4/18/2014 12:12 A.M. ET
Danks-Nieto battery is clicking for White Sox
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO --- John Danks tossed six innings of one-run ball Wednesday with backup catcher Adrian Nieto behind the plate. Nieto has caught all three of Danks' starts, and the pairing has provided positive returns so far, as all three of Danks' starts have been quality starts.
The pairing began with Danks' first start of Spring Training, and it is unlikely to change until further notice -- not that Nieto knows why he and Danks have worked together so well.
"No idea," Nieto said. "I guess something just happens, you know. I came up to him one time after the first time I caught him and I asked him, 'Is there anything you're looking for me to do for you catching-wise or stance-wise?' And he's just like, 'Nah, man, everything you do back there. You move well, give a good target and stuff like that.' So I guess it's just something that clicked from day one."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura has given rave reviews of Nieto's defensive abilities, but he has stressed how difficult the adjustment to Major League pitching will be for Nieto, who hadn't played above Class A prior to 2014.
"Yeah, I agree with Robin, man," Nieto said. "I was telling [Dayan] Viciedo on the bench last night, I was like, 'The ball moves up here so much more than it does in A ball.' And guys can throw both pitches to both sides of the plate. You don't see that in A ball. If you see a guy who throws a curveball in A ball, he ain't going to be there long because guys really can't even hit that at that level."
Nieto picked up his first Major League hit in belated fashion -- a ball he hit down the left-field line April 5 against the Royals was originally called an error but later overturned to a double by MLB executive vice president Joe Torre -- resulting in much ribbing from his teammates. He went 1-for-9 in his next three games before picking up a pair of hits Wednesday night.
"Yeah man, it felt good to get two knocks in there, and just got to continue to progress up there at the plate, and just keep doing what I'm doing behind the plate," Nieto said. "Just keep working my tail off with [hitting coach Todd Steverson] before BP, after BP and just keep doing extra work, stuff like that.
"But the hitting will come. It's a big jump, it is. That will come with time and more reps, stuff like that, so I'm not hitting the panic right away. I'm just trying to get good [at-bats], quality [at-bats] up there and just give the team a chance to win and help the team win."
Alexei sets White Sox record with 16-game streak
CHICAGO --- Alexei Ramirez's hitting streak was in jeopardy. That meant his chance to make history was, too.
Ramirez stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning of the White Sox 3-1 loss to the Red Sox Thursday night having gone 0-for-3 and riding a 15-game hitting streak. He was also facing one of the game's toughest closers in Koji Uehara. Ramirez went after the first pitch from Uehara and lined a single to left. With it, he set a franchise record for a hitting streak to start a season at 16 games, passing White Sox icon Frank Thomas.
"Very happy," said Ramirez through director of cultural development Lino Diaz. "It's not every day you can be right next to a Hall of Famer. I'm just very happy, I'm very humbled by it."
Ramirez is known as an aggressive hitter, and he came in with that mindset against Uehara.
"I wanted to look for a good pitch to hit, I was looking for something," said Ramirez, who has hit in 20 straight games dating back to last season. "When I was preparing, I saw he was a guy that likes to come in right away, and when I saw the pitch, I just swung at it."
White Sox call up Putnam, designate Veal
CHICAGO -- After the White Sox used seven relievers and one position player on the mound in Wednesday's 14-inning loss the Red Sox, it was time to call in reinforcements. The White Sox purchased the contract of Zach Putnam from Triple-A Charlotte and designated left-hander Donnie Veal for assignment Thursday afternoon.
"You need a fresh arm," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Puts' been throwing great. You need a fresh body to keep going."
Putnam, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander, is 1-0 for Charlotte this season. The 26-year old has pitched six scoreless innings and struck out 11. Veal appeared in seven games for the White Sox this season and allowed five runs in six innings of work.
"Yeah, this is surreal," said Putnam, who has a career 3.79 ERA and 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 321 Minor League innings. "It's one of those things you never expect it to happen, and when it does happen, you just kind of go with it and enjoy the process. Happy to be here, do whatever I can to help."
With Veal gone, the Sox have just one left-handed reliever in the bullpen, Scott Downs.
"You would like to have two, but at this point, Puts does pretty good," Ventura said. "He's got a nice split that he can equalize that as far as going after lefties, and most of the guys have been pretty decent going after lefties."
The White Sox bullpen has the worst ERA (6.38) and WHIP (1.77) in MLB entering Thursday, with 38 walks in 48 innings. White Sox relievers, minus utility infielder Leury Garcia, issued nine walks over a seven-inning stretch in Wednesday night's loss against the Red Sox. That performance came on the heels of Tuesday's 2-1 win, in which four relievers combined to hold Boston hitless over the final 2 1/3 innings.
"After the other night you thought it was getting back on track," Ventura said. "If you judged it on last night you wouldn't be happy about it. I wouldn't see it like that every night. I don't think anybody sees that kind of performance and just base it on that. They're going to grind. You look at the guys who are out there and eventually they will get the job done."
Some have questioned Ventura's overall handling of the bullpen Wednesday. He used four relievers to get through the eighth inning alone, leaving only closer Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb in reserve. Ventura had said before the game Lindstrom was his closer and that he preferred to give him a full inning, yet Lindstrom came in only after Maikel Cleto walked the first two to start the ninth.
"When things don't happen, you can get criticized for just moves," Ventura said. "But going through the game and looking at it, I would have done the same thing."
Abreu out of White Sox lineup for first time
CHICAGO --- Jose Abreu has had a lot to adjust to since coming to the United States from Cuba, such as a new language, new food and new teammates, to a name a few. As of late, however, the biggest adjustment for Abreu has been hitting Major League pitching.
Abreu is mired in a 1-for-20 slump, and he was given the day off for the first time this season on Thursday. White Sox captain Paul Konerko took his place at first base. It was Konerko's second start of the season.
"He has a lot going on," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Abreu. "And adjusting to different things, this is the right time to give him a day as we go out on the road; you give him the day and a breather and let him get back at it tomorrow."
Abreu's average reached .300 after a two-home run game against Cleveland on April 10, his second two-homer game in three days. That was the 10th game of the season, and Abreu had seven runs, four homers and 14 RBIs to that point. The slump started after that. He has since picked up just the one hit, scoring one run while walking four times in five games.
Part of the problem could be Abreu's propensity to swing through too many breaking balls after showing fair discipline at the plate early on.
"You probably have some of it that you might be tired, you're seeing new guys and they might be getting a report, but you go back in the cage, work on it," Ventura said. "The hardest part of all this is that baseball's relentless. It's every day of being able to gear back up, and when you're not feeling quite right to be able to go out and perform.
"He's got certain pressures on him that probably other guys don't have, so today's a good day to just give him a day."
Third to first
• With the quality start on Wednesday night, Danks has three straight quality starts to begin a season for the first time since 2010.
• The Sox have scored 89 runs over the first 15 games this season, compared to scoring 89 runs in all of April 2013 (25 games).
• On Wednesday, Sox pitchers issued 15 walks for the first time since May 7, 1992, also against Red Sox.
• Konerko needs just four total bases to tie Frank Thomas for the franchise record of 3,949.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.