White Sox

Chris Sale: White Sox struggles 'falls on the players,' not Robin Ventura

Chris Sale: White Sox struggles 'falls on the players,' not Robin Ventura

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The calls for Robin Ventura’s job have once again grown louder as a lengthy White Sox slump continues.

With the team out of town for the next two weeks, fans have taken to social media to voice their frustrations with the fifth-year manager. They have also begun an online petition calling for Ventura’s head. And there’s a pretty good chance local radio talk shows will be filled with callers demanding the same early this week.

But as their slide continued Sunday, the team’s most influential player insisted Ventura’s leadership has had nothing to do with a six-game losing streak that was extended with another blown lead and a 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.

“I don’t think he gave up any runs,” starting pitcher Chris Sale said. “I don’t think he made any errors and he’s in the dugout the whole time. It’s on us to win games. I understand people -- I’ll keep it that -- want to point fingers and find blame. But at the end of the day it falls on the players. We have to find a way to turn it around. We’re going to keep fighting. It will turn. We have too much morale, chemistry and too much talent. Just a rough patch.”

This patch comes at a time when fans are skeptical about what kind of team they have in front of them. Many believe the team’s hot April to be a tease. They wonder if this team is headed down a similar path to the past three seasons as the White Sox have dropped 14 of 18 with their six-game lead vanished and turned into a one-game deficit.

Players from the 27-24 squad continue to insist they will turn things around. Alex Avila said the preparation has been there and he doesn’t expect a drop off. Sale said the confidence and chemistry are present. And Dioner Navarro and Todd Frazier like how the White Sox have continued to battle as evidenced by the close proximity of their losses -- 11 of the 14 have come by two runs or fewer.

This of course isn’t new territory for Ventura, who spent all of last summer answering questions about his job security. He headed into the season listed as one of the odds-on favorites to be the first manager in the majors fired. But Ventura was completely removed from those types of lists after the team’s quick start.

Ventura said Sunday morning that the reaction is expected for his position and he won’t let it distract him from preparing.

“That’s part of the action,” Ventura said. “I’m in here trying to work. …

“I’m just doing my work.

“I don’t feel any more pressure than there already is. That’s just part of the job and you do it.”

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.