6/17/2013 8:14 P.M. ET
Prospects Johnson, Thompson providing Minor relief
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- While the news has been far from positive at the big league level for the White Sox, there have been a ray or two of hope shining through from the Minor League side over the past few days.
Erik Johnson, the right-handed starter rated No. 3 by MLB.com among the organization's prospects, threw a five-inning, rain-shortened complete game in Double-A Birmingham's 1-0 victory Monday afternoon over Jackson. Johnson struck out four and walked one, lowering his ERA to 2.23 in 14 starts. Johnson has fanned 74, walked 21 and yielded just 57 hits over 84 2/3 innings, limiting opposing hitters to a .189 average.
In Monday's victory, Trayce Thompson knocked out three hits to give him six over the last two games. The outfielder is batting .435 with three homers, nine RBIs and five runs scored during a six-game hitting streak. The club's No. 2 prospect homered and drove in five during Birmingham's 9-8 victory on Sunday, and was named Southern League Hitter of the Week.
White Sox seeking solution to recent struggles
HOUSTON -- With a 4-14 record since moving to the .500 mark via a May 26 home victory over the Marlins, the White Sox can agree on one thing concerning these past 18 games.
There isn't one thing that explains why the South Siders have struggled so much of late.
"We score some runs, and we don't pitch," White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale said. "We pitch and don't score runs or sometimes it's a combination of both. I don't think it's anything you can sit here and point fingers at any one person or group of people. It's just we are not getting lucky bounces and we are not putting it together."
"It's been tough. It's tough to put your finger on," said Jake Peavy, a rotation mate of Sale, currently on the disabled list with a fractured rib on his left side. "It's the same team that spent almost 120 days in first place last year. It just seems like sometimes you go through stretches where things are contagious. You just come up short."
Fans of the team don't want to hear excuses from White Sox players, coaches, manager Robin Ventura or general manager Rick Hahn over a disappointing effort landing them 10 games under .500 and 9 1/2 games out of first place entering Monday's series finale in Houston. But the fact of the matter is that the White Sox are not getting "boat-raced every night," as Peavy explained, basically meaning they are not getting beat badly and never had a chance.
Fifty-three of the club's 66 games have been decided by three runs or fewer, including a 10-15 record in one-run games. The White Sox have played 11 extra-inning games, which is tied with the Reds for the second-highest total in the Majors.
"That's the most frustrating part. We can taste it. We have it right there every night," Sale said. "That's kind of different when you get beat 10-1 or 11-2 and stuff like that. But you know when you are losing 2-1, 3-2 and 5-3, it stings a little bit more because you feel like you are right there.
"Nine-to-one games, you are coming in and saying, 'We had no chance in that game.' Every game we are coming in here and it was like, 'We had a chance to win that game.' We are good. We believe in ourselves. It's just not showing up, I guess."
Sale stands as one of the Major Leagues' top starters and agreed during Spring Training to a five-year, $32 million extension, with team options for 2018 and '19. Despite the fact that the 24-year-old would be the team's most attractive trade piece, he figures to be the face of the franchise for many years.
As for thinking about this group of players being broken up, Sale won't focus on anything but getting the team back on a winning track.
"You start worrying about external issues like getting traded, it takes away from what we are doing on the field," Sale said. "We need all of our focus on the field right now. Anything can happen. You can be 10 games out and 10 days later, you can be even and 20 days later, you can be 10 games up."
"We do have great leadership and even as bad as it has been, have been showing up and playing hard," Peavy said. "Everybody in this locker room cares and doesn't want to be in this situation. We've got to have a big turnaround in a hurry for us to climb back in this thing and we understand that."
Peavy not yet cleared to begin working out
HOUSTON -- Jake Peavy feels "a whole lot better moving around" where the fractured rib on his left side is concerned, an injury that sent the White Sox right-hander to the disabled list retroactive to June 5. But the fact that he still has to protect against sneezing, coughing or laughing shows the four-to-six-week projection for his return probably won't be sped up.
"They still won't let me do anything," Peavy said. "I asked yesterday if I could ride the bike or stretch, and still they said the two-week period to let the process start before we do anything. I guess the biggest thing is any kind of heavy breathing in my diaphragm expanding, we're trying to stay away from that.
"My life has been pretty easy as far as physical activity goes these past few weeks. It's been as uneasy as can be when the team is going the way it is going and you can't be a factor."
Peavy believes that bike work could start in the next few days. The plan also is to get another MRI toward the end of this 10-game road trip, or when the team gets back home, to make sure healing is taking place. Peavy's Charity Jam, scheduled for Sunday night at Joe's on Weed Street in Chicago, still will take place. If Peavy is unable to play the guitar, he will serve as emcee for the entertaining evening.
"We thought about calling it off, but we got too many good acts coming in and too much planning in," Peavy said. "Sunday night will be a cool, cool night if you can make it out. It will be worth coming out, I can promise you that."
Thornton undeterred by lack of breaks in his favor
HOUSTON -- Of the four homers given up by White Sox left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, three have come from left-handed hitters in Washington's Adam LaRoche, Seattle's Michael Saunders and Houston's Jason Castro. Thornton, though, doesn't mind the long ball, as long he's challenging hitters.
"I'm not scared of giving up homers. I throw strikes, so I'm going to give up homers, but it's kind of funny how it's happened this year," Thornton said. "I actually got a kick out of yesterday because that ball [Castro hit] went 316 feet and it was a home run and [Carlos] Pena hit a ball 404 feet [off Thornton] and he gets an F8. That's just the game of baseball."
Saunders' was a wind-blown shot to left-center at U.S. Cellular Field, where Thornton had to retrieve his hat from near the opposing dugout after the pitch. Castro's drive carried just over the wall down the left-field line, adding to a run of less than great luck over the past couple of years for the veteran.
"Ever since they named me the closer in the spring of 2011, it seems like I haven't exactly got a lot of breaks," a smiling Thornton said. "But that's part of the grind. You come back and keep on going and attacking guys, and I'm going to give up runs, give up hits, I know that, but it's about minimizing and bouncing back the next day."
Ventura treasures College World Series memories
HOUSTON -- As the College World Series continues this week, White Sox manager Robin Ventura recalls the great memories taken away from playing there for Oklahoma State in 1986 and '87.
The Cowboys lost the title game in '87 to Stanford, a team including future White Sox teammate Jack McDowell, who had helped to end Ventura's amazing 58-game hitting streak earlier in the World Series.
"Every college kid, it's a treat to get to go to Omaha," Ventura said. "And that's your goal as soon as you start your season, to be able to do it. Omaha does an unbelievable job of running that tournament.
"I got to go back as an analyst after baseball. So, it was a great event. I loved going to that place. It's a hidden gem of tournaments. People talk about Final Fours and bowl games. But if you like baseball, it's a great event."
Ventura remembers watching Bobby Thigpen, the current White Sox bullpen coach, participate for Mississippi State during the 1985 World Series. As for personal memories, there are too many too list.
"There are a lot of memories I can remember," Ventura said. "But I think when you first go there -- and we used to play at Rosenblatt Stadium -- and the first game is going on and you get to arrive there while a game is going on and get that excitement. The first time you are there is special."
Third to first
• The White Sox bullpen has a 2.56 ERA in June, lowering its season ERA from 4.23 to 3.84. The relief crew has allowed just 13 homers, tied with the Braves for fewest overall.
• Dewayne Wise is 2-for-10 with a triple and two runs scored over three Minor League rehab games with Triple-A Charlotte. The outfielder is working his way back from a strained right hamstring that placed him on the disabled list retroactive to May 30.