White Sox

Justin Morneau's unique friendship with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder

Justin Morneau's unique friendship with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder

He didn’t see the image until afterward, but there stood Eddie Vedder in the Safeco Field stands last September clutching a sign rooting on Justin Morneau.

The Pearl Jam frontman and White Sox designated hitter have been friends for the past five years. Vedder attended a game with his own family late in the 2015 season when Morneau, then with the Colorado Rockies, played a road series in Seattle. Vedder grabbed the sign his two daughters had made and thought it would be funny to have a photo taken.

“It’s pretty crazy when you think about it,” Morneau said. “I think he sees it a lot at his shows and I’m sure people bring signs to his shows all the time and they thought they’d make a sign, which was pretty cool to see one of the greatest rock stars of all-time holding up a sign with your name on it. That’s pretty humbling. Pretty neat. I didn’t really expect that, but to see it was pretty cool.”

Current Cubs radio analyst and former Minnesota Twins player Ron Coomer introduced Morneau to Vedder, who is also friends with former White Sox great Paul Konerko and a number of baseball players. Morneau remembers running into the recently retired Konerko at an October 2014 show in Denver. Morneau also encountered Baltimore Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo at another Pearl Jam concert.

Morneau said he and Vedder have run into each other on the road several times and leave tickets for each other -- “a fair trade off, I think,” he said. Morneau’s favorite show was on Vedder’s solo tour when he and his wife were seated in the front row.

“I think we respect how difficult their job is, the travel and all the rest that goes into it and how hard they have to perform every night and they respect what we do, how difficult it is to hit a baseball and being away from our families,” Morneau said. “I think there’s a mutual respect there that makes the relationship pretty neat.”

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Morneau remembers when Pearl Jam released the schedule for its current tour, which ends Monday night. He said seeing Pearl Jam at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field became a priority if it was doable. It just so happens that the White Sox are off on Monday when Pearl Jam is playing the second of two shows. They also played on Saturday night.

Morneau plans to attend the show with his wife and several friends who are coming in from out of town.

He doesn’t plan on bringing a sign.

“It’s one of those ones when it was announced, I was going to try find some way to get there and it happens to work out that we have a day off,” Morneau said. “It should be a lot of fun.”

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.