White Sox

Soccer helps White Sox stay loose in spring


Soccer helps White Sox stay loose in spring

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Their goal is to get 100 touches before spring training ends, but those pesky exhibition games could soon disrupt them.

One way a group of White Sox players has prevented themselves from overloading on baseball this spring is by playing hacky sack with a soccer ball in front of the White Sox complex.

Led by catcher Dioner Navarro, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Hector Sanchez, Jose Quintana and Avisail Garcia, among others, have played soccer every day since the full squad arrived last Tuesday. Players in the group slide and dive and use their head, knees, chest and feet to bump the ball into the air and keep rallies alive as long as possible. Headed into Wednesday’s round, the players’ top effort so far is 53 touches.

“Its baseball for seven months,” Navarro said. “I think this kind of helps your mind to get away from that. It’s great that we’ve got a lot of guys that like soccer and it’s a great form of conditioning. I believe it helps my footwork for catching and my arm.”

Quintana thinks it has an equally big impact on players’ minds, too.

The White Sox opened camp 13 days ago. Players and coaches have said there has been an emphasis on quality work over quantity this spring and are pleased with how camp has gone.

But with another month until Opening Day, players realize the need to break up the monotony of spring training.

Getting away from work for a few minutes when they can has value.

“It’s a good time,” Quintana said. “We’re taking a little (time) for relaxation. We’re unwinding. That’s good. Everybody likes soccer here and we think it’s a good moment to enjoy.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Abreu has taken more time to wind down, too. He’s in his third spring with the club, which means he’s more comfortable and confident the team knows just who he is.

Abreu’s work ethic speaks for itself. Players, coaches and members of the front office know he’s in camp for the work first and foremost. And now that they do, Abreu can afford to enjoy himself more often. He believes one byproduct of the fun is that he and his teammates are building chemistry that could be beneficial once the season begins.

“It’s another way to create good chemistry in the clubhouse,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s also a good way to spend more time here before you go to your house.

“Its important to try to do something different, something outside baseball. And here is in spring training is the time to do it.”

Abreu said Cabrera is the worst player of the group. He and Quintana also both agree that Navarro, who used to play soccer with Toronto Blue Jays teammates before regular season games, is the best. Navarro nominated Sanchez for the best player in the group.

Even though many in the group are working together for the first time, Navarro is impressed with the effort.

“We’re a team,” Navarro said. “Our goal is to get 100 touches.

“If we keep working on it, we can accomplish what we want.”

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey


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


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.