Results tagged ‘ Robin Ventura ’

Checking in with the big club

Erik Johnson will start the 2014 season in the White Sox rotation (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Erik Johnson will start the 2014 season in the White Sox rotation (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

We are taking a quick break on our Carolina Countdown, which will resume later this week. In honor of our exciting announcement today, let’s check in on the White Sox with just six days until their opener and nine until the Dash’s Opening Day.

Erik Johnson makes the White Sox rotation: Right-hander Erik Johnson stormed through the White Sox minor league ranks, including a two-month stop in Winston-Salem. Chicago skipper Robin Ventura announced the rotation today, and the former second-round pick is in it.

This comment from White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin is important to note, too.

Whether the White Sox view Johnson as the fourth-best pitcher in the rotation or not, he will be in the mix to start the 2014 season. Good for Erik, who was an incredibly friendly, yet focused, pitcher during his time in the Triad. Big league hitters will hate seeing his slider.

Micah Johnson still in big league camp: Speedster Micah Johnson, who led all of Minor League Baseball in stolen bases last season, is still a member of big league camp. Only 33 players remain at this stage, which is an incredible accomplishment for a player who started last year in Low-A Kannapolis. Some thoughts via Twitter:

Johnson’s stolen base total in 2013 (84) is good for the second-most by a White Sox farmhand ever. Per these reporters and others, he will probably not be in a White Sox uniform on Opening Day, but his time may come much sooner than people expected this time last year.

A few other notes:
– Great stuff from our friends at FutureSox, who break down why Adrian Nieto made the White Sox, while Dash alum Kevan Smith did not.

– You won’t go hungry at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago this year. Wow.

– Merkin continues his good work with a great feature on Dash alum Nate Jones’ memories from his first Opening Day.

We are into single digits in our countdown to baseball’s return to Winston-Salem. Stay tuned for continuing coverage.

– Brian

Johnson’s catch, Sale’s start and much more

The White Sox are already two weeks into their exhibition slate in Arizona, and some former Dash players are doing their best to impress the big club.

Infielder Micah Johnson is not only batting .455 and leading the team in runs scored this spring, but the 2013 Dash alum is also turning some heads with his defense. Johnson made this spectacular diving catch against the Brewers on Monday:

That catch made SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays at #4. Pretty impressive stuff.

A few former Winston-Salem hurlers are throwing well in Glendale. Southpaw Charlie Leesman has posted a 1.69 ERA in 4 Cactus League appearances, tossing 5.1 innings while striking out 5 batters. Despite those numbers, the 2010 Dash alum was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday, possibly because he has minor league options remaining on his contract. However, the strong spring showing should keep Leesman on the White Sox radar for the future.

Righty Erik Johnson has thrived in two starts this spring, garnering a 2.57 ERA while striking out 7 batters in 7.0 innings. The 2012 Dash standout is making a bid to join the White Sox rotation in 2014, and manager Robin Ventura has taken notice. “With what he did last year and so far what you see, you like what you see,” Ventura recently told CSN Chicago.

Johnson is also getting some attention for his demeanor off the mound. Check out this recent Chicago Sun-Times article for more on that, which includes comments from fellow White Sox prospect and former Dash teammate Marcus Semien.

Four years ago, Chris Sale was in Winston-Salem. On Opening Day2014 , he will be on the hill for the White Sox.

Four years ago, Chris Sale was in Winston-Salem. On Opening Day, he will be on the hill for the White Sox.

Finally, here are a few roster notes. First, the Sox have tabbed Chris Sale as their Opening Day starter for a second straight year. The 25-year-old, who made his professional debut with the Dash in 2010, says he appreciates the opportunity, per this article: “As much as you sit here and say ‘Treat it like another start,’ it’s the first one of the year and you are obviously going to be amped up for it and excited for it.”

