White Sox

Marcus Semien's advice for Micah Johnson: Work hard


Marcus Semien's advice for Micah Johnson: Work hard

OAKLAND — Having experienced a demotion in 2014, Marcus Semien advised Micah Johnson to not worry about the big picture and work hard at Triple-A.

Semien knows how disappointed Johnson must be after he was sent to Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday. Semien had a similar experience last June and rallied from a slow start for the Knights to hit .314/.431/.588 and 11 home runs and 37 RBIs over his last 53 contests.

He believes that performance coupled with a solid September with the White Sox has afforded him the opportunity of a lifetime.

An East Bay native, Semien — the main piece in a six-player trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox — is playing at home and is the everyday shortstop for the Oakland A’s.

“From Day One, my first conversation with Billy Beane was, ‘We want to play shortstop, we want to see you grow, if you make mistakes we want to see you get better from them,’” Semien said. “‘We’re going to give you the opportunity to do that.’ I just needed to take it and run with it.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

From an offensive perspective, Semien has done just that. He enters Sunday’s contest against the White Sox hitting .309/.352/.510 with six homers, 15 RBIs and six steals. Semien has struggled in the field (he has 11 errors) but Oakland expects it would take time to acclimate to the position after Semien moved around the infield with the White Sox.

Though his work ethic is strong as ever, Semien, who lives 12 minutes away from the ballpark and close to his family, said his preparation has significantly changed.

He only takes grounders at shortstop and hits in one of the first two groups in batting practice every day. Semien, who played college ball at Cal, misses working in the batting cage with White Sox hitting coaches Harold Baines and Todd Steverson. But he also knows he has it pretty good with the A’s, even though the team is off to a 13-25 start.

“I love where I’m at here,” Semien said. “I’m at home and I’m getting into my routine and I’m six weeks in, starting to learn a lot more about my swing and defensively about my footwork and everything else.”

Of his second trip to Charlotte, Semien said last September he saw it as a chance to get important work accomplished because he wasn’t as consistent as he wanted to be with the White Sox. Though there was a period of adjustment, Semien is glad he treated the opportunity as such because it may just have landed him here. He hopes Johnson sees his move the same way.

“You never know what might happen,” Semien said.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey


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


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.