White Sox

Jimmy Rollins likes opportunity to 'fight for a position' with White Sox

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Jimmy Rollins likes opportunity to 'fight for a position' with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He had other nice options, but Jimmy Rollins feels like he took the best opportunity he was presented with this offseason.

On Thursday, the newest member of the White Sox expressed his desire to play baseball is still very strong.

After participating in his first workout, Rollins identified playing time as the primary reason he bypassed other clubs’ proposals, including one with a guaranteed roster spot, to sign with the White Sox. Rollins doesn’t have the same guarantee here after he signed a minor-league deal on Monday. But he does have the chance to take over as the team’s starting shortstop if he wins the job, and that’s exactly what Rollins wants.

“This was the place that I could come in and fight for a position,” Rollins said. “I had a couple of other places to go to with some guaranteed spots. But no matter how well I was going to do I was going to be a ‘super-utility,’ is what they like to call it these days. So I have an opportunity to come in here and fight for a position.”

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Three days after he signed a deal that could pay him $2 million, Rollins checked in to big league camp and began to make his presence felt.

Just as the White Sox suspected when they signed him, all eyes were fixed on the 37-year-old veteran as he made his way through the clubhouse. Prospect Tim Anderson, whom is excited to learn from Rollins, shared several moments with his potential mentor throughout the morning. Pitcher Mat Latos made his way over to Rollins several times while prospect Carson Fulmer -- who had to surrender his plush locker stall to make room for the veteran shortstop -- said he looked forward to the right moment when he could approach Rollins.

Rollins also reunited with former teammates Jim Thome and Aaron Rowand and spent a lot of time talking to third-base coach Joe McEwing in between completing his first workout.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes the ease with which Rollins had as he made the rounds.

“It’s a good fit right now,” Ventura said. “He’s been around a lot of different players and characters. So it’s not like he’s coming over here without his own experiences. But he likes to have fun.”

Rollins made that very clear in his media session. Before the cameras turned on, the 5-foot-7 shortstop made a wise crack that he wished he had a “Tom Cruise” box to stand on to be taller for the cameras. He also said that Anderson didn’t inform him that he considered Rollins a hero, which the Oakland, Calif. native joked he enjoyed for another reason.

“He didn't tell me the hero part,” Rollins said. “That's actually pretty cool. Any time a tall guy chooses a short guy to be the hero is pretty awesome. I'll talk to him, give him my number, go out to dinner, talk about anything. If he asks questions, hopefully I can answer.”

Though they believe he still has enough talent to succeed, the White Sox want answers on how much Rollins has left. He may be in the lead to take over as the team’s starting shortstop, but he first has to win a competition with Tyler Saladino.

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Last season, Rollins’ offensive numbers slipped as he produced a career low .643 OPS for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When it comes to Rollins, executive vice president Kenny Williams said he’s in “wait-and-see” mode.

“All of our information suggests that he still is a very talented player,” Williams said. “He’s not the MVP guy that he used to be and we know that. But he can help on a team that has championship aspirations. Now, to what degree? That will be shown in spring training, that will be shown in his work, that will be shown and talked about in countless meetings as we go forward and we’ll come out of spring training with a plan.”

Headed into his 17th season, Rollins is more than OK with the situation he’s in. He said he’d like to play until “they take the uniform” away and feels like he’s physically prepared to work himself into baseball shape. He likes the idea of working with Anderson and Saladino. Rollins also realized he knows more people in the clubhouse than he previously thought.

And, of course, he has the chance to win a starting job.

“That's what you want, an opportunity to control your playing time and you dictate that as opposed to having to walk into a situation,” Rollins said. “If (a bench spot is) your only option, you take it. But I had an option to fight for a starting spot and I'm here.”

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.