White Sox

White Sox: Beltran's homer costly as Chris Sale nears strikeout record


White Sox: Beltran's homer costly as Chris Sale nears strikeout record

NEW YORK -- Chris Sale is close to setting a White Sox franchise record for strikeouts in a season. But he’s also on the verge of establishing a personal high for home runs allowed.

Sale struck out eight New York Yankees on Thursday night in a quest to surpass a mark set by Ed Walsh 107 seasons ago. He also left one pitch in the zone and Carlos Beltran made it count with a three-run homer as the White Sox dropped their ninth straight at Yankee Stadium, 3-2. One batter after Beltran homered, Sale earned the 1,000th strikeout of his career.

“Clearly you want to keep the ball in the yard,” Sale said. “I haven’t really done a great job of that this year at all. It happens.

“Clearly that’s not what I wanted to do. But it happens and you move on and you try to keep them rightwhere they are at.”

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Sale did shut down the Yankees after Beltran homered to give New York a 3-0 lead in the third inning as he retired 14 of 17. He also moved within two strikeouts of tying Walsh’s record (269), one Walsh established in 1908 in 464 innings pitched.

But a combination of an offense that -- surprise, surprise -- struggled again and a good guess by Beltran led to the sixth straight White Sox loss in a Sale start.

Sale -- who has 267 strikeouts in 2015 and has matched runs produced by Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez -- began the third inning by hitting Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury stole second base, but was ruled out on runner’s interference on a Chase Headley infield pop up. Sale walked Alex Rodriguez to put two on for Beltran. He got ahead 1-2 in the count with three straight fastballs before he left a 2-2 heater on the inside corner and Beltran ripped it over the left-field fence to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

“That was a good pitch today, smart hitter,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “If we threw anything else I can’t imagine (Beltran) was gonna have a good swing. It seemed like he really went for it and he was right. Good hitters do that from time and time and he evidently had a good idea we weregoing to try and do that and put a great swing on it. It was a borderline strike, a little in. Unfortunate time to have that happen. “Other than that, (Sale) threw the ball again great as usual.”

Sale allowed three earned runs and seven hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings and gave the White Sox a chance to rally against Michael Pineda and Co.

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Trayce Thompson got the White Sox on the board in the sixth inning with a solo homer off Pineda. An inning later, Thompson drew a bases loaded walk against Dellin Betances to get the White Sox within a run. But Betances struck out Adam LaRoche to leave the bases loaded. Thompson also struck out with the bases loaded in the third inning and the White Sox left two on in the fifth.

The White Sox left 10 on base and finished 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s all it takes,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s a professional at-bat by Beltran. He’s been a good hitter, clutch hitter. They have a lineup that’s full of those kind of guys. They’re a tough lineup to get through, and it just takes one, and one will get you when there are a couple of guys on. Three-run homers are killers, and this one was.”

The homer was the seventh allowed by Sale in his last four starts and he’s only one shy of the 23 allowed in 2013. While he leads the league with 11.92 strikeouts per nine and began the day with a 2.70 Fielding Independent Pitching, which ranks fourth in the majors, Sale has also seen an increase in homers allowed.

Whereas Sale yielded 0.67 homers per nine innings in 2014, he’s up to a career high 0.98 this season, the 34th most among qualified pitchers, according to fangraphs.com.

Flowers said he doesn’t know why Sale’s homer total has increased before adding, “there was a little something going on before but we’re past that now.” Flowers wouldn’t confirm if he meant Sale previously tipped his pitches.

Sale was also at a loss for why he’s allowed 10 more homers this season compared to 2014.

“It’s a question you’ll have to ask those guys really,” Sale said. “I don’t know. I assume most are on fastballs where I’m trying to go in and don’t really get it. That’s something I really couldn’t give you an exact answer on. It’s something I definitely need to clean up.”

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.