White Sox

Beckhams trip to Florida: Better than a fried Oreo

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Beckhams trip to Florida: Better than a fried Oreo

Thursday, January 13, 2011
5:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Gordon Beckhams relaxed drawl, spilling out like molasses as he waited for his flight out of Miami on Thursday afternoon, flew in the face of a staunch determination to wipe out his disappointing 2010 campaign and reclaim a postseason berth for his White Sox.

Last year there was a lot put on my plate, and when I didnt immediately meet expectations I went into panic mode, the Chicago second sacker said of his atrocious start in 2010, which was scarred by his second position change in as many seasons field and first-half splits of .216.277.304 and a .581 OPS. That cant happen, and that wont happen again. I got frustrated, and mentally tired.

Beckham battled back and had an outstanding second half, putting up OPS marks of .950 in July and .931 in August before a beanball smashed his right hand in the seventh inning of an Aug. 31 game at the Cleveland Indians. The sophomore tried to battle through the injury but could mount only a paltry .497 OPS and seven total bases in the next two weeks before stepping to the plate for that last time on September 15.

I was in the worst mental state of my baseball life, Beckham reflected. It was good to come out on top.

The official beginning to the 2011 season might come next weekend as the ballclub hosts its annual packed fan hootenanny at SoxFest, but the now-traditional, still-unofficial start of proceedings came this week, in Miami, under the watchful eye of White Sox bench coach and future MLB manager Joey Cora. Several White Sox players committed to these voluntary, tune-up workouts that come a full month before pitchers and catchers begin to trickle into Arizona for spring training.

To hear Beckham tell it, Camp Cora was a resounding success on all counts, beginning with the bounce-back of the hand that had so plagued him at seasons end.

In December, Beckham said, he underwent a particularly painful batting practice session, which was later determined to be the breaking up of scar tissue in his hand. The very next day he hit the cages with no ill effects, and survived the three days of Camp Cora drills in perfect health.

I didnt deal with hand pain at all this whole week, the prototype Chisox grinder said.

On Monday through Wednesday, White Sox players gathered with Cora for infield drills and worked in the cages with White Sox batting coach Greg Walker.

I wanted to get some reps in with the infielders, get on the field and hit, Beckham said. It was a good time. It was good to start moving around and get ready for the season.

Of course, the Pale Hose being the Pale Hose, there has been no lack of off-field drama this offseason, culminating at the end of the year with Bobby Jenkss departure to the Boston Red Sox and the Fredo Corleone of the Chisox, Oney Guillen, exposing via the wildly inappropriate forum of Twitter apparent confidential, personal problems the closer had while in Chicago. Imaginably, it was a subject that did pop up during the South Beach boot camp.

Me and Joey talked a little bit about keeping confidences in the locker room, Beckham said. Everybody is on the same page. We want to play. We dont want outside drama to fill our locker room this year. Joey says hes talked a lot to White Sox manager and Oneys father Ozzie Guillen on that kind of stuff.

We want it to be on us. If were playing bad, its not because of some outside issues. Oneygate is over with and done.

While Beckham was brimming confidence as the dawn of the season nears (everyone on the team is going to share the load we have the pieces in place), the infielder almost didnt make it down to Camp Cora this week due to the surprise snowfalls that dusted the south: I would have been snowed in keeping my original flight on Monday, but I switched my flight to get there in advance. Me and snow, that doesnt work.
Short Stops

Defense was the real emphasis of Camp Cora, with Beckham, corner infielder Dayan Viciedo and third baseman Brent Morel getting in tons of infield reps per White Sox team footage released on Tuesday, in which Cora said that we want to get them in shape and work on backhands and some of the fundamentals of the game were striving to be one of the best infields in the league and we have the potential to do that. Beckham brimmed with similar confidence heading into his second season as a second sacker: I feel very comfortable at second; Joey was very happy with me at second last year. As an infield, were going to make some plays this year and can pick the ball. Its pretty obvious, we can play some defense.

Among many impressive-looking teammates, double-play partner Alexei Ramirez made the biggest impression on Beckham: Alexei looks bigger. Hes gained a little muscle.

Beckham was thrilled to have team captain Paul Konerko return to the fold, acknowledging that, without Paul last year, I might never have gotten out of the funk I was in He handles the leadership duties nobody else wants to handle.

The former high school quarterback and Atlanta native is rooting for a Falcons-Bears NFC title game, even if he has to miss the game due to SoxFest: Id like the game to be close; maybe the Falcons win it right at the end. Like most people, I just want to see good games in the playoffs.

There was no word on any ill effects from Beckhams excursion into the haute cuisine of South Beach on Wednesday night, when the second baseman tweeted, Went to Prime 112 tonight with Greg Walker and Brent Morel. Food was awesome. All I got to say is, fried Oreos. OH MY GOD. UNBELIEVABLE.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”