White Sox

White Sox: Early struggles don't worry Adam LaRoche

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White Sox: Early struggles don't worry Adam LaRoche

He has never figured out why he struggles in April, but Adam LaRoche at least has an idea how to handle himself.

The White Sox designated hitter/first baseman’s .716 career OPS for April is 76 points lower than his next lowest month (June) and 95 below his overall .811.

While he’s frustrated, LaRoche, whose homer Saturday is only his second hit in 17 at-bats this season, knows he needs to slow down the process, that ramping it up can only do more damage. He hopes his teammates can shake off their early struggles as well and let their ability take over.

“When you struggle and you’re losing games, it makes it really tough,” LaRoche said. “If you’re struggling and you’re still winning games, you can get through that and it’s fine. But when you have a chance to help the team out and not do it — just as a group we need to relax and realize how good we are and let it happen.”

Whether it was the flu or a sore back, LaRoche missed a fair amount of time in spring training. He finished with 46 official at-bats but also played a few minor league games to get up to speed. While LaRoche has hit three balls hard, one resulted in a double and the other robbed by Lorenzo Cain, he’s still trying to get his feel at the plate.

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He’s also acclimating to his new DH role, something that is an adjustment but one he expects to make. Having indoor cages at his disposal helps, too.

“It’s different but I’ll get used to it,” LaRoche said. “It’s a lot easier here. Spring training you can’t go anywhere. Here you’ve got a cage down here and you can move around, go get some swings in between at-bats. It’ll be a little break-in period here but I’ll be fine.”

Manager Robin Ventura knows how much of an adjustment it is to go from the field to DH. Players have to find a way to stay busy and keep themselves focused. Though it has only been a few days, Ventura likes how LaRoche has handled it.

“You don't feel like you're really in the game as much as you do when you've always been a guy on the field,” Ventura said. “It can become an uncomfortable thing for some guys. He's getting better at it. He has some good guys to lean on and try to kind of get that feeling back. He's done well with it so far. He's not a guy for excuses.”

LaRoche also isn’t a guy who panics. He has been down that road before during his 11-year career and knows self-inflicted damage is the worst kind. The experience gives him confidence he’s due for a hot streak.

“This is nothing I haven’t been through before,” LaRoche said. “I’ve had a lot of years where it has taken me a minute to get going. The bright side there is I’ve been through it before. A younger me would get really frustrated, but I know that doesn’t help accomplish anything.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

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.