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White Sox embrace intensity of Crosstown Cup

South Siders ready for 'added energy' in this weekend's intracity series vs. Cubs
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Championships change organizations.

Just ask the Cubs, who won a World Series title in 2016, and the White Sox, who claimed a title in '05, ending long droughts and changing expectations. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn doesn't believe those championships really altered the intensity of the crosstown Chicago baseball rivalry, which will play out again with three afternoon games this weekend at Wrigley Field.

CHICAGO -- Championships change organizations.

Just ask the Cubs, who won a World Series title in 2016, and the White Sox, who claimed a title in '05, ending long droughts and changing expectations. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn doesn't believe those championships really altered the intensity of the crosstown Chicago baseball rivalry, which will play out again with three afternoon games this weekend at Wrigley Field.

"Going back to the amount of time I've been here, I don't remember a year where you certainly didn't want to take all of those ballgames," Hahn said of facing the Cubs. "Even having a freshly minted World Series ring, it didn't really change that thing in '06 or '07.

"There is certainly an added energy in both of these ballparks when the two teams square off. It's cliche to say 'playoff atmosphere' or 'the rivalry increases the intensity,' but you do feel a little bit of a different vibe where you have a lot of fans from both clubs inside a sold-out ballpark, and there's that pitch-to-pitch excitement."

The White Sox are off to a 9-25 start, with a pitching staff ranked last in the Majors with a 5.25 ERA and an offense sitting third from the bottom with 136 runs scored. But the future is bright for the rebuilding South Siders.

Focus falls, for example, upon outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the team's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and his nine straight multihit games for Double-A Birmingham.

Video: Eloy Jimenez on working hard, preparing for Majors

White Sox fans don't want to see five losses in a row from the big league squad, but they also get the big picture. Without saying it out loud, the White Sox want to be where the Cubs reside after a rebuild -- perennial championship contenders.

"Ultimately, if we both get to our goals at the same time and there's October baseball between the two clubs, that's a different level of intensity that I don't think any of us could really imagine at this time, which would be awfully special," Hahn said. "In the meantime, this weekend will be a nice sort of starter course on what's possible down the road."

Rick Renteria began as a Major League manager with the Cubs in 2014 before he was replaced by Joe Maddon, and he moved on to manage the White Sox in '17. He has no ill will toward the Cubs, who gave him an opportunity that probably "led to this opportunity." He calls the intracity rivalry special, and he wants to win.

"We know the fans expect us to go out here and give it our best shot and come out with a victory," Renteria said.

"You have two teams in the same city. That adds a little extra to the game. You want to be the best in the city," White Sox reliever Nate Jones said. "I'm looking forward for the guys that it's their first time for this series, to see their reactions to what the crowd is like. They are always into it, that's for sure."

Cease making progress
Dylan Cease, the No. 5 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, has dominated Caroline League hitters as part of Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, with a 1.95 ERA and 42 strikeouts against 14 walks over 32 1/3 innings in six starts. But the 22-year-old right-hander, acquired from the Cubs as part of the Jose Quintana deal last year, has fairly straightforward goals for 2018 success.

Video: Top Prospects: Dylan Cease, White Sox, RHP

"Making every start is probably one of the most important things when it comes to being a starting pitcher," Cease said during a Thursday conference call. "My goals are more execution based. How am I executing my pitches? How are [pitches] coming out of my hand? Things like that.

"I'm getting ahead in counts. I'm attacking with my fastball, and then I'm doing a better job of throwing my offspeed early for a strike. And that's put me in good situations. Even my last game, they did a great job of getting baserunners on when I was executing pitches. So it's really just being consistent and being able to get ahead of batters and being in an advantage count."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox