get through seven scoreless innings against Norfolk.

In three overall outings this season, he has not allowed an earned run. He made his season debut on April 3 and went six scoreless innings against Norfolk. He was not invited to big-league camp this spring, but he did make one appearance in a Cactus League game, giving up one run on two hits over three innings with two walks.

Carroll, who was signed by the White Sox as a minor-league free agent in 2012, missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He first reached the Triple-A level in 2011 with the Cincinnati Reds organization, but has never pitched in the major leagues.

The Kansas City-area native was also a starting quarterback while attending Missouri State University from 2006-07.

5 for '14: Chances of winning season?

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
10:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
RamirezAP Photo/Paul BattagliaAlexei Ramirez's growth will be key to the White Sox's success this season.

CHICAGO -- The easy parallel for Chicago White Sox fans to make for their worst-to-first hopes is last year’s World Series champion Boston Red Sox, who bottomed out in the American League East in 2012 only to recover and win it all last year.

If the White Sox are to follow the same path, a lot will have to go right from young offensive pieces reaching their potential early to the pitching staff coming together despite major question marks.

White Sox captain Paul Konerko is as optimistic as they come, and even he didn’t want to go overboard when asked about the team’s chances.

“I’m not going to draw a straight line like everybody is doing to the Red Sox,” he said this spring “I’m not going to go like that, but you see a lot of turnarounds every year and I hope when this one happens with the guys in there, position-player wise, they run it out for a while. That will make me happy.

“Four years from now if this team is a good team year in and year out for that nice four- to six-year run before guys start leaving in free agency and getting older and all that stuff, to know I had a hand in that to help some of these guys along that will make me feel good when I’m playing golf somewhere.”

So even when you break down the captain’s statement, even he isn’t expecting the team to blow through the competition this year. But by breaking it down, you also see that Konerko likes the direction the team has gone, and no doubt he is excited with the moves general manager Rick Hahn made to improve the offense.

So when it comes to deciding if this is a “winning season,” perhaps the answer isn’t as simple as wins and loses. A “winning season” could be as simple as getting on the correct path to sustained success.

If the White Sox aren’t going to end up 25 games over .500, then they must at least show they are getting better as the season moves toward the second half and not get drastically worse like they did last year. If they aren’t going to be knocking on the door of the division leader in August or September, then they at least have to be making life difficult for teams that are starting to print playoff tickets.

Youngsters like Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Erik Johnson certainly will struggle at times this season. Prolonged slumps aren’t even out of the question. But if they can emerge from struggles and show they have learned something in the process, then all will not be lost.

Management isn’t saying it is writing off this season. Nobody in the front office is that crazy. But by making the changes it did, everybody from Hahn to executive vice president Kenny Williams to chairman Jerry Riensdorf has admitted that a new direction was needed.

SportsNation

How many victories will the White Sox have in 2014?

  •  
    3%
  •  
    37%
  •  
    45%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 456)

Konerko liked the changes enough to return for one last season on the South Side. Considering that he wanted to rid himself of the taste that a 99-loss season wrought last year, it seems as if he thinks this season will be markedly different.

Technically, a winning season would mean 82 victories, not impossible but definitely a challenge for a club that could only walk off the field satisfied 63 times last year.

Perhaps a winning season can be defined as a majority of the young players showing they have what it takes to compete at this level. Perhaps success will be the chance to see where the team can grow, instead of having to look back at what went wrong.

If the White Sox can move into next offseason on a positive, they will do so knowing that the contracts of Adam Dunn, Konerko and Matt Lindstrom all come off the books. They will also know what areas of the roster need to be worked on for 2015, although if Garcia and/or Abreu stumble dramatically this season, answers might not come as easy.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. The White Sox have had a successful run of closers from Keith Foulke to Bobby Jenks to Sergio Santos and Addison Reed. Nate Jones is the next in line, with Daniel Webb possibly behind him, and the quicker they can find somebody to embrace the role, it will be one less piece to have to worry about moving forward. Perhaps recent waiver claim Javy Guerra fills the void until Jones is ready to take over.

