Results tagged ‘ Jose Contreras ’

Thome, Contreras = Pure Class

With the late-arriving news of Jim Thome’s trade to the Dodgers on Monday night, I was reminded of a moment involving the White Sox designated hitter from about two years ago. It’s a story I’ve told over and over again because it really defines the nature of one of the game’s most prodigious sluggers. And his ability on the field was surpassed by the great individual he was off the field.

It was a random three-game series at U.S. Cellular against some team I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing near the back of the clubhouse, where the media often gathers just to the left of where Thome’s locker was located, and having him walking by and stopping to say hi and chat with a handful of media members before going off for batting practice.

Two days later, on the morning before a day game, I was standing in the same spot, when Thome one again walked back toward his locker. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder as sort of a pat on the back and said:

“It’s good to see you.”

Thome was just that sort of guy. He was such a good person, so upbeat and good-natured, that you often wondered if he really was that good of a person, that upbeat and that good-natured. Once you met Thome for about two minutes, the answer was a resounding ‘Yes.’

I had a chance to get to know Thome a little bit beyond baseball. I went to a Target in Chicago last offseason, when Jim, and his wife Andrea, every bit as nice and altruistic as her husband, were buying winter coats for kids through their charitable involvement with Children Home + Aid of Illinois, a program they got into in conjunction with Paul and Jennifer Konerko. I remember talking with Thome about the Hot Stove rumors, and he was as interested in the offseason maneuvers as if he was covering a team.

There also were a couple of opportunities for me to attend the Joyce Thome Benefit dinner in honor of Jim’s late mother, benefitting Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. It was amazing to watch Thome treat everyone in attendance, and I mean everyone, like family members. It’s understandable why he is the favorite son of Peoria.

Actually, the move by the White Sox to send Thome to Los Angeles really is doing a favor for one of the game’s true good guys. The only spot left open on his Hall of Fame resume is winning a World Series title, and as a pinch-hitter or possibly spot starter at first base, he should be a valuable asset to the Dodgers. He also has been reunited with one-time Cleveland teammate Manny Ramirez, and there would be nothing more fitting than a championship and 600 home runs to close out Thome’s career.

In order to finish this trade, Thome had to waive his no-trade clause. He probably understood that the White Sox weren’t going to win a title in 2009 and that he probably wasn’t part of their plans for 2010 and beyond. With Tyler Flowers coming up Tuesday, don’t be surprised if the rookie catcher of the future gets his fair share of chances to serve as designated hitter over the final 30 games.

As for pitcher Jose Contreras, he was every bit as solid of a person as Thome. The quick comeback he made from a ruptured left Achilles suffered last August was nothing short of miraculous, and while he struggled mightily of late, people shouldn’t forget what he meant to the organization. There is no World Series title without Contreras.

If the White Sox don’t pick up the pace considerably in the next month, more good guys and one-time key contributors will be playing at new addresses next season.

Contreras gets the call

It’s a manager’s prerogative to change his mind, but in the case of Saturday’s starting pitcher for the White Sox in an afternoon contest at Yankee Stadium, Ozzie Guillen really had no choice.

He said as much late Friday night when Jose Contreras was named to face the Yankees, while Jake Peavy makes his fourth Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte in Norfolk after taking a line drive off of his pitching elbow on Monday.

“I don’t have any choices,” Guillen said. “Our choices in the Minor Leagues were not that good.”

Guillen could have turned to Carlos Torres or Daniel Hudson from Triple-A Charlotte, but the White Sox didn’t want to make a roster move to correspond with their addition. D.J. Carrasco, who talked to MLB.com as far back as Spring Training about his desire to start, also was a possibility. But Carrasco’s problem, which is a good one, is that he has made himself too valuable as one of the more consistent arms out of a shaky bullpen of late.

This whole discussion might be a moot point, as rain is called for during most of Saturday in New York. But Contreras will get at least one opportunity to give the team a much needed boost. I guarantee you everyone within the White Sox is rooting for him because of the outstanding, hard-working person that Contreras is and the fact that the White Sox are dropping in the American League Central, now sitting five out.

