White Sox

No relief for White Sox as bullpen falters in loss to Rays

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No relief for White Sox as bullpen falters in loss to Rays

A steady force much of the season, the White Sox bullpen faltered on Monday night.

Mikie Mahtook singled with two outs in the ninth inning off David Robertson to lift the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-4 victory in front of 16,496 at U.S. Cellular Field. Robertson, Zach Duke and Jake Petricka all surrendered runs in consecutive innings as the White Sox lost for the fourth time in five tries to fall to 50-54. Jose Abreu and Carlos Sanchez both homered in the losing effort, and the White Sox stranded a man in scoring position after the potential tying run was thrown out at home with no outs in the ninth.

“They’re human — we know that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of his bullpen. “You regroup. We’ve been really good in those situations with those guys. They’ve been very effective for us, and it’s a tough one. It’s tough tonight. You come back and you get the lead and (Tampa Bay puts) up runs in every inning — the seventh, eighth and ninth — and it’s tough but you’ve got to be able to handle it and get back out there.”

Robertson looked as if he might get out of a jam in the ninth despite having runners on the corners and one out. After a walk of Logan Forsythe and a one-out single by Asdrubal Cabrera, Robertson struck out James Loney. He blew a first-pitch fastball by Mahtook, who entered the at-bat with a .161 average. But Robertson hung a 0-1 curveball, and Mahtook yanked it into left for a go-ahead single.

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Grady Sizemore hit a game-tying solo homer off Duke in the eighth inning. Sizemore also started a go-ahead rally in the seventh with a double off Jake Petricka, and he advanced to third on an error by Avisail Garcia. Evan Longoria doubled off Petricka to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

“It's not too often you're going to see Jake, myself and David each give up a run,” Duke said. “In my case, I threw a cutter that was supposed to be away and instead, it spun right in the middle of the plate right in his swing."

“It's a tough night. We take it hard out there for sure.”

What looked to be a slow night for the White Sox offense picked up in a hurry in the sixth inning. With one out and down two, Tyler Saladino slashed a single to right center, his team’s second hit of the game off starter Nathan Karns. Abreu followed the effort with a two-run, game-tying homer to center that just got over the glove of a leaping Kevin Kiermaier at the fence.

An inning later and down by a run, Garcia doubled to left center with one out off reliever Steve Geltz and moved to third on a wild pitch. With the infield in, Sanchez crushed a 1-1 fastball from Geltz for a two-run homer to right to put the White Sox ahead 4-3.

Down a run, the White Sox continued to fight in the ninth as Alexei Ramirez singled off Brad Boxberger and stole second base. Adam LaRoche then singled to shallow center, but Ramirez was sent home by third-base coach Joe McEwing and thrown out easily with LaRoche advancing to second on the play. Boxberger struck out Garcia and Sanchez lined out to right field to strand the tying run.

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.