White Sox

Rios' reaping rewards with new plate approach

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Rios' reaping rewards with new plate approach

NEW YORK -- The White Sox havent yet reached the halfway point and Alex Rios is already only three home runs shy of equaling last seasons 13.

The veteran outfielder -- who is hitting .341 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in his last 32 games -- has a .836 OPS, his highest mark since he was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007. Though his comeback perhaps hasnt received as much attention as those of Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn, Rios is clearly played a significant role in the White Sox strong first half.

He enters Thursdays series opener at the New York Yankees with .302 average, 10 homers and 40 RBIs. Last season, Rios hit .237 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs. He believes his success is the result of simplifying his process at the plate.

Im focusing on having a good approach at the plate and Im leaving the mechanics out of the equation, Rios said. Im just focusing on my approach more than anything else. (Last season) was tough. Who wants to come to the field and do bad? Now Im focusing on this year.

Manager Robin Ventura thinks a key for Rios is he isnt as concerned about failure. Ventura also noted Rios is more comfortable in right field compared with center field and feels like he can contribute with his glove.

Rios moved to right this season after he spent the previous two years as the White Sox full-time center fielder.

This season, Rios has a 6.9 Ultimate Zone Rating -- a metric that measures the runs a player saves against an average defender at the same position -- in right field, according to fangraphs.com. Last season, Rios had a -7.4 UZR in center.

He feels like hes playing well and I think thats something that pushes guys over the top is hes not worried, Ventura said. In some ways, where guys get to that part where they are concerned about the consequences of not doing well, hes just playing. Hes confident enough he doesnt have to be concerned about results. He feels like hes going to contribute every day.

Rios -- who is signed through 2014 -- admits hes in a more comfortable spot than he was last season. He has done his best to put those struggles behind him. The way the White Sox have played thus far has made that task easier.

Last year is something of the past, Rios said. Im trying to help to us win games. Our team is pretty well-balanced. We have a good offense, good pitching. We have big name hitters who have been doing great and you have to be glad to be part of a team like that. Hopefully we can keep doing good and make the playoffs.

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.