Powell: Young White Sox Learn From Elite Teams

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2017 White Sox Opening Day (Kevin Powell / WGN Radio)

By Kevin Powell

The Central Division has provided four of the last five American League champions. The Tigers won the pennant in 2012, the Royals did it in 2014 and 2015, and the Indians took it last year before they lost an epic Game 7 against the Cubs. The point is, there are some really good teams that boast some of the game’s best players.

“I think for us, it’s just a matter of making sure that our club is like that,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said after their weekend series against the Indians. “We need to learn that whatever it is that they’re doing, we gotta learn to be able to compete against teams like that, and we’ve got to do the same.”

Renteria, in his first year as manager on the South Side, isn’t afraid to use opponents as teaching tools.

“You point out what other teams are doing well. It could be the Royals, it could be the Indians, it could be the Dodgers…It’s just basically emulating things that you want to do in the game of baseball, but you have to have examples. And there are certain examples that you reach from different clubs.

“Whatever the club might be, the Indians happen to be a fighting team, obviously they’ve been able to do some things. We want to be able to raise our game and execute and do things like that.”

The Sox faced the Indians three best pitchers in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar over the weekend. You have to believe seeing reps against premier pitchers for three straight days can benefit players like rising star Tim Anderson. The standout shortstop had just one hit between Kluber and Carrasco before collecting two hits and a walk in the finale.

“Everything is still a process,” Renteria said on Sunday. “I think they made nice adjustments (at the plate) today.”

Playing in a division with two or three clubs that have legitimate postseason hope will provide stiff competition all season. And don’t forget about the four games they have against the defending champion Cubs in July. So when guys like Giolito, Kopech, Lopez, and Moncada get the call, there won’t be any shortage of examples and teaching moments for Renteria to pull from.

The Sox aren’t expected to win much of anything, and most experts have the Indians, Tigers or Royals taking the division, but the 23-year-old Anderson isn’t backing down from anyone.

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” he said after Sunday’s win. “They’re humans just like us, so we’re gonna go out and try to be dominant just like them.”

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720