The White Sox also made several roster moves on Wednesday involving Dash alumni. Outfielders Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson were optioned to Double-A Birmingham, while catcher Miguel Gonzalez, pitcher Scott Snodgress and outfielder Keenyn Walker were reassigned to minor league camp. This is common during Spring Training, as youngsters get a chance to work with the big club. Here’s hoping these men use their experience well while continuing to climb the minor league ladder in 2014.

– Dave

Marching through Spring Training

February comes to an end in a few hours, and White Sox spring training is heating up in Glendale, Ariz. Here are some news and notes from the last few days.

Sanchez earns spring training starts: We’ve talked about Carlos Sanchez plenty on this blog, and White Sox fans are slowly but surely learning about the 20-year-old star. Sanchez started at second base for the Sox Monday and Wednesday, and he is 1-for-6 with a run scored in those games.

blogFormer Dash skipper Joe McEwing, who works with infielders in addition to his role as Chicago’s third base coach, has been incredibly impressed, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune:

“That’s what we tend to forget, that he’s only 20 years old. I think back at 20 years old to where we were, and to be in Triple A at 20 and be knocking on the door and possibly playing in the big leagues at 20 is very special.

Sanchez won the Carolina League batting title last year, and he impressed in brief stops with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte down the stretch in 2012. He also received plenty of praise in this recent story on from Andrew Pentis.

Semien sets sights on Birmingham: Infielder Marcus Semien was one of the most consistent members of the Dash a year ago, and he is now spending time in big league spring training. In another piece from Pentis, Semien talks about some of his goals for 2013, including a chance in Double-A.

“First goal is to make the [Double-A] Birmingham team. Secondly, just cut down the errors wherever I can [24 in 107 games in ’12] and make sure that my pitchers feel very confident with me behind them. Offensively, I want to continue what I did in the second half, drive the ball more.”

Semien hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI in 107 Carolina League games. The former California Golden Bear improved greatly from a defensive perspective as the season progressed, and he remained healthy down the stretch to finish strongly. It would be an upset to see the sixth-round pick from 2011 anywhere but Birmingham on Opening Day.

Candidate for funniest tweeter?: Baseball players are always interesting to follow on Twitter. Some of them are pretty interesting, like Jason Van Skike. Van Skike could find himself in Winston-Salem this season, but whether or not he dons the Dash purple, he is most certainly worth a Twitter follow. Here are a few examples:



You can follow Van Skike here. I highly recommend it.

Don’t count out the Sox: One of baseball’s best writers,’s Ken Rosenthal, believes the White Sox can be a legitimate factor in the American League Central this season.

Fresh off a trip to the Fall Classic, the Tigers are the heavy favorites in the division. Both Cleveland and Kansas City filled holes through free agency this season. The White Sox, though, remained fairly quiet throughout the winter. Because of last season’s success, baseball fans should not forget about Robin Ventura’s crew. Rosenthal certainly isn’t.

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday. The Dash’s season begins five weeks from tomorrow!

– Brian and Erika

30 Days…

Camelback Ranch is almost open for business (Photo via

Camelback Ranch is almost open for business (Photo via

The Dash’s home opener countdown, which is available on Twitter and Instagram, has reached 78 days. If you want a smaller number for your baseball waiting game, try 30.

The White Sox first spring training game is in 30 days. Robin Ventura’s crew will suit up for the first time Saturday, February 23, at 3:05 p.m. EST against the Dodgers, their stadium-mates at Camelback Ranch.

As Winston-Salem prepares for another winter storm tomorrow, it is nice to know that baseball is within grasp, even if the first true taste will be more than 2,000 miles away from the Triad.

