White Sox

White Sox ace first chemistry test

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White Sox ace first chemistry test

Whether it’s in the form of Brett Lawrie hollering in the dugout or Melky Cabrera leading postgame dance parties, the White Sox feel like their clubhouse chemistry is already in a good place. 

Good chemistry, of course, doesn’t guarantee on-field success. But for a sport that has a 162-game regular season, having that positive vibe is one of those nebulously-important things to the 25 guys in a clubhouse. 

The White Sox didn’t have a clubhouse vibe during 2015’s disappointing summer, but it did take a while for the different personalities on the team to gel together. Just four games into the 2016 season, one of this year’s new acquisitions feels like the group he joined has already developed a certain cohesion. 

“We have a lot of new guys here and sometimes it takes a while for everybody to blend in,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “That first week, everybody kinda saw Brett Lawrie get the energy, get crazy, everybody loves it. We’re focused on Chris Sale dominating. We just got guys that fit in with each other from all different walks of life and natural abilities that they have.”

Chemistry isn’t necessary to winning, but Frazier said not having it can make it more difficult for a team to pull out of an early rut. The White Sox started off last season 0-3 and, outside of a late-July run, never seemed to dig themselves out of that hole. 

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Frazier offered an example of the effects of good chemistry: Players see Jimmy Rollins, a 17-year major league veteran, taking extra infield work and can be motivated to get better because of it. 

Outfielder Adam Eaton, who’s been here for the flat showings of 2014 and 2015, agreed, noting that the gelling of this group came quickly after arriving in Arizona for spring training. 

“Guys are all pulling in the same direction,” Eaton said. “We haven’t had that in the last couple of years. It’s a good feel.” 

Entering Friday’s home opener against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox had played 2 percent of their 2016 schedule. And winning three of four games against the Oakland Athletics certainly helps keep the clubhouse atmosphere an enjoyable, supportive one.  

Whether that means anything for the team’s success throughout the season remains to be seen. But for now, it’s a nice start — certainly better than last year’s.

“You have to win to be able to do it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “But you’re talking about guys who have been around a little bit and there’s different pieces that go with it. This seems to be a group that respects each other and enjoys being around each other but they can also play and that’s the biggest thing. 

“It’s always hard to put your thumb on it exactly how it happens, where it happens, when it happens. I think that was identified pretty early with these guys.”

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.