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Sox not out to hurt anyone, but they will protect teammates who get hit by pitches

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals

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Updated: March 25, 2013 6:37AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — There was a time — and it wasn’t that long ago — when opposing pitchers had little or no fear of pitching inside to the White Sox. Maybe it had something to do with not fearing retribution.

In the last five seasons of former manager Ozzie Guillen’s tenure (2007-11), Sox hitters were hit more than Sox opponents by a 3-2 ratio. In 2011, Sox batters were hit an American League-high 84 times; Sox pitchers hit oppo-
sing batters 44 times.

Plate-crowder Carlos Quentin’s 23 hit-by-pitches boosted one side of the ledger, but bench coach Mark Parent made it clear the Robin Ventura-managed Sox wouldn’t condone such a discrepancy when he declared, ‘‘You hit our guys, we’ll hit yours,’’ at SoxFest 2012.

That created enough of a stir that Parent stayed mum on the subject when asked about it recently.

‘‘I got in trouble at Sox-
Fest,’’ he explained.

The numbers spoke for themselves last season, when Sox pitchers hit a
major-league-high 68 batters and Sox batters were hit 65 times. Quentin was gone, lowering one figure, and many of right-hander Gavin Floyd’s team-high 14 hit batsmen came on breaking pitches to left-handed hitters that got away.

But retaliation was obvious when right-hander Philip Humber threw a pitch behind the Cubs’ Bryan LaHair after Jeff Samardzija had hit Paul Konerko in the eye and when left-hander Jose Quintana threw behind the Tampa Bay Rays’ Ben Zobrist after A.J. Pierzynski was hit by Alex Cobb. Quintana was ejected, but he gained instant respect in the Sox’ clubhouse.

‘‘You have to be smart and
don’t hit a guy just because your guy got hit and vice versa,’’ Sox left-hander Chris
Sale said. ‘‘You have to be involved in the game and pay attention to the scenarios of what’s going on to know what’s right and what’s wrong and if it was intentional or not.’’

The Sox are far from headhunters, but they will stick up for their own. Sale said the clubhouse is close-knit, which plays into the sense of protection.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ he said. ‘‘I consider everybody in this clubhouse as my family. You spend eight months with these guys and grow bonds and friendships. You take it personally if something happens to them. It is like that. You do have to protect your players.

‘‘It’s a sense of pride, too. You’re not going to let your big guys go out there and get hit all over the yard and not do anything about it. You also have to be smart about it.’’

Most hit-by-pitches stem from pitchers trying to hit the inside corner or go in a few inches off the plate. The Sox think their pitchers will do a better job of pitching inside this season with Tyler Flowers as their No. 1 catcher. Flowers sets up more aggressively over the inside corner than Pierzynski, who was allowed to leave in free agency.

‘‘Pitching inside is pretty darn big,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘If I’m hitting and I’m not worried about a guy throwing inside, that makes my
approach a lot easier. If you can eliminate half the plate with no concern, that’s really simplifying it.’’

New Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom recalls accidentally hitting Shawn Green during his rookie season in 2007 and subsequently going on a streak of 15 or 16 scoreless appearances.

‘‘Just because guys don’t want to get hit with 97 or 98 [mph pitches],’’ Lindstrom said. ‘‘I can imagine because pitchers don’t want to get hit with [a] 100 [mph line drive] coming back at you. So you definitely have to have that mind-set where you can’t be scared to go inside. Pitching inside is a must.’’

‘‘Sometimes you have to go in and go in hard,’’ Sale said. ‘‘The biggest thing is, you can’t be afraid to hit a guy. That’s not your intention, obviously, but if you throw a fastball inside to a righty and you’re like, ‘I don’t want to hit him,’ you’re probably going to be asking for a new [baseball to replace a home-run ball]. So if you’re going to pitch in, you have to be fully committed to it and not be afraid of what might happen afterwards.’’

As Flowers said, it’s tough to be successful without
being a little bit nasty.

‘‘You hit a few guys, and that’s not always a bad thing,’’ Flowers said. ‘‘Let guys know, ‘Hey, I’m not afraid to go in there if you’re going to crowd the plate.’ Be aggressive going in there. Take control of the plate. It’s our plate, not theirs.’’



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