White Sox

All systems go for White Sox ace Chris Sale

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All systems go for White Sox ace Chris Sale

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chris Sale threw 75 pitches in a “B” game Monday morning against the Los Angeles Dodgers and remains on track to make his Cactus League debut Saturday. 

The ace left-hander threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. It was Sale’s third informal start, beginning with a side session March 4 and a simulated game March 9. The White Sox plan was to let Sale focus on getting his work in while shielding him from the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals early on. Sale’s start Saturday will come against the Dodgers. 

“I felt great, I felt fine,” Sale said. “Command was a little off, but that’s kind of expected getting out there for the first time in a game against someone in a different uniform. It was nice. We did what we needed to do. Just build from there and keep moving forward.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Manager Robin Ventura said Sale looked “free and easy,” though noted his slider wasn’t crisp — as is the case with most breaking balls down here in Arizona. Sale’s best moment of his start probably was when he blew away Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal with a fastball to notch one of those four strikeouts. 

Sale didn’t pitch in a Cactus League game last year after suffering an avulsion fracture in his right foot in late February, and due to that injury wasn’t the White Sox opening day starter. It didn’t affect his season — Sale set a franchise record with 274 strikeouts — but for what it’s worth, there’s a narrative with some bit of truth to it that the tone of 2015 was set on opening day in Kansas City. 

That was when Jeff Samardzija was roughed up by the eventual World Series champion Royals as the White Sox limped to a 10-1 defeat. Sale starting that first game probably wouldn’t have significantly changed the team’s 76-86 record, but things just didn’t feel right from Day 1.

“Last year wasn’t necessarily a pitching thing that kept him from (starting opening day),” Ventura said. “But when you start the season you want everybody to be healthy and start out with everything that you have. I think he’s a big part of that.”

Sale ramped up his intensity a bit on Monday, at one point yelling to himself after missing his spot with a pitch. He was facing players who weren’t teammates for the first time, yes, but the “B” game atmosphere is akin to a high school game. 

[MORE: White Sox finding transition to new catchers a smooth one]

Not only is Sale looking forward to pitching in front of a larger crowd in a stadium, but he’s also excited to get on the field with more than one or two major league teammates for the first time this weekend. 

“I think it’s time to get out to the big field and start playing with the grown-ups — no offense to anybody that I might have met,” Sale said. “There’s something to be said for fans being there, being in a big stadium, hearing the noise, the music in between innings, no rollovers. If you’re out there getting it handed to you, you’re out there until you get it over with. I’m ready for that.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

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.