White Sox

Tim Anderson hoping to bounce back as one half of Chicago's new dynamic duo: 'We’re going to try to bring back like how Pippen and Jordan were'

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USA TODAY

Tim Anderson hoping to bounce back as one half of Chicago's new dynamic duo: 'We’re going to try to bring back like how Pippen and Jordan were'

There’s a new dynamic duo in town.

Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada don’t have the championship pedigree Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen built during their six championship seasons with the dynastic Bulls. But the White Sox middle infield of the future is already preparing for the day when the South Side rebuild yields a perennial contender.

“We’re going to try to bring back like how Pippen and Jordan were in Chicago,” Anderson said during last month’s SoxFest at the Hilton Chicago. “That’s the swag we’re going to go about things with this year.”

White Sox fans got a taste of what the future might bring last season, when Moncada was called up to the big leagues and teamed with Anderson in the middle of the infield.

But both players dealt with their struggles. Moncada slashed .100/.280/.250 in his first 13 games and still had a batting average under .200 midway through September.

Anderson’s struggles were well chronicled, as he spent the season dealing with the death of his best friend. As he dealt with the emotional effects, his numbers took a big dip from what they were during his rookie season in 2016. Last season, he slashed .257/.276/.402. His power numbers were up as he played in many more games — 17 homers and 56 RBIs — but he also led all of baseball in errors.

This offseason's solution? For Anderson, it was stepping away from the game and spending time with his family.

“For me to get away from baseball was definitely the best thing to happen,” Anderson said. “Kind of separated myself from that this offseason, spent more time with my family and taking care of what really matters. Now I’m in a better place, I’m excited about the season. I’m ready to get back out there to work.

“It was tough trying to play and go through tough times, so I feel like the time and having fun this offseason was definitely — I’m having fun in life, and I want to show it. I’m in a better place now and ready to get rolling.”

Hopes are still high for Anderson inside the White Sox organization, and fans should be nowhere near ready to move on from the 24-year-old who just completed his first full major league season. It’s easy sometimes to lose him in the constant stream of news about highly rated prospects still developing in the minors. Anderson’s status as an early arrival, before this rebuilding process got started, gives him a unique perspective as the rest of the future begins to make its way to the South Side.

“It’s good because they can pick my brain,” Anderson said. “I’m a great guy, I’m open, willing to talk, get along with everybody. It’s going to be fun to get these guys up and see what we can do.”

There’s still plenty of time left in the White Sox waiting game, but the middle infield of the future is already here. Predicting the levels of success that Jordan and Pippen reached would be pretty outlandish. But there’s no harm in trying to become Chicago’s next dynamic duo.

It’s a new season, so bring on the excitement.

“Just have fun,” Anderson said of his 2018 goals. “Get back to being that dominant player, an exciting player to watch. That’s the goal, to get back to having fun.”

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.