In the first division game of 2015, the Sox took on the undefeated American League Champion Kansas City Royals on Tuesday.
Jose Abreu, J.B Shuck, and Gordon Beckham helped give starting pitcher Tyler Danish some cushion in the first inning as all three knocked in a run each.
Danish would give up a solo home run to right in the bottom of the inning to Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson. Danish, the seventh overall top prospect in the organization according to MLB.com, would go on to give up 2 more hits and another earned run in 2 1/3 innings in his first start of the spring.
Top hitter of the day goes to White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson who went four for four, scoring twice and had a RBI. In a battle for second base, Johnson’s doing his best to make a statement having hit six straight times in six at bats.
WhiteSox.com quoted manager Robin Ventura on Johnson’s spring, “You notice his speed and his range, even his at-bats, you start seeing what people are talking about and he’s getting in the middle of everything. He had some nice turns defensively, I thought he showed some of the range. He had the one ball that came out of his glove, but he still was able to get to it. He just continues to play hard and play with purpose.”
Relievers Zach Phillips, Raul Fernandez, Scott Carroll, Eric Surkamp combined for 6 2/3 scoreless innings and seven strikeouts.
The White Sox will take on the Texas Rangers next at Camelback Ranch at 3:05 PM Central Time today. Top prospect Carlos Rodon will return to the mound for the second time this spring. The last time he was on the mound he only gave up one hit in two innings with four strikeouts.
While shortstop and second base are next to each other on the diamond, the statuses of both positions for the Chicago White Sox couldn’t be further apart. One is emphatically decided for at least one more season, and the other has several options for manager Robin Ventura to pick from.
The locked in position is shortstop. 33-year old Alexei Ramirez came out of spring training last season on fire. March and April are traditionally Ramirez’s weakest months, but last season he figured out something early and hit a combined .329 in those months. In fact, he was so hot at times, longtime Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson said that Ramirez was the same level shortstop and even better than Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Not long after those proclamations were made Ramirez dropped off. He would go onto hit below .235 three out of the last four-plus months. A couple of categories that he was successful and an asset in to the club were with men on base and with runners in scoring position. He hit .295 and .305 respectively in those categories and was one of the reasons the Sox offense showed life at different times throughout the seasons.
While Ramirez is the guy now, one prospect to keep an eye on for the future at the position is Tim Anderson. The 21-year old hit a .301 batting average in rookie ball, high-A and double-A last season. WhiteSox.com rates Anderson as the number two prospect in the organization and number 81 overall amongst all prospects in the league. According to the site he grades at an above average level in his bat, arm and fielding while being well above average running.
Second base is a much different matter for the club. Carlos Sanchez at the position once they traded Gordon Beckham towards the end of August. Despite that chance last year, he currently resides in second place on the depth chart. The 23-year old got the chance to play in 28 games last season and hit for a .250 average. He also struck out 25 times in his 100 at-bats while supplying very little power.
Unless he blows the minds of the management with his play the likelihood of him making the roster as the starter is small, and since they are already deep with utility players he’ll probably be sent to the minors.
The top spot on the depth chart is currently held by the White Sox top prospect at the position and fourth overall in the organization, Micah Johnson. It appears that Johnson has the inside track for the starting role as long as he puts in the work and has a solid spring.
Johnson put together a solid campaign in 2014. He managed a .294 batting average while only striking out 69 times in 419 at-bats in both double-A and triple-A. His batting average was actually right on par with his career average of a .297.
He also provides a speed threat on the bases. In 2013 Johnson stole 87 bases in 114 attempts between low-A, high-A, double-A, and Arizona fall ball. His speed is something the Sox have been missing on the base paths for a while now.
For the last several years the Sox seemed content with a base to base approach to running or making mistakes on the base paths that runs the team out of the inning. So if he is able to break camp with the big club, he could provide a spark at the bottom of the order ahead of leadoff hitter Adam Eaton.
