CHICAGO – Here’s a guess as to how Wednesday’s Cubs-White Sox game at Wrigley Field would play out in the world of Paul Konerko.
The White Sox take a 1-0 or 2-0 victory behind John Danks and, more importantly, the final time of the game checks in somewhere just over two hours. The time constraint is important for Konerko, as he has tickets to Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal between the Blackhawks and Red Wings with a 7 p.m. CT puck drop at the United Center.
Baseball is Konerko’s profession, one where he has reached great heights over close to the past two decades. He’s as accomplished a student of the game as there probably is playing today.
Hockey, though, stands as a passion for the White Sox captain, a sport he played back when he was growing up in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“I still go down and skate when I can, as far as the team doesn’t know that. Every now and then I get out there,” said a smiling Konerko, who played until he was 15 or 16 and played both center and right wing. “I have a couple of buddies who coach younger kids back home. I’ll get out there with them some times in the offseason.”
Konerko calls going to Game 7 kind of a dream, having gone to a playoff game a couple of years ago, but he was up in a luxury box. He just hopes the pace of Wednesday’s Crosstown matchup doesn’t slow down his trip to the United Center.
“Hopefully we don’t do anything stupid like have an extra inning game or any rain delays tomorrow. Let’s keep our fingers crossed there,” said a once again smiling Konerko, who admitted he will be in full fan mode Wednesday night. “Just the way our seasons work out, you never really get a chance for that to happen.
“I’ll definitely take it in. I watch a lot of hockey, I watch tons of games in the offseason. I watch everything I can during the season. It’s something I’ve always been into. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to, I don’t know what to expect. It will be pretty cool.”
Konerko’s NHL connection runs so deep that he said Tuesday that he could name the Stanley Cup champion and the captain who lifted the cup for every year back to his days as a teenager.
“Yeah, I recognize the magnitude of it and how cool it is,” said Konerko of attending a Game 7. “You are always pulling for the guys on the team that had not won one. That’s a big thing in hockey, those guys are animals out there.
“You appreciate that they play hurt. They are really just one of a kind type of guys. You just respect that as a fellow kind of athlete or player in another sport. It doesn’t get lost on me the importance of what it means to those guys, where they come from and all that. It’s a huge deal, probably more than any other sport.”
CHICAGO – The word or words White Sox closer Addison Reed uttered when Boston’s Will Middlebrooks made contact on a ninth-inning fastball Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field are not suitable for family viewers.
“I might have yelled a profanity,” said Reed, who could laugh about the 2-2 pitch after the White Sox held on for a 6-4 victory.
“He did hit it pretty well,” Reed continued. “I think it was the wind that kept it in. It was an out, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”
Middlebrooks’ blast sounded like a homer upon contact. It looked like a homer as it took off for the center field fence. And with Mike Napoli on first base and severe thunderstorms on their way, it could have made for an extended evening into morning.
But Alejandro De Aza raced back near the wall in center and hauled in the drive for out No. 2. First baseman Paul Konerko made a diving stop and perfect toss to Reed on Stephen Drew’s hard-hit grounder to finish things off, but the late story of this one was the homers that weren’t.
During a seventh inning for Matt Thornton where the left-hander’s streak of 11 straight appearances without allowing an earned run came to an end, the Red Sox scored twice and once again appeared to have the shot to tie it when Jarrod Saltalamacchia connected with Middlebrooks on second. This time, it was left fielder Dayan Viciedo who drifted near the wall in left-center and made the inning-ending, wind-aided grab.
“You know, the way the wind was blowing, it’s not easy going to left or center when it cuts across like that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I said it earlier, this ballpark the flags are almost the opposite. Those are hard places when it’s real windy like tonight.”
So, while the flags made it look as if the wind was howling out to left as the night went on, it actually was knocking down fly balls in that direction. That misdirection is why Reed never looks at the flags when he takes the mound.
“There’s balls that they hit that you think are pop ups and they fly over the wall,” Reed said. “Then Middlebrooks got all of it and they stay in the park. The wind must be circling around the stadium. I don’t know how it dictates like where it’s blowing. He hit it and he hit it well, but at the end of the day it stayed in the park.”
What started with a few terse curse words from Reed, ended in the 16th victory he had a hand in this season. And what was his reaction when the ball landed in De Aza’s glove?
“Just kind of a little smirk on my face and glad it stayed in,” Reed said. “A good feeling when I saw De Aza camp under it on the warning track.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – An Angels’ lineup featuring Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo, among others, could do damage against many pitchers even at the top of their game. In Thursday’s 12-4 White Sox loss, it was John Danks and his road back to the Majors that got taken down over 3 1/3 innings. Here’s a look.
