CHICAGO -- White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza is the Major League leader for strikeouts among all leadoff hitters this season. The next player close to De Aza's 54 punchouts at the top of the order, heading into Tuesday's action, is Pittsburgh leadoff man Starling Marte, with 48 K's.
Manager Robin Ventura said De Aza's leadoff role is safe for now, but that's also due in part to the White Sox not having a suitable replacement to hit at the top of the order. Ventura wants De Aza to focus on hitting the ball on the ground rather than swinging for the fences, despite the center fielder's seven home runs on the season. Ventura said the home run swings have probably been the root cause of De Aza's struggles.
"I would like it not to be as high as it is," Ventura said. "I don't know if him having the few home runs early has led to this. He knows it needs to cut down."
De Aza said he knows how to fix his out-of-control strikeout rate, and the problem is mechanical rather than with his approach at the plate. He wouldn't reveal the specifics of what he needs to work on with his swing but said he's been working on an adjustment to find a solution.
"I try and cut that strikeout stuff because I know it doesn't help me as a person or the team either," De Aza said. "I've had this happen in the past but not as much as it's happening now. I have to do something about it."
De Aza struck out a career-high 109 times in 131 games last season in the leadoff spot. He's led off all but one game this season and is currently on pace for 190 strikeouts by season's end.
Although the sample size is limited, he has had success batting in the second and seventh spots in his career. In 25 games in the two hole, De Aza has hit .318 with a .368 on-base percentage but has also struck out 19 times. He has 15 K's in 23 games batting seventh, owning a .323 batting average and a .419 OBP.
White Sox giving Jones time to work through struggles
CHICAGO -- Right-hander Nate Jones hasn't had the sophomore season that the White Sox front office had hoped for.
His 8-0 record last season was the best start by a White Sox rookie reliever in franchise history and matched 1935 White Sox pitcher John Whitehead for the best overall record by a first-year pitcher, according to Elias. His eight wins were also the second most by a White Sox rookie reliever and were the most since Cy Acosta won a franchise-record 10 in 1973.
But this year, the losses seem to be piling up more frequently than wins. Entering Tuesday's game, Jones' 7.04 ERA was the worst on the team, and he still hasn't figured what's causing the control issues that've produced 12 walks and 24 hits in 23 innings of work this season.
"I feel good every time I go out there," Jones said. "It's just this year running into bad luck. Also, again, we're pitching against big league teams. They're going to hit the ball. I just have to make the adjustments, keep grinding, keep throwing strikes and keep getting after it."
Jones said the White Sox clubhouse has been encouraging through all his struggles, and pitching coach Don Cooper has stayed positive with the same approach that worked for the right-hander last year. Still, the 27-year-old is learning how to deal with failure at the Major League level and said some days are harder to take than others. Jones has worked through ruts in the Minor Leagues, but nothing to the extent of his start to this season.
"They can tell, I can tell, that I'm going through a bad time right now," Jones said. "I appreciate everything I get and don't take anything for granted, because it can be taken away from you."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Jones will have a chance to work out his problems in the big leagues for the near future.
"You're aware of it. You know it's there," Ventura said. "You just have to continue to have him go out there and maybe find it to get that confidence back of being able to get ahead, throwing strikes at the right times. He has that in him, we've seen it. We'll continue to work with him."
White Sox mourn passing of Dr. Yocum
CHICAGO -- When injured Major League players needed one of the most notable sports medicine specialists on the planet, they'd visit Dr. Lewis Yocum. The 65-year-old passed away due to liver cancer on Saturday night after 36 years as the Angels' team physician.
Commissioner Bud Selig called Yocum "a giant in the field of sports medicine," and White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the super surgeon belonged in the Hall of Fame.
"He was always somebody everybody went to for one thing or another," said Ventura, who visited Yocum for a shoulder injury during his playing career. "I don't know how they do it for Hall of Fame stuff, but if you're looking at people who affected the game, he affected the game."
White Sox starter Jake Peavy visited Yocum a few times when he played with the Padres. The two formed a relationship due to Yocum's proximity to San Diego and his close relationship with baseball specialist Dr. James Andrews. Yocum and Andrews were also consulted before White Sox orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tony Romeo performed an operation on Peavy's shoulder to repair a torn lat in 2010.
Peavy heard the news on Tuesday and called it "a sad day," because of Yocum's monumental impact on the game.
"When you think about the surgeries that have been perfected and the injury-prevention programs we have in place, if it wasn't directly done by him, it was done with the research and consultation of him and Dr. Andrews and these guys, the [Dr. David] Altcheks of the world, who took [sports medicine] to the next level," Peavy said. "A great man. A very gentle man in the way he talked. I think that's what I will remember about him. He was very straightforward but very gentle in the way he went about talking to you, because he understood the situation."
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.