2. Matt Davidson won’t start the season in the major leagues, but by no means is the club disappointed in the decision to acquire him from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Reed. Davidson rebounded nicely during the second half of the spring and is expected to eventually be a big part of the young core the club is developing. If all goes to plan, Davidson is getting significant chances later this season and is in line to take over at third base next season.

3. When the White Sox signed Alexei Ramirez to a four-year $32.5 million extension that runs through the 2015 season, the idea was that he would be pushing into the All-Star and Gold Glove conversation by now. He isn’t and the main concern is that there isn’t a slam-dunk option to take over for him at shortstop any time soon. His improvement will be just as vital as any growth seen from Abreu, Garcia or Eaton.

Ventura sets Sox's rotation order

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
3:36
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Sometimes teams roll out their five best starters in that order, while sometimes it's a matter of setting a schedule that provides better balance.

Consider the Chicago White Sox as part of the latter strategy as manager Robin Ventura set his rotation for the start of the season by not only breaking up the three left-handers, but also making sure his most dependable starters aren't pitching back-to-back.

The White Sox appear poised to go with Chris Sale in Monday's opener, followed by Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson and John Danks.

"You are breaking up the lefties but also the righties in there," Ventura told reporters in Arizona. "You feel solid with that. I think Johnny could be anywhere in there, right behind Chris. I feel good."

Pitching coach Don Cooper said early in camp that he liked the idea of separating Sale and Quintana, his most dependable starters, who both reached the 200-inning mark last season. With them separated, it has less of a chance of taxing the bullpen on consecutive days.

With the bullpen getting off to a slow start this spring, taking that group into consideration when it came time to make a rotation was key. Ronald Belisario was late to camp with visa issues, Daniel Webb missed time after a death in the family, Mitchell Boggs was released, and Nate Jones (strained gluteus muscle) and Matt Lindstrom (oblique) dealt with nagging injuries.

While Quintana has struggled much of the spring and Danks is still just 18 months removed from shoulder surgery, it was Paulino and Johnson who provided the most questions. Paulino hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2012 because of elbow and shoulder surgeries and Johnson only has five games of big-league experience.

"I think yesterday with Erik the way he went out there (Monday), he feels stronger about that," Ventura said. "Just watching him perform yesterday, I feel good about them."

Despite some of the rotation uncertainties, the White Sox aren't expected to carry a long man in the bullpen, at least at the start of the season. The best candidate for that role, right-hander Dylan Axelrod, has already been re-assigned to minor-league camp.

Axelrod fit that job best because the White Sox want to keep guys like Chris Beck, Andre Rienzo, Charlie Leesman and Eric Surkamp stretched out in the minor leagues in case they are needed to fill in on the major league roster.

The White Sox believe that much of Quintana's issues this spring were related to ongoing contract negotiations. He agreed to a five-year extension Monday with two team options that could take the deal to $48.5 million and the White Sox hope that will ease his mind.

Combined with the extension Sale agreed to last spring, the team's two best starters are locked in for at least the next four seasons. This club now hopes a guy like Johnson can join the core of dependable young starters and give the team that much more certainty moving forward.

After Danks pitches, the rotation returns back to Sale. While that puts two lefties back-to-back, the control-oriented, change-of-pace style of Danks varies enough from the hard-throwing, sweeping-slider style of Sale that the expectation is that teams shouldn't be able to settle into a comfort zone.

For Sale, it will be his second consecutive Opening Day start. Danks started the 2012 opener. Before that, Mark Buehrle opened nine of the 10 previous seasons on the mound.

Sale will be matched up against the Minnesota Twins' Ricky Nolasco for Monday's 3:10 p.m. scheduled contest at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale made just two starts against the Twins last season, going 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA. Over his career he is 4-1 against Minnesota with a 2.20 ERA.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.17 208 174
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .317
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208