White Sox

Jose Quintana pushes White Sox to a much-needed 2015 first

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Jose Quintana pushes White Sox to a much-needed 2015 first

MILWAUKEE — The White Sox took another small step toward pulling themselves out of their early-season doldrums Wednesday night.

Behind Jose Quintana’s masterful seven innings, the White Sox beat Milwaukee, 4-2, at Miller Park to lock down their first road series win of the season. After losing Game 1 in Wisconsin, Chris Sale and Quintana turned in back-to-back strong outings to double the White Sox number of road wins on the season.

“For Chris to get the first one yesterday and Q coming back and almost going eight, it is important,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It's important to kind of get that mindset out there for those guys. I know that's what they want and it's good to get close to that.”

The White Sox entered this series at Miller Park with a major league worst 2-11 road record, though they hadn’t lost any of their five series at U.S. Cellular Field. But 97 miles north up I-94, the White Sox finally started to look like the team they thought they’d be, even if it came at the expense of the last-place Brewers.

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Quintana was handed a three-run lead before even taking the mound Wednesday. Melky Cabrera’s first-inning sacrifice fly scored Adam Eaton, who led off the game with a 12-pitch at-bat, and was promptly followed by back-to-back home runs from Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche. It was the first time in 2015 the White Sox hit back-to-back home runs.

The 26-year-old left-hander took it from there and said the comfort of an early lead helped as he faced one over the minimum through six. He ran into some seventh inning trouble, allowing leadoff singles to Khris Davis and Ryan Braun, but Emilio Bonifacio’s outstanding diving stop took away a hit from Carlos Gomez for the first out. Quintana shut the door on a swift Brewers comeback by striking out Adam Lind and Martin Maldonado to end the frame.

Quintana’s shutout was broken up in the eighth, but his final stat line remained impressive: Seven innings, one run, four hits, one walk and 10 strikeouts. He threw 80 of his 112 pitches for strikes.

“He threw great,” Ventura said. “He was throwing strikes, got ahead early. We got a nice lead for him there in the first. We had a rally early that was nice to see. He did it on his own. That's more of the stuff you expect out of him. When he throws strikes like that and is that aggressive, he's been good.”

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Pitching, defense, timely hitting and a couple home runs — that’s a pretty sound winning formula.

“Everything’s coming together,” Garcia said. “We had a bad road (trip two weeks) ago, so we have to keep working and hopefully everybody stays healthy.”

The White Sox aren’t getting ahead of themselves after taking these last three series, seeing as they’re still three games under .500 heading into this weekend’s set in Oakland. But there’s a confidence that, finally, the arrow is pointing up and they might just finally be entering an era of good feelings.

“We’ve had a good atmosphere in the dugout, the guys have been playing really hard, the offense is coming through, the pitching’s doing well,” closer David Robertson, who notched save No. 7 Wednesday, said. “We’re just playing a lot better brand of baseball now.

“… The good thing about baseball is you play 162 games so we have plenty of time to figure it out.”

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.