Results tagged ‘ Matt Thornton ’

Reed and White Sox hang on to victory

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.”

Game 12: Rough day for the pitchers

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.”

Game 11: White Sox rally from five down

The White Sox avoided their fifth straight loss by virtue of a 9-7, come-from-behind victory over the Angels Wednesday at Camelback Ranch. They scored two runs in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to claim the win. Here’s a look at the action.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Adam Dunn continues to be the White Sox story on offense.

In four trips to the plate Wednesday, the designated hitter walked twice and launched a two-run homer off of Angels closer Jordan Walden. Dunn leads the team in RBIs and walks and is tied with Tyler Flowers for the long ball lead, after missing Tuesday’s action due to stiffness in his neck.

“Today he felt good enough to go out there and didn’t feel like he would get hurt,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Dunn. “He has had good at-bats all spring. He has looked great even in BP. It’s just, in Spring Training, you just keep it going every day and keep that feeling going.”

Eduardo Escobar, the utility infielder fighting for the final position player spot on the roster, knocked out two hits and delivered the game-winning, two-run single with two outs in the eighth.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Chris Sale continues to build up his endurance in his move from reliever to starter. But as he continues to give up runs, with five scoring in 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday, he continues to be tough on himself.

“Obviously you don’t want to kick yourself around the house about it, but at the same time I’m not going to let it roll off my shoulders,” Sale said. “I take this seriously. Whether it’s Spring Training, Game 7 or a wiffle ball game, I got to go out there and get the job done.”

The more troubling news for the White Sox came off the field, with Jesse Crain being scratched due to a slightly strained right oblique. Ventura played down the seriousness of the problem, but Crain is an integral part of the bullpen and the oblique can be tricky.

WHAT’S NEXT: Philip Humber starts in Thursday’s B game against the Mariners, and Hector Santiago also will pitch. Dylan Axelrod starts in Goodyear against the Indians, with Zack Stewart also pitching. The most interesting note from Thursday is Dan Johnson getting his first look at third base during the B game.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Matt Thornton continues to have an outstanding Spring Training run, throwing another scoreless inning on Wednesday and striking out one. The closer’s job, at this point, could come down to him and rookie Addison Reed, with Thornton having the clear edge.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Maybe it’s actually a moment to remember, but Sale and Anthony Carter were the first of many home run victims for Albert Pujols. The first drive launched by Pujols carried so far down the left field line that Sale even admitted to losing track of it after Pujols made contact.

Game 5: Sale’s high standard

Round 1 goes to the Cubs, who claimed a 5-1 victory over the White Sox before 10,327 at Camelback Ranch on Friday. There will be seven more chances for the White Sox to get even, but here’s a look at the highs and lows of this first battle.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: If Chris Sale gets this charged up over his first Cactus League start, one can only imagine the energy he’ll bring to the rotation during the 2012 regular season. The raw stuff is there for Sale, probably the best raw stuff on the White Sox staff.

Like any other pitcher, he’s working on location and building up arm strength as the regular season fast approaches. The endurance is especially important for Sale, who is moving from late-inning relief to the starting five.

And his anger over the two-out, nobody-on walk issued to Junior Lake in the second, which was followed by Edgar Gonzalez’s two-run home run, is reminiscent of the same high personal standard for no free passes held by new staff ace John Danks. Sale felt as if he’s figuring out his pregame routine as a starter, but wasn’t making excuses even in his Spring Training debut.

“It was what it was. You’re still working out kinks, but there’s no excuse at all,” Sale said. “You still got to pitch. But you’re still finding some things out and figuring some things out along the way. But at the end of the day, you still got to be better than that.”

Alejandro De Aza laid down a perfect bunt single in the first, while A.J. Pierzynski, back hitting in the two-hole, moved De Aza to third with a single to left in the first and sacrificed over two runners in the third. Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, both strongly in the closer’s mix, each pitched a scoreless frame.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Nate Jones, who pitched two scoreless innings during his Cactus League debut, gave up a Marlon Byrd homer in the sixth and a Steve Clevenger home run in the seventh. The White Sox also failed to score with the bases loaded and out in the third against Travis Wood and Randy Wells.

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s a rare doubleheader for the White Sox on Saturday, with both games taking place at Camelback Ranch. Dylan Axelrod gets the start in Game 1 against the Rangers, which will be an exclusive whitesox.com webcast starting at 2:05 p.m. CT, and Philip Humber starts the nightcap against the Dodgers at 8:05 p.m. CT. Brent Lillibridge will be leading off and playing second base against the Rangers in the early game.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Adrian Cardenas’ ninth-inning pop out to shortstop Ray Olmedo, as it completed two scoreless innings of relief for Nestor Molina. It was a tough first outing for Molina on Monday, allowing five runs on seven hits over 1 1/3 innings, but the right-hander gave up one hit and struck out two on Friday.

