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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
James Fegan

White Sox’ Luis Robert Jr., Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson aren’t running like they used to

The White Sox’ Andrew Benintendi is tagged out by Twins second baseman Jorge Polanco during the first inning Sunday. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

In their prospect days, Luis Robert Jr., Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson were all terrors on the basepaths. But as the White Sox’ focus has shifted to keeping them healthy through nagging injuries, that element of their game has taken a backseat.

The Sox are unlikely to have a player reach 20 stolen bases this season, and are on pace to finish in the bottom 10 in MLB in stolen bases as a team for the fourth-straight year. Meanwhile, they have allowed the most stolen bases in baseball on defense. Rule changes aimed at increasing stealing have only made the gulf between the extra bases the White Sox allow and the bases they take grow larger.

“We have to play that game,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “I think every major league team should play that game or has to play that game. You’ll probably see it now in the postseason. It’s a big deal nowadays. I’m looking forward to us playing a faster game moving forward.”

But a future where their speed re-emerges in a league where that’s more important than ever, is not something Grifol is ready to promise.

“Do you keep them running like that and risk them only playing 80, 90 games?” Grifol said. “Or do you slow down a little bit on the running game and try to get them out for 135, 140, 150 games? Personally, from experience and watching other players that I’ve been around, the more you keep these guys on the field, the better you have a chance to win a game. These guys are potential superstars.”

What’s Kopech’s role in 2024?

In a trajectory reminiscent of the 2023 White Sox, remembering how good Michael Kopech is at his best invites projecting him as a productive starter. Looking at his recent track record reminds that he’s been most effective as a reliever. But the dismal way this season is closing makes it hard to parse any particular path forward.

“He’s going to come to spring training to win a job in that rotation” Grifol said. “He’s versatile. We’ve seen him do both. If one doesn’t work, he’ll fall into the other one. He won’t fall into the underbelly of the bullpen. He falls into the leverage side of the bullpen. I’m not even there yet. My mind and our mind as an organization is moving forward, come into spring training and you’re one of our five guys.”

Bad things come to those who don’t wait

Three walks drawn by the Sox offense in four games this weekend drew Grifol’s ire postgame, with good reason. His team’s offense is last in walk rate and the only team with an on-base percentage below .300.

“Any time there’s a rally somewhere, there’s a walk included,” Grifol said.

You can say that again

Sunday’s loss to the Twins sealed a 23-29 record for the Sox against AL Central foes. It’s insufficient for contending for the division crown. Yet in light of their overall performance, it does not raise an eyebrow.

“We’ve got to do better in general, against everybody,” Gavin Sheets said. “We’ve just got to do better. That’s the main goal next year: win more games.”

La Russa sighting

Former Sox manager Tony La Russa was joined by Harold Baines, Ron Kittle as the AL West division-winning 1983 team was honored pregame.

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