White Sox

Buehrle vs. Sale: White Sox past, present aces face off Monday

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Buehrle vs. Sale: White Sox past, present aces face off Monday

Not only will Chris Sale go for an MLB record Monday night, he’ll do so while squaring off against South Side favorite and 2005 World Series champion Mark Buehrle.

Robin Ventura & Co. Sale an extra day of rest — he was originally scheduled to start Sunday's series finale against Baltimore — and, as an unintended consequence, set up a showdown between the current and former White Sox aces (7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

“It should be fun,” Ventura said. “It should be fast, too.”

Only a handful of current White Sox players played with Buehrle during his decorated 12-year tenure at U.S. Cellular Field. Among them is John Danks, who debuted in 2007 and witnessed Buehrle throw a no-hitter and a perfect game, as well as the first of his four consecutive gold glove awards (2009-2012).

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While Danks is close with Buehrle, he wasn’t exactly wishing him well when the 36-year-old takes the mound at 35th and Shields on Monday.

“I hope we beat up on Mark and get a win,” Danks laughed. “(He and Sale) are two of my best friends in the world so it’d be good to see Mark, but really once the game starts I hope we are able to beat up on him and get a win.”

Even with a fastball averaging just under 84 miles per hour — down about three miles per hour from 2005, when he won 16 games and a World Series ring — Buehrle’s ERA sits at a solid 3.64 and he leads the American League with three complete games. He’s one win away from having at least 10 for the 15th consecutive season, and needs to throw 93 2/3 innings over 14 more starts to reach the 200-inning, 30-start marks he’s had every year since 2001.

“(All those) years in a row of the 200, 30 and 10, he’s a Hall of Famer in my book,” Danks said. “I’m a little biased. But it’d be good to see him. Just hope he doesn’t throw real well against us.”

Over his dozen years with the White Sox, Buehrle won 161 games with a 3.83 ERA, made four All-Star Games and won three Gold Gloves. He didn’t do it in a flashy fashion like Sale, who with 10 or more strikeouts against Toronto would become the first pitcher in baseball history to have double-digit strikeouts in nine consecutive starts during a season.

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Buehrle was effective in other ways, though, by spotting his pitches well, changing speeds and working fast.

“Love the guy,” pitching coach Don Cooper, who worked with Buehrle from 2002-2011, said. “He made me a world champion.

“… When you see a guy go 200 innings for four, five years, let alone 15, you are a stallion, you are a stud no matter what style you are. As a pitching coach, as a manager, when you know you can pencil a guy in there for six to seven innings every start and at the end of the year you’re getting 200, that’s such a valuable commodity knowing that spot is more than locked down.”

“… But our guy (Sale), he’s really, really good, really talented, probably the most talented guy I’ve had, thinking back on it. And he’s got four years under his belt and he’s got some time to go to reach where Buehrle is.”

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.