“You can hear him talk and doing things, taking charge, which is nice,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Molina. “To have that first outing and come back, with that impressive performance, it catches your eye.”

MOMENT TO FORGET: Sale’s 0-2 pitch to Gonzalez in the second. It got too much of the plate.

Game 2: Danks gone a little wild

Robin Ventura stayed winless through two Cactus League games following the Angels’ 6-2 victory Tuesday at Diablo Stadium. Here’s a quick look at the breakdown:

WHAT WENT RIGHT: After striking out twice on Monday, Gordon Beckham ripped two solid singles to left in Tuesday’s setback. It goes to show that Cactus League results aren’t nearly as important as the process to get there.

“After yesterday, you come back and you work on things and get him a little more aggressive,” said Ventura of Beckham. “He looked great.”

Matt Thornton threw a scoreless inning in relief, striking out one and giving up Albert Pujols’ double. Ventura praised Thornton’s work and then sarcastically took a jab at the pitch selection to one of the game’s top players.

“He realized Albert can hit a fastball down the middle,” a smiling Ventura said of Thornton. “So we got that out of the way.”

Keep an eye on Nate Jones, the fifth-round selection from the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander who fanned 67 in 63 1/3 innings for Double-A Birmingham last season struck out three over two innings on Tuesday. Jared Mitchell also served a ninth-inning single to left.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Call it a good day of work for John Danks, who threw almost 50 pitches in two innings. The fact that almost half of those pitches were out of the strike zone made it a bit of an erratic work day for the southpaw.

“I’m just trying to throw the ball and make the ball do what I want it to do,” Danks said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t very sharp today.”

The team finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position for those keeping track of such statistics two games into spring, and Brian Omogrosso was touched up for three runs on four hits in one inning of relief.

WHAT’S NEXT: Jake Peavy goes full throttle 19 months after surgery to reattach his lat muscle when taking the mound against the Brewers on Wednesday. Peavy is scheduled to start the second game of the season in Texas.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Trayce Thompson and Gordon Beckham both picked up stolen bases in Tuesday’s loss, as the White Sox were much more aggressive on the basepaths. The White Sox don’t have a highly-touted Minor League system, but they do have young athletes who seem to be learning the game.

MOMENT TO FORGET: It’s a toss-up between two: John Danks snapping his glove in frustration on a throw back from Tyler Flowers after walking Bobby Wilson in the first, showing even Spring Training can draw anger, or Beckham’s name spelled as Beckman on the Diablo Stadium scoreboard during his two trips to the plate.

Be careful where you park

It’s four days into White Sox Spring Training, and Sergio Santos already has vowed revenge on Matt Thornton.

Not revenge, mind you, in a Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone sort of way. This is more about one-upsmanship through practical jokes between two friends and teammates.

Thornton took an early 1-0 lead in this Spring Training category between hard-throwing relievers courtesy of a Saturday morning maneuver. It seems as if Santos arrived slightly earlier than Thornton for workouts at Camelback Ranch and parked his white BMW along a fence close to the facility where veterans often park. Santos would be considered a veteran, beginning his second big league season, but with numerous other parking spots open, Thornton took it upon himself to find Santos’ car a new location.

“I moved his car as far out as I could,” said Thornton with a wry smile.

“After my workout and breakfast, I looked outside and my car was missing,” Santos continued, in comic disbelief. “Only one guy made a comment to me and that was Thornton.”

A little while later, Thornton was doing an interview when Santos approached the southpaw and simply asked “Where is it?” with a laugh. Thornton admitted no knowledge of the missing car. MLB.com is happy to report Santos eventually found his car at the farthest regions of the players’ parking lot.

Now, the wait begins for Santos’ counterstrike.

“He’s lucky there’s no way to get it in front of the doors to the clubhouse or I would have blocked the doors to the clubhouse with it,” said Thornton, clearly having fun with the execution of his joke.

“Of course, because I showed up early and some spots were open, I parked on the side anyway because it’s easier and quicker,” Santos said. “But there will be payback. I have to figure something good for him, but I guarantee there will be payback.”

Jenks on the spot–fair or not

There wasn’t much Bobby Jenks could say about his stiff back upon arriving at the White Sox clubhouse in Camden Yards Sunday morning. At that point, he hadn’t even tested the troublesome area.

