White Sox

Melky Cabrera emerging as clubhouse leader for White Sox

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Melky Cabrera emerging as clubhouse leader for White Sox

Melky Cabrera is doing more for the White Sox than powering a lineup that’s pushed the White Sox to eight wins in their last 10 games.

The 30-year-old outfielder, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal in December, has begun to fill the leadership void in the White Sox clubhouse. Cabrera’s pushed the various hand gestures — like stirring the drink — that White Sox players use after getting big hits.

“He’s a great player, but he’s a better teammate,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through a translator. “He’s always happy. He’s always trying to find a way to keep the atmosphere loose and to keep everybody happy. His influence has been huge for us. That kind of personality is something that you need in a team, and I hope he can continue doing that, because that’s very important for us.

“… He is the leader, because of his performance, because of his personality, because of how he is. That’s the key for him and he’s a huge, huge influence for us.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Over his last 47 games entering Sunday, Cabrera is hitting .358 with a .980 OPS. He has six home runs, 18 doubles, two triples and 35 RBIs, and it’s no coincidence the White Sox are 25-22 during his resurgence.

The White Sox have scored 70 runs over their last 10 games, with Cabrera driving in 15 (21 percent of the total) and posting a 1.486 OPS. His on-fire stretch has upped his season slash line from an awful .226/.263/.258 to respectable .285/.325/.403.

It’s unfair to expect him to keep hitting at a level that would make Barry Bonds look weak, but manager Robin Ventura anticipates Cabrera will continue to be a big part of the White Sox August and September playoff push both as a hitter and a clubhouse voice.

[MORE: Still in Chicago, Samardzija sees White Sox as contenders]

“At first, it’s tough to be that (leader) when you feel like you’re not pulling your weight at times,” Ventura said. “And he was good with it either way. He’s been a great teammate all year. Now, it’s just easier for guys to let it go and get the same feeling from him when he’s doing well. They react to him the same way. It’s been a nice little run for him the same way, not only on the field and hitting, but what he does inside the clubhouse as well.”

With so many new players at the start of the season, it took a little while for this group to jell. Playing better — especially on defense — has helped, but Cabrera’s helped bring his teammates together as well.

“It’s team-wide, it’s not limited to just a couple guys, or just limited to guys who speak Spanish,” Ventura said. “It’s all the way around. I think everybody seems to be gravitating towards that. And he’s able to handle it, deal with it, and be able to really keep the focus on the game and having 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.