White Sox

Rick Hahn: Austin Jackson will mostly play CF for White Sox

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Rick Hahn: Austin Jackson will mostly play CF for White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A dynamic center fielder throughout his career, Austin Jackson will continue to play his best position with the White Sox.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Sunday night that Jackson, who signed a one-year deal for $5 million earlier in the day, would mainly play in center field when he’s in the lineup. Jackson has produced 49 Defensive Runs Saved in six seasons in center and has a career Ultimate Zone Rating of 11.8 there, according to fangraphs.com. Hahn also indicated that current center fielder Adam Eaton is open to moving around while still spending some time in center himself.

“Most of, if not all of, Austin’s time will come in center,” Hahn said. “Obviously, a high quality defensive player out there and a lot of his value comes from having him in that spot. As I talked about with Adam Eaton at the end of last season and a couple times over the offseason and once again this afternoon, we also view Adam as a very fine defensive center fielder. He was one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove in 2014 out there and we think we’re stronger certainly from a defensive standpoint when we have both Adam and Austin out there in that same outfield. Adam’s expressed a willingness to do whatever we feel makes the most sense on a given day to win a ballgame whether that’s playing center field for Adam or DHing or being on one of the corners.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox outfield would be considerably better than it was in 2015 with Jackson in center and Eaton on one of the corners. Last season, the White Sox ranked 26th among 30 teams in DRS with minus-22 and 29th in UZR with minus-26.8.

Jackson is expected to report to the club on Monday morning. Hahn thinks Jackson, 29, could be ready for game action in 7-10 days.

The signing gives the White Sox more depth at a position in which it was sorely needed and further safeguards against injuries. It also offers manager Robin Ventura more lineup flexibility and a chance to play the best matchups if either Avisail Garcia or Adam LaRoche doesn’t produce as hoped. Last month, Ventura said he wanted LaRoche to earn playing time with a good showing this spring.

“Nothing has been promised to anybody,” Hahn said. “Obviously, as you’ve heard us say time and again, you’ve heard from Robin, when it comes to making out the lineup, Robin’s mission simply is to put the best team out there on any given night that’s going to put us in the best position to win.

“He need not worry about contracts or pedigree or a player’s history with us. It’s about getting the right guys in the right position to win that night’s ballgame.”

Jackson also gives the White Sox a surefire answer if Eaton’s throwing shoulder isn’t quite ready. But Hahn became the latest member of the club to downplay concerns, noting that Eaton continues to progress. Last week, Eaton said he’s 100 percent certain he’ll be ready for Opening Day on April 4. While he hasn’t yet played in the field, Eaton has appeared in three of the team’s four games so far.

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.