White Sox

White Sox bullpen looks to rebound from first 'rough night' of 2016

White Sox bullpen looks to rebound from first 'rough night' of 2016

The White Sox bullpen was saddled with its first loss of 2016 when leading after seven innings on Tuesday night and it was an ugly one.

They were due.

Scott Carroll, Zach Duke and Matt Albers combined to give back a late five-run lead in a 13-11 loss to the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. Given their workload, particularly in a stretch where they’ve played 27 games in 28 days, a clunker for the White Sox bullpen was inevitable.

This one just happened to be painful.

Instead of looking for a second series sweep of the Rangers on Wednesday, the White Sox, who scored a season-high 11 runs Tuesday, face Cole Hamels with a series victory on the line.

“We’ve been using these guys a lot, and this is a game that you tip the cap,” Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters in Texas. “They didn’t give up. … Just an off night, bullpen-wise. That’s going to happen in a long season.”

Dating back to April 12, the White Sox have played games on all but one day (May 2).

They’re 18-9 during the stretch. Of those 27 games, only nine have been decided by five or more runs, and in three of those, late runs helped the White Sox pull away.

In that span, White Sox relievers have pitched 78 1/3 innings, an average of 2.90 per game.

On the season, the team’s Average Leverage Index — a measurement for the pressure of each relief appearance — is ninth in the majors at 1.039. So while White Sox relievers are only 21st in innings pitched, they’re almost always pitching in games where a three-run homer can decide it one way or the other.

Same as any other manager in baseball, Ventura often talks about how it takes an entire roster plus a number of guys in the minors to manage a season. If you turn to the back end of your bullpen every day, eventually they’re going to burn out.

Since April 12th, David Robertson and Nate Jones, who both allowed runs in Monday’s win, have appeared in 11 games. Duke, who leads the majors in games pitched at 20, has appeared in 15 games. Albers has 12 and Zach Putnam has pitched in 10.

The White Sox are currently without Jake Petricka, who is on the disabled list, and Dan Jennings pitched two innings Monday. 

That’s why Ventura opted for Carroll with a five-run lead — he can’t afford to lean that heavily on his core guys.

He picked a spot that gave his pitcher plenty of leeway for mistakes. And just like that, a five-run lead vanished.

You knew it would happen at some point.

But that won’t keep Ventura from trusting his guys again.

“As far as faith in these guys going forward, we have all that for them,” Ventura told reporters. “Tonight is just a tough night.”

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

0218-dylan-covey.jpg
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

0218-jose-abreu.jpg
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.