5/8/2014 11:43 P.M. ET
Young players learning from baserunning mistakes
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The 2013 season was full of baserunning mistakes and poor defense, so naturally those two areas were focal points for the White Sox in Spring Training.
The 2014 White Sox have shown aggressiveness with taking extra bases and have generally made smart decisions on the basepaths -- that is, until recently.
Three White Sox runners were picked off over the past two games, including two at first by Cubs catcher Welington Castillo. In one case, Moises Sierra was caught too far off first. The other time it was Marcus Semien. In either case, White Sox manager Robin Ventura was quick to give Castillo credit, albeit with a keen eye on the situation.
"Yeah, he's good at it," Ventura said of Castillo's ability to throw behind runners at first. "Guys used to do that with Ivan Rodriguez, too. And you'd still sit there and say, 'I don't want to get too far off,' and you know when a guy's got quick feet and a good arm, eventually you get caught with it. If it happens again tonight, I'll be shocked."
Defensively, the White Sox have committed just 27 errors, good for fourth in the American League. Their defensive efficiency rating ranks seventh in the league.
With one out in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game, Jose Abreu didn't commit an error, but did make a poor decision. He fielded a slow Ryan Kalish grounder to first, but unwisely tried to get the lead runner at second, and the throw was too late.
"There's parts of it that are young mistakes," Ventura said. "I think Marcus has had that, even the ball with [Abreu] last night trying to get Barney at second base, those are things that you don't want to happen, but there is a learning curve there, learning the speed of runners he doesn't know yet. You still work on it, take care of it, yeah.
"Sometimes things happen to guys who've been around for 12 years. It's just part of playing baseball. You play a lot of games, stuff like that is going to happen. You limit it as much as you can. Address it, move on."
Dunn, Gillaspie help balance out starting lineup
CHICAGO -- Adam Dunn was back in the starting lineup as the designated hitter and hitting fourth for Thursday's series finale with the Cubs after missing the previous two games with a bruised right calf.
Dunn was accidentally kicked by Starlin Castro on a close play at first late in Monday's game and was a late scratch from Tuesday's lineup, but pinch-hit and grounded out in the eighth inning. He sat out entirely in Wednesday's 8-3 win, though he likely would have regardless with the Cubs throwing left-hander Travis Wood.
"I think he's all right. The other night when he came out of the game or he was scratched, it wasn't real good, but he played," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Thursday's game. "He's available as of right now. But we'll find out for sure when he's out there, but it's just like a charlie horse on your calf, and his are bigger than most. So I'd think that it hurt."
Third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who was activated from the disabled list on Wednesday, returned to the starting lineup for the first time since April 21, hitting second. His return helps balance out what had become a right-handed heavy lineup because of injuries to him and Adam Eaton.
"The key for us early was the balance of left-handed, right-handed and the type of hitter he is," Ventura said of Gillaspie. "Makes a lot of contact, tough hitter, good hitter. Any time you lose that, plus the balance, it disrupts what was going on. Insert him right in there again, you expect good things to happen at the plate because he has a short, direct swing to the ball."
Sale to throw Saturday; Eaton's progress uncertain
CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura said injured ace Chris Sale is likely to throw another bullpen session on Saturday, the latest update in a saga of uncertainty on Sale's true progress. Ventura added that things should be clearer following the weekend session.
"From there you figure out how he's feeling and then you make a plan," Ventura said. "He'll have to make a rehab start. Then you're not going to just start him and have him go 80 pitches, it will probably be a short one to start out, see how he's feeling and go from there."
Sale threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, which Ventura said went well. Sale hasn't reported any setbacks and has told Ventura he feels good and is progressing.
It's been more than 15 days since Sale landed on the disabled list, but the White Sox seem content to take their time with one of the cornerstones of their franchise. His flexor muscle strain is a tricky one to deal with, and they don't want to take any chances. It's similar to when the team gave him a 10-day break in 2012, when it experimented with making Sale the closer.
"The last time it wasn't as long, but you're erring on the side of caution to make sure when he goes back out there, he has everything in his toolbox to pitch and feel like he's normal when he's out there," Ventura said.
Ventura agreed Sale is in some ways taking a "second Spring Training."
"A smaller sample, but yeah, you do have to build him back up to where he feels like he can go back out," Ventura said. "It would be unfair to send him out there knowing he's only going to go four or five innings. You just don't do that with a guy like him."
Center fielder Adam Eaton's return from injury also seems uncertain. Ventura said Eaton is "progressing" but what exactly that means for his strained left hamstring is anyone's guess. Hamstrings are a sensitive muscle that require significant amounts of rest and treatment.
Eaton was placed on the disabled list Saturday and has been riding a stationary bike. His game is predicated on his legs, so the balllclub will likely be cautious with its leadoff man. He figures to go on a rehab assignment before joining the team after 15 days on the shelf.
"He'll probably go out and do something," Ventura said. "I think once you take that much time and you haven't seen pitches, live pitches, you at least want to go out and do something, to where you get your timing back. You don't want a guy coming back and not having his timing and then having to catch back up on the fly out here. It usually doesn't work out that well."
Third to first
• Sierra has so far taken advantage of his opportunity to play, which has been brought on by injuries. He went 5-for-8 with two runs scored in his first two starts with his new club, which is keeping an eye on Sierra's propensity to sometimes play too fast.
"See, I haven't seen him very much in the past, but guys that have seen him in the past, they say he's a high-motor guy and does things fast all the time," Ventura said. "You know, there is a bit of you want to calm it down and if you're rushing out and moving too much and doing that, your eyes don't really pick up on pitches and things like that, so just calm him down at the plate a bit, so still let him keep what makes him unique."
• At 18-17, the White Sox had a .500 or better record on May 8 for the first time since 2006, when the club won 90 games.
• White Sox second-base prospect Michal Johnson leads the Southern League in average (.333) and hits (43) for Double-A Birmingham.
• The White Sox bullpen carried into Thursday's game a 20 1/3 scoreless-innings streak dating back to May 2 at Cleveland, the unit's longest stretch since a 21 1/3-inning stretch from May 9-23, 2010. That streak ended at 23 1/3 when Maikel Cleto gave up five runs in the eighth inning.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.