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Chicago White Sox: Jose Quintana and Nate Jones Off to Frosty Starts

The Chicago White Sox are used to some chilly nights in early April as they get the season started. Friday night, in their series opener with the Seattle Mariners, two hurlers who made their marks a season ago saw their fortunes turn, at least for one frigid evening.

With temps barely above freezing to start the game, Chicago battled throughout before dropping a 8-7 decision that took 10 innings to finish. Jose Quintana started this game, and reliever Nate Jones was on the mound for the White Sox for the final frame.

Both players had promising rookie campaigns for the South Siders in 2012. Quintana was a big reason the White Sox stayed in contention despite numerous injuries to the rotation. Jones was 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA last year.

Each player played a big part in the loss Friday.

Quintana gave up a home run to Franklin Gutierrez to start the game, rallied for the next four innings, then surrendered five runs to open the top of the fifth. That included his error while covering first on a grounder to Paul Konerko, which definitely exacerbated things.

The White Sox stormed back in the bottom half of the inning with four runs and tied the game in the seventh to send the game to extra innings. Jones, who had set down the Mariners in order in the ninth, gave up a leadoff single to Gutierrez. This would lead to him giving up three more hits as well as two runs. Chicago got to within a run in its last raps but came up short with the bases loaded when Tyler Flowers went down on strikes.

Jones, who walked the only batter he faced in the 2013 opener against Kansas City, picked up his first major league loss in 67 appearances. In case you were wondering, Gutierrez going 3-for-5 with three RBI was also a major factor in the Mariners picking up their third win of the season.

You have to like the way the White Sox battled on a night that saw them fall behind three times. The entire AL Central is tied with 2-2 records. It’s too early to bemoan losing ground, and Chicago gets a chance to even the score in some sunshine Saturday afternoon.

Until the meltdown in the fifth, I also was happy to see Quintana try to get back on track after the way the game began. No need to throw up any red flags, but Chicago is going to need both of these pitchers to shake off that cold April night.

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Chicago White Sox: Running the Table May Not Be Enough to Win AL Central

The Chicago White Sox have five games in which to claw past Detroit for the American League Central division title. To best the Tigers, Chicago may need to win each of its remaining games.

Even running the table may not prove to be enough to win the division outright.

Chicago closed the gap to a single game after beating Tampa Bay, 3-1. Coupled with Detroit’s 4-2 loss in Minnesota, the White Sox came up with a crucial victory to keep some pressure on the Tigers.

The White Sox picked up the win behind Gavin Floyd, Alex Rios and the bullpen. Rios homered and scored two of Chicago’s three runs. He had three hits on the night. The bottom of the order factored into this one as well.

Alexei Ramirez knocked in Rios to pad the lead with two outs in the bottom half of the sixth inning. Gordon Beckham had a pair of hits and scored Chicago’s first run.

Floyd pitched just five innings, tossing a gopher ball to Ben Zobrist and walking five batters. He went to the showers with a 2-1 lead, which was preserved by five White Sox relievers. Jesse Crain took the game into the eighth. Nate Jones stranded two runners put on by Crain and Matt Thornton.

Donnie Veal and Addison Reed handled the ninth as the White Sox snapped a three-game losing streak and halved the deficit they currently face with less than a week to play in the 2012 season.

I can’t realistically believe that the White Sox can come out on top of the division with less than four wins over Tampa Bay and in Cleveland. Justin Verlander is going Saturday against the Twins. Despite Max Scherzer being hampered by a shoulder injury, the Tigers have gotten good starts from Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez.

It may be a pipe dream to hope for the Tigers to drop even two games in their final five. On the other hand, Detroit is now 8-8 against Minnesota. The Twins are the only team in the AL Central that the Tigers haven’t owned this season.

For the White Sox to overtake Detroit, however, they are going to have to handle their own business and not expect the Tigers to botch up the remainder of their schedule. Meanwhile, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will start the final two home games against the Rays.

