GLENDALE, AZ – When people think of the White Sox pitching tutelage, most often they immediately think of Don Cooper, for good reason, as Cooper has earned a stellar reputation for grooming and working with pitchers for the past 15 seasons as the pitching coach of the Chicago White Sox. The pitching coach who will have possibly the biggest task this season is Richard Dotson, the White Sox minor league pitching coordinator.
Dotson will be responsible for the development of one of the more talented minor league pitching cores in 2017, with top-prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carson Fulmer slated to begin the 2017 season with the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate. Dotson will also be responsible for keeping an eye on the big name pitchers that will be starting the season with the Birmingham Barons, including the likes of Michael Kopech and Spencer Adams.
Carson Fulmer credited Dotson with his quick positive turnaround late in 2016 when he returned to the Charlotte Knights after a rough first stint at the major-league level.
“The coaching staff has told us young guys that in order to be a good pitcher in the big leagues, you have to have failure at one point,” Fulmer said. “I got kicked around a little bit and I think that’s beneficial for me.”
The White Sox have one of the most talented group of pitching prospects in all of baseball heading into the 2017 season, but like Fulmer eluded to, the kids are in good hands with Dotson overseeing the minor league pitching staff.
New Name, Hopefully New Sanchez in 2017
The White Sox announced that Carlos Sanchez will officially change his name to “Yolmer Sanchez” with Yolmer being the young infielder’s given birth name. When asked about the sudden change, Sanchez said;
“My dad’s name is Carlos, so everybody used to call me Carlito, like little Carlos,” Sanchez said. “I don’t remember, people never called me Yolmer. I just want to use my first name. It’s something different. The first Yolmer in baseball. Same guy, but different name. My full name is Yolmer Carlos Javier Sanchez Yanez. But everybody used to call me Carlos.”
Sanchez will keep it short and sweet and go with just Yolmer Sanchez, rather than his full birth name. Regardless of what name Sanchez goes by in 2017, he will possibly have a larger opportunity to prove himself at the major-league level this season, something that he has struggled with to this point.
In 2016 Sanchez appeared in just 53 games after appearing in 120 in 2015. Sanchez wasn’t very good in either of those sample sizes, posting a .224 batting average in 2015 over the course of 420 plate appearances, and a .208 batting average in 2016 in just 163 plate appearances. Sanchez will need to have an impressive spring campaign to earn a spot on the 25-man roster come Opening Day, with Tyler Saladino firmly implanted as the White Sox utility-man off of the bench after an excellent 2016 campaign.
Carlos Rodon to Begin Throwing Today
Carlos Rodon has been held out of any throwing for the first three days of camp thus far, for what the coaching staff has explained as an effort to keep the young left-hander fresh all the way through the spring and into his increased work-load expectations this season.
Don Cooper and Rick Renteria both confirmed on Thursday afternoon after practice that Rodon would in fact be allowed to begin throwing on Friday, but reiterated that they will be easing the 24-year-old into the spring throwing program.
Michael Kopech Looking to Keep a Low Profile this Spring
By now I’m sure you’re aware that Michael Kopech is a pretty fun, and often intense character on social media, whether it be his motivational tidbits on Twitter, or videos of the young flame-thrower hurling weighted balls into a net at 110 miles per hour.
Much to the opposite degree, Kopech insists that he is focused on keeping his head down and maintaining a low-profile in Glendale this spring. Kopech’s main priority at this point, is developing a good relationship with pitching coach Don Cooper, who Kopech says is “great” because he “tells it like it is, and lets you know what you need to do“.
As far as how Kopech is doing with meeting his goal of developing a solid relationship with Cooper, Kopech says it’s going well and that he likes Cooper a lot. The White Sox are focused on working with Kopech to harness his fiery emotions, the same emotions that landed him in hot water in 2016 when he injured his hand during a clubhouse altercation with a teammate.
“It’s a big challenge for me,” he said. “Especially what you said about keeping emotions in check. I’m passionate about what I do, passionate about pitching, about baseball, about keeping myself in shape. Everything I’ve done up to this point is 100 percent, so trying tone it back and get ready for a long spring and hopefully a long season is something I’ll have to adjust to.”
James Shields is OK with Rebuild, Feels no Pressure after Poor 2016 Performance
Fresh off of a 6-19 2016 campaign that saw his ERA skyrocket to 5.85, James Shields insists that he feels no pressure to make up for a dismal 2016 showing. Shields had this to say about his feelings on his season to forget, and his offseason work this time around;
“I wish it could have been better,” Shields said. “There’s no doubt about it. I’m a competitor and I don’t like to lose and I don’t like to get hit around like that. Shocking factor? Not really. Sometimes those things happen, but unfortunately it happened too often. But this season I’m feeling good. I’ve got a lot of confidence right now in my ability and what I did this offseason and I’m going to carry it on.”
Shields also spoke to the current White Sox organizational direction, stating that the rebuilding efforts do not phase him, in fact he is a little bit “more comfortable”. The veteran has spent many seasons watching the organization attempting to make the team younger, spending the bulk of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper attributed Shield’s 2016 struggles to a toxic situation in San Diego where he was publicly ridiculed by the owner before being shipped to the White Sox, and also believes that Shields is capable of rebounding in 2017, and having a season more similar to that of his Tampa Bay Rays day’s.
Stay with us here at The Loop Sports all spring as we will be providing frequent updates of the happenings around Camelback Ranch, Cactus League game recaps and analysis, and deep-dive analysis into the story-lines to watch for this spring!