White Sox

J.B. Shuck's approach, readiness impresses White Sox

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J.B. Shuck's approach, readiness impresses White Sox

BALTIMORE - There’s a big difference in how players approach starts and pinch-hitting and J.B. Shuck is confident he has both roles down.

The outfielder can get into more of a routine as a starter, which he did again in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles as he filled in again for injured Avisail Garcia. But Shuck thinks his compact swing also allows him to be ready if the White Sox need him off the bench. Knowing the two roles has Shuck confident no matter what the White Sox ask.

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“Just a little bit different type of work,” Shuck said. “You’re getting ready for the starter. You get into the game and you have different situational hitting. You have a chance to, maybe first at-bat, work the count, maybe find a way to get a runner over. When you’re pinch hitting, it’s usually guys on trying to drive in runs late in the game.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes that Shuck knows how to ready himself for a start or a pinch-hit. Shuck has handled a variety of situations lately with Garcia slowed by right knee inflammation. Of the last six games Shuck has played, four have come as a starter and in one, he took over for Garcia in the second inning. Over the entire span, Shuck has a .389/.429/.444 slash line with two RBI in 21 plate appearances.

“You get a good IQ guy that goes in there and is prepared and knows how to play, brings a little energy to it as well,” Ventura said. “You always want guys who can fill in and not be tentative when they’re in there and that’s Shuck. He is not lacking for confidence or anything else. He goes out there and plays hard. You just like the way he plays. That’s the kind of guy you want to fill in for somebody that is in your regular lineup and gets hurt. He’s just a good baseball player.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans]

Given he is replacing the White Sox second-best hitter this season, Ventura feels lucky to have Shuck available. As for Garcia, Ventura said he isn’t likely to play in Thursday’s doubleheader despite showing improvement. Garcia will be re-evaluated before Friday’s game in Houston.

“There is a really good chance he doesn’t get in at any point, but he’s feeling better so we’ll treat him up today,” Ventura said. “We’ll probably see how he feels tomorrow.”

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.