White Sox

White Sox like the direction Matt Davidson is headed

mattdavidsonwhitesox032316.png

White Sox like the direction Matt Davidson is headed

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hitting coach Todd Steverson has worked closely with Matt Davidson for more than two years in an attempt to refine his approach at the plate.

They’ve dissected where the White Sox minor-leaguer needs to be, tried to identify problems and searched for solutions.

Finally, something has clicked for Davidson, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Addison Reed in December 2013. He made several adjustments early in the offseason and spent all but three days hitting. Steverson immediately noticed a difference when Davidson -- who’s hitting .452/.469/.871 with four home runs and seven RBIs in 31 at-bats this spring -- attended a hitter’s mini-camp here in January.

“That was probably the first time where I was like, ‘OK. I like that,’ ” Steverson said. “ ‘That’s right on line with what we’ve all been talking about. How did you end up getting there?’"

Two years of inconsistency have gotten him here. Two chances at September callups on losing teams with no solutions at third that have been submarined by too many strikeouts and a sub-.675 OPS have pushed him. He has gone from the team’s third baseman of the future to watching as they traded for Todd Frazier in December.

But he’s here. And as one AL scout said, Davidson’s swing is simpler and allows him to tap into his power -- the 24-year-old’s best asset -- more easily.  

Davidson said it’s the product of his offseason program as he identified a way to work effectively and has stuck to it.

“It’s really just hard work, doing the routine every day,” Davidson said. “I get out there every day at the same time and battle it out and no matter how I’m feeling or whatever, I’m making sure to get that work in. I heard a quote that “try to come in and learn your swing new like you’ve never done it before, like it’s a new skill. So I’ve kind of taken that in to my day and learning it from the ground up every single day.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Suddenly, Davidson is in the mix for the final bench spot on the White Sox 25-man roster --- “that’s part of the discussions,” manager Robin Ventura said. He, Travis Ishikawa, Jerry Sands and Carlos Sanchez are vying for the final spot.

Unlike Sands, Davidson does have minor-league options left, which could hurt him. The team also may wish to see Davidson continue to produce this way at Triple-A Charlotte.

But there’s no question that Davidson has opened some eyes. Ventura believes the past two years may be powering these changes.

“Sometimes that can be the end of it, and I think he’s used it for the good,” Ventura said. “You can use it as fuel to be able to ride it out the rest of your career, knowing you’re able to handle it and get over it and shorten stretches that are like that.

“You’re seeing a different guy.”

Said Davidson: “I knew that this was a pretty big year and I needed to make some changes and really spend some quality time with myself and the bat in the cage and I did that and I kind of figured some things out.”

Curious by the change, Steverson wanted to know how Davidson had reached this point. Steverson is more than satisfied with the answers. He has since been convinced by seeing the work that has gone in and the results that have come out it. Steverson is hopeful he’ll continue to see more of the same.

“He kind of explained it real quick,” Steverson said. “I said ‘Good, as long you’re comfortable with it I’m in.’ He stuck with it and half the battle is sticking with something. Obviously, coming out and being able to put it forth in the game is kind of like the cream on top of the cake. He knows what he wants to do now. He has a definitive routine in the cage. He has a definitive thought process. Hopefully it translates into the ability the organization figured he had when we made the trade for him. For me, he’s doing exactly what he needs to do.

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.