–I asked Mark Buehrle after Friday’s loss if these walk-off defeats knock down a team more than a regular loss. After all, the White Sox have been walked-off twice this week. Buehrle didn’t think the ending mattered as much as the result.

“Any time you lose, I don’t care which way it is,” Buehrle said. “It’s tough.”

Still waiting on Saturday

There still is no official decision as to Saturday’s starter for the White Sox, although something more concrete should come after Friday’s game. Ozzie Guillen basically ruled out a Minor League callup when addressing the media.

“It has to be between Jose (Contreras) and (D.J.) Carrasco,” Guillen said. “Who is it going to be? I don’t know yet. Depends who we don’t use today.

“We don’t have another options at all. We don’t want to move anyone off the roster and we’ll see how it works.”

Contreras was dropped from the rotation after Monday’s rough start, and Carrasco, the team’s valuable middle reliever, said before the game that he hadn’t heard anything one way or another concerning his Saturday role. Guillen was asked if Jake Peavy was ready to start for Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday, then why couldn’t he start for the White Sox.

Guillen deferred to his general manager for the response.

“That’s Kenny Williams and Peavy’s call,” Guillen said. “I just talk about the guys I have available, and I have only two guys available. I say it before, that kind of shots are called from Kenny and Peavy personal, and then when he’s ready to go, I pencil him in.”

Peavy was in the clubhouse before Friday’s game but was scheduled to leave for Norfolk later Friday.

Do the White Sox have interest in Alex Rios?

According to an ESPN.com report, citing Major League sources, the White Sox are most likely the team that will be awarded the waiver claim on Toronto outfielder Alex Rios.

Teams cannot comment on waiver claims, but the outfielder is a player who has been on the White Sox radar previously. The Blue Jays could work out a trade with the team that reportedly claimed Rios, they could pull him back from waivers and thus keep him for the rest of the season or they could let the team who put in the claim take him. According to the report, Toronto has until Tuesday to make the decision.

Hypothetically adding Rios would also mean the addition of another larger contractual obligation to go with recently acquired hurler Jake Peavy, although the White Sox could be having the contracts of Octavio Dotel, Jose Contreras, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome coming off of the books for 2010. Remember, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said he had to be talked into making that Peavy move by general manager Ken Williams and assistant general manager Rick Hahn. Then again, Reinsdorf said part of his hesitation was committing $52 million guaranteed from 2010-12 to a pitcher.

Over the past three years, Rios, 28, has never hit below .291 in a full season. He has plenty of speed and a strong outfield arm, along with more than a little bit of pop in his bat. His statistics have tailed off a bit this season, hitting .261 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIS.

Rios has roughly $2 million left owed to him this year and is guaranteed $59.7 million from 2010 to 2014. Rios would make sense in Williams’ plan to go a bit younger in the present, while also staying highly competitive and aligning the White Sox to stay strong in the future.

The questions that arise from even this possibility are numerous: What would become of Dye, a popular figure among management and within the clubhouse, not to mention a highly productive offensive force? Where does Rios fit this year? And if a trade was discussed, would the White Sox have anything that interests the Blue Jays. They never really seemed to be in play in the pursuit of Roy Halladay, but then again Halladay figures to require a different return than Rios.

And of course, all of this movement, if the White Sox are indeed the team awarded the claim, could be to block the Tigers from going after Rios or to set up possible future trade discussions.

Eight-man rotation? Not likely

I have to give credit to Mark Gonzales, my esteemed White Sox beat writing colleague and friend from the Chicago Tribune, for coming up with a funny image following Sunday’s 5-1 White Sox victory over Detroit.

Gonzales was talking about the picture from the 2005 White Sox World Series championship run that had all the starting pitchers holding baseballs with their arm outstretched in a group shot. He suggested if the White Sox took that same picture at this point this year, there might be eight guys in the picture.

