White Sox

White Sox, Alex Avila not too worried about catcher's sore lower back

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White Sox, Alex Avila not too worried about catcher's sore lower back

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Alex Avila said his lower back stiffens every spring as his body adjusts once again to catching on a regular basis.

This latest round, which forced the White Sox catcher to exit Saturday’s 9-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds early, is actually tamer than most. Avila — who said he felt his back grab during a third-inning at-bat — said he’s being cautious and isn’t overly concerned. Avila is listed as day to day with a sore lower back.

“Normally I get a little stiff back every spring training,” Avila said. “I’m a lot better. You see I’m standing up straight. Usually I’m hunched over for a week. But I didn’t want it to get to that point.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“Something I deal with every single year.”

Avila knows to expect a stiff back. The veteran said he has felt some stiffness over the past week and will re-evaluate on Sunday. But the soreness is part of breaking his body in after four months of being off — an aspect of the game that can’t be replicated in any workout.

“It’s like I’m breaking in my body to catch again,” Avila said. “Once I get over it, I normally don’t have any issues.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said the move is more about precaution than anything. At this point, Ventura doesn’t anticipate anything serious.

[MORE: Jose Abreu has worked on scooping throws out of dirt]

“He was walking around all right,” Ventura said. “It tightened up on him somewhat. Going through that game you’re not going to risk it.”

Even if he misses a few days, Avila has had plenty of time to accomplish what he needs. His body has felt good for all but the past few days as he has worked back into baseball shape. And Avila has caught every pitcher likely to make the team’s Opening Day roster.

“Spring has gone really smooth this year,” Avila said. “I mean, despite today for me physically, I feel really good. Usually I’m, when it comes to my back, I’m a little more hunched over. But everything has gone really smooth as far as catching the pitchers, getting to know those guys and forming those relationships.”

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.