7/22/2014 12:10 A.M. ET
Baines: La Russa made me a smarter player
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Harold Baines played for Tony La Russa in 1978 at Double-A Knoxville, marking La Russa's first managerial gig, then again during his rookie season with the White Sox in 1980, and one more time with Oakland in 1990-92. Baines, who finished his 22-year big-league career with 2,866 hits, 384 homers and 1,626 RBIs, credited La Russa for making him a better player.
"He did," the White Sox assistant hitting coach said of La Russa, who is one of this weekend's Hall of Fame inductees. "A smarter player.
"Just his style is be ready to play every day. Make the fundamental plays and that's baseball in general. Try to make the fundamental plays."
Baines added that La Russa taught him about awareness of the game and how to play the game the right way.
"It comes down to players really, but he put the players in position to win the ballgame, and that's really all you can do as a manager," Baines said. "He was always one step ahead of his opponent, he tried to be.
"You are always trying to outsmart your opponent and he did that a lot. You still have to have players to do that. He put the players in position to perform and they performed."
Konerko advising Beckham on business side
CHICAGO -- Before Paul Konerko had reached 500 plate appearances in his illustrious career that, entering Monday, spans 9,421 trips to the plate, he had been traded twice. The first baseman went from the Dodgers to the Reds on July 4, 1998, and then from the Reds to his home with the White Sox on Nov. 11, 1998.
Konerko learned at any early age that baseball is a tough game, a tough business, and "all you can kind of do is be tough back" as he stated pregame on Monday. It's the sort of wisdom Konerko can impart upon Gordon Beckham, his friend and teammate, who is dealing with perpetual trade rumblings for yet another year.
"It's part of the gig. You have to block out a lot of things, and take the field and do your job," Konerko said. "The team you get drafted by, when you get traded from that team, I think there's always a soft spot in your heart for the team you got drafted by because you envision yourself doing all the things you want to do in your career with that team."
Beckham became the White Sox's top pick and the eighth selection overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, bursting on to the scene as an American League Rookie of the Year in '09 as voted on by his peers. His numbers since have not reached that lofty status, and with infielders Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien coming fast behind him in the White Sox system, and Beckham earning $4,175,000 with one year of arbitration remaining, he could be deemed expandable.
A move by the White Sox, though, would indicate other teams seeing value in Beckham as Konerko explained.
"For Gordon, it's a different situation here as far as he came up and did everything right off the bat, and that set the tone of what it should look like here," Konerko said. "But a lot of teams look at him and see he's a winning player, what he does defensively, all these things that aren't the glamorous stats that he put up right away, and people figured that will happen without question.
"Even though that hasn't happened as much as he wanted, that doesn't mean he couldn't be on a playoff team or World Series team doing what he's doing. That's why you see those rumors because there are a lot of teams that look at him and say, 'We don't care what White Sox fans or the White Sox thought he could be. This guy can help us win games.' He has to deal with that. He's a big boy. He'll be all right."
Pitching coach Cooper sidelined with vertigo
CHICAGO -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper missed his second straight game on Monday due to a bout with vertigo.
"So it's possible he won't be here for a few days," manager Robin Ventura said on Monday. "He had it yesterday. Not feeling too good. I talked to him today. I've never had it, but by listening to him it doesn't sound very good. Yesterday, he just thought he felt bad and felt dizzy."
Bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen will serve as the club's pitching coach in Cooper's absence. Bullpen catcher Mark Salas fills in for Thigpen in the interim. Cooper missed 10 games from April 9-18 and three from Sept. 6-8 last year with diverticulitis.
Sox hoping Mitchell turns corner at Double-A
CHICAGO -- The White Sox's ongoing hope for Jared Mitchell, their supremely athletic top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, is that he would take off once things finally came together for him offensively. Mitchell is hitting .300 with seven homers, three triples and 14 RBIs over 27 games for Double-A Birmingham, after hitting a dismal .199 with 78 strikeouts over 156 at-bats to start the year with Triple-A Charlotte.
Mitchell has played parts of three straight years in the Southern League, but the White Sox hope something has clicked for the left-handed-hitting outfielder.
"He looked at it as another opportunity to take care of himself," said Minor League field coordinator Kirk Champion of Mitchell, who has served as the Barons' leadoff hitter and played center and left. "You can see the maturity and all the experiences that he's had good and bad, kind of blended together right now.
"Obviously there was a lot of attention when he first came in the system. He just hasn't put together months at a time. He's put together weeks and series."
Champion was in Chattanooga on July 2 when Mitchell hit two homers, two triples and threw a guy out at third base from center field in the same game.
Third to first
• Triple-A Charlotte First baseman Andy Wilkins was named the International League Player of the Week for July 15-21. Wilkins was 11-for-17 with five homers, eight RBIs and seven runs scored over four games during that stretch.
Wilkins leads the International League with 21 homers, 182 total bases and 45 extra-base hits. He ranks second with a .524 slugging percentage.
• Paul Konerko needs just seven total bases to reach 4,000 for his career with the White Sox.
• Reliever Taylor Thompson offered up a smile of great pride when reminded of his journey from the 44th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft to his Major League debut on Sunday.
"It was a long grind, but I stuck with it over the years and put up the numbers, and did what they told me to do, and I'm here today," Thompson said. "It lets you know it doesn't really matter where you are drafted. Keep doing what you are doing, put up the numbers and maybe you will get a chance one day."
Thompson joins catcher Josh Phegley and pitcher David Holmberg as members of the '09 White Sox Draft class to reach the Majors.
• Jose Abreu's seventh-inning double during Monday's 3-1 win over the Royals increased his hitting streak to 12 games. Abreu has hit in 30 of the last 31 games.
• Adam Eaton extended his hitting streak to eight games, during which he is batting .452, while he has four multi-hit efforts in his last six games.