White Sox

Back in the big leagues: Emergency bullpen catcher Chris O'Dowd's second MLB experience is more authentic

Back in the big leagues: Emergency bullpen catcher Chris O'Dowd's second MLB experience is more authentic

CLEVELAND — Chris O’Dowd is experiencing a major league clubhouse for the second time in his life. This round feels more authentic and makes him realize he’s not all that far away at Double-A Birmingham.

The White Sox minor leaguer joined the team on Tuesday to fill in as the big league club’s emergency bullpen catcher after Adam Ricks left the team to deal with a sore knee.

It’s the second time in O’Dowd’s life he’s had access to a major league clubhouse. He routinely visited the Colorado Rockies clubhouse from 1999-2014 when his father, Dan O’Dowd, was the team’s general manager. Whereas before he was a teen who tried to go unnoticed, this time O’Dowd, 26, is more at ease because of his playing experience.

“I tried to be a fly on the wall,” O’Dowd said. “Part of it as a kid too — everyone has grinded and done everything they can their whole life to be here today. I always wanted it to be that I attained it by me going through the same thing everyone else has to be in this situation. I was very cautious with how much time and how immersed I was into the clubhouse side of things growing up.”

O’Dowd has been heavily immersed in the White Sox since he joined the team in Tampa Bay to fill in for Ricks. He’s spent most of his pregame sessions in the bullpen, takes batting practice, sits in on advanced meetings and has been on the run all week, soaking up the major league atmosphere. And he isn’t asking any questions about how long he may stay with the White Sox (he’s currently on the seven-day DL at Double-A with a sore hamstring).

A 23rd-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2012, O’Dowd has also played in the Atlanta Braves and Rockies organizations. A Dartmouth College grad who double majored in Economics and English with a Psychology minor, O’Dowd is grateful to be in the big leagues.

He’s been very impressed with how prepared the coaches are as well as the willingness of players to use the information provided. He also realizes that his level of preparation is similar to his peers.

“Being here on a daily basis puts me in the middle of the good, the bad, the grind of it and what it takes to come to the ballpark every day and piece together a good day to help the team win,” O’Dowd said. “It’s just good to see how everyone does it a little differently, but how everyone has the conviction and intent to show up every day and do what they need to do to be ready.

"When you take a guy like me that’s been in Double-A for four years now and Triple-A, you do feel like you’re far away from the big leagues and what’s it going to take to get over the hump? And you see guys attack each day the same way that we do and that there’s not really that much of a divide. So it’s more motivation than anything to know that you’re closer than you probably ever thought. The right circumstances, the right spot, it could happen and you could be here in the clubhouse.”

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

And if he never does make his way here as a player, O’Dowd knows how lucky he is to have this experience. O’Dowd said he’s grateful to everyone who has helped him reach this point — “so many people that have helped me, been a part of this journey and believed in me and continue to believe in me in the moments that you face a lot of adversity,” he said.

Given how much time he’s spent around baseball, his unique view into the front office and playing experience, it’s only natural to think O’Dowd has a future beyond baseball. O’Dowd isn’t yet ready to consider his next step. He’d still like to get here as a player. But if that doesn’t materialize, O’Dowd realizes this experience could be critical for his future.

“As a player you don’t want to have a Plan B and I’ve been all in trying to be the best I can at this,” O’Dowd said. “At some point in time you’ll have to think about that. But what I’m trying to do is continue to get the most out of my playing ability. If that leads to something else, this experience is invaluable and continues to shape my perspective, how I see the game and hopefully makes a transition easier.

“Any time you can be around a big league team and observe, I think there’s a value to it. It’s hard to quantify.”

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

0817-welington-castillo.jpg
USA TODAY

Suspended catcher Welington Castillo working his way back to White Sox with minor league rehab stint

With about a week until the end of his 80-game suspension, Welington Castillo his making his way back to the White Sox.

The veteran catcher joined Triple-A Charlotte for a rehab assignment Friday, in the Knights' lineup for their afternoon game.

Castillo has been serving his suspension since May 24, when Major League Baseball handed down its punishment for his testing positive for a banned substance. He's eligible to return Aug. 23, just nine days before rosters expand.

The White Sox added Castillo over the offseason after he had career years offensively and defensively with the Baltimore Orioles during the 2017 season. The hope was he could provide a veteran presence and help out with the development of the team's young pitching staff — and of course that his bat could help bolster the team's everyday lineup. A two-year contract with an option for a third meant that if all went well, Castillo could be around for the start of the team's transition from rebuilding to contending, a sort of bridge to top catching prospect Zack Collins.

Things obviously did not work out as planned, and Castillo has missed months of time working with the pitchers while he's served his suspension.

Still, his return will perhaps be a welcome help to young pitchers still learning how to succeed against major league lineups, guys like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have had inconsistent first full campaigns in the big leagues — not to mention any young pitchers who might be called up from the minor leagues over the season's final month and a half.

As for the team's catching situation, Omar Narvaez has done very well at the plate since taking over as the starting catcher when Castillo was suspended. Since the beginning of June, Narvaez is slashing .356/.433/.559, and his season batting average of .282 is one of the highest on the team. Kevan Smith, the No. 2 catcher, is hitting .283 on the season. Castillo will return with a .267/.309/.466 slash line in 33 games he played in before being suspended.

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.