Play­ers, Ren­te­ria, Cooper be­lieve Sox can sur­prise

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOX BEAT - DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Email: dvan­schouwen@ sun­times. com

GLENDALE, Ariz. — This was Day 1 of spring train­ing, when pitch­ers and catch­ers re­port to of­fi­cially open the base­ball sea­son, when al­most ev­ery team dreams a lit­tle ( or a lot), loses its grip on reality and be­lieves that if things hap­pen to fall right, it can be a con­tender, no mat­ter how thin the ros­ter might be.

The White Sox, in Year 2 of a re­build and com­ing off a 95- loss sea­son, prob­a­bly shouldn’t be one of those teams har­bor­ing un­rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions. As bright as their future ap­pears with an im­proved farm sys­tem, peo­ple with sound base­ball senses know this.

Maybe next year — and that might even be a stretch — the Sox will be po­si­tioned to con­tend for the post­sea­son. But not now. Un­less, that is, your ears have been open to what play­ers, young and ex­pe­ri­enced alike, as well as man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria, have said since SoxFest and con­tin­ued to say the first day of spring train­ing Wed­nes­day.

“A lot of peo­ple say that [ we won’t win], but this is base­ball,’’ said new­comer Joakim So­ria, 33, the top can­di­date to be the Sox’ closer in 2018. “Base­ball has a lot of sur­prises. You’ve seen through the years teams that are re­build­ing, and they have post­sea­sons. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if we ended up win­ning the [ Amer­i­can League Cen­tral].’’

Early met­rics sys­tems for fore­cast­ing player per­for­mance such as PECOTA peg the Sox for a 7389 record. Odds­mak­ers pro­ject­ing Sox win to­tals in the 60s see a team that won 67 games with Todd Fra­zier, David Robert­son, Tommy Kahnle, Melky Cabr­era and An­thony Swarzak on board for much of the sea­son and know So­ria and catcher Wel­ing­ton Castillo were the big off­sea­son ad­di­tions.

Right- han­der Miguel Gon­za­lez, for one, would take the over.

“We’re prob­a­bly go­ing to sur­prise a lot of peo­ple,’’ Gon­za­lez said.

Pitch­ing coach Don Cooper is also bullish on the Sox. He said if young pitch­ers Lu­cas Gi­olito and Car­son Ful­mer, whose solid work down the stretch helped the Sox fin­ish on a 22- 22 high note in 2017, take an­other step, and if the Sox play hard like they did un­der Ren­te­ria, look out.

“If we do that in­di­vid­u­ally and some­how make it col­lec­tively, I wouldn’t be sur­prised if we make a lit­tle noise,’’ Cooper said, “be­cause I think we’re get­ting closer.’’

The Sox did have six pitch­ers on the list of can­di­dates for the AL Rookie of the Month in Septem­ber: Left- han­der Aaron Bum­mer ( 0.96 ERA), Ful­mer ( 1.64), Gi­olito ( 2.23), Gre­gory In­fante ( 1.42), Rey­naldo Lopez ( 4.10) and Juan Mi­naya ( six saves). And pro­jected future star sec­ond base­man Yoan Mon­cada had a .276/. 349/. 469 slash line with

‘‘ I’m not go­ing to sell them short. We’ll shoot high, and we’ll see where we fall from there. I’m not go­ing to lower the bar and be happy if we sur­pass that bar.’’ — Rick Ren­te­ria, White Sox man­ager

five home runs in the last month.

“You see it’s the tip of what we can do,’’ said right- han­der Nate Jones, the long­est- tenured Sox player. “You be­lieve in that and say, ‘ Heck yeah, we did that at the end, and we can do it in the be­gin­ning [ of 2018].’’

Re­build or no re­build, Ren­te­ria man­aged ev­ery game to win last sea­son, and he’ll do the same this year.

“I’m not go­ing to sell them short,’’ Ren­te­ria said after work­outs. “We’ll shoot high, and we’ll see where we fall from there. I’m not go­ing to lower the bar and be happy if we sur­pass that bar. I’m not that per­son.’’

Gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn likes the en­thu­si­asm he’s hear­ing from play­ers and was aware of play­ers and some me­dia push­ing the “don’t count the Sox out” an­gle, but he was the voice of rea­son dur­ing his first me­dia scrum of camp.

“The en­thu­si­asm is great and a lot of it is com­ing from these play­ers who think they have the abil­ity to sur­prise some peo­ple,’’ Hahn said. “That’s the men­tal­ity Ricky and his staff cre­ated.

“We love the ex­cite­ment, not only com­ing out of that club­house but from our fans. We’re not go­ing to do any­thing to sti­fle that level of ex­cite­ment. At the same time, we know we’re one year into a re­build. These things tra­di­tion­ally take longer than that.’’

But hear more on this fi­nal note from the club­house:

“Base­ball is a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal, and you never know if this is go­ing to be the year,’’ So­ria said. “If ev­ery­body has the best year of their ca­reer, we can go on a good run.’’

As they say, it’s why they play the games.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ CST_ sox­van.


It’s only Year 2 of the Sox’ re­build, but man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria and his play­ers in­sist they won’t be pushovers and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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