Friday, May 23, 2014

White Sox seek spark from Eaton against Yankees

The White Sox traded for Adam Eaton this past offseason in part because he gives max effort on every play.

Then again, Chicago needs its leadoff man to stay healthy.

Eaton, who came off the disabled list Sunday after sitting out with a strained right hamstring, said before Thursday's game his legs weren't yet underneath him, affecting his timing at the plate. Perhaps he started to find it after singling in his first two at-bats Thursday. The White Sox hope he can keep things going at the top of a lineup that lost Jose Abreu to an ankle injury the same day Eaton returned when they take on the Yankees on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Eaton said several players have talked to him about how to dial it back when he can, most of all his slow-footed teammates, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. It may go against his DNA to ever go less than 100 percent -- even on a routine grounder -- but he's learning how important it is for him to conserve his legs.

"Paulie was talking about his speed and how he tries to conserve his speed, his legs, for how important it is to him," Eaton quipped. "With those jokes, we had a good conversation and he's just saying, 'You wanna play in this game a long time, and you wanna be able to walk when you're 60, you've got to take it easy.'

"It's something I'm learning and again, risk-reward as we've always talked about. Hopefully, we'll continue to make better judgment calls when we can really bust it down the line and when we can take it easy."

Like White Sox manager Robin Ventura with Eaton, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi has to concern himself with conserving an outfielder, but for a different reason. The 40-year-old Ichiro Suzuki came into the season as the team's fifth outfielder but has seen consistent playing time since Carlos Beltran hit the disabled list May 15. Suzuki didn't start in Thursday's series opener, but came through with a pinch-hit single during a two-run ninth-inning rally.

"He's going to play more," Girardi said before Thursday's game. "I didn't play him tonight because of the left-hander [Chris Sale]. That's simply the reason. But he's been productive for us and he's done a good job"

Suzuki and the rest of the Yankees hitters will look to back veteran righty Hiroki Kuroda, who has somewhat turned things around in May. After posting a 5.28 ERA in five April starts, he has a 3.86 ERA in four May start, and only one wasn't a quality start. Even without Abreu, Girardi knows Kuroda will have his hands full with a revamped Chicago lineup.

"I noticed they scored seven runs on Monday and seven on Tuesday [without Abreu], so I mean this is a club that I think is second in the American League in runs scored," Girardi said. "So they're going to score runs and we're going to have to find a way to shut them down."

White Sox: Noesi building up arm strength
Hector Noesi will make his fifth start for the White Sox as he continues to build his arm strength after a brief stint in the bullpen. Noesi, once a highly regarded prospect in the Yankees' system who went to Seattle in the Michael Pineda deal in January 2012, last started regularly that season for the Mariners.

Noesi has gone five, six and six innings in his last three starts after lasting just 3 2/3 innings in his first start of the year, and has tossed 117 and 109 pitches in his last two starts, respectively. He'll look to bounce back from his previous start, in which he allowed five earned runs on eight hits to the Astros on Saturday.

The ability to go deeper into games hasn't necessarily translated into success, however. Noesi has a 5.66 ERA in his four starts, but he said he's happy with the progress he's made with pitching coach Don Cooper, who's helped Noesi retool his mechanics.

"It's been like 90 percent already," Noesi said of how far he's come with his mechanical adjustments. "It's pretty good and then I think I've been throwing bullpen last few days and I feel better for tomorrow, do whatever I have to do."

Yankees: Betances emerges as bullpen weapon
It is an extreme luxury to feel as though a crucial strikeout is just a bullpen call away, and that is what Girardi feels he has found in right-hander Dellin Betances.

Betances led all Major League relievers with 45 strikeouts entering play on Thursday, and has recorded 45 of his 78 outs this season via strikeout.

"That's probably why I go to him, because I do have confidence in what he's doing," Girardi said. "He's a guy that really has the ability to strike out guys and sometimes there are points in the game where that's exactly what you need."

Converted into a reliever after bouts of wildness as a Minor League starter, Betances is holding batters to a .156 (14-for-90) batting average this season.

"The more I get out there, the more confidence I have in myself," Betances said. "[Girardi] is showing that he's putting me in good situations, so I'm just trying to deliver whenever I can."

Worth noting
  • With his dominating performance in Wednesday's 3-2 win, Chris Sale recorded his 12th career game with 10 or more strikeouts, tying him for fourth on the White Sox franchise list with Alex Fernandez. Sale accomplished the feat in his 65th start, while it took Fernandez 197 starts.
  • The Sox are 7-3 in their last 10 games against they Yankees dating back to last season. Chicago has also won seven straight home games against the Bombers. 
  • The Yankees are 3-5 in their last eight games decided by two runs or fewer.
  • With a two-run single in the ninth inning of Thursday's game, Mark Teixeira has 19 RBIs in his last 19 games.

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