White Sox

Rick Hahn on White Sox third base: 'We're working on it'

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Rick Hahn on White Sox third base: 'We're working on it'

NASHVILLE -- They don’t yet have the solution, but the White Sox think much-needed improvement at third base is there to be had.

Hours after they were linked to free agent Asdrubal Cabrera and Oakland A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Monday the team has identified some potential solutions for a position that has plagued them for nearly a decade.

Whether it was Conor Gillaspie, Mike Olt, Tyler Saladino or Gordon Beckham, four of the 22 different starting third baseman used since Joe Crede’s last game in 2008, the hot corner was ice cold at the plate in 2015. The group combined for a .611 OPS, which ranked dead last in the majors, 328 points behind the league-leading Toronto Blue Jays. While Hahn didn’t discuss specifics from his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, he did sound confident the White Sox could find the help needed to improve on that woeful performance.

“We think there are some avenues to go down to get better at third base,” Hahn said. “It’s obviously a position of need and any freely available talent that could potentially help us, we have checked it.”

[MORE: White Sox feeling confident at catcher with Navarro, Avila]

Hahn’s ideal answer would be a long-term third base the team could build around. They haven’t identified one of those since Crede, who last played on Sept. 2, 2008.

But the reality is the type of player he’d love to find isn’t available and Hahn is willing to adapt to the market if needed, meaning he’d sign or trade for a shorter-term option.

While Cabrera -- a .267/.329/.412 career hitter who had 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 136 games for Tampa Bay last season -- has been a shortstop for his entire career, the White Sox see him as a possible third baseman.

They also are one of three teams the San Francisco Chronicle said has interest in Lawrie, who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2018. With Danny Valencia on the roster, Jed Lowrie signed and Marcus Semien at shortstop, the A’s have a surplus of infielders and are determined to trade one.

Lawrie, who hit .260/.299/.407 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs last season, is the likeliest option, though Hahn wouldn’t address any rumors. What he would confirm is the White Sox have scoured every nook and cranny and looked at every possible candidate, which presumably includes Will Middlebrooks, David Freese, Juan Uribe and Todd Frazier, with a host of others. Though he seems pleased with what the White Sox know about the market, Hahn probably won’t be overconfident until the club has a solution.

“It’s kind of binary for me,” Hahn said. “We’ve either addressed it or we haven’t and as of right now we haven’t. But we’re working on it.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

As for the other spot on the left side, Hahn sounds as if he’s content to try Saladino if needed. Though Saladino struggled to hit last season (he had a .602 OPS), Hahn cited how he has traditionally improved in his second season at each level. He also likes the way Saladino defends, as do many in the organization. The White Sox see Saladino as a major league shortstop from a defensive standpoint, and if they can find enough offense around him, they wouldn’t shy away from using the second-year player.

“For a while now we felt real good about how he plays as a defensive player,” Hahn said. “The fact is he can help us defensively at three different positions with short possibly being his bestposition. It’s just a matter of figuring out what we’re surrounding him with and what we can reasonably expect from him offensively and how that fits into the whole.”

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.