Indians trade Cesar Hernandez to 1st-place White Sox

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND — The Indians probably can’t catch the Chicago White Sox, so they’re helping their AL Central rival.

Cleveland traded second baseman Cesar Hernandez to the first-place White Sox for minor league pitcher Konnor Pilkington – a move that signals the Indians are conceding the division.

“We made the trade that we felt made the most sense for us and this is the direction we went,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “Just as we tried to be realistic in assessing where we are, we’re going to continue to do our best to win as many games as possible.

“But the reality is the White Sox are a number of games in front of us and we’re intent on improving. If they didn’t acquire Cesar, we were pretty confident they were going to acquire another talented player from another team.”

The White Sox, who lead the Indians by 8 1/2 games and open a series with them Friday, have been in the market for a second baseman since starter Nick Madrigal suffered a season-ending hamstring tear on June 10.

The intra-division swap created an oddity. With the Indians playing this weekend in Chicago, the team agreed to transport Hernandez’s gear before they’ll face him for the first time.

“We’ve done a lot of unique trades and had some interesting circumstances around them,” Antonetti said. “But I don’t think we’ve had that one before.”

In Hernandez, Chicago is getting a Gold Glove defender who can bat leadoff and drive in runs for manager Tony La Russa. The 31-year-old Hernandez is hitting .231 in his second season with the Indians with a career-high 18 home runs and 47 RBIs in 96 games.

“Cesar Hernandez provides our club with a valuable combination of a power bat in the middle infield and Gold-Glove quality defense,” Chicago general manager Rick Hahn said. “Adding a player like Cesar gives Tony a strong and proven option at second base for the stretch run of the season and hopefully into October.”

Hernandez had been viewed as the player most likely to be dealt before Friday’s deadline because of the Indians’ depth with middle infielders. Antonetti said it’s possible the Indians could make more deals as they begin to look toward 2022.

Andres Gimenez, who was acquired from the Mets in the offseason as part of the Francisco Lindor deal, is ready at Triple-A, and Owen Miller, Tyler Freeman and Gabriel Arias are among the top infield prospects in Cleveland’s organization.

Antonetti said Miller, who was up earlier this season, will join the Indians in Chicago and take Hernandez’s spot. Gimenez was in the mix, but he’s currently in the process of applying for permanent U.S. residency and can’t travel outside the country. The Indians will play a series at Toronto next week.

Cleveland is without reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber because of a shoulder issue and starter Aaron Civale, who was leading the league in wins earlier this season before hurting his finger against the Cubs.

Antonetti said the trade has no bearing on how the Indians will move forward with their two starters.

“I don’t think our time frames will be too affected by that,” he said. “We’ll continue to be guided by what’s in Shane’s and Aaron’s best interests. And if that’s coming back to pitch this season, then great. We’ll welcome them back and hopefully they can help us win games.

“And if their timetables don’t dictate that, then they won’t pitch.”

The 23-year-old Pilkington has pitched at Double-A Birmingham, where he went 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 starts. He did not pitch in 2020 because the minor league season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We think he’s got a chance to start,” Antonetti said. “It’s a physical lefty with a four-pitch mix. He’s got a fastball that’s 90-93 (mph). His best secondary pitch at the moment is a changeup, but he also has a slider and a curveball. He’s got multiple weapons to attack hitters.

“Hopefully he can continue the success he’s had in Double-A and can be an option for us moving forward.”

Pilkington was drafted in the third round by the White Sox in 2018.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.