So, Jenks simply gave a thumbs-up sign to the interested media and said his back was fine about an hour before playing long toss with Scott Linebrink on the field.

As for Jenks’ hold on the closer’s role, that status has become a bit more tenuous.

An argument could be made as to how the extreme scrutiny on every blown save or late loss coming from Jenks is a bit unfair. Here is a man who has been one of the game’s best closers over the past six years and truly one of the most important additions ever made to the White Sox franchise.

And take the same sort of struggles faced by Jenks since the All-Star break and apply them out to a hitter, as an example. If Alex Rios goes 0-for-30, he certainly won’t lose his starting job in center field. Then again, Rios might get a day or two off to get things back in order at the plate–all purely hypothetical, of course.

So, look at J.J. Putz’s move to the closer’s role as being more about Jenks’ back stiffness and a chance for him to regroup.

“I never take the job away from him because he blow a game,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Jenks. “He blow the game in (Game 2 of) the World Series, and the next day he was my guy. I just worry about what I see and what my pitching coach sees.

“You look at the record, and I don’t say we do him a favor. I have faith in him to be my closer, and you look at (Matt) Thornton and Putz and the way they throw the ball all year long, I don’t worry about that. I know those guys are going to do their job.

“Bobby has a lot of setbacks. Calve, back,” Guillen said. “He come out and pitch good for us. He does, and I never will take someone’s job just because.”

Since the second half began, Jenks has posted a 0-2 record with a 10.56 ERA. He blew a save in Seattle on July 21. He blew a save in Detroit on Aug. 5. He lost a game in Minneapolis on July 18.

Maybe Jenks doesn’t like working on getaway days. In all seriousness, just as Mark Buehrle goes through stretches of starts where opposing teams knock him around the ballpark, Jenks will not be perfect in every save opportunity. His rough outings gain greater notoriety because they obviously come at the end.

Guillen didn’t feel the need to explain his thought process to Jenks. He’s just waiting for his reliever to get fully healthy before possibly making him his closer again.

“When Bobby tells me ‘I’m healthy,’ (White Sox pitching coach Don) Cooper and myself have a job to do to put him on the spot to see how he throws,” Guillen said. “And then we make a decision. I’m not the type of guy to say, ‘You ready?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘OK here it is.’ I don’t think that’s fair for a ballclub.

“To me, the team is first, that’s it. And I’m going to give the team the best shot to win. I don’t say Bobby is not the best shot to win because I always say, if Bobby’s our closer, this bullpen will be better. But if not, we’ll find a way to do it.”

In a tight battle for the American League Central title, it’s all about what have you done for me lately–whether that reasoning is fair or not.

“Every day you come here you have to prove yourself,” Guillen said. “As a manager, as a coach, as a media member. If I’m going to read your stuff, I don’t want to read the same stuff every day.

“Players, coaches, trainers. Everybody that has a job has to prove themselves every day and show everybody how good they are. That’s it. No matter who you are, you have to come here every day and prove yourself. That’s how good players think. ‘I have to be better than yesterday.’

“Life is about that, to prove to people you’re good every day,” Guillen said. “It doesn’t just have to be once a week. It isn’t just about Bobby, it’s everybody. And that’s just how life is, unfortunately.”

 

Jenks shrugs off doubters

Bobby Jenks was warming up in the bullpen Wednesday night, getting ready to come in and protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning against the Mariners, as he has done so many times before at U.S. Cellular Field.

But something was a little different on this night. At least one fan was a bit more focused on a blown save in Seattle last week and a tough ninth-inning loss he suffered against Minnesota on the first Sunday of the second half then his overall body of work.

“Before I got in the game, some (idiot) was out there telling me I (stink),” Jenks told MLB.com after striking out the side for his 21st save. “You know, where has he been the last six years that I’ve been doing my job?

“Situations like that, it bothers me a little bit. But not enough to where it affects me. I look at it and say, ‘Who is this guy? Does he know baseball?’

“Is he a fan or just a numbers guy and looks at the numbers and judges where I’m at. And obviously my numbers aren’t good,” said a defiant Jenks with a laugh. “I’ve had a few bad ones so far. All and all, in save situations, I’ve been doing my job when I’ve been healthy out there.”

Jenks has served as the White Sox full-time closer for the past five years. Arguably, the hard-throwing right-hander, who touched 99 mph on his fastball against the Mariners, stands as one of the most important White Sox additions in the last decade and possibly longer than that particular time frame.

