White Sox

White Sox draftee Carson Fulmer has put himself on team's radar

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White Sox draftee Carson Fulmer has put himself on team's radar

MESA, Ariz. — Carson Fulmer has made progress on his biggest goal and concurrently put himself on the White Sox map this spring.

The team’s most recent first-round pick delivered his best spring performance to date on Sunday in a 6-2 White Sox victory over the Oakland A’s at Hohokam Stadium. Fulmer struck out four batters in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, his second straight game without yielding a run. He limited Oakland to one hit and walked two in the relief appearance.

The outing is exactly the kind of development the White Sox hoped for from the Vanderbilt product this spring. But Fulmer — who has a 4.15 ERA in 8 1/3 innings pitched — said his main focus has been to get comfortable pitching in the majors.

“I’ve played on a big stage at Vanderbilt,” Fulmer said. “I’ve played in front of some big crowds. But this is different. You’re playing with the best of the best and, for me, the only way I’m going to get better is if I get thrown out there, but more importantly facing those guys and getting comfortable. Obviously, there are some pitching things and a couple things I wanted to tweak and the knowledge that Don Cooper has, I’m definitely going to soak up. But taking everything I’ve done so far and getting out there and facing the best of the best, that’s the only way I’ll get better and surrounding myself with the guys that have the success and knowledge that has gotten them here in the first place.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Odds were that Fulmer would have received a fair amount of attention no matter what this spring. Players taken eighth overall in the draft normally do. But the right-hander has opened some eyes on the coaching staff, manager Robin Ventura said. While he almost certainly starts the season in the minors, Fulmer has potentially made himself a viable candidate for open spots later in the season.

“He’s jumped up there pretty high,” Ventura said. “Coop’s excited about what he’s been doing down here, making some adjustments and really putting himself on the radar for a couple of needs that might arise. He could probably fill both of those. Just an impressive young guy and is very mature and is learning very quickly as he goes along.”

Fulmer has worked on adding a cut-fastball and split-changeup to his repertoire. He feels good about working with five pitches instead of three. The right-hander said he already has begun to learn how important it is to command all of his pitches to be successful. But just as important is the impact of seeing how his stuff plays against big league hitters.

[MORE: Wrist contustion sidelines White Sox OF Avisail Garcia]

“It gives me confidence,” Fulmer said. “When you look at the best pitchers in baseball, the (Chris) Sales, the (Clayton) Kershaws, they have confidence. They know their stuff is good, they can throw it at any time, and they know they can get people out.

“It’s experience at this point. Everybody has a great arm, everybody has electric stuff. But it’s being able to go out and compete and not get unfocused on the little things that get some guys in trouble.”

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.