White Sox

White Sox hope Wednesday's surreal atmosphere was one-time event

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White Sox hope Wednesday's surreal atmosphere was one-time event

BALTIMORE -- They didn’t know what to expect from the first closed stadium game in baseball history, but if they have their choice the White Sox won’t do it again.

Whether it was 45,900-plus empty seats, a lack of atmosphere, a stadium so quiet you could hear everything or even the glare off the seats, the White Sox didn’t enjoy their surroundings during an 8-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Here’s a collection of what five White Sox players and coaches thought of the scene:

[MORE: Orioles rout White Sox in historic game]

— Second baseman Micah Johnson: “Can’t even compare it to anything, but it was definitely weird. You guys were there. It’s quiet, there’s nothing going on. You hear everything. Obviously it was better for the Orioles than us today. The atmosphere, it’s not how baseball is supposed to be played.

“There’s no comparison. Absolutely zero. It’s like, weird out there. Especially on defense you get the glare from the empty seats. The signs. You don’t ever have to deal with that. Hopefully that never happens again.”

— Relief pitcher Scott Carroll: “You never really know what to expect in a situation like that. But as the game went on I came more to the realization that it’s not going to change obviously and you just have to make do and separate yourself from the fact that nobody’s there. To me it wasn’t much different from throwing in spring training on a backfield.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

— Manager Robin Ventura: “You couldn’t really hear anything. There wasn’t much going on. It was just a surreal environment. I don’t think we really want to play another one like this. I don’t think anybody does. I don’t think they do either.”

— Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija: “This was a weird day. I’m not going to put too much into how we played today. It was an awkward situation where we sat around for a few days so we have to get back into a little rhythm and play some games in a row and keep going, keep working.”

— First baseman Jose Abreu: “It was kind of weird. But you can’t blame that on the crowd. We just played a bad game today and that’s it. It’s not any one’s fault, it’s our fault playing the way we did today.”

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.