White Sox

Excited about White Sox, Renteria has no hard feelings toward Cubs

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Excited about White Sox, Renteria has no hard feelings toward Cubs

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Though Wednesday’s press conference mostly dealt with Rick Renteria’s past, Robin Ventura is focused on what his new coach brings to the White Sox.

The White Sox introduced their new bench coach via a conference call Wednesday and --- in a not-so-shocking twist --- most questions for Renteria surrounded his abrupt dismissal by the Cubs a year ago.

But Ventura doesn’t care about what happened with the Cubs, nor is he concerned about the perception Renteria’s hire has created given his own contract status. Ventura, who has one year left on his contract, is just happy to have a coach of Renteria’s caliber on his staff and what it can mean for the White Sox next season.

“He’s not stained at all,” Ventura said. “We are looking at him -- we are bringing in a quality guy.

“He’s coming to do a job, he’s not looking back. But I think he’s eager for the opportunity. You can’t sit there and shy away from things. He doesn’t shy away from things like that. It is what it is and we’ll deal with that as we go along. I don’t look at that as we are always looking over our shoulder.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“We have stuff to do and that’s what he’s here to do.”

Still, this was the first time Renteria has addressed the Cubs’ decision to hire Joe Maddon and dismiss him after one season. Though he said he doesn’t have any hard feelings, Renteria admitted the move surprised him. He said Wednesday he exchanged texts with Maddon afterward but they never spoke --- “there was really no need,” he said. Renteria also didn’t believe he had much to gain from making any public comments.

“It would be foolish for anybody that's doing something or giving themselves to a task to not feel like, you know, you get the wind blown out of you a little bit,” Renteria said. “You take a step back. You regroup. I’m sure that there was no intent on anybody’s side to create a difficult situation. It was what it was. Quite frankly that’s something in the past. There are no hard feelings. There never was. When something like that occurs, you just want to take a step back and give it some space and some time. You really don’t want that to be the story. You want the story to be on the positive things that were going on there. That was a lot of the reason I just remained away.”

While they didn’t have a position open at the time, Ventura reached out to Renteria last December to express interest in potentially having him joining the White Sox coaching staff. Ventura sensed Renteria wanted to step back but also wanted to ensure Renteria knew he was wanted.

“You are always looking to bring in quality people and he’s definitely one,” Ventura said.

[MORE: White Sox make it official with hiring of Renteria]

When it became clear Bud Black wouldn’t take over as the next manager of the Washington Nationals late last month, Renteria felt like the White Sox were the next best fit. He had already spoken to Rick Hahn once before and remained in constant communication. Once Black’s negotiations stopped, Renteria quickly met a second time with Hahn and Ventura.

While they didn’t know each other much before, Ventura and Renteria have spent a fair amount of time with each other recently and are comfortable.

“I thought it was actually a pretty good fit,” Renteria said. “I think our personalities will mesh. As a bench coach, I’m coming on board to make his job as easy as possible and transition into one of the rest of the staff. The conversation we had made it pretty easy for me to see myself coming on board with the Sox.”

Ventura doesn’t foresee any difficulties surrounding speculation that Renteria has been hired to ultimately succeed him. Headed into his fifth season, Ventura knows speculation and rumors come with the territory. He’s not fazed and is more interested in what a valuable addition can do for the club.

“That stuff doesn’t bother me,” Ventura said. “I don’t expect any rift or anything else with Rick. I’m excited to have him come in. He’s excited to be here. We are trying to do things to win games. For me, the quality of person you are bringing in is the key thing, not any of the other issues people might try to create.”

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.