White Sox

Floyd aces unlikely pitchers' duel in the Bronx

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Floyd aces unlikely pitchers' duel in the Bronx

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 9:09 p.m. Updated: 1:12 a.m.
By Brett Ballatini
CSNChicago.com
NEW YORKIvan Nova, having vanquished the Chicago White Sox for 6 13 innings, sat in the Yankees dugout, spitting sunflower seeds and bobbing his head to Sweet Home Alabama.

As incongruous as a Dominican grooving to southern men seemed, even more so was the White Soxs comeback in the eighth inning, erasing Novas win and propelling the Pale Hose to a second straight win in the Bronx.

Paul Konerkos two-run homer in the eight off of flailing reliever Rafael Soriano instead handed a 3-2 win to Gavin Floyd, who authored a brilliant outing of 10 strikeouts against one walk and just three hits.

Gavin, man, he threw the ball good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. Today is the best Ive seen him throw the ball in a little while.

Floyd upped his record to 3-1 on the season and trimmed some 40 points off his ERA, which now stands at a taut 3.60.
Sergio Santos came on for his second straight save, escaping a jam created by Floyd and Matt Thornton and further cementing his place as the clubs closer. He did it with amazing help from sub right fielder Brent Lillibridge, who ended the game with two straight spectacular catches.

With runners on first and second with one out, cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez slapped a screaming line drive toward the wall, over the substitute right fielders head.

It came off hard, but I saw the slice and tried to get to the wall as fast as I could, Lillibridge said. It started moving on me a little bit, and I kind of ran out of space hitting the wall. Working in that confined space, with the right-field foul pole at 314 feet is a little different than most ballparks. I reached out there and concentrated on it and made the catch to get the first one. But I didnt know the next one would be harder.

Lillibridge robbed Rodriguez but was unable to double off either Derek Jeter at second base or Mark Teixeira at first, giving Robinson Cano a chance to be a hero. The second sacker stroked a line drive down the right-field line that Lillibridge made an even more incredible catch on, a full-extension diving grab to save the game.

I got a good read on it, but the biggest thing in my head was if there was a close ball I have a chance to catch, Im going for it, he said. We have to have that attitude. Its been rough for us, so I said, All or nothing. I could have been the goat. In this instance, I was able to win the game.

The loquacious manager had his punch line all set up, from the beginning of his postgame remarks, and as usual, he was dead on.

Well, first of all, finally I found my closer: Lillibridge, Guillen said, laughing uproariously. Hes the one thats going to be closing games from now on. All Chicago fans, they can sleep very well, because I found my closer.

Sleep tight, Chicago. Life in the White Sox world is starting to look up.
Lillis Pad

Its been a wild ride for Lillibridge, who just a month ago was fighting for his White Sox life and now finds himself in some waysGuillens joking asideas the offensive and special-teams closer for the club. As a pinch-runner, bunter, and especially as a player able to man six positions on the field, Lillibridge has proven invaluable.

One of the big reasons Lillibridge made the ballclub is because we know he can play the outfield very well, Guillen said. He got three wins for us. He steals second just yesterday and we come up with the run. Every time we put him in the game, he scores some runs. On defense hes been great we know he can play the outfield.

His two catches to end the game can be burned onto the season highlight DVD already, no matter how far the White Sox play into October.

Ive never had anything like that in my career right now, Lillibridge said, shyly smiling with pride. Sometimes you dont know whats going on even as it happensyou react to the ball and take a chance. You cant practice diving in batting practice.

Usually, when the ball goes over my head off the bat, you have a pretty good impression of what the results going to be, Konerko said. I didnt think either of those was going to be caught. Both of them were completely different plays, but coming late in the game like that, making those two plays in those situations was awesome I dont think Ive ever seen a game end with two great plays like that by one guy.

The Lord was with Brent, making those two catches, Floyd said. He made some fantastic catches out there. They better be No. 1 and 2 TV web gems.

Somewhat humorously, Santos let out a yell upon the closing out that you could practically hear in the press box.

Gosh, amazing, said Santos, with his arm wrapped but still a bit dazed in the locker room minutes later. I havent felt that alive in a long time, just the adrenaline. For Lillibridge to make two huge plays back-to back, just, its nice that things are finally going our way, especially in the ninth inning because we had bad luck at home. So its nice to steal another win out here.

As a former fielder himself, Santos was more than interested in talking more about the incredible end to the game, courtesy of his pitching and Lillibridges defense.

I thought the first catch was tougher because I knew Lillibridge was playing deep, and it felt like it was up in the air for 10 minutes. After he made the catch, I was like, Great, Santos said. The one to Cano, once it left the infield and I saw it kind of hanging up in the air, I thought maybe hes got a chance to dive and catch it, because I knew he couldnt catch it on the run. I dont think Ive ever yelled as loud in my life. It was good.

Whats sweet about Lillibridges story is that hes no longer a player tormented by his role or shortcomings. Obviously, any major leaguer wants to move up the depth chart from No. 25 on the roster, but the superutilityman has turned a lack of playing time into an opportunity to impact the game with a single at-bat or run scored. The maturity hes put on display even dating back to last season makes him a guy the entire clubhouse roots for.

Typically, Lillibridge shrugs off most plaudits, with a bottom-line approach to playing, and winning.

Im just trying to get a games played recorded in the stat book, he said. Im just doing my job of going in there and playing defense. I try to steal a base and allowed Paulie to get a couple of fastballs Ive always felt a part of this team and have done what Im supposed to do. Making plays like tonight, even in a limited role, how can you not be excited?

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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.