It doesn’t get easier for struggling White Sox

The Sox take a 7-12 record into road series against the Rays and Blue Jays, looking for their first series win of the season.

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White Sox manager Pedro Grifol (left) and general manager Rick Hahn talk during spring training.

White Sox manager Pedro Grifol (left) and general manager Rick Hahn talk during spring training.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

General manager Rick Hahn said a week ago he knows the White Sox have to prove it.

Prove that they are good. Prove they are worthy of your support and attention after awkwardly stumbling in year six of a rebuild project that came with bold suggestions of multiple championships.

A year after finishing 81-81 in manager Tony La Russa’s second year, a season after La Russa guided the Sox to a 93-win, division championship — the franchise’s second since the 2005 World Series title and first since 2008 — the Sox entered this season with a new manager and a fresh slate. But 19 games in, 2023 looks a lot like of 2022.

So far the 7-12 Sox have proved nothing. As much as La Russa, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s handpicked field boss, was held responsible for 2022, the start to 2023 suggests the roster assembled on the field is the problem.

Hahn’s handpicked manager, Pedro Grifol, appears equipped for the job. Spring training was declared a rousing success by Hahn and the players. The Sox emerged relatively unscathed injury wise, although Yoan Moncada’s sore back that has him on the injured list now stems to spring training.

The Sox opened the season with a four-game split against the defending World Series champion Astros in Houston. That red Guaranteed Rate arrow pointed up.

But the Sox lost the next five series and haven’t won two games in a row. Granted, they were not blessed with playing Oakland Athletics. To the contrary, they’ve lost series to the Giants, Pirates, Twins, Orioles and Phillies.

It hasn’t been an easy schedule, although the Giants were 6-11 entering their game Thursday night against the Mets and the Phillies were 6-10 before they took two of three from the Sox this week, and now the schedule gets downright nasty, starting Friday with a three-game series at the Tampa Bay Rays. And the Sox will be without injured shortstop Tim Anderson and Moncada and with Eloy Jimenez riding a 4-for-23 stretch since coming off the IL and still looking for his first home run. After Tampa, the Sox play three at the Toronto Blue Jays and then four at home against the Rays, the best team in baseball.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Grifol said. “But we gotta play baseball, it doesn’t matter who we are playing against. A major league baseball game is a major league baseball game. We just have to go out there and prepare and compete.”

The Sox’ minus-26 run differential is tied for fifth worst in the majors behind the A’s (minus-86), Rockies and Royals (minus-51) and Tigers (minus-36), the hitting that ranked at or near the top of the majors in multiple categories in the first 10 games has disappeared (they’re 11th in the majors in average, 15th in slugging and 27th in walks) but the universal theme around the clubhouse, from Grifol to his coaches to his players, is things will get better, that who we see is not who they really are.

“Again, it’s still really early,” right-hander Mike Clevinger repeated after lasting three innings in the Sox’ 5-2 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday. “A lot of baseball left. That’s why it’s a 162-game season.”

Clevinger, like the rest of the starting rotation, has had inconsistencies. The bullpen’s 6.68 ERA ranks 28th.

“Yeah, [the Rays and Jays] are good teams but we’ve faced other good teams. We’ve had a lot of games that have felt like we should have put it away and we haven’t put all the pieces together. This is going to be a good test.”

“Our guys, they’re preparing,” Grifol said. “They’re working, they’re studying. At some point, we’re not going to be talking about this.”

Time will tell.

NOTE: Gordon Beckham will fill in for Steve Stone in the NBC Sports Chicago booth for the trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto. Saturday’s game will be on FOX-32 with Jason Benetti and Tom Verducci on the call.

SOX AT RAYS

Friday: Michael Kopech (0-2, 6.32 ERA) vs. Calvin Faucher (0-0, 4.15), 5:40 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM.

Saturday: Dylan Cease (2-0, 2.01) vs. Shane McClanahan (4-0, 1.57), 3:05 p.m., FOX-32, 1000-AM.

Sunday: Lucas Giolito (1-1, 4.29) or Lance Lynn (0-2, 7.59) vs. TBA, 12:40 p.m., NBCSCH, 1000-AM.

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