For 2022 White Sox, it’s never too late to learn from mistakes

CLEVELAND – The White Sox were built to slug and score runs, but for mysterious reasons, they turned into a singles-hitting team in 2022.

So the little things mean a lot to a team ranked 26th in homers and 19th in slugging percentage. And other big things, such as defense and baserunning.

And cutting down on mistakes. It’s the only way they’ll overtake the Guardians and Twins, whom they are, to everyone’s surprise in late August, chasing in the American League Central with 41 games to go following Sunday’s postponement against the Guardians due to wet, unplayable conditions.

“As long as we play good, clean baseball, everyone in here is happy,” said reliever Kendall Graveman, who pitched for the Astros’ AL championship team last season. “The days we don’t play clean baseball are the days it’s difficult for us to look in the mirror. We have to learn from them.”

The Sox are 16-11 in their last 27 games.

“Overall, since the All-Star break we’ve done a much better job playing the game of baseball the way it’s supposed to be played,” Graveman said.

Much better might be a stretch, but if it’s better, it has to be taken up another notch.

For pitchers, it’s about not walking hitters you don’t want to walk and walking hitters who should be walked or pitched around to, Graveman said.

It’s about watching Johnny Cueto and taking notice.

“Baseball is an intricate, detailed game of when do we pitch around a guy with a base open, when are we attacking guys, trying to get a double play ball,” Graveman said. “You watch Cueto’s outings, that’s what we look for. He knows when to go for a strikeout, when to be careful, when to try to get a ground ball. And all of us collectively as a group, if we do that in our own individual area we’ll be much better.”

The Sox’ situational hitting struggles, particularly with runners on third base and no outs when they are an atrocious 1-for-9, reached a point where third base coach Joe McEwing sent Yasmani Grandal home on a single with no outs in Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Guardians. Grandal was out by plenty and injured trying to avoid the tag.

Manager Tony La Russa said the Sox problems of getting runners in from third has been internally discussed and “we know exactly what we are doing wrong.”

“What we could do better,” he said. “That’s something that we have not got significantly better at.

“We know exactly how we can fix it better and they work on it.”

Graveman was among the core group of players who met with La Russa last Monday to discuss how to make things better for this team that was a heavy favorite in the division but faces the possibility of no postseason at all.

“Any time you communicate it’s beneficial,” Graveman said. “We’re spending a lot of time together and we need to have honest conversations, how can we step forward. That’s all it was. For me it was an honor to be in that group and speak. This is our team, these are our guys that need to lead, that’s a good conversation.”

Graveman said conversations in the clubhouse, one with 10-year service time veterans AJ Pollock, Josh Harrison, Jake Diekman, Lance Lynn, Cueto, Grandal, Joe Kelly (this month) and now Elvis Andrus, as well as nine-year veteran Jose Abreuhave become more prevalent.

“In order to win that’s what we need to be,” Gravema said. “This team has so many veterans, so the experience in this locker room is pretty impressive, one of most experienced clubhouses in the league. So from that aspect it helps to have those individual conversations about how can we be better.”

Now it’s about doing it.

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