White Sox' Tanner Banks making most of chance after long road to MLB

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‘Remarkable story’ Banks making most of chance with Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

How would White Sox pitcher Tanner Banks describe the last few weeks?

It’s a question he said he’s gotten a couple of times already, and it’s still hard to put into words.

“You have expectations, you have ideas of what this consists of, and it surpasses all of that,” Banks said. “The clubhouse, the staff, the teammates, everything is incredible.”

Speaking of incredible, look no further than Banks’ journey to this point.

“Way back in 2014, I said, ‘This guy, he’s on my eight-year board,’” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn quipped this week.

“Tanner is a remarkable story.”

No kidding.

Banks was one of the final players to make the White Sox’ Opening Day roster, and in the early weeks of the season has been as reliable as they come in their bullpen.

Including a two-inning outing in Thursday's loss to the Royals, he’s thrown 12 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and five walks with nine strikeouts.

“Cool customer,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We've brought him into some situations where the game was at stake, and he hasn't batted an eye. He's exactly the same every time."

It’s been a long road to this point for Banks, whom the White Sox drafted in the 18th round of the 2014 draft out of Salt Lake Community College. He was older as far as college prospects go, turning 23 a few months after the draft.

He turned 30 last October and, after seven seasons in the minor leagues, had yet to make his big-league debut. What kept him going?

Fulfilling a childhood dream, for one, but also his "incredible support system" of his wife, two kids, parents, and friends and family back home.

“Every day, I think, ‘OK, I need to be my best, do my best for them, whether I feel 100 percent or not,'" Banks told NBC Sports Chicago. "Because I want to be able to give them the best life that I can, whether it's providing here or providing elsewhere, in terms of work.

“Your family becomes your why and having that strong why gave me the motivation to continue to work every day.”

That motivation and relentlessness are ingrained in Banks’ journey to the big leagues. So is his openness to learning and making adjustments. Banks picked the brains of his teammates and those around him in the minors for any advice they could lend.

That includes former White Sox reliever and his good friend, Jace Fry.

Banks recalled: “[Fry] said, ‘Find a routine and stick to it and do every day, regardless of how you feel, how tired you are, whatever, so that you can go out and prepare yourself the same every day, and then hopefully get the same results every day.’

“Obviously, it's a hard game,” Banks added. “But if you can control the little things in your day, hopefully down the road, the big things kind of take care of themselves. You have your routine and your habits to fall back on.”

So far, the results have been the same every outing. Banks is shutting teams down, often over multiple innings. He’s gone an inning-plus in five of six appearances.

“He’s been very valuable to us,” Hahn said. “That’s the type of guy, especially in this year, where you have the unique spring and guys are still building at the big-league level, you need those multi-inning guys to help get through it.

“So far, he’s been an important part of what we’ve needed. He’s been a bit of a godsend at times.”

Banks said he's just "thankful to be here," and was "shocked" when he got the call he made the Opening Day roster. His debut came that opening weekend. He pitched two innings April 10 at Detroit, striking out four batters without allowing a hit.

Said Banks: “I told myself when I was running out into the field, ‘This is your one and only major-league debut. Take a big breath, soak it in, enjoy it, because it's never going to happen again.’

“It took me a batter to settle in. But after that, it’s like, ‘Okay, I'm here.’”

And he’s making a case to stay around for a while.

“He's got the eye of the tiger,” La Russa said. “He wants to keep it going. He's been a big help to us.”

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