Quintana, who has struggled in several starts this month, draws David Price Sunday. Tough task, but at this point, the White Sox have to find a way to come out ahead of one of the league’s best arms.

That’s because, for Chicago, every game has to be considered as a must win.

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Chicago White Sox: Francisco Liriano Was Left in Too Long in Friday’s Loss

The Chicago White Sox rolled the dice on Francisco Liriano’s arm Friday night and dropped a key AL Central contest because of it.

The White Sox retained their one-game lead over Detroit, who lost in Los Angeles. However, Chicago’s 7-5 loss to the Royals in the opener of a three-game series was due in large part to manager Robin Ventura’s attempt to squeeze Liriano for a longer outing.

In a game where the White Sox showed their characteristic heart by repeatedly coming back, Ventura didn’t do his team any favors when he had the chance to minimize the damage his starter caused.

Despite giving up three runs on a pair of homers, Liriano got through five innings with the game tied thanks to an RBI single by Paul Konerko and homers by A.J. Pierzynski and Dewayne Wise. After a visit to the mound, Ventura elected to send Liriano out to start the sixth inning.

I try not to second guess since it’s easy to get such decisions right after the fact, but I was stunned to see Liriano back on the mound after it was pretty clear that he was coming apart. With plenty of arms in the bullpen, I figured that Ventura would thank his lucky stars that the game was tied at three and send Liriano to the showers.

I was even more surprised when he let Liriano stay in the game after walking Salvador Perez. Based on how the fifth inning went for Liriano, reinforcements should have been up and ready. Instead, Liriano walked Mike Moustakas on four pitches.

After two consecutive walks to lead off the inning, Ventura handed the ball to Nate Jones, who promptly gave up a double and a sacrifice fly, staking Kansas City to a 5-3 advantage.

Jones may have given up two runs if he had entered the game with the bases empty. However, knowing Liriano’s recent penchant for walking batters and coming off of an off day, it seemed completely unnecessary to send him out for the sixth.

Chicago did tie the game yet again via a Alexei Ramirez homer, and the Royals did score two more runs in the top of the ninth. The White Sox had several opportunities to score additional runs in the bottom of the eighth and left 10 runners on base on the night. It’s hard to point to one thing on such an evening as the one move that resulted in another loss to Kansas City.

That’s what I’m contending, though. The obvious move was to thank Liriano for getting through the fifth and try to finish a White Sox winner for him. Two key runs were surrendered when Ventura went to the well once too often with his starting pitcher. He should have known better.

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Chicago White Sox: Returning DeWayne Wise Could Be a Valuable September Call Up

DeWayne Wise is a familiar face to Chicago White Sox fans. He could find his way back to the the scene of his more memorable moments before the 2012 season draws to a close. It just might help the Chicago White Sox win a division title to boot.

The White Sox signed Wise to a minor league contract. He has played two games with Triple-A Charlotte. The 34-year-old outfielder was released by the Yankees July 31.

Wise exemplifies the term “journeyman outfielder.” His second tour of duty with the White Sox organization is his eighth stop in his career. Over the last six seasons, he has been a .300 hitter in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues. He fills a spot on a major league bench.

The South Side is where Wise played in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He hit .248 for the AL Central champs in 2008 and logged 84 games the next season. He is a veteran of 16 seasons, most of which have been spent in the minors.

Then again, how many players with a lifetime major league average of .222 are immortalized on the outfield wall at U.S. Cellular Field?

Wise, of course, was in centerfield July 23, 2009 to save Mark Buerhle’s perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The spot on the left-centerfield wall with the words “The Catch” commemorates Wise stealing a home run off the bat of Gabe Kapler to lead off the ninth inning.

Wise had played in 56 games with the Yankees this season and was hitting .262 with seven stolen bases. Though it seems unlikely that he will make a huge impact with the White Sox, this is far from a nostalgic move on the part of Chicago GM Kenny Williams.

