White Sox

Alex Avila: 'Can't wait to kick (Detroit's) ass'

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Alex Avila: 'Can't wait to kick (Detroit's) ass'

The potential for playing time with the White Sox is more important to Alex Avila than the possibility of an awkward moment he might face against his old team.

The veteran catcher said Monday the chance to be more than a backup catcher with the White Sox was the impetus for signing a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

Last week, general manager Rick Hahn suggested Avila — who previously played for the Detroit Tigers — could split time with Tyler Flowers as the White Sox attempt to improve an offense that finished 14th among 15 American League teams in runs scored.

Though his new home means he’ll have to face Detroit 19 times next season, Avila is excited about the opportunity. He also seems pretty fired up to face the Tigers and letting them know he’s not done.

“It will be interesting for sure facing the Tigers,” Avila said. “Obviously with all the friends and relationships I have there, it will be interesting. It will be a lot of fun. Obviously, seven years is a long time in this game to be in this place. So there’s a lot of relationships I have there.

“It will actually be nice to be able to see everybody off the field. At the same time, I can’t wait to kick their ass.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox believe Alex Avila 'has potential to improve us']

The White Sox would love nothing more than for Avila to take a few names. His productivity has steadily declined as health problems have limited him to 191 games the past two seasons, including only 67 contests in 2015. A year after he might have suffered up to three concussions, the left-handed hitting backstop missed nearly two months with a bone bruise in his left knee last season and saw his OPS slip to a career-low .626.

But the White Sox are starved for good at-bats, and Avila still has provided them. Despite seeing his average slip to .191 last season, Avila finished with a .339 on-base percentage. In discussions about his role, Avila got the sense from Hahn he could see a significant amount of time playing alongside Flowers.

“One of the things that was important to me was obviously an opportunity to play as opposed to being a straight backup catcher,” Avila said. “When we were going through the whole process, to me it seemed like that opportunity was going to be there with me and Tyler splitting time and letting Robin (Ventura) kind of use both of our strengths in order to be as productive as possible.”

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Not only is the playing time potentially there, so too is the familiarity. Avila said he likes that he won’t have to learn an entirely new cadre of hitters by staying in the American League, and he’s even more in tune with AL Central players.

Though Detroit’s decision to let him depart via free agency didn’t seem to surprise Avila, it doesn’t mean moving on is easy. Avila joined the Tigers in August 2009 and was an integral part of the club’s four straight AL Central championships.

But Avila, who turns 29 in January, equally looks forward to joining the White Sox.

“Some mixed emotions,” Avila said. “I wouldn’t say sad but just when you come to the realization that obviously something you’ve known for a long time is not going to be the case anymore, especially with the amount of success we’ve had as a team in Detroit, and not going into the ballpark with the same group of guys and the same faces I’ve seen for the last seven years, obviously that’s the tough part about the game. The relationships you form, sometimes you are not able to continue those.

“It was a little tough for me because a lot went into the last seven years. You put a lot of time and effort into it. But at the same time, I’m extremely excited about something new that is going to be coming into my life. A new place, new teammates, new opportunity.”

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”