Let’s see, there’s Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Jose Contreras. Then, there’s Bartolo Colon and Clayton Richard, and don’t forget Freddy Garcia getting back into pitching form with Class A Kannapolis, and Carlos Torres looking pretty solid in his one start for the White Sox. Even Aaron Poreda started for Charlotte after being optioned down, so his time can’t be too far away.

Has any Major League team ever gone to an eight or nine-man rotation? With the way Ozzie Guillen likes to match up out of the bullpen, there’s no way the White Sox will go one short in relief and even have a six-man starting staff.

But with two straight strong outings under his belt, I don’t see how Richard can be moved back to the bullpen. Some would argue how Richard has been great for two starts, but where was he the eight prior to that one? He could be just as helpful as the second southpaw in relief. In this sort of tight division race, though, you have to ride the hot hand.

So, who becomes the expendable piece? I would say Colon, with all due respect to the highly successful veteran right-hander. He looked sharp on Friday, but I think you can get what he provides from Richard or even Garcia down the line. The problem for Colon is he can’t work in relief, and I’m not sure if the White Sox are ready to cut ties with him.

It should be an interesting call to make. Then again, Richard’s trade value probably never will be as high as it is right now.

Having too many quality starters certainly is a good problem to have.

Rotation alteration?

Friday’s second-game start for Bartolo Colon at Comerica Park could have some interesting ramifications beyond the fact that a solid outing could lead the White Sox back into a first-place tie with the Tigers.

If Colon pitches well, there’s a good chance he’ll move back into the starting rotation as the team’s fifth man behind Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Jose Contreras. Clayton Richard, who has a 60-40 chance to start Sunday, according to pitching coach Don Cooper, would move to the bullpen.

“Yes, Clayton would go to the bullpen,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I need a lefty in the bullpen. Hopefully we will have Danks to throw on his normal days. That’s what we think.”

Cooper said they would know more about Danks and the troublesome blister on his left index finger later on Friday. If he’s healthy, Danks would go Monday at the Metrodome. If he’s unable to go, Danks could go on the disabled list retroactive to July 18 and Carlos Torres could come back up to replace him.

Guillen also pointed out as to how Colon will not be judged by Friday’s performance alone in regard to his rotation re-entrance.

“I don’t want to say Colon is going to throw one game and see what happens,” Guillen said. “That’s not fair. But he has to bring more to the table. We need him or someone else to step up and pitch good in that spot.”

Colon could not be used out of the bullpen, in Guillen’s estimation. Richard would give the White Sox a second left-hander with Matt Thornton.

Taking the fifth

After the minor uproar involving the entertaining ‘Where’s Bartolo’ saga from the past week, Bartolo Colon took the mound Thursday night for Triple-A Charlotte and actually threw the ball fairly well, according to manager Ozzie Guillen.

“The control was outstanding, his velocity was not there and he threw more breaking balls,” said Guillen of Colon, who gave up one run on two hits over five innings during the Knights’ 7-1 victory over Norfolk “That’s it. You know the way Colon is. He’s like, ‘OK, let me go out and do it.’ It was nothing impressive, but it was good.”

Guillen’s initial report on Colon, who walked two, struck out one and threw 40 of his 65 pitches for strikes, came from his son Oney, an employee of the White Sox organization currently located in Charlotte. Oney added that Colon threw some breaking balls on 3-2 pitches, a mixture of fastballs and off-speed offerings the White Sox wanted to see from the burly right-hander before Colon even was considered for a return to the Majors.

With Colon still a few starts away, though, Clayton Richard will remain in the White Sox rotation at the start of the second half. It looks as if Mark Buehrle will start the second half for the White Sox, followed by John Danks, either Gavin Floyd or Jose Contreras and then Richard. This alignment leaves three southpaws in line for the lefty-heavy Tampa Bay lineup at home and sets up Contreras for the four-game set in Detroit.

Richard lasted just four batters into the second inning of Thursday’s loss to the Indians, giving up six runs on four hits and three walks.

