White Sox

Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura back Tim Raines for Hall of Fame

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Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura back Tim Raines for Hall of Fame

With one vote to go, Tim Raines is on the cusp of Cooperstown.

But two former teammates can’t believe it already has taken this long for Raines’ quest to gain entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

One of the greatest leadoff hitters of all-time, Raines fell 23 votes shy of the 75 percent threshold required to be elected last month. Raines’ 69.8 percent total is his strongest showing in nine years on the ballot and gives plenty of room for optimism he could be inducted in 2017. But even so, the uncertainty bothers White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who played alongside Raines from 1991-95.

“It’s hard when you start looking at guys that should be in that aren’t in and you see him on the last time,” Ventura said. “You feel like something needs to change.

“He’s as dominant as any guy.”

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A seven-time All-Star, Raines produced 69.1 b-Wins Above Replacement in his career, good for 106th all-time. He’s 37th all-time in walks (1,330), 54th in runs scored (1,571), 47th in times on base (3,977) and 79th with 2,605 hits.

Raines also perfected the art of the stolen base. Not only is he fifth all-time with 808 steals, he’s 13th in stolen base percentage as he converted of 84.7 percent of his tries -- “when he went, he was safe,” Ventura said.

Frank Thomas groups Raines with Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose as the greatest leadoff men in baseball history. Thomas, a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2014, said Raines’ impact went beyond the numbers, too.

“He was a great mentor, a great teammate, one of the best teammates ever,” Thomas said. “You meet a couple of guys that rub you that way your whole career and Tim was one. He was a positive impact on a lot of people. And like I said, he had a career that he went through some ups and downs. But he learned and he always talked to young kids.”

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Raines is the player most affected by the HOF’s new voting procedures, rules that went into effect two years ago. Whereas players previously could remain on the ballot for up to 15 years, now they only have 10 (exemptions were made for candidates who already were in the 11-15 year window).

In his ninth year, Raines saw an increase from 55 percent to 69.8. Those figures are up from 46.1 percent in 2014. With an increase of more than 23 percent of the electorate over the past two votes, Raines’ chances of election are strong with only Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent) having finished ahead of him in 2016 without getting elected.

“I hope he gets in,” Thomas said. “He deserved to get in this year. Rock’s one of my best friends in life.

“He has the momentum, but he deserves it. I think people overshadowed him (in 2016). But if you look at his numbers, he’s the best power-hitting leadoff hitter of all time. You look at his numbers, they’re crazy.”

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.