Here are a few more notes to appease your baseball craving:

  • BB&T Ballpark is the home of Winston-Salem State University baseball in 2013, so the first game at the stadium this season will be February 8. The Rams will play all 26 home games at BB&T Ballpark.
  • Winston-Salem will not have a chance to watch a former five-star football recruit play for the Dash in 2013. Mitch Mustain, who played college football for Arkansas and USC before trying out pitching, was released by the White Sox, that according to Baseball America. Mustain climbed as high as Low-A Kannapolis after Chicago inked him to a deal last February. Between his time with the Intimidators and rookie-level Bristol, the righty was 2-2 with a 4.63 earned run average in 19 relief appearances.
  • We all saw speedster Billy Hamilton in last year’s All-Star Game at BB&T Ballpark. Hamilton, who set the single-season stolen base record in minor league baseball, will start 2013 with Triple-A Louisville. If he is still in the International League, Hamilton will be in Charlotte to take on the White Sox Triple-A affiliate May 14-17.
  • The Braves traded for Arizona outfielder Justin Upton earlier today, and the Diamondbacks received 2012 Lynchburg shortstop Nick Ahmed. A midseason All-Star, Ahmed paced the Carolina League with 40 stolen bases.
  • Finally, some CL flavor is officially reaching the NBA. New Orleans will unveil its new Pelicans nickname, along with the logo and color scheme, at a press conference later today. How will Myrtle Beach respond?

The home opener is getting closer and closer! Can’t wait for baseball.

– Brian

Can A 2012 Alum Start 2013 In Chicago?

Carlos Sanchez has the best chance of any 2012 alum to crack the Opening Day roster (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Carlos Sanchez has the best chance of any 2012 alum to begin the season with the White Sox (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

The White Sox announced their non-roster invitees to spring training yesterday, and 13 of the 20 players heading to Glendale are former Dash players.

Of those 13 players, nine contributed to the Dash’s 2012 run to full-season minor league baseball’s best record and a Mills Cup Championship Series appearance.

It is an honor for these players to receive an invitation to spring training, and the goal is to impress while with the “big boys.” However, it is important to note that highly-touted prospects who go to spring training are not normally true contenders to make a roster unless they have significant experience in Double-A or Triple-A.

The flurry of invitations still bring about a question: can any of these 2012 Dash alums wow the Sox enough to break camp with the big league squad?

First off, any player who ended the season with the Dash would need to make a three-level jump in order to crack the roster, which means C Mike Blanke, RHP Erik Johnson, SS Marcus Semien, C Kevan Smith, LHP Scott Snodgress and OF Keenyn Walker will be long shots.

This leaves three other 2012 Dash alums: RHP Jake Petricka, INF Carlos Sanchez and OF Trayce Thompson.

Petricka has been a highly-ranked prospect in the White Sox system for the last few years, but he did struggle a bit with both Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. The Minnesota native has plenty of potential, but additional minor league seasoning is almost certainly necessary.

Trayce Thompson still may need some more time in the minors before heading to The Show (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Trayce Thompson still may need some more time in the minors before heading to The Show (Steve Orcutt/W-S Dash).

Thompson has all the tools, but he has taken some time to adjust to every level. In 2011, the former second-round pick started crushing Low-A pitching, and his ascension to the top of the home run and RBI totem poles in the Carolina League this season stemmed from his surge after the All-Star break.

While Thompson reached Triple-A for the postseason, he still likely needs some time in the International League to figure out how to hit at that level. Thompson will be in the big leagues at some point, but Opening Day 2013 seems a bit too early.

This leaves Sanchez, who jumped up prospect rankings with a tremendous 2012 showing. The 20-year-old led the CL in batting average among qualifiers before going to Birmingham, where he hit .370 in 30 games. This prompted a late-season bump to Charlotte.

In 18 games with the Knights (regular season and playoffs), Sanchez hit .237 (14-for-59) with seven runs scored. These numbers are not eye-popping, but the Venezuelan most certainly held his own at the minors’ highest level.

Sanchez’s name even came up in Scott Merkin’s story about the non-roster invitees on yesterday.

