White Sox

White Sox fine with Cubs' Pedro Strop's emotional celebration

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White Sox fine with Cubs' Pedro Strop's emotional celebration

If Pedro Strop was ridiculed by Bob Costas for something as innocuous as pointing to the sky earlier this year, what would baseball purists think about the Cubs reliever ripping off two massive fist pumps following a late-game strikeout Friday afternoon?

Whatever firestorm Strop caused on social media after striking out Tyler Saladino with the tying run on second to end the eighth was quickly diffused by those inside the White Sox clubhouse following the Cubs’ 6-5 win at U.S. Cellular Field.

“It’s part of the game, it really is,” center fielder Adam Eaton, who Strop struck out before Saladino, said. “I think fan bases like it, I do. I think it brings a little bit of flair to baseball that hasn’t always been there. I think the old-time guys would say ‘Save it, get off the mound.’ But other people, including me, think it could be good for your team and can really push your team to the end. It was a big moment in the game and ended up being a key part. Hats off to him, he made his pitches.”

[MORE: Jeff Samardzija rocked as White Sox fall to Cubs]

The root of Strop’s celebration seemed to stem from gestures made in his direction by White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was on second base during Eaton and Saladino’s at-bats. Strop made a couple of body turns toward second base during his delivery, during which Ramirez said he light-heartedly tried to sign that he was close to the bag and there was no need to keep turning toward him.

"He kind of stole my attention a little bit on that one when he gave me that ‘No, no, no,’" Strop said. "I feel like he was kind of showing me up. I’m aware of the situation. I just put in my head: I don’t have to get you out. I can get the guy at the plate.

“Nothing personal," Strop added.

Explained Ramirez: “It wasn’t trying to disrespect him. It was just like, we’re okay, I was close. I don’t know if he took that in a bad way probably because of the intensity of the game. I don’t know what happened there.”

After fanning Saladino on a 3-2 slider, Strop turned toward Ramirez and unleashed his fist pumps, but the longtime White Sox shortstop didn’t have a problem with the pitcher’s exultation.

“It was (in) the heat of the game,” Ramirez said. “The moment, we were trying to get some runs. He (got) out of the moment without damage and that was the way he could celebrate that.”

[MORE: Lester or Arrieta? Who would Cubs start in one-game playoff?]

Thanks to Strop's escape, the Cubs won their eighth consecutive game in a row and hold a sizable lead over the San Francisco Giants for the National League's second wild card spot. The White Sox, meanwhile, slipped further down the American League playoff ladder and sit at five games under .500.

“I’m kind of an excited pitcher," Strop said. "I’m aware of the situation. I’m aware of the game. I’m aware of the importance of the inning that I’m pitching, the situation, and sometimes that gets me up.”

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.