“Yeah, so far, we don’t have any choice,” Guillen said. “A lot of people talk about him, but when we talk about (John) Danks and (Gavin) Floyd, we were in (2007), we were not in the pennant race.

“We’re trying to get this guy under the belt, but in the meanwhile we have to win some games. We watched some video (on Richard), we don’t have any better choice. We have to see how Bartolo is doing, but for right now I’m supporting (Richard).”

As for Freddy Garcia, who is currently working out in Charlotte, Guillen doesn’t believe the big-game hurler is quite ready.

“I talked to him a couple of days about it,” said Guillen of Garcia. “I talked to Oney about it. He’s throwing the ball very well. But I don’t think Freddy has turned the corner yet.”

Crosstown Showdown: U.S. Cellular Field version

Here are a few additional tidbits from the Cubs 5-4 victory over the White Sox on Friday, a competitive and entertaining affair, which sadly is sure to be overshadowed by the dugout outburst from one Cubs outfielder.

–Paul Konerko had his 118-game errorless streak come to an end in the seventh inning, when he bobbled Mike Fontenot’s chopper as Konerko was moving toward second and then couldn’t get the ball to Jose Contreras covering at first base. Geovany Soto followed with a three-run blast to left-center that proved to be the game-winner.

Konerko is an extremely underrated defensive player at first base, and was given the out by one reporter on the miscue coming off of a bad hop. Instead, Konerko explained the thought process on the play.

“That play, it’s one where, as a first baseman, you’ve got kind of a choice when that ball is hit,” Konerko said. “If you just pull up, you can go back to the bag and just get an easy out at first, and then you have a guy at second.

“Then, if there’s a broken-bat hit, you feel sick.You aggressively go after it, and you know it’s kind of a do or die, and I died there. But it’s aggressive. You’re going to make errors. I’d rather make them hard and aggressive like that than laying back. No worries there.

“I wish I would have made it,” Konerko said. “I feel bad when I make an error like that behind Jose because he was pitching so well. I thought he was having a really good day. He threw the ball really well today and battled. You’re sick in that respect, but you’re going to make errors. If I can make them all like that, I’ll be happy.”

Meanwhile, the White Sox might have put a bigger scare into Kevin Gregg in the ninth if not for a great play by Derrek Lee. Pinch-hitter Dewayne Wise hit a shot to Lee, who made a diving stop and flipped to Gregg covering first base, with Gregg beating Wise by half a step for the inning’s second out.

– Ozzie Guillen pinch-hit Josh Fields for Gordon Beckham with two outs in the ninth inning because he wanted to go for the tie with the White Sox trailing by one and down to their last bullet.

“Besides that, the on-base percentage is a lot different,” Guillen said. “Fields had a good at-bat and gave us a chance to get somebody on base, and Beckham has struggled lately.”

Fields drew a walk, after being down in the count at 1-2, before Scott Podsednik took a called third strike that appeared to be a bit outside on a 2-2 pitch for the game’s final out.

– Nobody on the Cubs asked me, but here’s a lineup idea presented by my brother, Jeff, once Aramis Ramirez returns. Move Alfonso Soriano to second base and put Jake Fox in left field. It’s hard to imagine Fox’s big bat going to the Minors or the bench.

And remember, he’s another proud producer from the University of Michigan pipeline.

–Jose Contreras has allowed eight home runs in his last three starts against the Cubs. He also suffered from back spasms during Friday’s game but stayed in the game after the discomfort dissipated.

“I felt a little pinch,” said Contreras through interpreter and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. “I had to lower myself a little bit to throw the forkball, but luckily it was nothing. It was just a little pinch at that moment.”

–Sight not seen by the masses: As Guillen was exiting his postgame press conference in the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center, he paused briefly to exchange hugs and a few words with Lou Piniella outside the Cubs clubhouse, before Piniella went into his meeting with the media.

–And finally, one comment from Konerko on getting a look at any of Milton Bradley’s dugout outburst.

