White Sox

Nearly six years after trade, McCarthy returns to U.S. Cellular Field

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Nearly six years after trade, McCarthy returns to U.S. Cellular Field

Seven years ago, Brandon McCarthy was a highly touted youngster contributing to the White Sox eventual run to the 2005 World Series. And the 17th-round pick of the Sox in 2002 was living up to his hype as the top pitching prospect in the organization.

As the regular season wound down and Cleveland closed on the White Sox, McCarthy turned out to be an invaluable piece of the team's starting rotation, throwing 14 23 scoreless innings over starts in Texas and Boston Aug. 30 and Sept 5. He made three starts in the final two weeks of the season and had a 2.33 ERA with 13 strikeouts and three walks in those 19 13 innings.

But McCarthy only started two games in 2006, serving mainly as a long reliever. He struggled, allowing 17 home runs with a 4.68 ERA in 84 23 innings. After the season, McCarthy was traded to Texas in the deal that landed the White Sox John Danks. Despite Danks' issues in 2012, the deal stands as one of the best ever executed by Kenny Williams.

While Danks flourished in Chicago, McCarthy floundered in Texas, dealing with ineffectiveness and a spate of injuries. He only started 44 games in three years with the Rangers, and had a 4.68 ERA in those outings.

But McCarthy re-emerged with Oakland in 2011 and was fantastic, as his 3.32 ERA and 12325 strikeout-to-walk ratio shows. He's been banged up in 2012, but in 12 starts the 29-year-old had a 2.54 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 19 walks.

And Friday, he'll make his first start at U.S. Cellular Field since being dealt on Dec. 23, 2006. Five and a half seasons have passed, with some major ups and downs. There was probably a time seven years ago when some figured McCarthy would be a staple of the White Sox rotation for years to come.

There were plenty of reasons to believe that notion, too. And the thought of McCarthy going nearly six years between starts on the South Side of Chicago was ludicrous.

One more note on McCarthy: He's among the best athletes to follow on Twitter, tweeting stuff like this:

Siri, how do you get Josh Hamilton out? Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) May 12, 2012
He'll pitch tonight against Gavin Floyd as the A's look to widen their lead on the Angels in the AL Wild Card race, while the White Sox will try to at least maintain their one-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet with White Sox Pregame Live.

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.

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.