Chicago White Sox: Jim Thome
Abreu nabbed the June honor by batting .313 with 10 home runs, 22 RBIs and a .667 slugging percentage in 25 games.
He was given the rookie honor in the opening month of the season, in addition to winning the American League player of the month honor in March/April.
The 27-year-old native of Cuba became the first White Sox player to win rookie of the month twice in a season.
"First of all, I thank God and I'm very happy for the results," Abreu said through an interpreter on Wednesday. "I've just got to continue to work so we can continue to help the team get where we want to get."
Abreu entered play Wednesday tied for the major league lead in home runs with 26 and RBIs with 67. He leads all players with a .627 slugging percentage, as well as by hitting a home run every 10.73 at-bats.
"He's earned it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "When you play well, you get recognized, and he deserves it. He's had a great month; he had a great month of April.
"It's just nice to see him get on a roll and have a nice month and get recognized for it."
Abreu is on pace to hit 50 home runs, which would break Albert Belle’s franchise record of 49, set in 1998. It also would break the major league rookie record of 49, set by Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics in 1987.
"I am satisfied with the way it's going, and I just thank God to allow me to do that right now," said Abreu, who entered Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels on a 16-game hitting streak. "Things are going OK. I'm satisfied with it right now."
Despite his accolades this season, Abreu has always taken a team-first approach.
But there is another reason he seems so nonchalant about the honors he has received:
"First of all, I'm very grateful to Cuban baseball; but in Cuba, we don't have that many awards," Abreu said. "You never get that many awards. That’s probably why I look kind of cold when I get these awards here, because we're not used to that. That's just not part of the Cuban baseball."
The only time Abreu didn’t win the AL player of the month award was in May, when he missed 14 games with an ankle injury.
Abreu is the third White Sox player to hit 10 or more home runs in a month twice in a season, joining Jim Thome (twice in 2006) and Frank Thomas (twice in 1993).
CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox finished off a two-game series sweep of the San Francisco Giants with a 7-6 victory Wednesday.
How it happened: Jose Abreu got the scoring started with a two-run home run in the first inning, his 20th of the season. Slumping Tyler Flowers emerged with a two-run single in the fourth, and Adam Dunn hit a three-run home run in the fifth. Chris Sale gave up three runs on eight hits over six-plus innings. He was allowed to start the seventh inning on 101 pitches, but was removed when he put the first two runners on base. The Giants rallied off the White Sox's bullpen, but Ronald Belisario closed it out with a five-out save.
What it means: Beating the National league West-leading Giants had to feel good coming off a series where the White Sox were swept by the Kansas City Royals. But the Giants have been reeling of late, having lost eight of their last nine. The White Sox’s ability to score in bunches against the Giants might show just how well the Royals were playing on their visit to the South Side. Kansas City’s win streak is now at 10 games.
Outside the box: Both White Sox home runs were milestones. Abreu became the third-fastest rookie to hit 20 home runs in major league history, behind Wally Berger and Mark McGwire. He was also the third fastest to 20 home runs in White Sox history (regardless of year), behind Frank Thomas and Jim Thome. Dunn’s home run was the 452nd of his career, tying him with Carl Yastrzemski for 35th all-time.
Off beat: Conor Gillaspie said that playing against the organization that traded him two years ago to the White Sox did not give him an extra spring in his step, but he sure looked to be on his game. He had a double among his two hits Wednesday after collecting two hits with a run scored Tuesday. At the start of spring training last year, Gillaspie was traded for pitcher Jeff Soptic, who has a 5.71 ERA in 52 outings at Single-A San Jose since joining the Giants organization.
Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander Jose Quintana (3-7, 3.98 ERA) to the mound Thursday against Minnesota in the opener of a four-game series. The Twins will counter with right-hander Yohan Pino, who will be making his major league debut, in the 7:10 p.m. CST start at Target Field.
A Chicago White Sox run producer for four seasons, Quentin was back Friday for the first time since he was traded to the San Diego Padres for pitchers Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez.
“Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve been back here, since the trade and to see my former teammates Paulie (Paul Konerko), Gordon (Beckham), Adam (Dunn), Johnny (John Danks) who is throwing tonight, I just found that out,” Quentin said. “There are a lot of good people there. The training staff and everything.”
