Grifol to White Sox fans: Never stop caring

Manager praises 'passionate,' 'smart' backers and says club shares their frustration

May 18th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Pedro Grifol hears from White Sox fans.

Not necessarily during a 6-1 loss to the Yankees on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, although there were a number of Chicago supporters who made the trip to New York to catch a little baseball and maybe a Broadway show or two. But they e-mail the White Sox manager, and they let him know their opinions in person during games.

With the team sitting at 14-32, Grifol understands their pain even if it’s often redirected toward him in a less than positive manner. He also appreciates their spirit.

“I actually love them, and the reason I do is because they are passionate, they are smart,” Grifol told during a pregame 1-on-1 interview Saturday. “What you hear out there is good baseball stuff.

“They know the game. I try to put myself in their shoes -- like, if I’m going to spend my hard-earned dollars on a baseball game and I’m expecting to watch good baseball, if I don’t see it, I’m pissed.”

White Sox fans could not have been happy Saturday. After an extended postgame analysis of his team falling to 1-6 in 2024 road series, Grifol didn’t seem thrilled, either.

“Uneventful day,” said Grifol after praising Yankees starter Luis Gil and New York’s home run power. “We just got our ass kicked.”

Juan Soto homered twice off Brad Keller (0-2), while Jose Trevino and Giancarlo Stanton also went deep. Keller had replaced Michael Soroka in the rotation after Soroka struggled to a 6.39 ERA through his first nine starts. But Soroka followed Keller Saturday with four scoreless innings and seven strikeouts.

Soroka’s four-seam fastball average was up 1.8 mph, according to Statcast, topping out at 96.9 mph. Those seven strikeouts showed Soroka that he still had what he already knew was there.

“Glimpses of it at the end of last year, but it’s a different game when I know I have mid-90s in the tank instead of reaching back for twos and threes,” Soroka said. “It puts a hitter on their heels, and everything plays up. That’s a part we’re looking to push toward no matter what role I’m in, is making sure I punch them first.

“Burning it a little brighter in the bullpen, and that was the switch we were looking for to start a game. When you go in like that, it’s time to do a job and give the rest of the boys in the bullpen a day off.”

There was a chance for the White Sox to put a crooked number up against Gil in the first after Tommy Pham and Gavin Sheets opened with singles. They scored one on an Andrew Benintendi checked-swing double and loaded the bases with two outs before Korey Lee took a called third strike.

That strikeout was the second of 14 for Gil, which set a single-game franchise rookie record. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Saturday’s game and pitched the most important relief inning in White Sox history during Game 3 of the 2005 American League Division Series in Boston, set the previous record at 13 in 1998 against Texas.

Gil’s dominance over six innings had the 43,194 fans in full volume and eventually singing “New York, New York” after the final out.

“Their fans bring it every single day for them, and that’s a winning team over there,” White Sox second baseman Nicky Lopez said. “You have to always capitalize and bring your best. They are playing good baseball right now.”

At some point in the not-too-distant future, Grifol sees the same sort of fan excitement playing out regularly at Guaranteed Rate Field. He has witnessed it in small bursts over the past two years, and he knows the boost it would provide.

“I do hear them,” Grifol said. “When our stadium is, I wouldn’t necessarily say completely full, when we have 20,000-plus there, it’s loud and it’s energetic and it brings a lot of energy to our players and players feed off of it. I’m really looking forward to the days where we are winning consistently to see what it really sounds like.

“I’ve seen a few of those things, and it’s really good. I can see those days sooner than later. I can’t predict where we are going to be this year, but I can say that we are going to continue to play better baseball and we are going to continue to improve.”