White Sox

At crossroads, White Sox hope to find answers on mega road trip

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At crossroads, White Sox hope to find answers on mega road trip

A dark cloud hung over U.S. Cellular Field after the White Sox 8-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

Sheets of rain washed away any momentum the South Siders had after they returned home from a triumphant road stint. By early Sunday evening, however, they capped off a seven-game home stand with another loss, sending them limping to the buses wondering what had gone wrong. 

A series win in Milwaukee and a sweep in Oakland sent positive vibes through the clubhouse that winning on the road was no longer an issue. The White Sox were already 10-5 at home this year before this week so playing at home was thought to be a strength. Yet seven games of early deficits and insufficient offense now has the White Sox in the basement of the AL Central by way of percentage points.

The White Sox room for error continues to shrink as surprise teams like the Twins, who moved up into second place in the division with a win today and a Detroit Tigers' loss, show they aren’t going to be a pushover. The defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals are on a mission to get back to the Fall Classic. Eight games back of first place and five back of second isn’t where the South Siders wanted to be in late May. 

“We got two of the best records in baseball in our division,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before the loss. “Everybody else isn’t bad either. There’s no rest playing in your own division by any means.”

[MORE: Ventura confident White Sox veterans will jump-start offense]

Luck certainly has played a factor in some of the losses. If outfielder Adam Eaton catches Joe Mauer’s line drive today, could that have changed the complexion of the game? What if Eaton’s eight-inning gapper yesterday actually hits the ground instead of falling into the glove of a diving Aaron Hicks when the White Sox trailed by one?

“We’re giving 110 percent here,” Eaton said. “We’re battling our butts off day in and day out. Sometimes the cards don’t fall our way.” 

There are, however, red flags that still need addressing. The defense continues to be an issue as errors have had a demoralizing effect on this group. Early deficits have proved costly. And the offense has shown very few signs of life, making those early runs the pitching staff has given up a monumental challenge to overcome.

If there were easy answers, the White Sox would love to know.

“If you can find that out tell me as soon as you can because if you could find that out that would be very helpful to us and we could use that,” Eaton said.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Maybe this 11-game road trip is the answer the White Sox are looking for. A set with the Toronto Blue Jays, the last place team in the AL East, might allow the bats to warm thanks to the Blue Jays' 4.67 team ERA. Waiting for them afterwards is a double-header with a lukewarm Baltimore Orioles, winners of seven of their last 18 games. The real test that nobody expected is the Houston Astros this coming weekend. Yes, those Astros. The ones with the most wins in baseball. Then, if the White Sox are still standing, the Texas Rangers, who have started playing some of their best ball lately, await in Arlington. 

A two-country, four-city road trip normally doesn’t sound too enticing to baseball players. But maybe it’s the getaway and the answer the White Sox so desperately need as they try and escape the dark skies above them and figure out what kind of team they will be in 2015.

“That can be a good thing,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said of the trip. “I don’t think anybody wants an off day right now.”

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.