White Sox

White Sox: Jacob Turner starts spring in strong fashion

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White Sox: Jacob Turner starts spring in strong fashion

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A familiar face peered out from behind the catcher’s mask Friday as Jacob Turner took the mound for the first time since last June.

Alex Avila, who also caught Turner’s 2011 debut with the Detroit Tigers, was behind the plate for the White Sox pitcher’s first appearance of the spring. Turner made a strong first impression on his new team and also received a positive review from his old teammate after he struck out two in two scoreless innings. The White Sox got home runs from Brett Lawrie, Adam LaRoche and Jason Coats in a 5-5 tie against the Cleveland Indians.

“(Turner) threw the ball great,” Avila said. “Good life on his fastball, both sides and threw some really good curveballs and changeups there. We’ve been working on a cutter that’s he getting more confidence in. Threw that a few times and looked good.”

Turner joined the White Sox last October when they claimed him off waivers and later signed a $1.5 million contract in December. The former first-round pick has battled elbow and shoulder injuries for the past two seasons. Last year, health limited Turner to two minor-league appearances for the Cubs in June. He has found good health and thrown the ball well between.

[MORE: Chris Sale makes most of side session]

But until Friday, Turner hadn’t been back on the mound.

“I felt like the game could have started at 10 o’clock when I got here today,” he said.

Aside from a second-inning walk, it didn’t show. The outing is a continuation of a strong spring for Turner, pitching coach Don Cooper said. Turner has felt healthy enough to even begin working on a cut-fastball.

“The last sideline he had, we challenged him and he passed it all,” Cooper said. “He did very very well on the sideline. He was very, very good and I don’t say that often. We’re hoping he can carry it. This kid has had some rough breaks and he seems to be past that.”

Turner hit 94 mph on the radar gun and also effectively used his curveball. He said he was a little off in the second inning when he struck out Zach Walters to strand runners on the corners.

But overall, Turner felt good.

It didn’t hurt to have Avila catching him, either.

“I haven’t done it in a while so there’s definitely probably more excitement than usual but it’s just fun to be out there competing again,” Turner said. “I’ve had spring training starts with other organizations in the past where I’ve thrown to a catcher and felt like I’ve met him that same day. It was nice to have (Avila) back there. He caught my major league debut so I’m definitely familiar.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Turner made six starts for the Tigers before they traded him and Rob Brantly to the Miami Marlins in 2012 in exchange for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. He stayed with the Marlins until he was designated for assignment and the Cubs acquired him on Aug. 8, 2014.

Avila can see a little difference in Turner, 24, this spring. He hopes the right-hander continues to throw as he has.

“He always had the great stuff and now I think he feels confident about himself that he could command his pitches,” Avila said. “He has been looking good all spring.

“He pitched well and it was nice to see. It was nice to catch him, too.”

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.