GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robbie Ross Jr. will always remember the strikeout, and now he'll get to wear the uniform of the man he struck out.The left-handed reliever agreed to a Minor League deal and reported to big league Spring Training at Camelback Ranch on Sunday, walking past the photo of
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robbie Ross Jr. will always remember the strikeout, and now he'll get to wear the uniform of the man he struck out.
The left-handed reliever agreed to a Minor League deal and reported to big league Spring Training at Camelback Ranch on Sunday, walking past the photo of former White Sox first baseman Paul Kornerko -- Ross' first career strikeout victim.
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"Paul Konerko," Ross said. "Holy cow. He was my first strikeout. ... That's really wild. That was at home, in Texas. I remember, somebody was like, 'Hey, that's a really nice first big league strikeout.'"
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Ross, a six-year veteran southpaw, has spent the majority of his career as a reliever with the Rangers and Red Sox. He was limited to just eight appearances last season, posting a 7.00 ERA before being shelved due to elbow inflammation in early June, and he had his season officially end after undergoing back surgery to fix a L-4 and L-5 herniated disc in late August.
Injury may have played a role in a dip in Ross' overall velocity, which dropped from an average of 93.9 mph in 2016 to 91.4 mph last year, per Statcast™. Ross said he feels healthy, having thrown 10 bullpen sessions on his own. He said he expects to throw live batting practice Monday.
"I got to learn some new things about myself and grow and then also just kind of work on my craft all new," Ross said. "You're wondering if it's going to come back, if you're going to be the same person. How is my body going to feel? The adjustment so far has been great. I really look forward to seeing how it feels against batters."
Chicago worked with a largely patchwork bullpen last season, particularly after non-waiver Trade Deadline deals flipped productive arms such as Player Page for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard in return for prospects.
In addition to adding potential closer Joakim Soria and left-handed reliever Luis Avilan in an offseason three-team deal with the Royals and the Dodgers, the White Sox already have brought in Hector Santiago, Jeanmar Gomez, Bruce Rondon, Rob Scahill, Xavier Cedeno and T.J. House as non-roster invitees from outside the organization to serve as potential veteran relief options. The club also brought back Chris Volstad and Michael Ynoa as Minor League free agents with big league camp invites after each was a part of the organization last season.
"Just bringing him in and giving him a look," said White Sox manager Rick Renteria. "I still have to put my eyes on him to give you a true assessment of what we're thinking, but I think it doesn't hurt us to bring another lefty into camp."
Konerko visits old stomping grounds
Konerko is just waiting for the call.
Not to the Hall of Fame; he needs at least one more year for Cooperstown consideration. He's waiting for the call to broadcast a game with Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the longtime White Sox announcer entering his final season in 2018.
"I'm all in for it," Konerko said. "I did see the media guide. It's awesome, and what he deserves on his way out. ... He's just a one-of-a-kind, wonderful guy. I'm in, so when my phone rings, I'll go out there and do a game, for sure."
Konerko, along with fellow former White Sox pitcher J.J. Putz, came to Camelback Ranch with the 9-year-old club team they co-coach. While the players, which included each of Konerko's and Putz's sons, gawked and enjoyed "the best day of their life" while taking photos with White Sox No. 2 prospect Michael Kopech, the former Chicago first baseman spoke to his post-retirement life.
For one, there's the recent commercial he shot.
"I'm pretty sure I don't smell an Emmy with that," Konerko said. "It was fun. I saw an auditioning call for a washed-up baseball player, so I applied and got the job."
Oh, and his budding coaching career -- which he said he doesn't expect to take on a higher level than youth ball, at least not yet.
"[I'm like] Earl Weaver," Konerko joked in reference to the Hall of Fame manager. "It's too early to tell. J.J. and I, J.J. is bad cop and I'm good cop. J.J.'s not afraid to run the kids or to yell, but I guess I'm not either. ... I feel like I've got my baseball fix. Down the line, maybe [something more]. Coaching, all those years that I had coaches or even the years my kid was playing for a different coach, you take for granted how much these coaches do."
White Sox reliever Gregory Infante, who has been dealing with right shoulder inflammation, threw his second bullpen session in a three-day span. Renteria said Infante will throw some more side sessions and should get into a game before the end of Spring Training.
White Sox No. 5 prospect Dylan Cease, acquired in the deal that sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs, will make his first Spring Training start and second appearance overall as the White Sox head to Hohokam Stadium to take on the A's on Monday at 2:05 p.m. CT.
Fabian Ardaya is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arizona who covered the White Sox on Sunday.