HOME RUN: Tyler Flowers feels good at the plate and backed up that Thursday morning analysis with a strong game at Diablo Stadium. Flowers drew a walk in the third off of Jason Vargas after being down 0-2 in the count and scored, doubled to center in the fifth and lined out to center in the seventh.
TRIPLE: Although he’s not front and center in the roster picture, outfielder Blake Tekotte hit the ball hard Thursday. He tripled home one run, marking his second Spring Training three-bagger, and then added a second RBI with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly.
DOUBLE: Jordan Danks didn’t start Thursday’s game but knocked out two hits and drove in a run as a replacement for Dewayne Wise. It was Wise who drove home the team’s second run with a sixth-inning homer off of left-handed throwing Scott Downs.
SINGLE: A single for Hector Gimenez in the ninth leaves him at 9-for-16 for the spring. All nine hits have been singles.
STOLEN BASE: As the leadoff hitter in the fourth inning, the left-handed hitting Adam Dunn tried to lay down a bunt on the first pitch from left-handed throwing Vargas. The bunt attempt went foul. Dunn, who has 406 career homers, launched the next pitch toward the left field stands but it was hauled in against the wall by left fielder Vernon Wells.
CALLED THIRD: Danks worked 3 1/3 innings, which represents his longest 2013 Cactus League outing to date, and felt good despite allowing six earned runs on seven hits. He focused on the changeup, using it to strikeout Howie Kendrick and Trumbo in the first, but did so in part because that pitch was working the best for him.
He also benefitted from facing as strong of a lineup as the Angels.
“For me especially, I need to see lineups like this down here. Just because more than anyone else in camp, I’m needing to see reactions, and how guys are taking pitches,” Danks said “I just need to kind of get it going a little more — some of these other guys can go out there and just get their work in, and certainly I’m doing the same thing. But I’m hoping to see progress each time.
“I don’t feel like I can really do that unless I’m facing big league hitters. Without a doubt, that’s one of the better lineups we’ll see this year. Wish it could’ve gone a little better.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura pointed out the good news is that Danks is not hurting, although the White Sox would like slightly better results from their left-hander.
“Once you start getting knocked around a little, it kicked in and he picked it up a little bit,” said Ventura of Danks. “Even though it’s Spring Training, you’d like to see a little bit better than this.”
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: The White Sox are 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position over their past two losses. Jhan Marinez also was touched up for four runs on one hit and three walks in the seventh, but they were all unearned because of Tekotte’s dropped fly ball in center.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Low-scoring pitchers’ battles are unusual bordering on unlikely in Arizona, but Monday’s 3-1 victory for the White Sox over the Rockies fit into that category. Here’s a look.
HOME RUN: It’s as rare to see a Cactus League complete game as it is to see a torrential downpour in the desert. But Chris Sale was on that pace Monday, needing just 32 pitches to complete three innings and 50 over five. He struck out two, didn’t issue a walk and allowed one run on three hits over five-plus innings and 58 pitches.
“He looked great,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Sale. “He got it going and stretched it out today, going into the sixth. He feels good and looks fine.”
“Every time that I go out there, my goal in mind is throwing strikes and attacking the zone,” Sale said. “I didn’t walk anybody. So, that’s where I want to be.”
TRIPLE: Another Cactus League game, another long home run for Paul Konerko who served as the designated hitter Monday. Konerko now has five long balls and has been making solid contact since Day 1.
DOUBLE: Jared Mitchell finished 0-for-2 with a walk at the plate on Monday but showed off other parts of his skill-set. Mitchell swiped second in the second and then made a nice running catch against the left field wall to start the fourth on a blast by Eric Young. Mitchell won’t break camp with the White Sox but certainly has impressed with his Spring Training play.
SINGLE: Gordon Beckham knocked out two hits. Angel Sanchez, who started at shortstop, tripled, singled and scored a run.
STOLEN BASE: If you arrived late for this particular contest, you potentially missed a good portion of the action. The time of game was 2:13.
CALLED THIRD: Ramon Troncoso turned in another strong outing, with the veteran reliever finishing the victory via a scoreless ninth. It might be tough for the right-hander to crack the White Sox opening bullpen alignment, barring injury, but he gives the team another strong option if needed.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: The White Sox could have scored more than one run in the third if not for Jordan Danks getting picked off third by Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba with runners on first and third, nobody out and Adam Dunn at the plate. Dunn then gave Sale a chance for early postgame stretching, when the left-hander had to contort to catch Dunn’s throw on Todd Helton’s inning-ending grounder to first in the fifth.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Saturday’s 11-9 victory for the Diamondbacks over the White Sox had the feel of Opening Day in Chicago, if only for that fact that game-time temperature was 50 degrees. Here’s a look at the action.
