White Sox

White Sox see room for J.B. Shuck in crowded outfield

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White Sox see room for J.B. Shuck in crowded outfield

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A newly crowded outfield shouldn’t have J.B. Shuck worried about his future with the White Sox.

Though he may be part of a camp battle for the final spot on the team’s roster, Shuck has a resume boosted by a season full of good impressions made with the White Sox. That familiarity with the front office and coaching staff still has Shuck on solid footing to make the team even though the White Sox signed Austin Jackson on Sunday.

General manager Rick Hahn even gave Shuck a strong endorsement after the signing. But Shuck said earlier this week he didn’t want to allow himself to think he has a roster spot sewn up.

“I think that’s the best way to get ready for a season and in my situation you never know what could happen,” Shuck said.

Shuck has been in the position where he was left without a roster spot before, so he won’t allow himself to think he has already made the club.

[SHOP: Gear up for the season ahead, White Sox fans!]

Coming off a solid 2013 campaign, one which earned him a fifth-place finish in the American League rookie of the year vote, Shuck lost his spot for the Los Angeles Angels to Kole Calhoun and spent most of 2014 at Triple-A before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians that September.

But the White Sox claimed Shuck off waivers that November and gave him every chance to make the club. He impressed them with his high energy level, base running, compact swing and ability to play all over the outfield.

“He’s been big for us all year,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said in October.

Shuck did his best work off the bench, with .820 OPS in 50 games and 49 plate appearances in that role.

It’s his comfort in the bench role that makes Shuck valuable to the White Sox. With Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Jackson and Melky Cabrera all competing for starts, Shuck isn’t likely to see many starts except in the case of an injury. But he knows that, which has helped Shuck to excel off the bench. He has worked out a routine and knows how to prepare.

“He did a very fine job coming off the bench for us last year filling that extra outfield role, playing good defense, getting some big pinch hits and obviously runs well,” Hahn said. “There certainly remains room for J.B. Shuck on that roster.”

[MORE: Carson Fulmer gaining confidence in White Sox camp]

Shuck is happy with how he performed for the White Sox last season, but he still set out to improve this offseason. Ideally, Shuck would like to increase his career .336 slugging percentage and made a few minor changes to his swing. He doesn’t want to improve his power but rather be more consistent driving it to the gaps.

But even if he does that, Shuck isn’t likely to allow himself to get complacent.  

“I went back this offseason and tried to get better any way I can and hopefully I come in this year and show that I’ve gotten even a little better and whatever they need they see that I can do it and have confidence in me,” Shuck said. “I try to come in and make sure that I get ready to go and prove that I’m ready again this year to do whatever they need.”

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.