White Sox

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts could challenge Adam Eaton for Gold Glove award

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts could challenge Adam Eaton for Gold Glove award

Adam Eaton added another highlight reel catch on Wednesday night to a campaign full of fantastic plays.

When the Rawlings Gold Glove finalists are named next month, Eaton is expected to be among them for the second time in three seasons. But as outstanding as the White Sox outfielder has been, he’s also sure to face a strong challenge from Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. With 2 1/2 weeks to go, Eaton and Betts appear to be in a tightly-contested race for the award. One factor that could disrupt Eaton’s chances — besides the fact that Betts is having an MVP-type season at the plate — is that the White Sox outfielder has 336 fewer innings in right field headed into Thursday.

“We’ve had to use him in center out of necessity,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “But in right field, I haven’t seen anybody that’s better than him this year.”

The numbers are close depending upon your defensive metric of choice. Eaton — who because of Austin Jackson’s injury has logged 344 1/3 innings in center field and 902 1/3 in right — holds a 24.0 to 16.8 edge over Betts (1,208 innings in right) in Ultimate Zone Rating in right field, according to fangraphs.com.

He also holds an edge in assists, with 15 of his 18 coming when he plays in right field. Betts has 13 assists. And Eaton leads in UZR/150 22.9 to 18.9.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

One area where Betts has a big lead is in Defensive Runs Saved as he’s produced a major-league leading 29. Eaton has 23.

Eaton feels good about his candidacy.

“Across the board it's been relatively good,” Eaton said. “Yeah, you take a lot of pride in that. We all talk in spring training about wanting to win a Gold Glove. It's always been on my list to win. I take a lot of pride in that. You work your butt off to be in a position to hopefully be in the top three and want to win every year. It takes effort and focus and some good luck and some great teammates.”

A finalist as a center fielder in 2014, Eaton has been superb in right field since he made the switch earlier this season. His routes have been smooth and his arm is not only strong, it’s extremely accurate. Eaton said the addition of Jackson in center allowed him to go out and play the outfield freely.

“When he’s in right, he just gets better jumps,” Ventura said. “I think it just suits his eye better, reading balls off the bat. Throws are better. He just seems to be online. You never know why a guy has comfort in that. But he is remarkably better in right.”

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.