Jose Contreras

Jose Contreras, Tim Raines join A.J. Pierzynski as new White Sox ambassadors


Jose Contreras, Tim Raines join A.J. Pierzynski as new White Sox ambassadors

The White Sox are welcoming back two more fan favorites.

They added to their growing list of team ambassadors Friday, announcing that Jose Contreras and Tim Raines will be joining A.J. Pierzynski — who made his own announcement Monday at the Winter Meetings — in returning to the organization.

Like Pierzynski, Contreras was a member of the beloved 2005 world championship squad. He teamed with Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Orlando Hernandez to form a formidable rotation that season. Contreras posted a 3.61 ERA during the 2005 regular season but was even better in the postseason, turning in a 3.09 ERA in four starts. He pitched into the eighth inning in each of those starts, including a complete-game effort in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, which the White Sox won to clinch the pennant.

All in all, Contreras spent six seasons with the White Sox from 2004 to 2009.

Raines, meanwhile, is a newly enshrined Hall of Famer, inducted earlier this year in honor of his 23-year major league career. He spent five of those seasons on the South Side and holds the franchise record in stolen-base percentage. He swiped 143 bags during his White Sox tenure.

Raines hit 98 doubles, 28 triples and 50 homers in a White Sox uniform.

The addition of this latest trio of ambassadors adds to an already impressive group of former White Sox in that role: Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Mike Huff, Bo Jackson, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Donn Pall, Dan Pasqua and Mike Squires.

Luis Robert latest Cuban player to join White Sox

Luis Robert latest Cuban player to join White Sox

SEATTLE --- The Cuban connection remains strong for the White Sox.

With Saturday’s reported signing of 19-year-old outfielder Luis Robert, the White Sox have once again gone to the island to find a potential major leaguer. Jose Abreu is the team’s only current

Cuban, but the club’s past is littered with players, including Minnie Minoso, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Contreras and ‘El Duque’ Orlando Hernandez.

When he joined them in 2014 and went on to win the American League rookie of the year, Abreu became the 17th Cuban player in White Sox history. Adrian Nieto was the 18th after he spent the 2014 season on the roster as a Rule 5 draft pick.

Robert becomes the team’s second high-profile Cuban prospect behind Yoan Moncada, who was acquired in a trade in December. Both Abreu and Moncada pitched Robert as part of a video presentation the White Sox made, pleading with him to join them in Chicago. Abreu said he has the highest respect for the White Sox and how they have treated Cuban players.

[MORE: Video pitch helps White Sox sign potential cornerstone Luis Robert to loaded farm system]

As for his pitch, Abreu said: “I just told him that the White Sox organization was a great organization, that this is an organization that will take care of the Cuban players and has a high respect for us, and that it would be very special to have him playing with us.”

Here’s a look at other prominent Cubans who have played for the White Sox.

-- Minnie Minoso (1951-57, 1960-61, 1964, 1976, 1980)

The island’s first major league star was a seven-time All-Star. The ‘Cuban Comet’ finished with 1,963 hits and an .848 OPS. He led the AL in Wins Above Replacement in 1954 with 8.3 and finished in the top-10 in WAR six times.

-- Alexei Ramirez (2008-15)

An eight-year starter and the full-time shortstop after 2009, Ramirez averaged 153-plus games a season. He won the Silver Slugger Award in 2010 and 2014, was an All-Star in 2014 and produced 19 f-WAR in his White Sox career.

-- Jose Contreras (2004-09)

A 15-game winner for the World Series winners in 2005, the right-hander also was an All-Star a season later when he went 13-9 with a 4.27 ERA. Contreras helped the Sox to its last two postseason appearances in six seasons.

-- Jose Canseco (2001)

More prominent for what he did before and after his lone season with the White Sox, Canseco hit 16 homers and drove in 49 runs in 76 games in what was the final year of his career.

-- Dayan Viciedo (2010-13)

The youngster slipped in his second full season in 2013 as he hit 11 fewer homers than he did in 2012. But in 2012 Viciedo had 25 homers and drove in 78 runs, which gives the White Sox hope he can develop into a superstar.

-- Orlando Hernandez (2005)

The overall numbers in his only season with the White Sox weren’t eye-popping, but he added another winning presence to the mix. He also pitched three shutout innings in the ALDS clincher against the Red Sox.

-- Sandy Consuegra (1953-56)

The right-hander was a jack-of-all trades for the ’54 Sox, who won 94 games and finished third in the league. An All-Star, he went 16-3 with a 2.69 ERA, two shutouts and three saves in 39 games (17 starts).