Wise could serve as a veteran presence as a reserve. He is a left-handed bat off the bench with good speed and can hold down a spot in the outfield in case of injury. With Jordan Danks being the only other reserve outfielder, Wise could be a September (or earlier) call-up that could serve the club well down the stretch.

With little to lose by bringing Wise back, the White Sox just might make another memory or two with him in the outfield before the season ends.

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Chicago White Sox: Ditching Big Salaries Pays off Huge as Replacements Flourish

The Chicago White Sox let a lot of salary walk away in the offseason. Despite losing some key pieces of their 2011 club, the White Sox are much better off.

A quick look at the standings is all it should take. At this point in 2011, Chicago was sitting at 52-53, three games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. After 105 games in 2012, the White Sox are 58-47 and 2.5 games ahead of Detroit.

Following the 2011 season, four key starters were allowed to walk away. Juan Pierre and Mark Buehrle left for free agency, while Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos were traded.

Rebound seasons from Alex Rios and Adam Dunn are a big part of the improvement. However, equally as important is the way Chicago has replaced the departed players in the lineup. Here is how the White Sox plugged the holes of the four departing players and how it has worked out.

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Chicago White Sox: Tyler Flowers May Need to Hold Down the Fort Behind the Plate

The Chicago White Sox are seeing their pitching staff getting healthier by the day. Now the team may need to turn its attention to the other half of the battery.

Following Monday’s snapping of a five-game losing streak was sobering news of an injury to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Though his right oblique strain is listed as mild, the prospect of Pierzynski missing a substantial number of games could hamper Chicago as they attempt to stay in the playoff hunt.

White Sox skipper Robin Ventura held his starting catcher out of Chicago’s 11-4 win over Minnesota Tuesday. Coupled with Detroit’s loss in Cleveland, the White Sox pulled into a tie with the Tigers in the AL Central Division.

It isn’t far-fetched to think that he will start Tyler Flowers again on Wednesday. Ventura told’s Cash Kruth that with a rash of injuries, mostly to the pitching staff, his reserves have to step up.

I don’t think anybody can plan on what’s going to happen, so, for me, it’s just do [what you can] with the people that we have. I think that’s all we can do, is play. The front office, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. They’re looking, but you’re not always going to get what you’d like to have. So, for us, the focus is on playing with what we got.

Last season, Pierzynski broke his hand in mid-August and missed several weeks. Flowers, the White Sox backstop of the future, was able to hit .275 while Pierzynski was out. If Flowers was needed to take over starter duties, could he replicate that success?

Flowers has caught 21 games for the White Sox in 2012, and I would say that defensively the difference would be minimal. He has thrown out 50 percent of base-stealers, and can be depended on to handle the pitching staff for an extended run of games.

At the plate, the bat, once thought of as Flowers’ strength as a prospect, has not surfaced. He has hit at just a .178 clip with little power, and is striking out in over 40 percent of his plate appearances. With Pierzynski leading AL catchers with 50 RBI and a .507 slugging percentage, the offensive drop off is huge.

Flowers was one-for-four with a walk Tuesday night. If he would be required to fill in over a week or two of starts, he will have to take advantage of the regular at-bats. With Pierzynski’s contract expiring after the season, any extended time in the lineup may serve as an audition for 2013.

In the event that Pierzynski’s condition worsens to the point of being put on the disabled list, Flowers would pair with a call-up from Charlotte, either Hector Gimenez or Josh Phegley. However, let’s just hope Pierzynski’s condition is no more than a temporary malady.

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Brett Myers Acquired, Gives Chicago White Sox Bullpen Versatility

The Chicago White Sox bullpen just got an injection of veteran presence in the last few hours. Two moves on Saturday have given Matt Thornton some more experienced compatriots for the late innings. is reporting a trade with the Houston Astros that sees the White Sox pick up 31-year-old reliever Brett Myers in exchange for a pair of farmhands and a player to be named later. The move gives Chicago an experienced closer who could be used in a variety of situations.

