White Sox

White Sox season review: Bullpen

david-robertson-sox-1027.png

White Sox season review: Bullpen

As the White Sox head into the winter following a 76-86 offseason, CSNChicago.com will examine the past, present and future of each position group at 35th and Shields. Next up is the bullpen.

Depth chart (notable names)

1. RHP David Robertson: 4 years/$46 million (2015-18)

2. LHP Zach Duke: 3 years/$15 million (2015-17)

3. RHP Nate Jones: Arbitration eligible (4.000 major league service)

4. RHP Jake Petricka: Pre-arbitration eligible through 2017

5. RHP Zach Putnam: Arbitration eligible (2.135 major league service)

6. LHP Dan Jennings: Arbitration eligible (2.171 major league service)

7. RHP Matt Albers: Free agent

What went right

The bullpen improved in 2015 (3.67 ERA) compared to 2014 (4.38 ERA) thanks to some new additions. Robertson did have his share of struggles closing out some games, but he still picked up 34 saves in 41 opportunities in his first year with the Sox and provided some stability as the team's closer compared to 2014. Albers, now a free agent, was potentially the Sox best option out of the bullpen when healthy. The right-hander posted a 1.21 ERA in 2015 and only gave up an earned run in only three of his 30 appearances. Duke was the best left-handed option for manager Robin Ventura, recording 26 holds and allowing lefties to hit only .181 against him. 

Jones, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery, returned to the bullpen and showed off his electric fastball that flirted with triple digits frequently. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Petricka (12 holds, 3.63 ERA), another right-handed power arm, showed he can be counted on in the late innings. 

The one underrated stat that may go unnoticed in 2015 was the Sox bullpen pitched the fewest innings of any team (441 2/3). Much of that has to be credited to a strong starting rotation but it can only help going forward. 

What went wrong

When a team spends almost $12 million/year on a closer, it expects him to be pretty lights out. That wasn't the case with Robertson in his first season in Chicago as he did hit a few bumps in the road. 

[SOX IN REVIEW: Starting pitching]

Jennings, one of the Sox many offseason acquisitions, didn't quite work out as well as the team would've liked, posting a 3.99 ERA and .274 BA against left-handed hitters. 

Putnam also took a step back this year. He pitched 49 games in each of the past two years but recorded a 4.07 ERA this year compared to 1.98 last year. 

The future

The good news for Rick Hahn and the Sox is that there are pieces to build around. Robertson should improve his numbers from 2015 in his second year in the South Side. If Jones, Duke and Petricka can continue to show they are reliable pieces again next year, Ventura will have some solid options late in games coming out of the bullpen. If Albers is brought back, that adds another quality arm.

Can Putnam return to his 2014 form? With relievers, anything is possible and youth is certainly on Putnam's side. 

If the Sox decide to keep Frankie Montas up in the majors out of the bullpen, does that make one of the other right-handers expendable in a trade?

If there is a move to be made in the bullpen this offseason, acquiring another lefty specialist isn't a terrible idea. It would save some work for Duke and allow him to be used as a full-time setup man if Ventura decides to go that route. 

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

0218-dylan-covey.jpg
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

0218-jose-abreu.jpg
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.