White Sox

Jose Abreu still likely to hit second for White Sox on Sunday

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Jose Abreu still likely to hit second for White Sox on Sunday

DETROIT -- Sounds like it’ll take more than a postponement to keep Jose Abreu from hitting second for the White Sox.

Though he joked a good night’s sleep could change his mind, White Sox manager Robin Ventura suggested he would keep his slugger in the second spot for Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers.

With the White Sox struggling against left-handed pitchers all season, Ventura wants his best hitter to get as many possible opportunities to hit and had placed Abreu second in Saturday’s lineup against Tigers lefty Kyle Ryan. Even though the game has been rained out, Detroit will start southpaw David Price and that is likely to keep Abreu hitting second for the first time in his career.

[MORE: Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game rained out]

“We’ve had a tough go left-handed wise,” Ventura said. “Shuffling it up enough to move him up and give him another opportunity if it’s there. I think with a lineup you tend to shuffle and find something that works and this looks like a good move right now, to be able to get him up there and something to shuffle the deck.

“We’ll see how it goes, but I like having him bat that many times, definitely.”

Surprised by the news but willing to do whatever he’s asked, Abreu said his approach wouldn’t change with the switch. Ventura doesn’t want the slugger to change, either.

Abreu hasn’t batted this high in the order since in his early days in Cuba. All of his starts with the White Sox have come with him hitting third or fourth.

“It doesn’t matter what spot in the lineup that I am,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The only difference now being in the second spot is that I’m probably going to get one more at-bat and I’m going to see more pitches.

“I’m going to keep my regular approach.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Jose Abreu jersey here]

Abreu even said he’s capable of bunting if it’s necessary, though Ventura made it clear he doesn’t want to see that. But Abreu said he works on bunting every day in batting practice and can do it if needed.

“They are there,” Abreu said of his skills. “I always try in BP to bunt. It’s not for the routine. I try to do it because you never know what situation in the game you have to do it. If the opportunity is for me to bunt, I’m going to bunt.”

Even though they signed Melky Cabrera to hit second, White Sox No. 2 hitters have a collective .220/.255/.257 slash line with the .511 OPS representing the worst numbers from any spot in their lineup. That .511 OPS from two-hole hitters ranks 30th in the majors, 94 points below the next worst team and 226 points below the .737 league average.

The White Sox have also struggled mightily against southpaws with a .563 OPS. They’re hitting .673 versus right-handers.

“I like him to be up there,” Ventura said. “That two hole for us has always been a rough spot. And with us facing lefties, we have enough righties to be able to fill in the rest of the spots. Just move him up and give him more opportunities.”

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.