White Sox

White Sox promote Erik Johnson to be 'security blanket'

White Sox promote Erik Johnson to be 'security blanket'

In an ideal world, Erik Johnson wouldn’t see the mound for the White Sox during this trip to the majors.

It’s not that White Sox manager Robin Ventura lacks confidence in Johnson, who was promoted to the majors on Tuesday.  

That’s hardly the case.

It’s just that if Ventura has to use Johnson -- who has started 101 of 104 professional games -- it would require another contest like Monday, when Carlos Rodon recorded only one out before he was removed. Johnson arrived from Charlotte on Tuesday and is an insurance policy after Ventura had to burn through the front end of his bullpen to record the game’s final 26 outs.

While he can entirely rule them out, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and Dan Jennings are essentially unavailable after they combined for seven innings.

“He’s there for a security blanket,” Ventura said. “After (Monday’s) game, you need innings."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Barring something unforeseen you’d like to stay away from those guys as much as you can.”

“I hope we don’t need him.

“I have confidence in him, but that means we’re having another game like last night if he gets in there.”

Johnson is happy to be back in the big leagues, no matter what the reason.

He believes progress was made with his fastball command after he was returned to Charlotte last month. Johnson feels like he’s back on track after a slow start to spring. He touched 93 mph on the radar gun on Thursday night for the Knights and sat near 90. He struck out seven and only allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings pitched.

Ventura suggested Johnson, the 2015 International League pitcher of the year, could stay with the White Sox at least through the end of the homestand, which ends Sunday. The White Sox are in a stretch where they play 19 games in 19 days.

“It’s a great feeling any time I get the call,” Johnson said. “So I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to support the team in any way I can.”

The White Sox had to send outfielder J.B. Shuck back to Charlotte in order to recall Johnson. Shuck is one of the few players on the roster that has minor-league options.

“That’s the brutal side of baseball,” Ventura said. “We definitely need an arm, and he’s the guy that ends up going. Nothing that he has done that warrants it, but you need an arm, and he becomes the guy. So hopefully he goes down and gets some at-bats and can get back up here.”

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.