HOME RUN: Without even asking Paul Konerko, it’s safe to say that the White Sox captain won’t base anything on Cactus League results. But the fact remains that the first baseman has been hitting the ball hard through the first 13 games of action: including the exhibition with Team USA. He singled in his first at-bat Saturday, giving him seven straight at-bats with hits, and then after lining out to center, launched a three-run homer in the fifth. Konerko is hitting .409 to date.
TRIPLE: Jared Mitchell continues to impress this spring, adding a triple and single to his resume in Scottsdale and raising his average to .450. He also showed more signs of his great speed with a stolen base.
DOUBLE: For the White Sox to take off this season, they are going to need better production from Alexei Ramirez. It’s a fact Ramirez has talked about, despite having a pretty good season statistically in 2012, commensurate with his past production. Ramirez showed his run-producing ability with a two-run double in the second among his two hits.
SINGLE: Josh Bell continued his strong spring with a two-run homer off of Brandon McCarthy in the second. Jeff Keppinger added two hits, raising his average to .476.
STOLEN BASE: The “getting in my work” theory applied to Matt Thornton’s afternoon, as he allowed six runs on five hits over two-thirds of an inning. Thornton laughed about being lucky that the White Sox don’t face Arizona this season but even better news for the left-hander is that the game took place just 10 minutes from his family’s new home. After a rough day of work, it was at least a short ride back to the family.
CALLED THIRD: It was a rough day for the pitchers, but Hector Santiago pitched well over two scoreless innings. He struck out two, allowed two hits and walked two. Nestor Molina also had a solid day at the B Game loss to the Indians, throwing three scoreless innings with one strikeout.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: John Danks struggled during his second Cactus League start, but as Bill Murray once said in the movie Meatballs, it just doesn’t matter. Well, it matters because as Danks said, he never likes getting hit around. But right now the process is far more important than the results in Danks’ comeback from Aug. 6 arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Danks’ location just wasn’t there on Saturday.
“It just will take time for Johnny to get sharper and get that control you need to do it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s not happy with today either. You just keep working on it. I think he’s going to get it. Right now it’s just not there.
“He goes out and gets stronger each time. Again, it’s not what he wanted but we’re going to see what it looks like tomorrow and the next day and go from there.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The story of Monday’s 6-2 victory for the White Sox over the Giants was John Danks’ return to game action after Aug. 6 arthroscopic surgery, John Danks’ successful return to game action and then John Danks feeling good about his successful return. But there was more to the action at Camelback Ranch then John Danks. Here’s a look.
HOME RUN: It’s only one start. Just like it was only one bullpen session and then just one live batting practice. But Danks continues to leave the White Sox hopeful that he will make a significant and important contribution to the 2013 season.
Danks threw two-plus innings Monday, using 35 pitches, of which 27 were strikes. He hung a changeup to Joaquin Arias in the first inning but it was also the third changeup he threw in that particular at-bat. Danks was upbeat and smiling postgame, pretty much the same attitude he’s featured since SoxFest. The true test will be how Danks feels Tuesday after this effort, but if it’s “all good,” as Danks said Monday, then the Diamondbacks on Saturday become his next target.
“We had that start point and now… . It was fun actually, we were talking about a couple of game situations there,” said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of Danks. “He hung a changeup to the one guy and that was it. Could not have went any better.”
TRIPLE: Jeff Keppinger made his second start at third base, after the White Sox limited him early to the designated hitter role when he dealt with a sore shoulder. Keppinger showed no rust in the field and even less at the plate, with two singles off of Ryan Vogelsong and a third off of Matt Cain. Keppinger is 7-for-15 during Cactus League action.
DOUBLE: Dewayne Wise’s three-run homer capped a four-run fourth and held up as the game-winning hit. What’s more important is the left-handed hitting presence Wise brings to this lineup, not to mention solid defense in all three outfield positions.
SINGLE: Blake Tekotte tripled among his two hits and scored a run. Alexei Ramirez doubled home Tekotte. Angel Sanchez singled and scored a run, and Josh Phegley knocked out his third Cactus League double.
STOLEN BASE: The definition of utility player has been Brent Morel during Spring Training. He has played third base, shortstop and got in at first base during Monday’s victory.
