White Sox

White Sox: Chris Sale earns tough loss despite 12 strikeouts

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White Sox: Chris Sale earns tough loss despite 12 strikeouts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The story on Sunday afternoon should have been entirely focused on another brilliant turn by White Sox ace Chris Sale.

Sale was outstanding in a fifth straight start, historically dominant for the fourth consecutive time.

But a storyline that has dominated the first 61 games of the 2015 White Sox campaign interfered once again. Despite myriad chances with runners in scoring position, the White Sox offense failed miserably in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

Sale recorded his fifth-straight double-digit strikeout performance with 12 whiffs but was saddled with the loss because of his offense’s inability to score. The White Sox finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and were limited to one or fewer runs for the 13th time in 61 games even though they had a runner at second base in each of the first six innings.

“It was phenomenal,” bench coach Mark Parent said. “Watching (Sale) pitch today was awesome.

[SHOP: Buy a Chris Sale jersey]

“The letdown is really not getting him some runs. But as far as the team goes, we need to start scoring some runs.”

The Rays made the most of their limited chances against Sale, who along with Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson is one of three pitchers since 1914 to strike out a dozen or more in four straight starts.

Sale continued a run in which he has posted video game-type number for six innings on Sunday, outpitching Tampa’s Nathan Karns. Using only 20 pitches between the fifth and sixth innings, Sale -- who has 59 strikeouts in his last five starts and 79 over seven -- set down 11 straight into the seventh.

But with the White Sox ahead 1-0, Sale issued a leadoff walk to Steven Souza Jr. in the seventh and Asdrubal Cabrera got just enough of a 1-1 fastball to hit it out to left field to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. Cabrera’s third homer is only the seventh allowed by Sale this season.

[MORE: Ramirez struggles with Saturday's defensive woes]

“It sucks pretty bad to have them pretty much where you want them and then a stupid mistake walking the guy and leave a fastball right down the middle and lose the game,” Sale said. “It was just a two-seamer that didn’t really didn’t do anything other than go a long way.”

That was the only time Sale really flinched in a 125-pitch effort.

He put the first two men he faced on in the first inning and struck out Evan Longoria and got two more pop outs. After two reached with one out in the third, Sale struck out Longoria and Logan Forsythe. He retired the side in order in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

The White Sox couldn’t make it stand up, however.

Following Gordon Beckham’s first hit in 25 at-bats, a double, the White Sox pulled ahead in the second inning on a one-out RBI single by Carlos Sanchez.

[MORE: Gillaspie's brother showing serious power in minors]

But that was all they would muster against Karns and three relievers despite their chances.

“Kind of this whole series it seemed like we hit the ball better than the results showed,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We battled at the right times, we just couldn’t get anything to fall in.”

The White Sox mixed a series of hard-luck outs with missed chances -- a poor concoction for Sale.

Adam LaRoche struck out and Avisail Garcia flew out with two on to end the first. Jose Abreu grounded out and LaRoche struck out with a man on second in the third. Beckham and Sanchez struck out with a man on second in the fourth while Alexei Ramirez grounded out and Abreu popped out in the same situations in the fifth. Beckham grounded out after Melky Cabrera’s two-out double in the sixth.

Rays relievers then retired eight of the nine batters they faced as Kevin Jepsen earned the save.

Sale didn’t point any fingers at the offense, which has produced 16 runs for him while he has been in the game over his last five starts.

“I’ve had more than my fair share,” Sale said. “Today was my night to pick them up and I didn’t. Plain and simple, I got beat.”

The lack of offense has added up to too many losses for the White Sox, who are 28-33.

Despite a cash infusion of more than $70 million this offseason, the White Sox are on pace to score 587 runs. The 2013 club, which lost 99 games, scored 598.

The offense has produced three or fewer runs 31 times in 61 games and the club is 5-26 in those games.

“Sooner or later it’s got to change,” Parent said. “We’ve got to start getting some hits. We’ve got to start chasing each other around the bases. That’s what people are doing to us. We need to do it to them.”

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.