White Sox

Prospect Frankie Montas has impressed White Sox coaches

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Prospect Frankie Montas has impressed White Sox coaches

DETROIT -- When he pitched in two All-Star contests earlier this summer, Frankie Montas was more than willing to show off his 101-mph fastball when he could.

But though he only arrived in the majors three weeks ago, the White Sox rookie has already begun to learn the value of a well located four-seamer.

Working with reduced velocity (it’s still 95-97 mph) Montas has impressed the coaching staff in five relief appearances. Primarily a starter in the minors, Montas has handled the transition well with a 1.13 ERA in eight innings with 10 strikeouts and four walks.

“I feel like the key is I’m not trying to do too much with my fastball,” Montas said. “Just throwing it and trying to hit the spot and trying to throw strikes so I can get outs.”

Since he was called up on Sept. 1, Montas, whom baseballamerica.com has tabbed the No. 91 prospect in baseball, has thrown 61.5 percent of his fastballs for strikes, according to brooksbaseball.net.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

In a scoreless inning Sunday, Montas averaged 97 mph with his fastball. His average was down a tad as four of his nine fastballs were balls, but he paired it with a nasty slider en route to two strikeouts and a weak groundout.

When he pitched in the Futures Game in July, teammates prodded Montas to throw a triple-digit fastball and he did. But he also allowed three runs and four hits in 2/3 innings. Montas said he also lit up the radar gun upon request at the Double-A All-Star Game, though he only allowed a hit and recorded an out in that one.

“What good is 101 if it’s nowhere near the glove?” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “I’d rather 93 to the glove and location than 95, 96 or 97 nowhere near it. He’s exhibiting strikes with his fastball and some strikes with his breaking ball. We haven’t got to see his changeup all that much, but that’s another work in progress.

“He’s now on his path and right now with X amount of games left he is doing everything that a guy should do to try to show everybody his ability.He’s making the best use of the opportunity he’s been given.”

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Similar to the way they’ve slowly broken Trayce Thompson in, the White Sox have used Montas in friendly situations so far to build his confidence. He has only appeared in relief but the White Sox believe he can be a major league starter. They hope to get Montas one start before the season is out, perhaps as early as Wednesday, though those plans are up in the air because of Monday’s doubleheader.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes how Montas uses his fastball-changeup combination.

“He looks like (a starter),” Ventura said. “Every time he goes out there, it gets a little better. There’s more confidence with him going out there throwing different pitches.

“There are some guys who throw it 98 or 99, but they get hit a lot. I think there’s some deception in the way he throws. And the offspeed stuff that he has, it will hide that.”

In a very small sample size, the opposition has a .214/.313/.250 slash line against Montas in 32 plate appearances. He’d love to get a chance to start and thinks he could go relatively deep if he did. Because he’s been in the bullpen for three weeks, it more likely would be a 3-4 inning stint for Montas, Ventura said. Either way, Montas plans to enjoy the final two weeks of the season.

Perhaps even more important, he knows what he needs to do.

“Right now everything I’m trying to do is command my fastball, try to hit the spot and not try to be perfect, just try to hit the spot and throw strikes,” Montas said.

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.