White Sox

Strong finish to 2017 brings hope Carson Fulmer can right the ship in the White Sox 2018 rotation

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USA TODAY

Strong finish to 2017 brings hope Carson Fulmer can right the ship in the White Sox 2018 rotation

If you asked Carson Fulmer about his confidence on, say, Aug. 22, 2017, the answer he would have given would differ greatly from the answer he gave before SoxFest some five months later.

Aug. 22 was the day Fulmer was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte. It was the day after his first major league appearance of the season went very, very poorly.

Fulmer made his first major league start for the White Sox, but things went bad — and quickly. He faced only 12 batters. Even worse, he recorded only four outs.

Six runs allowed — all earned — including a pair of home runs to the Minnesota Twins, and Fulmer’s second major league stint lasted just hours.

It wasn’t a confidence-builder for him, and certainly not for the White Sox front office, considering Fulmer’s previous struggles as well.

After the White Sox drafted Fulmer out of Vanderbilt with the eighth overall selection in the 2015 draft, the expectation was that he would follow in the footsteps of Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale and become a big league contributor quickly. Rodon made just nine minor league appearances in 2014 before cementing a rotation spot in 2015. Sale made 11 minor league appearances in 2010 before being called up to the White Sox just a few months after he was drafted.

It hasn’t quite worked that way for Fulmer.

Entering the 2016 season, MLB Pipeline ranked Fulmer as the No. 38 prospect in baseball. He posted a 4.63 in the minor leagues that season, only to earn his first call-up in July. His major league career started with a strikeout of Albert Pujols, but it went downhill from there. Fulmer made eight more appearances out of the White Sox bullpen, posting an 8.49 ERA over 11.2 innings.

To start 2017, his prospect ranking dipped to No. 71 as his ERA ballooned to 5.79 in the minors. What was once a shiny new toy in the White Sox farm system lost some of its luster.

But Fulmer had one of the strongest finishes to the 2017 campaign of any White Sox player.

“The prior years were something I had to go through in order to have success at that level,” Fulmer said. “I started figuring some stuff out towards the end of the year.”

The results proved that.

After getting called back up to the majors in September, Fulmer posted a 1.64 ERA in six appearances to close out the season. Four of those appearances were starts.

While some prognosticators peg Fulmer as an arm for the back end of the bullpen long-term, he still hopes to stick in the rotation.

“I want to start. I’ve always been really driven to start,” he said. “I want to take the ball and end with the ball at the end of the game.”

Despite his strong finish, Fulmer has yet to cement a position on the starting staff for 2018, though it certainly seems he is an early favorite for a rotation spot while Rodon rehabs from shoulder surgery.

“At this point I’m just trying to get myself ready to come prepared and win that job out of spring (training),” Fulmer said. “I want to start. I want to continue with that role. And hopefully the organization continues to give me the opportunity.”

And if he performs like he did in September rather than what he did in August, the opportunities should be plentiful.

“I’m ready. I definitely have the confidence to go out there and compete and give our team the best chance to win.”

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.