“Carlos Sanchez also could be a long shot in consideration for that utility infield job. But with the 20-year-old phenom having just two years of professional experience and 991 Minor League at-bats to his credit, the White Sox goal is to get Sanchez a full season of at-bats at Triple-A Charlotte during the 2013 campaign. He topped all White Sox Minor Leaguers with a .323 average and 169 hits in 2012.”

A “goal” can always be changed, and Sanchez certainly has plenty of momentum from last season. He is an underdog in the race for one of the elusive 25 spots on Robin Ventura’s Opening Day roster, but he appears to be in the running.

You never know. A great spring could open the door for a 2012 Dash alum to reach The Show in 2013. Good luck to Carlos and the rest of the former Dash players heading to Arizona next month.

– Brian

Thursday News And Notes

Bobby Thigpen spent three years in Winston-Salem before his recent promotion to the White Sox coaching staff (Brian Westerholt/Sports on Film).

December is almost here, so the Dash front office is busy spreading holiday joy, hanging out with Santa and gearing up for the holiday season. With 2013 approaching, big league organizations are making some important decisions for the upcoming season. Here are a few notes to quench your baseball thirst on a Thursday afternoon:

  • Congrats to Bobby Thigpen, who will join the White Sox staff as the bullpen coach. Thiggy was the Dash’s pitching coach from 2009-11 before spending this season with Double-A Birmingham in the same role. Thigpen was certainly a fan favorite here in Winston-Salem, and Chicago skipper Robin Ventura has known him for his entire career.
  • The Sox also announced that Daryl Boston, who spent 12 seasons as the organization’s outfield instructor, will join the big league staff in 2013 as the first base coach. Boston made a handful of stops in Winston-Salem this season, and it was good to occasionally chat with him. Congrats to him, too.
  • The only Carolina League team to announce its field staff for 2013 is the Carolina Mudcats, who will have a new look when the Dash open the campaign in Zebulon April 5. David Wallace becomes the Muddies’ manager after guiding Lake County, the Indians’ Low-A affiliate, to the playoffs this season. Hitting coach Rouglas Odor and pitching coach Jeff Harris will accompany Wallace, who replaces 2012 skipper Edwin Rodriguez. The former Marlins boss will lead Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate in Akron.
  • The White Sox have yet to announce their minor league staff assignments for 2013, but this news should be released soon. Last year, Dash fans learned that Tommy Thompson was Winston-Salem’s 2012 manager in mid-November, while the 2011 staff decisions were made public a few days before Christmas.
  • Earlier this week, the BBWAA released the 37-man ballot for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. More than 600 voters have until December 31 to submit their vote, and some notable (and controversial) names are on the list. A few players linked to performance-enhancing drugs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa) will prompt many debates on the standards to reach the Hall of Fame. It should be fascinating to watch.

The Dash’s season opener is only 127 days away. We can’t wait!

– Brian

14 Days

Enjoy the last few baseball-less Fridays while you can. After March 23 and March 30, Fridays will be packed with baseball (and, in most spots, including BB&T Ballpark, fireworks).

Stay tuned to the blog tomorrow for a “Tale of the Tape” featuring Dash mascot Bolt and Gorlok, Bolt’s second-round matchup in Mascot Madness.

Just a few Friday notes for you today.


  • ESPN’s Baseball Tonight made its way to Camelback Ranch for its annual stop at White Sox spring training. Be sure to check out new Chicago skipper Robin Ventura’s interview here. Included in this interview is Ventura’s take on Adam Dunn, big offseason surprise, and important roster secret.
  • Ventura is replacing Ozzie Guillen, who is the new manager of the new-look Miami Marlins. In this feature from the New York Times, Guillen said, “I swear to God, the only way I root for the White Sox is because Robin is the manager, that’s it. If Robin wasn’t the manager, I don’t. But I really root for the White Sox because the manager’s my friend.” Guillen did not exactly exit the Sox’s organization on great terms, so it’s nice to see a positive connection remain between a man and an organization that benefited a lot from one another.
  • Completely switching gears, have you seen the pictures of the Marlins’ new stadium? Forget the full view of it. Here are two shots, courtesy of Zimbio, that will boggle your mind.

