White Sox

Despite uncertain future with White Sox, Robin Ventura remains focused on winning games

Despite uncertain future with White Sox, Robin Ventura remains focused on winning games

MIAMI -- Even though he isn’t concerned about his future, Robin Ventura remains committed to the White Sox.

The club’s fifth-year manager said on Sunday morning he still enjoys his job even after a tumultuous season that has included Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement and Chris Sale’s five-game suspension for destruction of team property. The comments from Ventura, whose contract expires after this season, come on the heels of a Sun-Times report in which he’d said he like to return as the team’s manager if asked.

Whether or not Ventura would be asked to return is as uncertain as the team’s future direction. Last month, general manager Rick Hahn said the club has been mired in mediocrity and is open to all options. But Ventura reiterated Sunday he’s more worried about the team’s final 46 games than himself even as he has come to appreciate his position over time.

“When you come in here and work as hard as we do, you’re not here this long if you’re doing it as a lark,” Ventura said. “We’ve always taken it seriously of doing the work and getting them in the best spot possible. Sometimes you look around, it goes pretty quick.”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear here]

The White Sox headed into Sunday’s series finale with a 56-60 mark and are far outside looking in at the wild-card race, 7 1/2 games back of the second spot. The team’s .483 winning percentage is the highest it has been since Ventura’s first season when the White Sox went 85-77.

One could argue that 2016 has been the most trying season for Ventura. The White Sox have struggled mightily since their 23-10 start. Not only is the team beset with injuries to several key players, but Ventura has twice found his clubhouse in crisis after LaRoche and Sale both had disputes with management. Ventura said it all comes with the territory.

“You just deal with it,” Ventura said. “That’s part of, you have a lot of high-spirited competitive people in one spot and sometimes it can burst on you at any particular spot and you deal with it and you move on. Having been around baseball, I’ve seen a lot of these. This is not exclusive to us by any means. When you’re a manager, you deal with it and you move on.”

Ventura expects the White Sox would make a quick decision after the season about whether or not to bring him back. But he said he’ll continue to keep his focus on the field until they reach that point.

“I’ve always gone through with where I am and the focus is on these guys and winning games,” Ventura said. “There’s plenty of time to look at it in the offseason. I’ve never felt like there is a reason for either side to have to do something just because I don’t have a contract next year. It doesn’t mean I won’t have one and doesn’t mean I will have one. But you just go through it and do what you’re supposed to do and this is what I’m supposed to do right now.”

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

0218-dylan-covey.jpg
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

0218-jose-abreu.jpg
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.