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Apr 22, 2024  |  
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https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/daryl-van-schouwen


NextImg:Wait till next year? White Sox say time is now to change awful tone set in first half

CLEVELAND — Losing in bunches can look lethargic and careless at times.

“In the position we’re in, it’s easy to pack in the season and start thinking about next year,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said of the White Sox, who were trying to avoid losing for the sixth straight game and for the 12th time in 14 when they faced the Guardians Saturday. “This year is pretty much over, but you definitely don’t want to give it away.”

Manager Pedro Grifol and his staff are still pushing hard on the value of winning games in the last two months. Cleaning up fundamentals and having a culture established when 2024 begins are points of emphasis.

Benintendi, who signed a five-year, $75 million deal before the season, the richest in club history, didn’t come to the South Side to lose. He played in four postseasons, including the 2018 World Series with the Red Sox. There’s an expectation in the clubhouse that the front office will do what it should to prevent another awful season.

“That’s the hope,” Benintendi told the Sun-Times. “I signed here to win games and get to the postseason. Time will tell. As a player you control what you can control. Just prepare and be available. That’s what I’ll be doing.”

Meanwhile, with seven players including six pitchers shipped out before the trade deadline, remaining players say they’re locked in on setting the tone for 2024.

“It’s about building a winning culture and building from the ground up,” outfielder/first baseman Gavin Sheets said. “We’re not going to accept coming in next year not expecting to compete. We need to have that mindset right now. The groundwork starts now. We have to come together and start building and playing good baseball. We have two months of major league baseball left. This can’t be taken for granted.”

Sheets, the son of former major league outfielder Larry Sheets, who had eight years of experience, said culture is players pulling for each other, all of them having the same intent and playing hard.

“And showing that to other teams,” Sheets said.

“I wouldn’t say it was lacking [during the first half],” Sheets said. “Some from the outside would see that, but we just need to show other teams we’re here to win. That has to be our motto and the tone we need to set for next year. We can do it now.”

To what Grifol has been saying about playing a better brand of fundamental baseball, Benintendi said there are things on the field that can be addressed.

“Just going back to the little things in these two months,” Benintendi said. “Manufacturing runs, things like that.”

Bench coach Charlie Montoyo, who managed the Blue Jays for three-plus seasons, said momentum going into next season is “huge.”

“The other thing [that matters now is] new players showing what they can do so we don’t have to wait till spring training,” Montoyo said. “If I’m a player I’m very happy I’m getting a chance to show what I can do.”

After six veteran pitchers were traded before the deadline, several new faces from Triple-A Charlotte will get major league opportunities. Triple-A positions players such as catcher Korey Lee and infielder Lenyn Sosa, could find their way to the big leagues before long.

“Our job is to win baseball games but our job is to prepare to really evaluate these last two months for what we need to do to prepare us for ’24,” Grifol said.

“You get new guys up here that are fresh and have the energy about it, get out there and get your feet wet, get some experience and see what you can do in the last two months,” Benintendi said. “Show what you can do to the front office and coaching staff.”