White Sox

Erik Johnson's effort unrewarded in White Sox loss to Yankees

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Erik Johnson's effort unrewarded in White Sox loss to Yankees

NEW YORK -- Erik Johnson worked hard to keep the White Sox in Sunday’s contest.

His offense didn’t do much to reward him for the effort.

Whether it was defensive errors or runners of his own, Johnson found himself in several predicaments against the New York Yankees. Ultimately it caught up with Johnson and the White Sox dropped the series finale and their final road game, 6-1, at Yankee Stadium. Johnson allowed three runs (two earned) with seven hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. Avisail Garcia’s solo homer was the only offense for the White Sox, who committed three errors and lost seven of 11 on their road trip.

“It was another one of those days where runners are going to be on base,” Johnson said. “That’s how it’s going to be. You just have to grind ‘em out and keep throwing up zeroes as best you can.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Combined with a leadoff walk by Jacoby Ellsbury, consecutive errors by Jose Abreu in the first inning with no outs made it appear Johnson would be in for a very long afternoon. Johnson surrendered a run on a Brian McCann sac fly but didn’t give in any further, stranding a pair. The right-hander also escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the third and stranded two more in the fourth.

“We made a couple of mistakes there that put him in a bind and I thought he got out of that pretty good,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It could have been a lot worse and he just battled all day. Any time he got in a tough spot he was getting guys to pop up, he really bowed his neck and he got through it. This is a lineup that can work you over and they can get you into a high pitch count, which they got him. Later on we just couldn’t hold. We kept letting guys get on and they’re tough to hold down once you give themopportunities like that. We just gave them too many.”

[MORE: Inconsistent offense continues to sink White Sox in loss to Yankees]

Johnson retired five in a row before he yielded a solo home run to Dustin Ackley in the sixth inning that put the Yankees ahead 2-0. Johnson, who threw 121 pitches, then loaded the bases with a run scoring on a Rob Brantly passed ball. Ventura pulled Johnson after he walked Carlos Beltran to reload the bases.

While Johnson has had some success in his five starts, he’s run a high pitch count in each one. It sounds as if the International League pitcher of the year should get one more outing at home next week.

“It’s just being more efficient with the way I approach the earlier innings, earlier contact in play,” Johnson said. “Against a few hitters I went pretty deep in some counts, which takes a lot out of you, especially when you need to go six, seven for your team.”

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.