-- Luis Aloma (1950-53)

The reliever appeared in 116 games over four seasons and finished with an 18-3 record and a 3.44 ERA.

-- Rudy Arias (1959)

Though he didn’t pitch in the World Series for the Go-Go White Sox, Arias did go 2-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 34 relief appearances in the regular season.

-- Mike Fornieles (1953-56)

Later an All-Star with the Red Sox, he went 8-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 153 innings in his first season on the South Side. Fornieles appeared in 86 games for the Sox and had a 3.82 ERA over 297 innings.

-- Adrian Nieto (2014)

A Rule 5 selection in December 2013, Nieto spent the entire 2014 season with the White Sox. He caught 48 games and hit two home runs. Nieto also called Abreu “The Cuban Babe Ruth” after the first baseman burst onto the scene that April.

Other Cuban players to play for the White Sox include: Jose Acosta (1922), Guillermo “Willy” Maranda (1952), Aurelio Monteagudo (1967), Hector Rodriguez (1952), Nelson Santovenia (1992) and Leo Sutherland (1980-81).

How Jose Abreu, Rick Renteria played pivotal roles in White Sox presentation for Luis Robert

How Jose Abreu, Rick Renteria played pivotal roles in White Sox presentation for Luis Robert

SEATTLE -- A legend in Cuba, the man they simply know as ‘Pito,’ Jose Abreu played a large role in the White Sox pitch to young Cuban outfielder Luis Robert.

Same for Yoan Moncada. White Sox manager Rick Renteria had a big hand in it, too.

Robert, 19, reportedly signed a deal worth $25-30 million with the White Sox on Saturday afternoon. The yet-to-be-announced signing is another significant move for the rebuilding White Sox in their quest to accumulate as much high-end, controllable talent as possible. Robert likely slots into the team’s farm system as the No. 3 prospect behind Moncada and Michael Kopech.

One way the White Sox endeared themselves to Robert was with a video presentation narrated in Spanish by Renteria with plugs from Abreu and Moncada, who implored the youngster to join them in Chicago. Hours before Robert signed with the White Sox he switched the avatar on his Instagram account a picture of him wearing the team’s hat.

Abreu’s message undoubtedly was genuine, coming from a man who not only loves how he has been received by White Sox fans, but also was floored at how well the team treated Cuban icon Minnie Minoso until his death in 2015.

“From the bottom of my heart, that is something that is very special to me,” Abreu said through an interpreter on Friday. “I really appreciate that. The way this team has treated the Cuban players and the Latino players in general, that’s something that is important and I really, really appreciate it.”

When Abreu signed, he was the 17th Cuban to have suited up for the White Sox. Two months later, the team added catcher Adrian Nieto in the Rule 5 draft and they’ve since acquired Moncada.

[MORE: Video pitch helps White Sox sign potential cornerstone Luis Robert to loaded farm system]

Abreu recalled on Friday how he had known about more recent White Sox players who hailed from Cuba such as Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, Jose Contreras and ‘El Duque’ Orlando Hernandez. But he didn’t know as much about Minoso — who was a club ambassador at the time — until his elder countrymen took him under his wing and became a father figure to Abreu. Abreu said learning about Minoso’s dealings with the White Sox made his transition to the United States significantly easier.

“Once I left the island, that was when I learned more about who else was here and I met Minnie,” Abreu said. “I heard about his story with the team and all the things that he did.”

The White Sox also have an edge over the rest of baseball in that Renteria is the only Spanish-speaking manager at the major league level, another layer to his skillset that was noted in the presentation. Renteria said earlier this week that he knows that his ability to bridge the communication gap is significant in a game where the Spanish-speaking population continues to rise.

While it’s merely another attribute that he brings to the table among many, Renteria, who was the first U.S.-born member of his family (his parents and four older brothers were born in Mexico), knows his background can be a valuable tool.

“Is there value to my cultural experience and how I grew up and the experiences I’ve had in general?” Renteria said. “Yeah. Absolutely. No question about it. I’ll take advantage of it to the extent that I can get the most value out of the players playing for me both Anglo and/or African American and/or Hispanic.

“I think in general we should be able to cross all bridges to be able to communicate with all players. Is it simpler for me? Yeah, I am Spanish speaking since I was little. That helps a lot. My language skills in Spanish have actually gotten better over the years -- correcting and checking to make sure you’re saying things the right way.

“You might speak the same language in terms of the words. But if your message isn’t very good it doesn’t matter what language you speak, it isn’t going to get across.”