White Sox

Avisail Garcia's catch preserves White Sox win over Orioles

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Avisail Garcia's catch preserves White Sox win over Orioles

Avisail Garcia leaped, stretched his left arm well beyond the right field fence and came down with what might be the biggest play of the season for the White Sox.

In taking away what would’ve been a ninth-inning, game-tying home run off the bat of Orioles slugger Chris Davis, Garcia preserved a 3-2 win for the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, the team’s fourth in a row.

“I knew (Davis) hit it good,” David Robertson said. “He’s so strong, any time he makes contact you’re worried it’s leaving the field. I was just overjoyed to see him catch that ball and come back it with it. It was awesome.”

As soon as Garcia's feet landed on the warning track with the ball in his mitt, he threw his hands in the air and let out a yell. Robertson — who gave Garcia the game ball — pounded his glove and tipped his cap while U.S. Cellular Field roared.

[MORE WHITE SOX: GIF: Avisail Garcia's incredible home-run-robbing catch saves White Sox]

The circumstances of Garcia’s catch made it even bigger. Not only did it keep the White Sox ahead, but it came on the heels of Zach Putnam blowing the lead in the top of the eighth and J.B. Shuck getting it back in the bottom of the frame.

“We’re starting to jell a little bit more, have a little bit more fun and realize if we have fun and just play baseball we’re gonna win some games,” Shuck, whose RBI double in the eighth turned out to be the game-winner, said. “And that’s what we’re kind of doing, you can start to see it show on the field.”

For most of the afternoon, the story of the game looked like it’d be Shark Week starting a day early.

Jeff Samardzija struck out nine over 7 2/3 innings, and Ryan Flaherty’s chopper up the middle with two outs in the sixth broke up the former Notre Dame star’s no-hit bid. With a 2-0 lead and two out in the eighth, Samardzija walked Flaherty and was pulled in favor of Putnam, who promptly served up a game-tying home run to Manny Machado.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Bobby Jenks remembers ‘incredible’ White Sox World Series run]

Unlike last Sunday, when Samardzija blew a four-run lead in the eighth against Detroit, the White Sox quickly re-took the lead in the bottom half of the frame.

Gordon Beckham — who has only four hits in his last 53 at-bats — worked a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Alexei Ramirez’s sacrifice bunt. Shuck then pinch-hit for catcher Geovany Soto and laced a first-pitch slider from submarining Orioles right-hander Darren O’Day into the right field corner to score Beckham.

While it was only Shuck’s sixth RBI of the season, manager Robin Ventura wasn’t surprised the reserve outfielder came through in that spot.

“He just seems to have that spark when he comes in there to be able to put the bat on the ball and do something,” Ventura said. “For him sitting around, and he doesn't get a ton of playing time, when he gets in there he just seems to elevate.”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get an Avisail Garcia jersey shirt right here]

But Shuck’s clutch hit — and Samardzija’s masterful start — wouldn’t have mattered if Garcia didn’t rob Davis of that home run and the White Sox went on to an Independence Day loss. For a team that seemingly couldn’t do anything right in the season’s first three months — especially on defense — Garcia’s catch was a much-needed reversal of fortune when the White Sox needed it the most.

“It was big,” Garcia said. “That’s what you’re here for, to try to help your team to do your best on the field and to try to contribute to win games.”

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.