White Sox

White Sox impressed with how Chris Sale handled inning that shouldn't have been

White Sox impressed with how Chris Sale handled inning that shouldn't have been

Robin Ventura described it as a “weird” inning for Chris Sale, one in which the amped up four-time All-Star hit himself in the head with a baseball after a wild streak resulted in 36 pitches and two runs allowed.

And it never should have happened.

Pitching coach Don Cooper was still bothered Sunday morning by a ruling from plate umpire Bill Miller on Saturday that resulted in Byung Ho Park being awarded first base when a 2-2 slider from Sale struck his leg. Only problem was, Park also swung at the pitch and appeared to go around for the third strike. But Park instead went to first to load the bases and the inning got real dicey for Sale, who forced in runs with a walk and another hit batsmen. Sale recovered, of course, and caught fire, retiring 19 of the last 20 he faced to become baseball’s first seven-game winner. But Cooper thought Sale never should been in the situation in the first place.

“Chris last night was fine,” Cooper said. “He got the first two guys out. Gave up two hits and struck Park out with a swing and miss. Then everybody said it gets to be an ugly inning. He should have been out of the inning. It cost us two runs, at least an inning worth of pitches and put the game in jeopardy — one small miss.”

It didn’t take Cooper or manager Robin Ventura long to notice something was a little amiss with Sale, who admits he was fired up to face the Minnesota Twins, a team he struggled against last season. Sale intentionally has worked at lower velocities for most of the season. Just about the time the radar gun flashed 97 mph on a fastball to Eduardo Nunez did Ventura realize Sale brought extra intensity to the mound.

“He has been a little more of a hybrid as far as velocity, taking a little off, being in the zone,” Ventura said. “That’s what I mean by weird. He just hasn’t done that in a long time. …

“Maybe his first couple years of starting, if he either got banged up a little bit or if it was an erratic inning, he would just throw it harder. I think that’s what it seemed like last night.”

Cooper and second baseman Brett Lawrie gave Sale some encouragement during a mound visit after the left-hander’s bases-loaded walk of Oswaldo Arcia, which made it a 1-0 game. Not long after, Sale got out of the jam and took over.

Lawrie said his brief speech wasn’t “anything crazy,” but preferred to keep details between him and Sale. But he was very impressed with Sale’s rebound.

“As soon as he finds what he’s looking for, its takes two seconds, boom, as soon as he gets it he’s locked in and he leaves it all out on the field for us,” Lawrie said. “We don’t have worry about Chris.

“I don’t think anybody was that panicked to be honest.”

Ventura said he wasn’t overly concerned in the dugout, either. He intended to give Sale plenty of leeway to work with to get out of the jam. Sale only allowed one more batter to reach base in his final six innings, which gave his offense ample time to rally.

Afterward, Sale credited his teammates for a big emotional assist. Happy with his team’s victory, he still seemed a little disappointed with how he reacted to the situation, what with slamming a baseball off his head.

“When I get mad I feel like hurting myself,” Sale said with a laugh. “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. That’s another thing, too. That’s something I’ve gotta get over. That’s the immaturity part coming out and that’s when the overthrowing happens and that’s when I dug myself a hole. Just gotta quit being an idiot out there, trust in the process and rely on my guys, because I’ve got some good ones behind me.”

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.