White Sox

Uncharacteristic mistakes on defense hurt White Sox in 6-3 loss vs. O's

Uncharacteristic mistakes on defense hurt White Sox in 6-3 loss vs. O's

BALTIMORE — The White Sox haven’t given away many games this season, but Friday’s effort flooded the memory banks with ghosts of errors past.

Whereas sloppy play was omnipresent in 2015, clean baseball has been king for the White Sox and their hot start this season. But the White Sox defense hurt Carlos Rodon with two errors in the fifth inning and Nolan Reimold’s three-run home run got him later as the Baltimore Orioles sent the White Sox to a 6-3 loss in front of 19,912 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Reimold’s seventh-inning, opposite-field homer off Rodon broke a 3-all tie and led to a second straight White Sox loss. The White Sox are 3-2 on their seven-game trip with Mat Latos and Chris Sale scheduled to start their final two games.

“We just didn’t play good defense behind him,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn’t glove it very well, which is uncharacteristic of us. Bad night with the glove.”

The White Sox entered Friday’s game third in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, according to fangraphs.com.

While defensive metrics are hardly perfect, they at least give an indication of just how good the White Sox defense has been this season.

Last season, the White Sox were at or near the bottom among all 30 teams in both measures.

But this year’s sure-handed group has turned things around.

The steady play has been there on a consistent basis since spring training. The White Sox have made both routine and spectacular plays alike. Giving away outs and making pitchers work harder is a thing of the past.

Yet the defense sidetracked Rodon’s gem in the fifth inning Friday night and he never fully recovered.

While Rodon pointed to a leadoff walk he issued to Adam Jones in the fifth as the cause of his troubles, he did more than enough to get out of the frame with a 1-0 White Sox lead intact. With Jones aboard, Rodon induced a potential double play ball, but second baseman Brett Lawrie booted it and the Orioles had runners on the corners with no outs. Todd Frazier eliminated Jones on a rundown on the next play, however, as the runner got too far off the bag on J.J. Hardy’s grounder to third. But Baltimore kept the rally alive with an infield single by Reimold to load the bases and a two-run single by Jonathan Schoop.

Rodon looked like he got out of the jam again when he induced another grounder off Joey Rickard’s bat. But Jimmy Rollins slipped on his relay throw, which went into the stands and allowed the Orioles to pull ahead 3-1. The lead may have been larger had it not been for a perfect throw home by Adam Eaton to nail Rickard on Manny Machado’s two-out single.

“There’s not much you can do,” Rodon said. “When you walk the leadoff guy, that’s on me. It can’t happen. It’s a different inning if I don’t walk that leadoff guy. Say I get him out, and it’s a different, 1-2-3 inning. Those guys are trying as hard as they can. Those are the best players out there.”

Both Rodon and the White Sox offense responded nicely after the fifth.

The White Sox scored runs in the sixth and seventh innings as Jose Abreu singled in a run and Lawrie homered off Orioles reliever Brad Brach to tie it. The White Sox could have had more, but Jones thwarted a sixth-inning rally when he raced in to catch Melky Cabrera’s bases-loaded liner and fired a perfect one-hop throw home to nail Rollins for the final out.

Rodon then needed only eight pitches to get through the middle of Baltimore’s lineup in the sixth. But the Orioles jumped on him in the seventh with singles by Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy. Reimold then drove a first-pitch fastball from Rodon out to put the Orioles ahead for good.

The left-handed had been on cruise control for the game’s first four innings, using a strong slider to efficiently keep the Orioles under wraps. Rodon needed 55 pitches and had only allowed an opposite-field single as the White Sox led 1-0.

While alarmists might be concerned the team’s hot start is mirage and more sloppy play is on the way, Frazier said not to worry. The third baseman believes the White Sox had an off night on a sloppy field and clean play will once again reign supreme.

“It happens,” Frazier said. “Nothing you can do about it. We came back and tied it up. Rodon pitched a hell of a game, just that one inning. Things could have a different way here or there, but those mistakes will happen. We’re still good defensively, no problems there.

“It’s just the way it goes.”

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.