White Sox

White Sox: Thigpen's small suggestion pays big dividends for Robertson

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White Sox: Thigpen's small suggestion pays big dividends for Robertson

DETROIT -- As David Robertson struggled last week, bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen believed from his closing experience that a subtle suggestion might do more than drastic measures.

Thigpen -- who converted 201 of 253 saves in his career -- understands the pass/fail nature of the role and is impressed with how Robertson handled himself. But he also knows how doubt can creep into a closer’s mind when they struggle like Robertson did. Thigpen figured Robertson, who has converted on 31 of 38 tries this season, might be open to -- and benefit from -- a minor change and suggested he lower his arm slot Monday. Within several pitches, Thigpen saw a much sharper curveball and a more confident Robertson, who struck out two in a scoreless inning.

“I’ve told him a couple of times during the year just because I see how he throws the ball and how it comes out, ‘You may be a little bit too high on this one’ because I see him getting caught up,” Thigpen said. “Last night he freed himself up so he could get out there and snap (it) off.

“When you’re going good and pitching as well as he has it’s hard to make an adjustment, a big adjustment, because they’ve been doing it so long and they’ve had success. Sometimes it takes a couple of bad outings to open your mind and he did. “He goes ‘Maybe you’re right’ and then boom.”

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Thigpen and pitching coach Don Cooper discussed several minor fixes for Robertson to try to alter his routine because “All of a sudden you get something to click like that and your mindset becomes totally different,” he said.

These weren’t fixes to be worked on in neither a bullpen session, nor something where they trotted Robertson out for extra work. While Robertson’s earned-run average increased from 2.44 to 3.39 in a span of three outings, it’s not the first time he experienced failure. Instead of making a big show of it, Thigpen made the suggestion to Robertson as he began to throw in the bullpen for his ninth-inning appearance. Robertson threw a warmup pitch using the slot with a good result, to which Thigpen asked, ‘You got the feeling, right?’

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“He gets the most looks at me,” Robertson said. “We were just talking about it when I was warming up. When I was coming in, we were talking about it. ‘Yeah, I was trying to get it down.’ He said ‘It looks good.’ That was it.”

Though it was a minor suggestion, it had a major impact as Robertson had his best outing in more than two weeks. Thigpen believes it was a nice step for Robertson, who believes his performance this season hasn’t been up to his standards.

“The best thing that happened was (the change) made him feel better about himself,” Thigpen said. “All of a sudden he’s like ‘There it is, that’s what was missing.’ And you could tell by the way he threw, just getting after it 100 percent … He was 100 percent committed and sure about every pitch. Just a little bit of adjustment helped him feel better in his own mind and he took it from there.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

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.