White Sox

Adam LaRoche back to bench as season-long slump continues

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Adam LaRoche back to bench as season-long slump continues

Adam LaRoche's season-long slump just won't end.

The White Sox designated hitter/first baseman was back on the bench for Tuesday night's game against the Angels, replaced as the DH by Melky Cabrera, who made his first start there as a member of the White Sox, while Trayce Thompson started in left field.

LaRoche is batting just .213 on the season, more than 20 points lower than his previous career-low mark in a full season. Same goes for his .304 on-base percentage and his nightmarishly low .344 slugging percentage, the fifth-lowest among qualified hitters in the American League. He had just 15 hits in July, four of which came in one game. He's homered once in his past 36 games.

Manager Robin Ventura has hope that LaRoche will turn things around at some point, and with his 2015 output nowhere near his career numbers, you'd have to think that something's got to click eventually.

"There's definitely frustration on his part," Ventura said. "But I thought last night he had a couple good at-bats, didn't really get anything out of it. It's frustrating. I know what it feels like. It's not always fun to go through that. But knowing him and what he does every day, you like the fact that he's probably been through some rough patches before, so he can withstand it and deep down know he can help us."

[MORE WHITE SOX: In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet]

But hope or no hope, this is the second time in three games that LaRoche hasn't started. With Ventura and general manager Rick Hahn proclaiming this season not yet over and still focusing on a potential late surge to reach the postseason, will the desire to play the best lineup force LaRoche to the bench on a more regular basis? Is LaRoche still an everyday player?

Ventura didn't have a definite answer, saying instead that some of the team's reserves, such as the young Thompson, allow for mixing and matching of lineups.

"I think right now you can match it up because we have Trayce here," Ventura said. "If we have (J.B.) Shuck back, it might be a little bit different. If (Emilio Bonifacio) comes back, it might be a little bit different. But having Trayce, I think we can put him in there, we can get Melky time as a DH, get him a little bit of rest. So we can move Trayce around in the outfield."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of LaRoche's everyday credentials, but Ventura is still hoping that LaRoche will turn things around and be the bat Hahn envisioned when he signed him as a free agent this past offseason.

"At this point, you're looking at what's happening from now to the end of the year, and you're not necessarily looking at what's behind them and those numbers or anything like that," the manager said. "You want them to feel good and be productive and help you from this point going forward. So that's what you focus on."

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.