Myers, who has been a starter for much of his big-league career, had 19 saves in 21 opportunities for the Astros. He is carrying a 3.52 ERA and an 0-4 record. Taking away a June 18 performance in which he gave up five runs against Kansas City, his ERA drops to 2.10 in his other 34 games.

The White Sox could use Myers in tandem with rookie Addison Reed in the ninth inning if they don’t choose to anoint him as the team’s closer.

Either way, the end of the pitching staff just got deeper heading into the stretch run.

The return of Jesse Crain from the DL this weekend, along with news that Gavin Floyd is eyeing a Monday return, is good news for the White Sox. Reed and Nate Jones can be used in fewer pressure situations. Skipper Robin Ventura has more experienced arms at his disposal.

At this time of year, that’s a good thing.

Kenny Williams gets some early props for going out and improving the club without forking over any top prospects. Righty Matt Heidenreich and lefty Blair Walters were both low-minors pitchers who didn’t figure into Chicago’s plans for several years.

The fact that Williams has obtained Kevin Youkilis and Myers for relatively little keeps the possibility open for additional moves. With some question marks in the rotation, Williams could add a solid arm for the final two months of the season.

Myers is making $11 million in 2012, but at least a part of his remaining salary is being paid by Houston. If Myers finishes 16 games with the White Sox, a $10 million vesting option kicks in for 2013. If that mark is reached, the White Sox can buy out Myers for $3 million.

Myers saved 21 games with the Phillies back in 2007, but this is his first time closing since then.

If he can bring his game over to a close division race after toiling for a last-place Astros club, Williams will have potentially made another big move toward winning the AL Central.

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Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko Need to Catch Second Wind

The Chicago White Sox have pitching needs that should be addressed before the trade deadline. However, perhaps the larger concern lies in the heart of the batting order.

Chicago’s 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers Friday night cast the drought of the White Sox third and fourth hitters into full display. Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko both went 0-for-4 for the evening. Dunn left two runners on base. Konerko was robbed of extra bases by Quintin Berry to end the game.

No matter how you slice it, the two are scuffling right now.

It’s been feast or famine for Dunn over the last few weeks. Since June 1, he has 25 hits in 41 games. Twelve of those went over the wall. Dunn put together an impressive series against the Royals last weekend, homering in all three games. Since then, his bat has been pretty silent.

Dunn has just one hit in his last 19 at-bats. Chicago has lost four of their last five and have seen their lead over the Tigers shrink to a half game.

Konerko has had his own struggles, which compounds the effects of Dunn’s slumping. Konerko is hitting .245 since the beginning of June. More problematic is the almost complete lack of power in his bat.

Konerko has just six extra base hits since June 1. Through 15 games in July, he has one double, no home runs and four runs batted in. Konerko’s July slugging percentage is .268.

Back in May, this combination was among baseball’s most potent duos. At this point, Dunn is having problems making contact and Konerko has no bite at the plate.

The players who precede and follow Dunn and Konerko have kept the White Sox afloat offensively. Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rios are hitting a combined .342 this month. Youkilis has 15 July RBI and Rios has knocked in 11 runs. Compare that to the 11 RBI combined from Dunn and Konerko in July.

As we near the end of July and the real start of the division race, Chicago is in need of a second wind from the heart of the lineup. Konerko is a .305 hitter in August over his long career. August and September have been Dunn’s least productive months.

Should we expect the huge spring numbers Dunn and Konerko put up in the first two months? That pace may be hard to replicate. However, the White Sox need a little bounce back from the two veteran sluggers to stay in the thick of the AL Central.

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Chicago White Sox: Will Chris Sale Continue His Dominant Run in the Second Half?

If Chicago White Six pitcher Chris Sale can replicate the first half of the 2012 season, he could win himself a Cy Young award. The young left-hander is among the elite pitchers in the American League, but can Sale keep it up in the midst of a division race?