Ah yes, the training staff. Quentin has dealt with myriad injuries over his career first with the White Sox and now with the Padres. A recent groin issue has reduced him to designated-hitter duties in the current series, according to Padres manager Bud Black.
Quentin has always been sort of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. Did hard play contribute to his injury issues, or is his injury-probe body vulnerable to his style of play?
“You make adjustments,” Quentin said. “I’m having to adjust to that. When I played here my entire career I took pride in playing the game as hard as I could , the right way. Right now I have to make sure I keep my body healthy to be in the lineup and contribute for the good of my team. It’s an adjustment to make.”
Quentin might be a California native, who has played for two National League West teams in his career (the Arizona Diamondbacks is the other), but his time in Chicago has made a huge impact on him.
He burst upon the scene in 2008 to earn an All-Star Game nod and finish fifth in the MVP voting, but didn’t play more than 118 games in two of the next three seasons. When healthy, he rode massively productive hot streaks and some extended cold snaps to solid production numbers like 107 home runs and 320 RBIs in a White sox uniform.
“I was able to establish myself here,” Quentin said. “When I came here we had great players like Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, a whole veteran team. Basically the whole team that won the World Series was here so it was a crucial point of my career to see how those guys conducted their business and helped me to become the player I am.”
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu’s accomplishments -- both significant and obscure -- continue to grow by the day as the rookie takes Major League Baseball by storm.
On Sunday it was just another ho-hum four-RBI day that included a home run and a slew of milestones. Sunday’s achievements of note:
Abreu extended his MLB rookie home run record for March/April with his 10th.
The 10 home runs in March/April are the most for a White Sox player since Paul Konerko had 11 in 2001. Jim Thome hit 10 in 2006.
Abreu’s 31 RBIs set an MLB rookie record for March/April, as he broke out of a tie for the top spot with Albert Pujols.
Abreu's 31 RBIs are a franchise record for the opening month, topping Konerko’s mark of 28 in 2002.
Abreu tied Zeke Bonura’s mark for most home runs through the first 26 games of his career. Bonura did it in 1934.
Abreu’s 31 RBIs are the most by a White Sox player in their first 26 games, and are the most by a White Sox player in any month since Frank Thomas had 31 in August 2003.
Abreu became the first player in MLB history to have four games with four or more RBIs in his first 26 games.
With three more games remaining this month -- all at home -- the list can only grow.
“You know I go to the field to play baseball, help the team,” Abreu said through an interpreter after the game. “I really don’t go looking for records, but they’re definitely welcome. That’s not something that I go looking for, but it’s a nice thing to think about.”
Abreu has said he isn’t a big fan of the cold April conditions, yet it’s hard to imagine him being even more productive when the summer finally arrives.
“He’s good,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think he likes to hit with guys on base. I think the last few home games haven’t been ideal conditions. Even today is a little windy and cold, but he’s just a good hitter. When he hits it on the barrel, it can get out of any park. I don’t think it was necessarily carrying to left field but he has enough power to get it out of here.”
What has convinced the White Sox that Abreu will continue to flourish is his ability to make adjustments on the fly.
“He's up there with anybody in the league in being able to do that,” Ventura said. “I think his first go-around, pitchers probably have more of a report on him than he does of actually seeing pitchers. He's making adjustments and doing it between at-bats, between pitches. Everything has kind of been an adjustment for him. He just continues to impress.”
De Aza not only earned the start after a solid spring training, the left-handed hitter also got the call since the Minnesota Twins had right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the mound.
The right-handed-hitting Dayan Viciedo could only sit and watch Monday's 5-3 White Sox victory, and he might want to get comfortable with that spot on the bench. Nobody was saying De Aza is the main man now after hitting two home runs, but the majority of pitchers in the league are right-handed, meaning that De Aza should get those at-bats, and possibly more.
De Aza batted .383 this spring with a .596 slugging percentage and needed every bit of it to get back into the good graces with the coaching staff.
Despite 17 home runs and 62 RBIs as the leadoff man a season ago, his bad defense and worse baserunning prompted the club to trade for Adam Eaton to take over in center field and at the top of the order.
De Aza figured to be a reserve this season, even though he makes the most money ($4.25 million) of any of White Sox’s four outfield options. But then came his eye-opening spring, with a February and March from Viciedo that looked simply like more of the same.
