White Sox

Chris Sale, White Sox rocked by Braves

Chris Sale, White Sox rocked by Braves

Chris Sale’s All-Star tune-up on Friday night didn’t go according to plan.

In search of his 15th victory, Sale got rocked by baseball’s worst team and the White Sox couldn’t keep pace in an 11-8 loss to the Atlanta Braves in front of 26,199 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sale — who sought to become only the fourth pitcher since 1990 with 15 wins before the All-Star break — allowed eight earned runs and 10 hits in five innings, including three homers. He also yielded a career-worst seven extra-base hits. Todd Frazier and Adam Eaton homered and the White Sox also turned their third triple play of the season in the loss.

“Pretty embarrassing,” Sale said. “It’s about as bad as I possibly think I’ve been in a while.

“I definitely would have liked to have been better tonight for the guys. We score eight runs — you got to have that game.”

Not since Toronto’s David Wells in 2000 had an American League pitcher headed to the break with 15 victories.

It didn’t take long to establish Sale (14-3) was off.

Freddie Freeman took advantage of a windy, warm evening with an opposite-field solo homer in the first. An inning later, Sale’s former batterymate Tyler Flowers put Atlanta back ahead with a two-run homer to left-center field. Flowers also had one of three straight two-out, run-scoring doubles off Sale in a four-run fifth inning in which the Braves pulled ahead 8-4. Flowers also reached against Sale on a hit by pitch in the fourth inning.

“He looked mortal,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I don't think it was as sharp and they got some good swings at him. There was some hard contact, a couple homers, it just looked like it wasn't his best stuff. There was some velocity there you'd see every once in a while. But mostly if you're missing in the middle, they're going to hit it.”

Of the 26 batters Sale faced, 13 reached base.

Flowers, who caught every Sale start in the last two seasons, noticed how much the left-hander was off the mark.

“(Sale) wasn’t as sharp as he usually is,” Flowers said. “These are the kinds of days you hope to face guys of that caliber and just try to be ready for the mistake and take advantage of it.”

It could have been even worse.

Leading 4-3, Sale put the first two batters on base in the top of the third inning. But Freeman’s soft liner to shortstop bounced in front of Tim Anderson, who trapped the ball, tagged the lead runner at second base, stepped on the bag and fired to first in time for a triple play.

The White Sox also turned triple plays on April 22 and May 10. They’re the first team since both the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s in 1979 to have turned three triple plays in a season.

It still wasn’t enough.

Atlanta added scored three times off reliever Chris Beck in the sixth inning to extend its lead to 11-6.

The output was enough to outdo the White Sox, who early on took advantage of a porous Braves defense.

Down 1-0, Melky Cabrera singled in a run in the first inning. The White Sox rebounded from a two-run deficit in the second inning on consecutive one-out doubles by Carlos Sanchez and J.B. Shuck. Sanchez advanced to third when center fielder Ender Inciarte’s throw ended up in short right field. Shuck reached when his pop up to left-center field harmlessly fell between four Atlanta defenders. An RBI single by Anderson tied it at 3 and Jose Abreu’s sac fly put the White Sox ahead 4-3.

Eaton and Frazier both hit solo home runs off Braves starter Matt Wisler in the fifth to get the White Sox within 8-6.

They also scored a run in the seventh on Frazier’s sac fly to pull within four and threatened to rally in the ninth. Abreu and Cabrera, who both reached three times each, singled to open the inning. A run scored when Frazier grounded into a double play, but the White Sox got no closer.

“This is a throwaway game,” Sale said. “This is one you are not going to get back. You just try not to, there’s nothing to take away from this game for personally. You just move on and keep grinding.”

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.