CALLED THIRD: From the fifth through the seventh innings, Donnie Veal (three) and Simon Castro (five) combined to strike out eight of nine hitters.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: Hard to find fault in this one. White Sox hitters even finished 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The White Sox threw a perfect game against the Reds in their 4-0 victory Saturday. Well, perfect for 3 2/3 innings until Joey Votto doubled off of second pitcher in Hector Santiago, because of course the starting pitcher, Jose Quintana, wasn’t going over his limit during Cactus League start No. 1. Here’s a look at the game.
HOME RUN: Quintana couldn’t have done much more over three perfect innings. He only went to a pair of three-ball counts and needed just 39 pitches to get through three innings.
“You get our pitchers going out there, the guys you are familiar seeing, and Quintana goes out and looks great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He looks fresh and it’s nice to see him go out there and continue.”
TRIPLE: A couple of different aspects of Jared Mitchell’s game were on display Saturday. He blooped a double into center in the second off of Bronson Arroyo and his great speed left him with serious designs on third even though the ball didn’t bounce too far away, before he pulled up at second. And in the fourth, the left-handed hitter launched an opposite-field shot to left-center.
“You’re giving a guy like him that playing time and let him see what he can do and Mitch is a strong kid,” Ventura said. “You look at the tools that are there and there are a lot of tools to work with. He starts adding that in. It’s just a plus.”
DOUBLE: Conor Gillaspie produced his second homer in Cactus League action and his seventh RBI. He also played first without an issue, adding to his versatility.
SINGLE: The young middle infield combination of Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien each knocked out a hit, with Sanchez driving in a run. Jeff Keppinger returned defensively to third base, and Brent Morel handled two chances flawlessly as the starting shortstop for the day.
STOLEN BASE: Let’s give this honor to a fan late in the game who started a one-man chant of ‘Let’s Go Sox.’ When nobody joined in, he added “I don’t hear anybody else” and then the rest of the fans picked up the cheer.
CALLED THIRD: Quintana set the tone for the day with his three innings, but Santiago followed up strong. He allowed two walks and one hit over two scoreless innings, approaching this appearance like another start, even though he came in after Quintana.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: The Reds stole two bases, and Josh Phegley was charged with a passed ball. Very minor hiccups in an otherwise strong day for the White Sox.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The story of Friday’s 9-7 victory for the Indians was Chris Sale’s strong debut and a barrage of home runs by both teams. Here’s a look inside the game.
HOME RUN: Oh, if only they gave distances on Cactus League home runs. The folks at Goodyear Ballpark literally would have had to break out the tape measure for Dayan Viciedo’s blast leading off the second against Justin Masterson. It cleared the left field fence, at 345 feet, sailed over the people sitting on the lawn and then cleared the back fence. A best guess was somewhere between 460 to 500 feet.
Brent Morel couldn’t quite match Viciedo’s feat of strength, but hit his own two-run shot off of Masterson following Hector Gimenez’s single. The difference between Morel’s exceptional play this spring and back-pain induced hesitancy last spring is quite noticeable.
TRIPLE: Gimenez knocked out another three hits, leaving him at 5-for-7 in Cactus League action. But of greater importance was the catcher’s ability to settle down Sale after he was out of rhythm in the first. The role of the White Sox catchers is handling the pitchers first and offense second.
DOUBLE: For those who say the White Sox are thin in middle infield prospects, they might want to check out Marcus Semien’s early play. He belted a three-run homer and made a couple of slick plays at shortstop. He has turned in an impressive overall start in Cactus League action
SINGLE: Carlos Sanchez made the defensive play of the game, diving in the hole between first and second to take away a Cleveland hit. Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios had one hit apiece.
STOLEN BASE: Although his sore right elbow is not quite healthy enough to allow him to play the field, Jordan Danks singled and swiped a base as Friday’s starting designated hitter. Danks will need to show a little more than his exceptional outfield defense to help lock down that final roster spot.
CALLED THIRD: Sale wasn’t exactly perfect during his first Cactus League start. But the fact that the 23-year-old was pleased with his effort stands as a good sign, since he’s his own worst critic.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: After an impressive start in which he allowed one run over three innings, Erik Johnson was touched up for five runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings of relief. Matt Carson took him deep.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Sure, it’s only Cactus League play, with individuals making major contributions who won’t be part of the Opening Day roster against pitchers who have the same slim chance. But after posting an 8-4 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday at Camelback Ranch, the White Sox are much happier to be unbeaten instead of winless.
“You like the way it is. It doesn’t matter which guys are playing on which day. Even though you mix it up, they kind of keep that flow going,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And we’re pitching well too.