Despite what was seen to be huge potential, Viciedo has continued to disappoint. Viciedo's biggest issue is an infatuation with overswinging, coupled with poor strike-zone recognition. Starting De Aza on Monday was an easy call for Ventura, and it should remain an easy one moving forward.
"I try to put the ball in play, try to do my job. In any position in the batting order that I am I want to do my job," De Aza said. "Thank God, it's happened now."
With De Aza removed from the leadoff spot, perhaps the White Sox can see more RBI potential from him as a seventh hitter, the spot in which he hit Monday, or even a No. 6 hitter.
His two-homer day put him in good company. He was the first White Sox player to hit two home runs on Opening Day since Jim Thome did it in 2008 at Cleveland. The last player to do it at home was Minnie Minoso in 1960.
How long he can ride his Opening Day wave remains to be seen.
Whereas Viciedo doesn’t seem to realize he is slipping out of favor, De Aza seems to have heard the team’s message loud and clear. He’s still trying to manage expectations, though.
"It's at-bat by at-bat," he said. "You wake up tomorrow and you don't feel the same or you think you have the same energy and something happens in the game. It's just the game."
He didn’t want to make a big deal out of his first chance to play in 2014, yet still managed to do big things.
"I came in like every other day," De Aza said. "I know it's a special day, but at the same time, I don't think about it much because I don't want to put pressure on me."
“I’d love to add Jim Thome back to be honest with you,” Guillen said Tuesday. “A lot of people think I don’t want Jimmy.”
Guillen was referring to the decision before the 2010 season to not sign Thome and go with a team quicker on the base paths that struck out less.
The possible claim on Thome and Kubel makes sense because the White Sox could use some run production from the left side of the plate in the wake of Adam Dunn’s disappointing season. Thome and Kubel are left-handed hitters.
But what also plays into the move for the White Sox is that a claim on both would also block the Cleveland Indians from claiming either one of them. The division-rival Indians are in search of a left-handed run producer in the wake of the foot strain that put Travis Hafner on the disabled list.
If multiple teams from the same league make a claim on a player, the team that wins the claim is the one with the worst record.
The White Sox and Twins would now have 48 hours to work out a possible deal, if news of the waiver claims is true. The Twins also have the option of pulling one or both players off waivers and keeping them on their roster if they don’t see a good trade fit.
Just because a player is placed on trade waivers doesn’t mean their current team is intent on dealing them. For example, CBSSports.com is reporting the White Sox put John Danks, Paul Konerko, Matt Thornton and Gavin Floyd all on trade waivers Wednesday.
It's just all part of the madness of trade waiver season that leads up until the last day of August, which is the day teams need to submit a roster of players eligible to play in the postseason.
So far, there is no confirmation from the White Sox that they have claimed either Thome or Kubel.
If the White Sox end up with one or both players, the question becomes who they would replace on the roster. Major league rosters are currently at 25 players, but can be expanded up to 40 players on Sept. 1.
Thome has apparently been put on trade waivers by the Minnesota Twins. And the deal that had Delmon Young going from the Twins to the Detroit Tigers earlier this month shows that Minnesota has no issue dealing with teams in the division.
If Thome isn't added to the White Sox, don't blame manager Ozzie Guillen this time.
"I'd love to add Jim Thome back to be honest with you," Guillen said. "A lot of people think I don't want Jimmy."
That line of thinking comes from the decision to not sign Thome before the 2010 season as Guillen wanted to go with a quicker lineup not as prone to the strikeout. Thome ended up signing with the Twins.
The question remains, though: How do the White Sox fit in a one-dimensional player in Thome before rosters expand on Sept. 1?
"That's up to [GM] Kenny [Williams], but I don't know if we're going to have five DHs," Guillen said with a laugh. "I don't expect him to be here, but if they want to bring him here, if you ask anybody wearing this uniform if they want Jim Thome back everybody here would say yes. But that's not our department."
“I was actually watching the game by myself live and it was obviously awesome,” Paul Konerko said. “I sent him a quick text but I'm sure a million people did. I know he's busy. It's great. Anybody that's ever played with Jim is happy for him. Five hundred is one thing but 600, I mean, it's amazing.”
Thome not only hit No. 599 in Monday’s game at Detroit by going to the opposite field, he followed that in his next at-bat by hitting No. 600 to left.
