White Sox

Mike Trout ignites American League to All-Star Game victory

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Mike Trout ignites American League to All-Star Game victory

CINCINNATI -- Mike Trout flashed the skill that puts him at the front of baseball's new generation, just moments after four of the all-time greats had just walked off the field.

Trout became the first player in 38 years to homer leading off an All-Star Game, then became the first player to take home the Midsummer Classic's MVP award two years in row.

A new-look All-Star Game finished with the same old result. The AL beat the NL 6-3 Tuesday night and will open the World Series at home for the 10th time in 13 years.

After Trout completed a career All-Star cycle in just his fifth big league season.Prince Fielder drove in two runs, sending Trout blazing home with the run offClayton Kershaw that put the AL ahead for good.

In an age of dominant pitching, Felix Hernandez, winner David Price, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances and Wade Davis took scoreless turns in the AL's third win a row.

A season after the retirement of Derek Jeter dropped the curtain on the turn-of-century greats, the 23-year-old Trout was among six starting position players under 25 -- the most since 1965. He was the MVP of last year's game in Minneapolis, when he hit a tiebreaking triple and later a go-ahead double.

This time Trout sent Zack Greinke's fourth pitch, a 94 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate, over the wall in right next to the visiting bullpen for an opposite-field homer.

Winner of his first season AL MVP award last year, the Los Angeles Angelsoutfielder joined Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Gary Carter and Cal Ripken, Jr. as the only two-time All-Star MVPs.

Fielder and Lorenzo Cain had run-scoring hits in the fifth against Kershaw, the reigning NL MVP, that put the AL ahead 3-1.

Manny Machado, at 23 another of the sport's fresh faces, hit a double off the right-field wall against Francisco Rodriguez in the seventh and scored on Fielder's sacrifice fly. And Brian Dozier, the last player added to the game as an injury replacement, hit a solo home run off Mark Melancon in the eighth.

Stars old and young gathered in one of baseball's most traditional towns. The Reds became baseball's first professional team in 1869, and players wore caps with horizontal stripes in an attempt at a 19th century feel.

Pete Rose, Cincinnati's hometown hero and baseball's banned career hits leader, was given an 80-second ovation when he walked onto the field before the game to join Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Barry Larkin, elected by fans as the Reds' greatest players. Wearing a red jacket and tie and walking stiffly, the now 74-year-old Charlie Hustle was applauded as soon as his image appeared on the video boards, even before he emerged from the AL dugout.

And in the first All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark, which opened in 2003, fans got to see some great ballplayers.

Bench, changed into a blue jacket, returned with Hank Aaron, Mays and Sandy Koufax, voted baseball's great living players by fans as part of the promotion. In a sentimental yet stunning reminder of generational change, Aaron, 81, and Morgan, 71, needed canes to reach the infield, and Mays, 84, was aided on and off the field by an assistant.

Above the field, new Commissioner Rob Manfred watched from a luxury suite, the first All-Star Game not presided over by Bud Selig since 1992.

Many players of the new generation love bling in a manner that puzzles Hall of Famers: Posey wore a gold-colored helmet behind the plate, looking a bit like the Great Gazoo or a Praetorian Guard, accessorizing with a chest protector, shin guards and cleats all with gold-colored trim. Baltimore's Adam Jones was shod in bright orange cleats, and Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain and Washington's Bryce Harper donned golden spikes.

Trout, a Generation Y star with a baby boomer work ethic, completed a unique cycle on a clear evening that followed a heavy afternoon downpour. He singled in his All-Star debut in 2012, doubled to open 2013 game and tripled in the first inning last year. He was just the ninth player to hit for an All-Star cycle in his entire career, joining an illustrious list that includes Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Mays. Fielder later became the 10th.

No one had homered leading off an All-Star Game since 1977 at old Yankee Stadium, when Morgan connected off Jim Palmer. Greinke, coming off five scoreless outings, had not allowed a run since June 13.

"It's not easy," Greinke said of pitching to Trout. "You've got like a 2-inch window up in the zone. If you throw it higher than that, he takes it. If you throw it lower he does what he did."

Dallas Keuchel, the AL starter with the long, bushy beard, gave up the tying run in the second after Paul Goldschmidt led off with a bouncer to third, reaching on an infield single and taking second as Josh Donaldson threw wildly. Goldschmidt crossed on Posey's groundout and Jhonny Peralta, an All-Star again after serving a 50-game drug suspension two years ago, dumped a two-out single into right field.

"It was the most amped up I've ever been," the Houston star said. "It was just the atmosphere -- the greatest players ever, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays."

The AL went back on top in the fifth against Kershaw, the first NL pitcher voted the league's MVP since 1968. Fielder lined an opposite-field single to left that scored Trout, who raced home from second to slide in ahead of Joc Pederson's throw, and Cain pulled the next pitch down the left-field line for an RBI double.

Andrew McCutchen homered off Chris Archer in the sixth, cutting the gap to 3-2.

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.