White Sox

White Sox: Matt Davidson making strong case for Opening Day roster

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White Sox: Matt Davidson making strong case for Opening Day roster

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Baseball is a game of failure. A sport so tough it brings grown men to their knees.

For the last two years, that was where you could find Matt Davidson.

The former first round pick was once thought to be the White Sox third baseman of the future. But then he lost his swing, then his confidence, and then he almost lost his mind.

“These past two years have been such a mental grind. I’ve been in some dark places,” Davidson said Monday in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.

After the White Sox acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he arrived at spring training hoping to win the third base job. That didn’t happen. So he went to Triple-A hoping for a quick call-up to the big leagues. That didn’t happen either.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

He batted .199 with 164 strikeouts in 2014. Unfortunately, 2015 wasn’t any better. He ended last season batting .203 with 191 strikeouts.  

That bright future looked quite bleak.

But this offseason, Davidson went home to California hoping to find himself as well as that powerful swing that once made him one of the top prospects in baseball.

“For me it was all mechanical. My swing was breaking down,” he said. “I had really bad posture the last two years with my swing. Honestly, I fixed that this offseason. Now I’ve kind of had the spring I’ve had. The swing itself has been good, but as far as my body and posture throughout the swing, that was bad and so we fixed that. And then you see the results.”

We see them.

Monday, Davidson hit his fifth home run of the spring (which leads the White Sox), and he raised his batting average to .413.   

To save his baseball career, Davidson has had the help of White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson, not to mention former White Sox slugger Jim Thome, who has been with the team during spring training working with young hitters.

[MORE: Competition for White Sox 25th man stays hot]  

“He’s been amazing, just being there for moral support, especially after these past two years. That speaks volumes,” Davidson said about Thome. “We talk about a lot of mental stuff. The little things here and there. Nothing major. He’s really simple and very positive. I think that’s the biggest impact he has. He’s just so positive. He speaks positivity into you.”

With Todd Frazier now entrenched at third base, Davidson seemed to have zero chance of making the team out of spring training. But now with Adam LaRoche retired, and Davidson swinging such a hot bat, he is suddenly in the mix for the final roster spot.

What would it mean to him to make the club after all he’s been through?

“I’ll probably break down and cry to be honest,” Davidson said. “I’ve been through the ringer for two years. Just to see the results and then to even be in the conversation for that is awesome.”

For Davidson, the light has turned on. The White Sox are hoping it stays that way for a long time.

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.