Another person in the competition for the position is the formerly departed, but now returning, Beckham. He was signed as a utility player who could play all over the infield and that’s how the Sox plan to use him. He currently sits third on the depth chart at third base and second behind Alexei Ramirez at shortstop. So unless Johnson and Sanchez blow their chance at the position this spring, Beckham should remain as the reserve across the majority of the infield positions.
A couple other players fighting for playing time this season are Emilio Bonifacio and Leury Garcia. Bonifacio is set to split time at third base with Conor Gillaspie so the amount of time he’d see at the other positions should be limited. He also could potentially be used as a back-up outfielder in center as well.
Garcia will be fighting to break camp with the Sox. The 23-year old spent time at a wide variety of positions last season, including an inning on the mound in extra innings. His dismal year last season could play a role into the Sox managements decision if he has a mediocre spring training.
The Sox are deep with players at both positions. As Cactus League games begin, keep an eye on the race for second base because it could be a tight one down the stretch between the young guys and the veteran players.
Saturday saw the White Sox play in their last two split squad games before the conclusion of spring training. The White Sox sent one squad to the San Diego Padres camp, while the other squad welcomed the San Francisco Giants to Camelback Ranch.
In the first matchup versus the San Diego Padres, the White Sox managed to put up a little offense for Chris Beck, their rookie right-handed starting pitcher. Avisail Garcia started the scoring out in the most unfortunate way: by a double play to second base which scored Micah Johnson in the top of the third inning to tie it up 1-1.
Garcia came back up in the top of the eighth inning and hit a single to right field off of Padres’ first baseman Yonder Alonso to score Micah Johnson. Adam Dunn then added a run with a ground out to first base which scored right fielder Denis Phipps, making it 3-1. The White Sox offense failed to add any more runs in the ninth.
Second baseman Micah Johnson, third baseman Connor Gillaspie, and left fielder Dayan Viciedo went two for four each in the game. Adam Dunn also went one for two with a pair of walks.
Starter Chris Beck and the White Sox relievers turned their performances around a little bit as compared to the previous couple games. Beck turned in a decent five innings in which he gave up five hits and one earned run. He also gave up a walk while striking out five batters. The bottom of the first was Beck’s only blemish in the run category. He gave up a line drive double to left field center which scored Alexi Amarista.
Both relievers, Scott Carroll and Dylan Axelrod, followed up Beck’s performance with two hit-one run performances themselves. Carroll did it while locking down the sixth through eighth innings, while Axelrod was given the blown save in the ninth.
The game ended after the ninth inning as a 3-3 tie.
In the second matchup of the day, the White Sox took on the Tim Hudson and the San Francisco Giants.
The Sox sent Felipe Paulino to the hill in his fifth start of the spring. Much like his last start, Paulino created his own trouble. The second inning started off with a base on balls to Brandon Hicks and the inning just got worse from there. After a double play to Juan Perez, Paulino walked Giants first baseman Mark Minicozzi, and gave up a back to back singles to Ehire Adrianza and Tim Hudson to load the bases. Center fielder Gregor Blanco then walked giving the Giants their first run of the game.
From the third through fifth innings, Paulino calmed down and went the minimum faced even though he gave up a walk to Juan Perez in the forth. The sixth inning is where things fell apart.
Buster Posey, who went three for four on the day, led off with a single then stole second base. After a single that moved Posey to third and a stolen base by Brandon Hicks, Juan Perez hit a three-run homer to left field off of Paulino making it 4-1. Minicozzi would chase Paulino with his single to center.
As for the Sox, Alejandro DeAza got the offense going with his first home run to right field in the second inning. The Sox offense finally came to life in the seventh inning with a double by back-up catcher to right field. Right fielder Blake Tekotte and center fielder Adam Eaton followed the double up with singles of their own scoring Nieto.
After a pitching change by the Giants, pitch hitter Grant Buckner doubled to left field which scored Semien and Black making it seven to five.
The Giants would add one in the ninth, but the Sox would go out in order in the eighth. In the ninth the Sox would get a single by Dan Black and had Grant Buckner reach on a catcher’s interference call. Unfortunately for the Sox neither player would score. The White Sox would fall by the eight to five score.