The backstop is an aquarium, which seems to be the best seat in the house.

Apparently, this thing will pop up when a home run is hit, a la the Mets’ Apple. If that isn’t the most distracting oval-shaped thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. OK, time for a few more Dots.

  • Next week, we will start a series on the seven other teams in the Carolina League. We will break it all down, including the team’s coaching staff, possible players, and a few quirky things, too.
  • We are also working on some special features for the All-Star Game, which is in less than three months. We can’t wait to introduce all of those things to you.
  • The Kannapolis Intimidators, the White Sox’s South Atlantic League affiliate, have restarted their blog. Check it out here, with much of the content to come from team broadcaster Josh Feldman.
  • Go OHIO. Sorry, UNC fans.

We’re back tomorrow with a “Tale of the Tape” for Bolt and Gorlok. Talk to you then.

Early Measuring Stick

The American League is absolutely loaded this season. The American League East’s trio in New York, Boston and Tampa Bay is as strong as ever. The Tigers made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by picking up former Brewer basher Prince Fielder, and they still have that Justin Verlander guy. The Angels went from a “darkhorse” team to the team for Albert Pujols. And don’t forget about possible sleepers like Toronto, Kansas City and Cleveland.

However, the team to beat for the second straight season is the Texas Rangers, and the White Sox play them today at 3:05 p.m. ET in Surprise. We hit on that and more in today’s Dots.


  • Spring training games normally lack the widespread star power of regular season showdowns, but the Rangers will be fairly close to their typical lineup. Per Richard Durrett, the Rangers’ tremendous beat writer on, eight everyday players on Texas’ 2011 pennant-winning club will be in the lineup today, including sluggers Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton. The only minor leaguer is Mike Olt, who played in the Carolina League last year with Myrtle Beach. Winston-Salem fans will be glad to know Olt, one of the minors’ best prospects, should start in Double-A this year.

Hector Santiago spent 3 years in Winston-Salem. Now, he's getting his chance in big league camp.

  • Four former Winston-Salem hurlers are slated to face off against this lineup today. Anthony Carter, Gregory Infante, Brian Omogrosso and Hector Santiago will toe the rubber at some point this afternoon. A positive showing could go a long way in them making an impression in camp.
  • Former Dash hurler Chris Sale was the White Sox’s representative on a CBS 30-for-30 countdown of young players in the big leagues. In the article, writer David Heck discusses the transition by former pitchers from the bullpen to the rotation. It worked out well for guys like C.J. Wilson or Alexi Ogando, and Sale certainly has plenty of potential.
  • Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune had a brief piece on Jared Mitchell, who spent 2011 in Winston-Salem. From the story, Chicago skipper Robin Ventura said, “You just look at him as an athlete. You see a lot of potential.” Gonzales says that Mitchell impressed Ventura during the 2009 College World Series, when Mitchell was with LSU and Ventura was working as an analyst.

Here's some true documentation of a championship (Chicago Tribune).

  • There are some baseball games closer to home in the month of March. High school baseball is back at BB&T Ballpark, and one game is already in the books. Congrats to Carver, who defeated Forsyth Country Day 7-5 Tuesday. The star of the show was Chris Hutchins, who had the game-winning two-run double and picked up the win on the mound. Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., Forsyth Home Educators and Asheville take to the field.
  • Finally, this may not appeal to folks in Winston-Salem, but it will put a smile on many Chicago readers’ faces. Derrick Rose is good at basketball. Enjoy the final play by Rose and the final call by Bulls radio voice Chuck Swirsky, one of the best and nicest in the broadcasting business (plus, he’s a fellow Ohio University alum).

Thanks for reading, and enjoy all the basketball this week! We’ll talk tomorrow.

– Brian