White Sox

Jerry Sands homer paces Carlos Rodon, White Sox in win over Twins

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Jerry Sands homer paces Carlos Rodon, White Sox in win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Rodon worked out of a tight spot on Wednesday night and his offense rewarded him in a huge way.

Well, Jerry Sands did anyway.

Shortly after Rodon pitched out of a sixth-inning, bases-loaded jam, Sands, who made his first start of the season, delivered a massive two-run home run off Phil Hughes to catapult the White Sox to a 3-0 victory in front of 21,008 at Target Field. Rodon worked around five walks (one intentional) and a tight strike zone from plate ump Andy Fletcher to deliver six scoreless innings. He struck out six and allowed three hits as the White Sox improved to 6-2, their best start since 2012.

“That’s what you want out of a team, you want a lot of guys chipping in to help you win games,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s not like we’re clubbing people 11-0 and everybody’s getting four hits a night.”

Rodon appeared to get squeezed on occasion Wednesday, but it never impacted him as much as it did in his final inning.

Leading 1-0, the left-hander’s 2-2 offering appeared to go for a strike up and in against Miguel Sano only to be called a ball by Fletcher. Rodon walked Sano on the next pitch and Trevor Plouffe singled on an 0-2 fastball to put the go-ahead run at first. Eduardo Escobar was intentionally walked after Eddie Rosario’s sac bunt moved both men into scoring position.

[MORE: Top White Sox prospect Tim Anderson out with strained left wrist]

But Rodon struck out Max Kepler on three pitches and then won a four-pitch battle against Kurt Suzuki to escape the jam, inducing a foul popout on his 107th pitch.

“That’s baseball, man,” Rodon said. “You’ve just got to step up, do your job. It was a tough outing, but that’s baseball. It’s a part of it. You walk guys like that, you just keep on pitching, keep on going.”

Perseverance by the White Sox offense against Hughes paid off in the seventh. They had also threatened to break through in the previous two innings and settled for one run.

Melky Cabrera lined out hard to first base before Brett Lawrie singled to center, his second hit of the night. Sands, who earlier struck out with two in scoring position, quickly fell behind Hughes in the count 1-2. But Sands ripped into a cut-fastball from Hughes that caught too much of the plate and blasted it out to center for a two-run homer and a 3-0 lead.

“He had been front-hipping some cutters to me all night once he got ahead so I had an idea it was coming,” Sands said. “He had been throwing it pretty good all night and dotting it up pretty good, but luckily he left one out over the plate.

“I knew I got it good, but this park plays big especially at night. (Byron) Buxton runs about anything down out there, you see him turn around and run, hopefully it gets over his head. I was glad it went out.”

Sands started the game in place of Avisail Garcia, who is only 1-for-12 in his career against Hughes. Ventura opted for Sands because Hughes is actually slightly tougher against left-handed hitters than he is righties, who have a .759 OPS versus a .733.

That was enough to support Rodon and the four White Sox relievers who followed.

“That was awesome, man,” Rodon said. “That was a tough pitch, (cutter) away. He saw it was down, he got up and got it, hit it out.”

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Disappointed he allowed a pair of early runs and lost his first start last Wednesday, Rodon nicely rebounded in his second outing with solid fastball command. He threw strikes on 54 of 78 fastballs (69 percent).

Rodon retired six of the first seven he faced and then stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fifth innings of a nice duel with Hughes, who didn’t allow a hit until the fourth.

Rodon threw strikes on 64 of 107 pitches to deliver his 10th consecutive quality start. He has a 1.73 ERA in 67 2/3 innings in that span.

“When he needed to be, he bowed up and got through the sixth and was in tough spot and came through,” Ventura said. “For a young guy, that’s something you can put in your pocket and move on.”

Hughes retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced with five strikeouts. Only Jimmy Rollins reached with an infield hit in the fourth. The fifth inning began with promise as Cabrera singled and raced to third on a Lawrie double. But Hughes struck out Sands on three pitches and then got Alex Avila to strike out. Austin Jackson grounded out to third and the White Sox left two stranded in scoring position.  

Adam Eaton started a sixth-inning rally with a singled and scooted to third on Rollins’ second single. The White Sox went ahead 1-0 when Jose Abreu grounded into a double play.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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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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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.