White Sox

White Sox still look to jumpstart struggling offense

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White Sox still look to jumpstart struggling offense

They heavily invested in the offense in the offseason and the White Sox still think the group has yet to find its groove.

After 52 games, the White Sox are still doing what they can to get the level of the offense’s performance up to par.

On Friday night that meant the White Sox dropped Melky Cabrera from the second spot to sixth, swapping him with Alexei Ramirez, who also is struggling. Cabrera, who signed a $42-milllion deal in the offseason, has a .235/.272/.268 slash line, while Ramirez, a 2014 Silver Slugger winner, is hitting at a .226/.244/.313 clip.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“(Cabrera) would like to be doing better,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s a guy that his track record and his experiences, he would like to be doing better. He feels the responsibility of that and he doesn’t shy away from it. But he realizes he needs to do a little bit more and realizes he wants to do it.”

The same could be said for the majority of the lineup.

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The White Sox are on pace to score 595 runs this season despite free-agent deals for Cabrera and Adam LaRoche ($25 million over two years) as well as the signings of Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio to bolster the bench. Yet the only regulars with an OPS-plus above the league average of 100 are Jose Abreu (133), Avisail Garcia (118) and LaRoche (117). General manager Rick Hahn believes many of the struggling players are set to get back to their career norms, which would provide a boost to an offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 28 of 52 games.

“There’s a lot about the offense to like and we think there’s still a lot about the offense to like in terms of how it compliments each other, the power in the middle, the ability to run and show some athleticism and do some of the little things to help you win,” Hahn said. “But we just haven’t been consistent.”

Cabrera has only five extra-base hits this season after he had 54 in 2014 with the Toronto Blue Jays. But through an interpreter, Cabrera made it clear he’s still confident in his abilities.

Earlier this week, Cabrera said: “I don’t change anything in my game. I just try to keep my focus, try to keep my approach at the plate. Baseball is a hard sport. … You have to try to have confidence in your game and confidence in your work. That’s the only way that you can, sooner rather than later, get out of the slump.”

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.

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.