White Sox

White Sox need improved defensive play up the middle

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White Sox need improved defensive play up the middle

MILWAUKEE -- Chris Sale worked around it Tuesday but improved defensive play is critical if the White Sox hope to turn things around.

Sale took a group that ranks 29th in Defensive Runs Saved, according to fangraphs.com, mostly out of the equation with 11 strikeouts over eight innings as the White Sox topped the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 at Miller Park.

The best teams often boast strong defensive play up the middle as evidenced by the 2014 Kansas Royals, who earned an American League pennant behind the outstanding play of Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez.

[MORE: White Sox officially announce Carlos Rodon is part of rotation]

Led by 2014 Gold Glove finalists Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox -- who have 12 errors in their last nine games -- expected they would be much better than they have.

“That remains a point of emphasis,” general manager Rick Hahn said before Tuesday’s game. “We last talked about this stuff a week or whatever it has been, the performance has been better but it’s not where it needs to be and guys know that.”

So far, Eaton and Ramirez, as well as second baseman Micah Johnson, are all in the bottom third among qualified players at each of their respective positions in Defensive Runs Saved.

Ramirez entered Tuesday ranked 20th of 28 shortstops while at minus-2 runs saved while Johnson (minus-8) was last among 24 second baseman and Eaton (minus-6) was second to last. White Sox catchers also have six passed balls, which is tied for the most in baseball.

Ramirez committed his fifth error in the first inning of Monday’s loss and later didn’t knock down a single, allowing an extra run to score against Jeff Samardzija. He and Johnson also couldn’t convert later on what looked to be an easy double play on Adam Lind, instead settling for a fielder’s choice. Geovany Soto missed out on a potential caught stealing -- all of which could have helped Samardzija. Samardzija took the diplomatic approach and noted he shouldn’t have hung a slider to Carlos Gomez.

[MORE: Starting rotation's woes have hurt White Sox bullpen]

But, Samardzija added, “We definitely need to not make this harder on ourselves.”

The defense has clearly made this more difficult for White Sox starting pitchers, who haven’t been very good themselves. Jose Abreu’s misplay on a potential double play set up a six-run, first-inning rally against Samardzija in Baltimore. On Tuesday, Sale had to work around a first-inning error by Conor Gillaspie and a dropped throw by Johnson on a potential pickoff play.

Hahn expects Eaton and Ramirez to get back to their career norms.

Ramirez has gone through defensive ruts in the past, though the White Sox can’t sustain one from him much longer. The White Sox think Eaton’s slow start is attributed to the pressure he has put on himself early this season and believe he’s on the mend.

Though Johnson has struggled, Hahn said the team must try and develop their own young players if they want a sustained run of success. They have a potential option at Triple-A in Carlos Sanchez, who is a good defender and has hit well enough to twice be named player of the week. But the White Sox like the speed element Johnson delivers and aren’t yet willing to make a switch.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

White Sox manager Robin Ventura is hopeful the improvement from all comes quickly so his pitchers don’t face more pressure.

“That has to clean up because we can’t expect pitchers to go out there and try to overthrow and try and do that,” Ventura said. “They can do it, but you don’t want it to feel like they have to do that to stay away from getting in trouble. So we’re going to have to be better.

“Everything goes together. You have to mesh it together to be able to feel confident with those guys going out there that they don’t have to be superhuman to get people out and get through it.”

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.