White Sox

In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet

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In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet

Entering Monday’s series opener against the Angels at 51-58, sitting 14 1/2 games out of the division-leading Royals and 7 1/2 games out of the American League’s second Wild Card spot, Rick Hahn’s description of the White Sox season as “frustrating" was not surprising.

But the general manager wants everyone to remember one thing: The White Sox haven’t been mathematically eliminated from anything yet.

So those who want the page turned to 2016 are just going to have to wait until the math says the White Sox playoff hopes are officially dead.

“Until there’s an ‘X’ next to our name, we’re going to approach it like we have a shot,” Hahn said Monday. “It doesn’t really change how the 25 guys in there, the coaching staff goes about their business. The focus is going to remain on trying to win that night’s ballgame. As for us in the front office and how we approach things, obviously we’ve got to be cognizant of how we sit in the standings and how each loss makes that road a little more difficult to travel down, the road to the playoffs more difficult to travel down. So we’re aware of the situation, and we’re aware of what potentially needs to be done in coming weeks. But for me, in that clubhouse, the focus needs to be on winning tonight’s ballgame.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side]

With fewer than two months remaining, the White Sox, realistically, will have to do an awful lot of winning to reach the postseason. It isn’t impossible, Hahn’s certainly right about that. But the way the White Sox have played this year makes that hope a hard one to latch on to.

After one of the team’s best stretches of the season, a seven-game winning streak against last-place teams in Cleveland and Boston, the White Sox have lost eight of their last 10 against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Royals. Most recently, those AL Central-leading Royals swept the White Sox out of Kansas City over the weekend.

That hope that Hahn preached Monday was understandable in the thick of seven straight wins. After this latest downturn, though, it seems more implausible.

“Obviously the up-and-down nature has been frustrating,” Hahn said. “I do think the last positive wasn’t just the eight-game road trip in Cleveland and Boston, I felt that it extended back to late June. I believe we had the second-best record in baseball in the month of July. So it was our belief that was a sign of momentum building. Obviously it was plain for all to see that the improvements in the offense seemed to have arrived. So it is certainly disappointing, the most recent stretch coming out of July, the way we’ve played thus far for the first 10 days (of August). Positive news is we do have a lot of schedule left, we play a lot of the teams we’re chasing, so we still have an opportunity here for us shake off as quickly as we can these tough one-run losses and get going tonight.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox Road Ahead: Needing the offense to step up]

Many argue that seven-game winning streak came at precisely the wrong time for the White Sox, bumping up against the trade deadline. With the White Sox out of the running, trading Jeff Samardzija — who’s due to become a free agent at season’s end — could have netted a piece or two for the future. That trade didn’t happen, and this current stretch of losing immediately followed. Is standing pat at the deadline something Hahn regrets?

“I don’t think it’s really helpful to do that,” Hahn said of looking back on what some deem a potential missed opportunity. “I think the best way to look at things is make as good a decision as you can at the time based on the information available at that time. And obviously we were real comfortable with the path we decided to go down on the 31st, leading up to the 31st and on the 31st. When we’re presented with another opportunity to potentially make the team better or start looking at the future, we’ll make that decision based on the information available at that time.”

There’s still time to make a deal. The waiver trade deadline is at the end of the current month, and the White Sox have made August deals in the past, showing they aren’t averse to such a deal.

And whether things get better, worse or stay the same, that possibility is on the table.

“We’ve been approaching the deadline and now the waiver period as a hopeful opportunity, hopefully an opportunity to improve ourselves for the long term, not just something specifically for ’15. Obviously thus far we haven’t had that opportunity,” Hahn said. “We aren’t to the point yet where we’re looking necessarily strictly at the future. As we get deeper into August, if things don’t improve, that is something we’re going to have to take seriously. But at this point, we’re taking the same approach of looking at long-term fits that we think can help with this year and beyond.”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Both short-term and long-term, one thing is certain: Hahn has his mind on a turnaround. That might mean an incredible stretch of winning in August and September with the White Sox clinching an unlikely playoff berth. Or it could mean planning on turning around several straight underwhelming seasons in 2016.

Regardless, Hahn doesn’t want his team written off until it’s mandated by the math. As long as that’s how the White Sox players treat each day, he’ll worry about expediting that turnaround.

“Obviously it hasn’t gone according to how we had hoped other than short stretches where we haven’t been able to maintain for a long period of time. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to lament the way we have played while we still have games to be played,” Hahn said. “I’m talking about in that clubhouse. They need to continue to be focused on winning tonight’s game and focused on this series that we have ahead and this weekend, which should be a good series, as well.

“For us in the front office, we can take a longer view, take a more analytical or long-term approach to why are we in this situation here and how do we rectify it as quickly as possible?”

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.