“For the most part, we’re getting guys going out there and limiting things and playing defense. Guys are going up swinging the bat, being aggressive.”
Here’s a deeper look at Wednesday’s victory.
HOME RUN: As hitting coach Jeff Manto and left fielder Dayan Viciedo told MLB.com, Viciedo’s new leg kick as part of his swing will be a work in progress. Ventura agrees, although he liked the two hits Viciedo knocked out on Wednesday.
“I don’t expect him to get it right away. But I think the timing of it and the things he was having problems with last year, it’ll help that,” said Ventura of Viciedo. “Just balance and seeing pitches. I think last year he got into a mode of he was swinging no matter what.
“The leg kick gives you a little more balance of pushing you back and getting recognition and going after it. It is a work in progress but I think having thrown BP to him and watching him, you see little steps that he has taken. It’s working with two strikes.”
TRIPLE: This much is certain through the early part of Spring Training: Keenyn Walker can run. He tripled among his two hits Wednesday, basically gliding around the bases.
DOUBLE: Let’s put Conor Gillaspie in this spot, since a double is the only hit he’s missing from reaching the cycle over his last two games. Gillaspie went deep off of Collin Balester in the sixth inning, adding to his triple and single from Tuesday. He has six RBIs in two games.
SINGLE: Jeff Keppinger doubled, walked and scored two runs after replacing Adam Dunn at designated hitter. Although he has not yet played the field, Keppinger’s hitting has not suffered from a sore right shoulder. Steve Tolleson had two hits, including a double, and Ramon Troncoso threw two scoreless innings in relief.
STOLEN BASE: No, Paul Konerko doesn’t get many of these. But his home run in the fifth inning against Robbie Ross was his 18th in Cactus League action since 2006.
CALLED THIRD: Simon Castro followed Nestor Molina’s lead on Tuesday, allowing one hit and one walk over three innings.
“I feel good right now with my mechanics and everything we do,” Castro said.
“You’re looking at maturity and just being able to compete at a different level,” said Ventura of Castro. “This year I think he has command and the confidence that comes with being another year into it and control.”
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: It was a good news, bad news sort of afternoon for veteran reliever Jeff Gray. The good news was that he struck out the side in the sixth. The bad news is he also allowed three runs in the frame.
SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Cactus League unbeaten streak continued for the White Sox, as they scored early and often against the Rangers. Here’s a look.
HOME RUN: Conor Gillaspie believes his first hit, a two-run single to left during a six-run third, was “kind of lucky honestly.” But there was nothing lucky about his two-run triple to right during a five-run fourth, giving the new acquisition four RBIs in the victory. Even with Jeff Keppinger sidelined defensively by a sore shoulder, the White Sox look as if they have a competitive situation at third base with Gillaspie and Brent Morel.
“Again, getting him in here and getting him at-bats, that’s the biggest thing right now,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Gillaspie. “He’s a little behind, not getting many at-bats over there. So it’s catching him back up. It’s a good short swing. He’s got a little pop too.”
TRIPLE: Hector Gimenez did a little bit of everything on Tuesday. He knocked out two hits, drove in a run and threw out Elvis Andrus trying to take second on a wild pitch in the first inning. It’s early, but Gimenez looks to have a plus throwing arm, backed up by his 43.1 percent success rate (22-of-51) of throwing out base stealers with Triple-A Charlotte last season.
DOUBLE: When the White Sox acquired Nestor Molina from the Blue Jays for Sergio Santos at the 2011 Winter Meetings, it sounded as if the right-hander could be in the Majors rather quickly i.e. that upcoming 2012 season. Molina instead tried to pitch through elbow pain and had a rough debut campaign with the White Sox in 2012. He took Step 1 to getting back on the right track Tuesday by throwing two scoreless innings.
“I concentrate on throwing strikes,” said Molina through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. “If I do throw strikes early on, I’m going to get a lot of outs.”
SINGLE: Josh Phegley helped complete the scoring with a blast to left in the eighth. Jared Mitchell and Marcus Semien each knocked out another hit, and Zach Stewart fanned three over 1 2/3 innings.
STOLEN BASE: Trayce Thompson actually picked up the White Sox first stolen base of the spring and scored two runs.
CALLED THIRD: After escaping a bases-loaded, two-out situation in his first Cactus League outing, Brian Omogrosso gave up two hits over two scoreless innings. Omogrosso’s most likely big league usage, either at the season’s outset or into 2013, is in long relief.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: Santos Rodriguez, who received high marks from pitching coach Don Cooper for the great arm he possesses, struggled in allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks in just one-third of an inning.