White Sox

Manny Machado homers three times as O's rout Shields, White Sox

Manny Machado homers three times as O's rout Shields, White Sox

James Shields ran into Manny Machado at the wrong time.

Shields had his worst outing of the season on Sunday afternoon and Machado homered three times as the Baltimore Orioles routed the White Sox 10-2 in front of 31,040 at U.S. Cellular Field. The right-hander allowed eight earned runs and six hits, including four home runs, in 1 1/3 innings and the White Sox dropped back to a season-worst five games under .500.

Jose Abreu doubled, singled and homered in the loss. J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis also homered for Baltimore.

“I was pretty much bad all-around,” Shields said. “I wasn’t in my spots, I was leaving the ball out over the plate and they were capitalizing. You can’t do that to this team — they’re too good of a team and I’ve got to do a better job today overall. There’s no excuse — no excuse whatsoever for that today.”

Shields, who allowed 32 runs (31 earned) in a four-game stretch earlier this season, finished with a Game Score of minus-15. His previous worst this season was minus-1 when he allowed 10 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings on May 31 for the San Diego Padres, his final start before he was traded to the White Sox.

Much like those efforts, it didn’t take long to determine Shields didn’t have it.

After a one-out single by Hyun Soo Kim, Machado blasted a 90-mph fastball out to center from Shields to put the Orioles ahead by two runs. Shields hit the next batter (Chris Davis) and walked another but escaped without further damage.

“If it's not there it's not like he's throwing 98 and that makes up for it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He's got to locate. I know he was upset with the first one Manny hit that came back over the plate. You've got a guy that was extremely hot today and is one of the best players in the game. You can't make mistakes like that. (Machado) just single-handedly put us in a hole.”

Shields wasn’t as lucky in the second inning as J.J. Hardy’s solo homer with one out made it 3-0. Shields then hit a batter and walked another before Machado deposited a cut-fastball into the left-field bullpen for a three-run homer.

Davis followed with a homer and a Steve Pearce double knocked Shields out of the contest. He walked two and hit two as he dropped to 5-14.

“It’s been a crazy season for me,” Shields said. “But like I said, today – there’s no excuse for that. I’ve got to do a better job of focusing and making my pitches and we’ve just got to move on from there.”

Machado also blasted a two-run homer off reliever Matt Albers in the third inning as Baltimore took a 10-0 lead. He became only the second player in major league history to homer in the first, second and third innings, matching Carl Reynolds, who previously accomplished the feat on July 2, 1930.

Prior to Machado, Paul Konerko was the last player to homer three times in a game at U.S. Cellular Field when he did it July 7, 2009. Justin Morneau was the last visitor to hit three homers at U.S. Cellular Field when he did it in the second game of a doubleheader on July 6, 2007.

Machado grounded into a double play against Tommy Kahnle in the fifth and flew out against Carson Fulmer in the seventh inning. He also grounded out in the ninth inning against Michael Ynoa in his bid to become the 17th player in baseball history with four homers in the same game.

“I’ve been trying to find my swing,” Machado said. “This whole series I’ve been kind of squaring up some balls, which is fun. Today they finally went out the ballpark. The ball was going out a little bit, so that helped. It was an overall great day.”

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.