White Sox

Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

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Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

GLENDALE, Ariz. Dont expect to hear Robin Ventura barking to the media about the (bleeping) rats at Wrigley Field.

I dont think hell be kicking facemasks or anything either, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said.

Ozzie Guillen did that to Geovany Sotos catching gear last summer on the South Side, after arguing a call at home plate and getting thrown out of the game. There almost always seems to be fireworks whenever the Cubs play the White Sox.

That night, Carlos Zambrano walked into the interview room at U.S. Cellular Field and asked reporters if they had seen the one where Rocky fought in Russia. Zambrano decided that Rocky Balboa said it best: Its not too late for people to change.

Less than two months later, Zambrano cleared out his locker during the middle of a game at Turner Field and headed to the team hotel in downtown Atlanta. He told team personnel that he was thinking about retirement and sent text messages saying that he felt like he was stealing money.

As soon as Guillen jumped to become the Miami Marlins manager, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Zambrano would take his talents to South Beach, creating a dream team for the media.

As much as Guillen appeared to need a new challenge, and Zambrano couldnt walk back into the Cubs clubhouse, it still leaves a void. Its hard to imagine the Cubs-Sox rivalry will have the same juice.

I was an Ozzie fan growing up my whole life, said Samardzija, whos from Indiana. I enjoyed watching Ozzie play. I like how he manages. Yeah, it will definitely be a little different. Obviously, I think the rivalry will still be where its always been, but he always seemed to be a big part of it.

In front of 10,327 fans the announced crowd at least the Cubs beat the White Sox 5-1 on Friday at Camelback Ranch. The pivot point came in the third inning, when Randy Wells inherited a bases-loaded jam from Travis Wood.

Auditioning for a spot in the rotation, Wells threw Paul Konerko a sinker that induced an inning-ending double play, preserving a two-run lead.

Its quieter, Wells said of the difference without Guillen around. The Cubs-Sox rivalry is going to be as good as it always is. Its just one of those games you dont want to lose to your crosstown rival. I dont think spring trainings got quite the hype, but were definitely gearing up for those guys.

Cubs infielder Adrian Cardenas played at Monsignor Pace High School just before Guillens youngest son Ozney did and knows the family. When Cardenas would go home and work out in Miami, Guillen would watch batting practice and talk to the 16-year-old kids who dream of the big leagues.

The Ozzie you see in high definition on TV every night, Cardenas said, is the exact same Ozzie youll find on a high school baseball field in February.

Hes just real all the time, and you either like it or you dont, Cardenas said. Thats it. You have to learn to accept it or have a problem with it. But one things for sure is he loves the game.

Ventura will project calm in the roughly 400 times he will have to meet the press this season. New Cubs manager Dale Sveum who briefly played with Ventura on the South Side in 1992 looks past the coaching inexperience and sees a natural leader.

Hes got an incredible personality, but you wouldnt know it. Hes quick and very sarcastic, Sveum said. Hes definitely the right guy for the job. (Hes) capable of just stepping right in and doing things. He knows the game as well as anybody (and) hes the kind of guy who people will follow.

Ventura wont be filming Pepsi commercials with say, Matt Garza, in Venezuela, the way Guillen and Zambrano once did.

And Cubs officials were furious when they found out Zambrano went to dinner with Guillen hours after jumping Derrek Lee in the dugout and being sent home from U.S. Cellular Field (and eventually into anger-management therapy).

When Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, the president publicly allowed for the possibility of Zambrano earning his way back onto the team. But in polling players privately, the response was overwhelming: Big Z had to go.

Zambrano isnt necessarily a bad guy. Hes deeply committed to his faith and his family and can show a terrific sense of humor. His emotions, Kerry Wood once observed, are a double-edged sword that can lead him pitch at an extremely high level or completely lose control.

Guillen pushed for this trade, predicting that Zambrano can still be a 15-game winner. Their friendship plus the roughly 15 million the Cubs kicked in closed the deal.

His baseball talent is still there, utility man Jeff Baker said. If Ozzie can get him going, who knows what can happen?

The Cubs and White Sox have enjoyed distraction-free camps, but their rivalry wont be the same. The Marlins become a Showtime reality series with Ozzie and Big Z.

If its going to work anywhere, Samardzija said, it should work there.

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.”