“Not at all. Well, I shouldn’t say not at all,” Konerko said. “I saw some guys move down in the tunnel. I didn’t know why. I didn’t even know who it had to do with. And that was it. And then you kind of caught wind of it later in the game.

“That’s all I know. You tell me. I’m sure I’ll find out. I’m sure some one will let us know. But yeah, it’s not our business.”

–Actually, one final note. Remember, the White Sox lost the first game of the series in Milwaukee and Cincinnati and at home against the Dodgers, but they came back to win all three series. They are 9-7 overall in Interleague Play.

 

Poreda to be called up

For the second time in the last six days, the White Sox are turning to a top recent draft pick to infuse a little life into their struggling team.

Aaron Poreda, the White Sox top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, will be added to the team’s 25-man-roster prior to Tuesday’s contest with the Tigers, officially called up from Double-A Birmingham. The hard-throwing left-hander talked about the promotion on the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 in Chicago Tuesday morning.

“I’d say I’m more excited than nervous,” Poreda said. “I’m excited to be in any kind of situation. Just being here is enough for me.

“I want to be doing what I’ve been doing all year long. Try to throw strikes, pound the zone. Use the secondary stuff, my slider and change up I’ve been developing. Really just go after hitters.”

Poreda, 22, figures to join the White Sox starting rotation, although he did pitch in relief during the Arizona Fall League and during Spring Training in Glendale. The addition of Poreda leaves a glut at the back end of the rotation, behind Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks.

Jose Contreras made a triumphant return in the nightcap of Monday’s split doubleheader with Detroit, allowing one hit over eight scoreless innings, and Clayton Richard has impressed the White Sox during his six-start stint–despite control issues in his last two starts. Bartolo Colon has lost five of his last six decisions and received criticism from manager Ozzie Guillen on Sunday for not using an effective secondary pitch behind his fastball with a velocity in the high 80s.

Poreda had a 5-4 record with a 2.38 ERA in 11 starts for the Barons, last throwing six scoreless innings against Montgomery on Friday, June 5.

His promotion follows Gordon Beckham, the team’s top selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, to the Majors. Beckham, who was the eighth pick overall last year, was called up by the White Sox last Thursday and is 0-for-13 since his arrival, although he did reach base on Monday via a walk.

More on the return of Jose

It’s hard not too root for a guy like Jose Contreras, who made such a triumphant return from early season struggles by giving up just one hit over eight innings during the White Sox 6-1 victory over the Tigers in the nightcap of Monday’s doubleheader. Contreras is one of the more affable individuals you could hope to meet, inside or outside of the world of baseball.

So, there was Contreras, holding his 13-month-old son, Joseph, while taking postgame questions from the media. Both Contreras’ men had smiles on their respective faces, but only one of them was grabbing the microphone held by Comcast SportsNet reporter Chuck Garfein. Here’s a little hint: it was not Jose.

Contreras said that he worked on his mechanics during a five-start stint with Triple-A Charlotte. But most of all, he built up his arm strength a little further and regained the confidence that was basically knocked from him during his first six big league starts at the season’s outset.

The big right-hander even showed his nimbleness on the mound, by making a behind-the-back glove save of Ramon Santiago’s second-inning grounder and easily throwing him out at first. Contreras then showed his self-deprecating humor after the game.

“I didn’t catch it. The ball caught me,” said Contreras of the play, through interpreter Ozzie Guillen, Jr., drawing big laughs fromt the media.

“Physically I felt strong,” added Contreras of his rough start to the 2009 campaign. “But maybe the pitching and the pitch counts in Triple-A made up for the pitches I didn’t have in Spring Training. Physically I was fine, but the consistency of getting reps in was the big difference.”

Where does the rotation stand after Contreras’ start?

I have to believe that Bartolo Colon is going to be the odd man out, although Guillen certainly wouldn’t commit to anything Monday night. The White Sox are not going to a six-man rotation and both Clayton Richard and Contreras deserve to trot out there every five days.

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