Sale enters the second half with a 10-2 record and a 2.19 ERA. He starts Sunday afternoon in Kansas City having won his last seven decisions.

Since re-entering the White Sox‘s rotation May 12 after a brief stint in the bullpen, Sale has posted a 1.94 ERA. He pitched a scoreless inning in Kaufman Stadium on Tuesday in the All-Star Game. It’s time to see if Sale will pick up where he left off July 3 when he beat the Texas Rangers.

Sale is relying less on his breaking pitches and is changing speeds more effectively. That’s a good thing because as July gives way to August fatigue is a concern for the young pitcher.

Let’s remember that every inning Sale tosses is uncharted territory for the 23-year-old. In a relief role last season he threw just over 71 innings. That workload looks to at least double now that he is starting games.

Going into Sunday’s action, Sale has logged over 102 innings. Despite his desire to reach the 200-inning plateau, it would probably be best if he came up a bit short of that total.

This seems to be the White Sox’s plan, and they have taken steps to prevent a dead arm situation late in the season. Sale was scratched from a possible start on July 8 on the pretense of allowing him to pitch in the All-Star Game. It also cut another six or seven innings from Sale’s end-of-the-year tally.

Chicago skipper Robin Ventura’s plan seems to be a six-man rotation next week. Dylan Axelrod and Philip Humber could pitch next Tuesday and Wednesday in Boston to provide Sale that extra day of rest.

The fact that Axelrod threw two innings in Friday’s extra-inning win could put a snag in that plan. However, it shows that management is serious about monitoring Sale’s work rate.

Sale’s velocity has been down from when he was called on for an inning or two last season. That doesn’t seem to have cut down his effectiveness.

It comes down to how Sale’s arm responds to what will be his highest innings total in his three seasons in the big leagues. How teams respond, having seen Sale in action the first three months, will also figure into the equation.

Sale will have to throw well and get his share of run support to reach 20 wins. Sunday is the first step in determining if he will continue to master opponents in the second half.

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Chicago White Sox: Pitching Staff Truly Babes in Arms

The Chicago White Sox pitching staff took one more step toward being a rookie convention before Friday night’s 14-7 win over the Yankees in New York.

For a farm system rated as low as experts have proclaimed, the White Sox sure are getting mileage out of their young arms.

With Brian Bruney being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a hip issue, 28-year-old Brian Omorosso joins the Chicago staff. Omogrosso is the seventh rookie arm currently on the White Sox staff.

How is a team with so many inexperienced arms now 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central? Just who is left down in Triple-A Charlotte to pitch for the Knights?

Jose Quintana was not as sharp as he has been in previous starts, but he picked up the win, the fourth in a row for the White Sox. Battling back after giving up four first-inning runs, Quintana logged six innings as Chicago’s bats picked up the slack.

Coming out to pitch the ninth to the heart of the Yankee lineup was Leyson Septimo, who made his major league debut. Septimo struck out Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to complete a 1-2-3 performance.

Matt Thornton and Jessie Crain are in a decided minority of veteran arms in the bullpen. Skipper Robin Ventura has little choice but to use Omogrosso, Septimo, Hector Santiago, Nate Jones and Addison Reed. Quintana and Dylan Axelrod pitched the first two games in Yankee Stadium.

“Old Man” Jake Peavy is on the mound Saturday afternoon, to be followed by “Greybeard” Gavin Floyd in Sunday’s series finale. Those seem odd monikers for the 31-year-old Peavy and the 29-year-old Floyd, but the way Chicago’s staff is comprised right now, they fit.

Heck, give the 35-year-old Thornton the nickname “Methuselah Matt.” Chicago’s oldest pitcher could find himself alone in the bullpen soon if Crain’s shoulder soreness puts him on the DL.

If that’s the case, an eighth rookie arm could be on his way.

Hey, at least he’ll see some familiar faces when he gets here.

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