White Sox

Don Cooper on White Sox pitching struggles: 'We are on it'

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Don Cooper on White Sox pitching struggles: 'We are on it'

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pitching coach Don Cooper doesn’t believe the White Sox have yet come close to their peak.

Not only are the sliders of both Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija up to speed, the White Sox haven’t offered their pitchers must assistance on offense or with their gloves. Cooper thinks it’s a residual effect of having a group with a ton of new faces. But Cooper wants more time before people write off the White Sox, who have been outscored 20-4 the past two games even with Sale and Samardzija on the mound.

“I don’t think we are up and running yet,” Cooper said. “The addition of a lot of new guys, on the pitching staff as well as the everyday players, we haven’t brought the three big elements on a daily basis for us to be considered a good team yet. That’s forming.

“Whether it be pitching, hitting or defense, it hasn’t been on a consistent note.”

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

The team’s starting pitchers are the second-worst in the league with a 5.47 ERA, but much of that has been accrued in the past two days with Sale/Samardzija having allowed 17 earned runs in 8 innings. The offense is averaging 3.37 runs per game and the defense is in the lower half of the majors in several categories.

Whereas Sale and Samardzija have been able to mask some of those other areas in previous outings, they haven’t this week. Cooper thinks Sale’s slider is a bit behind because he missed most of spring training with a right foot fracture. He also noted that Samardzija’s slider is 2-3 mph slower than normal and the two plan to address that in a bullpen session Saturday.

“Nothing can be worse for a team than when a starter goes out there early in a game and stuff happens like (Thursday),” Cooper said. “It can take the wind out of your sales a little bit as a team.

“Not only do I expect it to be better, I’m guessing it’s going to be better. Normally we are used to the starters here over the last 12 years, doling out many quality starts. It hasn’t happened just yet. There is some inconsistency there. We are on it.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

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.