White Sox

Amid slow start, White Sox Adam Eaton gets confidence boost Monday

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Amid slow start, White Sox Adam Eaton gets confidence boost Monday

A rough start means Adam Eaton hasn’t been very easy on himself.

In discussing his slump last week, the White Sox outfielder and leadoff man said anyone who spent a minute inside his head would run for the hills.

Eaton is very critical of his play and often seeks areas of improvement even when he succeeds. He wants to prove he’s worthy of the five-year, $23.5-million contract extension he received from the White Sox last month and that it hasn’t changed his work ethic.

You can only imagine how much Eaton has beaten himself up this season as he carries a .149/.216/.191 slash line into Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. game against the Cleveland Indians.

Conversely, Eaton believes Monday’s contest, in which he walked twice and singled during a four-run rally in the ninth inning, should give him the boost he’s needed through the season’s first dozen games.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox rally for four runs in final at-bat to top Indians, 4-3]

“It does the world for me, personally,” Eaton said. “But to keep the line moving and be part of a team when (we rally), it goes along way with me. I want to help this team win any way, shape or form. I want to help these guys and I want them to like me up there at the top of the order. I really care what they think and want to continue to please them.”

His latest performance is another sign that Eaton has begun to rediscover his game.

It’s pretty evident Eaton has begun to see the ball better over the last three days.

He drew his first walk of the season on Saturday, a second on Sunday and two more on Monday.

Though he’s mostly felt good at the plate, Eaton thinks pitchers have executed well when he’s up, often leaving him in counts that don’t favor hitters. Eaton has only six strikeouts in 51 plate appearances but only has a .171 average on balls in play. His career BABIP is .324, according to Fangraphs.com.

“My numbers don’t speak for how well I feel up there and how hard I’ve worked in the offseason,” Eaton said. “It’s very frustrating when I bust my tail all offseason and it doesn’t correlate in the first two weeks of the season. I hope everyone knows I’m working my ass off to get better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Perhaps Monday’s easing of the tensions will do Eaton some good. Before the game, manager Robin Ventura cited Eaton’s play on the bases as a sign he has tried to make too much happen instead of letting the game come to him.

Eaton has run into three outs, all as a result of aggressive play. While he’s normally aggressive, Eaton has pushed it in each instance and cost his team an out.

“You need to relax, be calm,” Ventura said. “When a guy struggles, that’s part of what happens in a guy’s brain. They try and make up for it by trying to get an extra base when you don’t need it or stealing a bag when you don’t need to. You have to be patient. Play the game, and understand the situations.”

Eaton demonstrated his ability to slow things down in the ninth inning against Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen. With runners on first and second and one out, Eaton quickly fell behind in the count 0-2. He thought Allen would try to get him to chase his knuckle curveball and watched two balls to even the count.

Then he lined a 94-mph fastball to left field to load the bases for Melky Cabrera, who singled in the winning run.

“Even if I don’t get a hit there, and hopefully I square one up or something happens, I’ve still had a good day at the plate,” Eaton said. “There’s some good thoughts there and I was happy with it overall.”

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

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USA TODAY

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.