The 2005 squad was dominant from start to finish in winning the team’s first World Series title in almost nine decades. But Jenks became that missing late-inning piece, with Dustin Hermanson injured, plucked by the White Sox from their system without losing a player via the trade route.

Since becoming the team’s last line of pitching defense, Jenks has amassed 167 saves to put him second behind Bobby Thigpen’s 201 career saves on the all-time franchise list. He was the second-fastest to 100 career saves behind Seattle’s Kaz Sasaki in Major League Baseball history, needing just 187 games, and of course, tied the Major League record of 41 consecutive batters retired in 2007, a mark since broken by teammate Mark Buehrle.

Yet, Jenks believes the respect he deserves is not always afforded to him–from the media, fans and even the organization, although he doesn’t come out and say it. Jenks knows how he simply has to save his talking for the field, as he did on Wednesday, by knocking down Franklin Gutierrez, Russell Branyan and Justin Smoak on strikes.

Blowing saves is part of a closer’s job, and it also is the one time a closer is sure to get attention. The veteran Jenks is able to separate his own feelings about the role he has talked about being born to fulfill with important perspective on what the team needs to be successful.

“Regardless of what happens, everyone on the bench is under a lot of pressure, and winning the division is the most important thing,” Jenks said. “If a certain situation calls for where (manager Ozzie Guillen) thinks I’m struggling, and maybe I am, and three lefties are coming up or two lefties and a righty, and (Guillen) goes to (left-hander Matt) Thornton, I got to understand a little bit because it’s still a team of 25 guys.

“It hurts a little. Yeah, I’m not going to lie. But it’s part of the game and you have to roll with it some time. When you do get the ball, go out there and do what you know how to do best. Hopefully, it turns things around and gets it going again.”

Before the road struggles, Jenks had recorded 15 straight saves. He hopes Wednesday’s domination starts another string of at least 15 and points up one of the game’s elite closers, even if one fan on Wednesday might disagree.

“He had two bad games, and it (stinks) for a closer or a bullpen to go out there and have one bad inning and everyone kind of wants your head, you’re losing your job,” said Mark Buehrle, who had a no-decision in Wednesday’s victory. “I think everybody has confidence in him. He has to go out there and continue to do what he’s doing now.”

Thornton takes on the Inbox

Matt Thornton has been called upon to tackle some difficult situations during the course of his successful career.

How about tying run on third, one out in the eighth inning and a tough left-handed hitter such as Justin Morneau at the plate, as an example. The next challenge for the hard-throwing southpaw, though, will take place off the field.

Thornton will serve as the guest conductor for next week’s edition of the White Sox Inbox. One of the game’s best setup men will be answering questions sent in by the fans, with his responses to run on whitesox.com in the days leading up to SoxFest’s start on Friday. The exact date will be specified on the Being Ozzie Guillen blog and through @scottmerkin Twitter.

So, submit those questions through the same form usually used within this Inbox, and they will be assembled and sent to Thornton. They don’t have to just be about Thornton, but also can be directed at the White Sox as a team for 2010 and beyond.

Cooper expects step up in 2010 from Jenks

Pitching coach Don Cooper tempers his look to the future with the fact that the White Sox still have two games remaining to play to complete the 2009 campaign.

But Cooper already has started putting together thoughts about individual improvements to benefit the whole staff in 2010, and one of those targets is closer Bobby Jenks.

“Bobby needs to pick up next year with a better season than he had this year,” said Cooper, when asked to assess the White Sox staff prior to Friday’s series opener in Detroit. “Bobby has run into a few things this year.”

Jenks battled through problems with kidney stones this season that were basically out of his control. He also was shut down last week with a strained right calf. Cooper mentioned an ongoing back issue, though, that might have contributed to Jenks’ 3.71 ERA and 29 saves in 35 chances–still good numbers but not equal to his lofty previous standards.

“Bobby has had a little bit of a back issue for two years and we can’t put our finger on exactly why,” Cooper said. “It’s kind of a freak thing. And Bobby had the calf thing.

“We have to look into somehow, someway trying to avoid two of those things because I don’t know if there’s much you can do about kidney stones. We have to try to look into each individual guy and what can we do to put them in better position so we don’t lose their availability.”

The White Sox closer, who has 146 career saves in 168 opportunities, could once again be the subject of offseason trade rumors. He figures to get an increase through arbitration from his $5.6 million salary in 2009, and the White Sox have another viable closer option in Matt Thornton. But Cooper is operating under the assumption that Jenks will be back as his last line of pitching defense, looking for ways to strengthen his attack.

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