“I wish he would have done it against us, it would have been cool to congratulate him in person,” A.J. Pierzynski said. “But to see him do it in a place like Detroit where it’s hard to hit home runs, and hit them in back-to-back at-bats and to see his family come out was pretty darn cool.”
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has never hidden his love for Thome and was ecstatic at the moment the milestone happened. Thome, who played in Chicago from 2006-09, hit 134 of his home runs with the White Sox.
“When I see his wife and his dad on the field, I almost cracked,” Guillen said. “This guy is a very special man in baseball.”
Along with Thome’s 600th home run, this season has also witnessed Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit.
“The two people I admire most in the game did something this year very well -- Derek Jeter and Jim Thome,” Guillen said. “It takes someone so consistent and takes care of himself on and off the field to do what he did for this game.”
Adam Dunn, who had been one of the most consistent home run hitters in the game until this season, could only marvel at Thome’s accomplishment.
“You knew he was going to get it eventually but I just feel like -- I don’t know why -- if a guy threw a no-hitter you’d see it around everywhere,” Dunn said. “I don’t feel like 600 home runs is getting publicized enough especially leading up to it. I know what kind of accomplishment it is and that number … I hope people realize what that number means because that’s a special thing he did.”
In fact, Dunn wasn’t the only one wondering why the run up to Thome’s 600th home run wasn’t a bigger deal.
“I guess maybe there was a little (more) hype with those things a few years back,” Konerko said. “But this is the guy they should have been breaking in (to live telecasts) with. (But) knowing Jim, (this is) the way he wants it. You could almost see when he did it last night he looked kind of embarrassed to me as far as all the attention.”
The White Sox needed a left-handed power bat and some production at DH in 2010, but that isn’t necessarily why it hurt to not have Thome around. What hurt the White Sox the most is that Thome played a key role for their division rivals as he came in very handy when Justin Morneau went down for the season with a concussion. Mark Kotsay’s 47 starts as the DH led the team as the White Sox used 12 different players to start games in that role. Kotsay batted just .239 this past season, regardless of position played, and regardless of how bad his luck was with a number of hard-hit balls turned into outs, it was still .239. Paul Konerko’s 23 starts as DH appears to have helped him stay fresh during his huge season. The Manny Ramirez gamble was a bust as the veteran failed to find his old form over the final month and batted .261 in a White Sox uniform with just two RBIs. The White Sox will have to pay him nearly $4 million, although much if it is deferred.
Look ahead to 2011: Along with first base and catcher, the DH spot is unsettled as the offseason gets underway. Kotsay might retire so he might not be an option again. A left-handed bat would be ideal for the role, but the White Sox will want a player who can also give them innings on defense, whether it be at first base, third base or in the outfield. So expect the DH-by-committee plan to continue. Mark Teahen figures to get some time in the role (he had 10 starts as the DH in 2010), but manager Ozzie Guillen doesn’t figure to be as patient with him as he was with Kotsay. After taking a chance in September that failed completely, the free-agent Ramirez will not be back. Look for a new face to fill the Kotsay role.
Key stat: Kotsay didn’t get too many chances against left-handed pitchers and with good reason. He was 0-for-26 against lefties in 2010.
Quote: “No one is ever going to be happy when someone is struggling. All that does is just obviously bring other outside influences into this clubhouse, and I think we’ve done a great job just grinding through things. It’s not easy. I mean every time you struggle you get to see the true character of somebody. I think in this locker room these guys know the amount of effort, the amount of work I put in on a daily basis to help this ballclub. It just hasn’t seemed to pan out.” -- Kotsay, after a four-RBI game at Detroit in early August.
And this has helped him go through something of a rebirth this year: Thome mashed career homers No. 583 and 584 on Saturday, as the Twins hammered the Rangers -- with help from Matt Tolbert, as Joe Christensen writes. Thome passed Mark McGwire on the career home run list , and he's got 20 for this season, with his OPS hovering right near 1.000. His production has been vital for the Twins, who have been without Justin Morneau for the last two months, and may have to play without him for the rest of the year.
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MINNEAPOLIS – It was everything a battle between the two best teams in a division should be.
For the White Sox, though, it not only wasn’t enough it was crushing.
