White Sox

Robin Ventura hopes shakeup wakes up White Sox offense

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Robin Ventura hopes shakeup wakes up White Sox offense

TORONTO — After it looked as if they had a breakthrough on the road, White Sox hitters struggled at home last week.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he wants to shake things up a little and his lineup for Monday night’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays would suggest that. Even though the White Sox are facing right-hander Drew Hutchinson, Ventura inserted Gordon Beckham into the lineup, hitting second and playing third base. Catcher Geovany Soto and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio are also starting for the White Sox, who had a collective .196/.252/.290 slash line with four home runs and 15 runs scored during their seven-game homestand. With Beckham hitting second, everyone slides down one spot.

[MORE: At crossroads, White Sox hope to find answers on mega road trip]

“You’re trying to mix it, even Bonnie being in there,” Ventura said. “Defensively it helps you out as well. We’re a little bit stronger defensively with him in there.

“We haven’t hit on all cylinders, by any means. We haven’t had one guy, completely hot to carry us for a while. When that happens, you’ve got to be able to string together hits, put together an inning, keep the line moving, and it hasn’t been that consistent.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

For 14 games, the White Sox looked as if they finally had it figured out. The team averaged 4.9 runs per contest and went 9-5 during that stretch. But the team has cooled off and it’s not just one batter struggling. Tyler Flowers is hitting .202, Melky Cabrera has three extra-base hits in 179 plate appearances, Adam LaRoche has a .346 slugging percentage, Adam Eaton’s on-base percentage is .288 and Alexei Ramirez has a .252/.269/.358 slash line.

“To sit there and pin it on one guy, it’s the whole lineup that has to do it, and at this point it hasn’t clicked yet,” Ventura said. “You get spurts of it. You get a game or two or the last road trip we were on, you were seeing more of getting a hit when you need it, things like that. The last game we won, the execution in the eighth inning was good. You get a walk, base hit to right, get first and third and a sac fly. You’re looking for more of that consistently.”

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.