LOS ANGELES -- While the overall eye test would suggest the White Sox defense has improved from 2013, the numbers would indicate a less than precipitous jump forward.
Entering play Tuesday, the White Sox ranked second to last in the American League with a .979 fielding percentage, landing ahead of only Cleveland at .974. Their 47 errors also fell second behind Cleveland's 56, and there were only three AL teams with 40 or more errors.
Physical mistakes are going to happen, as they did to Conor Gillaspie and Gordon Beckham on Monday night during a five-run sixth, in which all five runs were unearned behind Jose Quintana. But manager Robin Ventura still believes his team has improved in this discipline.
"We kind of cleaned up some of the stuff we had last year, throwing to the wrong base," Ventura said. "Physical stuff, you are going to see on occasion. You are not going to see most nights where Gordon has a night like that.
"Conor's, it's just a bad time to happen. That's part of playing and it's not fun to have happen. You have to be able to withstand that, too, mentally, to be able to be a better defensive team."
Ventura doesn't see a situation where the defensive shortcomings can snowball as they did last year.
"You stay focused on what you are doing and trust them," Ventura said. "Something a year like last year helps you with is you are still able to get over that hump and guys can see the other side of it. I think if we continue to do the same thing this whole time, it would be different."
Offense struggling to keep up production
LOS ANGELES -- The White Sox offense, a one-time Major League leader in runs scored this season, has hit a collective rut.
Over the previous eight games, the team batted .206 with 21 runs scored. And some of the individual numbers entering Tuesday's contest at Dodger Stadium are a bit more startling.
Gordon Beckham was 3-for-16 in his last four games following a nine-game hitting streak. Alejandro De Aza was 5-for-51 over his last 20 games without a multi-hit effort. Adam Dunn featured a .180 average over his last 17 games, despite producing 11 RBIs and 16 walks.
Adam Eaton, the sparkplug at the top of the lineup, was 3-for-32 in his previous eight, while Tyler Flowers was 2-for-22 with one homer and one RBI in his last seven. Just as good hitting can become contagious, apparently so can offensive struggles.
"It's just a tough stretch right now and just probably a test for the group to stick with our gameplans," said Flowers, who mentioned the hitting in tough luck factor as part of the reason for the trouble. "Sometimes all it takes is a bloop here or a blast here and then all of a sudden that contagiousness carries on."
"That's just part of the game," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the team's slump. "The most difficult parts of the game is being able to keep your head, keep playing. You have to have thick skin. Offensively, you go through ruts and you have to ride it out."
Flowers, who homered in Tuesday's 4-1 victory, pointed to the Red Sox recent fall and more recent surge as an example of not getting too high with the highs or low with the lows. Ventura called that assessment words to live by, and pointed to the overall quality of at-bats being extremely important until the hits return.
Injuries involving Avisail Garcia, who is out for the entire season, and Jose Abreu, who was lost for two weeks, not to mention disabled list stints for Eaton and Conor Gillaspie, also disrupt the flow of this group.
"You lose some guys and it changes," Ventura said. "The season is so long that you go through ruts like most lineups do. When you start missing guys, one guy that would pick it up isn't really there to pick it up. It's not fun to go through, but every lineup goes through these little spurts that are less potent than your lineup is at other times."
Draft preparation begins and ends with scouts
LOS ANGELES -- There's a restaurant in Shepherd, Texas, known as Grill where the staff knows White Sox assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler by name. An usher or two at North Carolina State's baseball stadium also recognize Hostetler.
That familiarity comes from the sheer number of times Hostetler has watched pitchers Tyler Kolek (Shepherd) and Carlos Rodon (N.C. State), who are prime candidates for the No. 3 pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
"When you spend that much time, you get to know people in the town," Hostetler said. "But it's probably time to make the pick and go home and see the wife and kids."
Hostetler, White Sox director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann, general manager Rick Hahn, assistant general manager Buddy Bell and executive vice president Ken Williams all will be on television Thursday when that important first pick is announced. But Hostetler was quick to credit the White Sox area scouts, who won't get the TV time, for putting in the extra hours to get the most information possible for the prospects.
That group includes Warren Hughes with Aaron Nola, Keith Staab with Kolek, George Kachigian with Brady Aiken, Abe Fernandez with Rodon and Joel Grampietro with Nick Gordon.
"Whatever player we take, our area scout in that area has done so much work on him off the field, makeup-wise," Hostetler said. "Doug or myself or Rick or Kenny, Buddy, we get the credit for when we make the pick and talk to the media, hold up the jersey.
"That's great. The area scout is the one who put in so much more time than we have. I don't ever want it to get lost that they don't deserve all of the credit for the pick because they do.
"Even though they aren't actually physically here making this selection, it's made by Doug or myself or Kenny or Rick or Buddy, but those guys they laid this foundation for us to make this pick," Hostetler said. "They've laid the foundation for the guys on the field here and they deserve every bit of the credit when we finally make this pick."
Prospects Anderson, Danish guide Dash to victory
Nearly one year ago, the White Sox selected shortstop Tim Anderson and right-hander Tyler Danish with their first two picks in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Tuesday, the duo teamed up to lead Class A Advanced Winston-Salem to a 4-2 victory at Carolina.
Anderson, the club's No. 2 prospect, collected a game-high three hits and Danish, the No. 4 prospect, threw six scoreless innings to earn his first victory in the Carolina League.
The White Sox selected Anderson with the 17th pick in last year's Draft. After going 3-for-5 with two doubles Tuesday, he is hitting .296/.324/.469 with 21 extra-base hits in 47 games. He has been rough defensively, however, and committed his 24th error of the season in the victory.
Danish was the club's second-round pick and has moved quickly through the Minor Leagues. The White Sox sent the 19-year old to Class A Kannapolis to begin his first full professional season and promoted him to Winston-Salem after just seven starts.
Tuesday was Danish's fourth start for the Dash, and it was his best yet. He struck out a career-high eight batters and held the Mudcats to two hits and one walk. He worked efficiently, getting six groundouts and throwing just 83 pitches.
In 11 starts this season between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, Danish is 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA. He has struck out 40 batters and walked 14 in 55 2/3 innings.
Third to first
• Four players from Double-A Birmingham have been elected to the Southern League All-Star Game. Playing for the North Division squad will be catcher Kevan Smith, outfielder Josh Richmond, outfielder Trayce Thompson and relief pitcher Cody Winiarski.
Thompson will be making his fourth All-Star appearance and second straight for the Barons. This is Smith's second and the first for Richmond and Winiarski.
• Jose Abreu ranks second in the Major Leagues with 11 home runs on the road, trailing only Baltimore's Nelson Cruz at 16.
• Alexei Ramirez is on pace to finish the season with 200 hits, which would be the most by a White Sox player since Albert Belle reached 200 in 1998. Belle in the only member of the White Sox since 1954 to reach 200 hits in a season.
• Ronald Belisario needs one more appearance to reach 300 for his career.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.