Jim Thome, who wasn’t needed on the South Side this season because the White Sox needed to go in a different route with their designated-hitter spot, delivered the deciding blow.
His mammoth two-run walk-off home run gave the red-hot Twins not only a 7-6 victory, it put them four games up in the American League Central on the White Sox with 43 games to play.
In the end, it was another day where a depleted bullpen that proved costly. With Bobby Jenks out over the weekend with continued back soreness, J.J. Putz blew late leads Saturday and Sunday against the Tigers. On Tuesday it was Matt Thornton’s turn as Thome crushed an 0-1 pitch 445 feet to right field.
“The bullpen is going to have a rollercoaster here and there,” Thornton said. “We just hit a little rut as a bullpen. We’ve gotten used to winning those games and expect to win. Our bullpen has been able to lock things down pretty good. It’s one of those things where you keep working hard and come to the park with a clear head and keep going after them.”
Jenks will finally return Wednesday, but isn’t expected to be used in key situations until he proves himself. Well, that was the plan anyway. He could end up getting his old job back simply because it couldn’t be any worse that what the team has gone through the last few days.
“I will take that matchup again, [and] maybe Thome will hit a home run again,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He’s hit about 600 home runs. Jim Thome is a home run hitter; he’s a very strong man. He’s been doing it for a lot of years. If [Denard] Span hit that home run in that inning then I would be crying here. But Jim Thome hit it, you go shower and go and get it [tonight].’’
Not to say that it hurt any less that Thome hit it, it just wasn’t as shocking.
“I don’t care if it was Jim, [Joe] Mauer, [Justin] Morneau, [Delmon] Young, [Michael] Cuddyer, [Jason] Kubel or [Nick] Punto; I don’t care who it was,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “You lose a game I don’t care who hits it. It’s never fun. It just happened. We talked about it and [Thornton] seems OK and we have to go get them tomorrow.”
If it’s a game in Minnesota then Pierzynski was bound to have an eventful night. The former Twin was booed lustily, delivered three hits, taunted Twins fans on a number of occasions and even took Young’s jab to the catcher’s mask on a play at the plate. Young was tagged out, one of two Twins runners gunned down at home.
Not only did Young get in that shot, but he hit a home run in the fifth inning to give the Twins a lead and singled leading off the 10th before Thome’s homer.
Pierzynski had words for Young after the play at the plate, while Twins fans gave their player a standing ovation. At least while on the record, Pierzynski took the high road.
“It was play at the plate, things happen and you move on,” he said. “It was his only chance and he did what he thought he needed to do.”
Asked again if he was OK with a play like that, Pierzynski repeated himself.
“He did what he needed to do,” he said.
At this point, the White Sox are just getting pushed around by the Twins. Not only did the Young play seem questionable Tuesday, but the Twins’ Glen Perkins hit Carlos Quentin with a pitch twice in a game last week.
“If anyone has a problem with that, there’s still a way they can resolve their problems,” Guillen said. “That’s not the manager’s job to get in the way. If somebody in the clubhouse don’t like the way he did it, that’s easy. Resolve that problem before he hits the home run or the base hit [in the 10th].
“Managers have to stay away from that. When I was a player if I didn’t like something that happened on the field, it was up to the players to get something done. You can’t say more to do anything about that.’’
By the numbers
9: White Sox defeats to the Twins this season in 13 games. The White Sox also fell to 22-26 in the American League Central. In extra-inning games this season, the White Sox are just 3-7and lost for the 11th time on the last at-bat.
“[I’ll] have a couple of drinks, and come back tomorrow and fight. I don’t take any game home when the uniform comes over my head. There’s nothing you can do about it. One thing about it, they have two huge games to play and if they play the way they did [Tuesday], I will take my chance.’’ –Guillen, on how to recover from Tuesday’s defeat and what needs to be done going forward.
White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd (8-9, 3.70) will look to continue a hot streak that has reached nearly 100 innings. Floyd has a baseball-best 1.70 ERA since June 8, giving up just 17 earned runs over his last 90 innings. He is just 6-3 over that stretch, though, with one of those defeats coming in his last start at Target Field when he gave up one earned run July 16, but was let down by some shaky defense.
Floyd will be opposed by Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.26), who is 2-0 in three starts against the White Sox this season with a 2.79 ERA. They are the only two victories against the White Sox in nine career appearances against them.