White Sox

Don Cooper: 'We've Got to Win Games'

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Don Cooper: 'We've Got to Win Games'

Friday, April 16, 2010
2:18 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Its a few hours before the White Sox take the field in Cleveland. I give pitching coach Don Cooper a phone call to talk about his stellar bullpen which hasnt given up a run in the last six games, a streak totaling 17 13 innings.

But Coop is not a happy camper.

"Heck, weve played 10 games for crying out loud," Cooper said. "Everybody wants to draw conclusions from a lot of different things. Yes, I like what theyre doing. Its better than getting their asses kicked thats for sure. But weve got 152 games left, and were sitting at 4-6. Nobody is digging that. We've got to win games.

OK

Lets talk about rookie phenom Sergio Santos, who struck out the side Thursday night, getting Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and John Buck. All swinging. The converted shortstop hasnt given up a run or even a hit in four innings out of the bullpen. Youve got to be impressed with him, right?

"Hes had four appearances and hes done well so far," said a slightly impressed Cooper. "Weve got a long way to go. This is a great story, but its chapter one."

So, how does Coop explain his lightning quick transformation? Two years ago, Santos was a Blue Jays minor league shortstop. Last year, his first season as a pitcher with the White Sox, he was 0-3 in the minors with an 8.16 earned run average. Now hes firing 96 mph fastballs past the team he wasnt good enough to play for, and it looks like hes been on the mound for years.

Before this experiment began, when was the last time Santos pitched in a game?

Freshman year in high school.

"Hes got a power fastball, a power breaking ball and a power changeup. Hes got three power pitches," Cooper said. "Now its a matter of learning how to pitch and being consistent and being ahead, which is what hes been doing so far."

That certainly wasnt the case Thursday night with Freddy Garcia, who got torched by the Jays, giving up seven runs on eight hits in three-plus innings.

He never had it. And Cooper didnt dance around it.

"Freddy did not pitch well last night at all," Cooper said. "His command was not up to snuff or where it needs to be."

Two games under .500 is not where the Sox need to be either. They have the talent (and certainly the time) to turn it around. However, there are many concerned fans and media members who arent so sure, overly sensitive about the Sox cold start.

Cooper took it even further.

"Theyre sensitive about what happens in spring training! Theyre still thinking that spring training matters or that it counts," he said. "Everything that goes on, the media is sensitive to stuff because youve got to write stuff and break stuff. Its just 10 games. People are probably writing us off. Thats OK, too. Whatever you guys want to do is fine with me, but Im just telling it like it is."

That means telling a reporter that his idea about doing a story on a lights-out bullpen in April is a bad idea. The story is bigger, and yet simpler than that.

"Its not about the bullpen, its not about the starting pitching, its not about the hitting or defense. Its about winning games. When we dont do that, none of this really matters. The one conclusion Ill give you is this: were sitting at 4-6. We certainly didnt expect to be that starting out.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

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.