White Sox

Jose Abreu playing at high level for White Sox after slow start

Jose Abreu playing at high level for White Sox after slow start

BALTIMORE — Jose Abreu’s early difficulty putting a barrel on the baseball has been replaced by a lot of loud contact.

Seemingly lost at the plate only two weeks ago, the White Sox first baseman has been in a groove the past 13 games. Whereas Abreu only hit the ball on the barrel of his bat three times in the first 13 games, he barreled six in the past 13. Over that stretch, Abreu is hitting .388/.444/.776 with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, nine RBIs and 11 runs in 54 plate appearances.

“Right now, he’s at a pretty high level,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s really in tune with what he wants to do at the plate. Hopefully it’s something he can sustain over an extended period of time, but I’m just glad he’s where he’s at.”

Through those first 13 games, Abreu was hitting .157/.204/176 with five RBIs in 54 plate appearances. He also struck out 14 times and has just seven since. Renteria said he didn’t get overly concerned about his slugger even though Abreu admitted he was struggling on April 17 and looking to find something that worked. Abreu’s early struggles were reminiscent of the 2016 campaign when he looked very pedestrian at the plate through the first four months of the season. A late onslaught at the plate allowed Abreu to reach 25 homers and 100 RBIs.

“He’s very focused,” Renteria said. “He continues to do the same routine every day. His work ethic is the same. It’s just the consistency in which he does it and the outcome that will ultimately happen over the course of the season that will judge where he is or isn’t.

“We were talking to all of these guys, and the one thing they all do and represent is a consistent routine. We know they have the skillset. We just have to let them continue to play the game. It’s such a long season. There’s ups and downs. You just let them do what they do.”

The White Sox offense has been much better with Abreu performing like normal. After they scored 48 runs in their first 13 contests, the White Sox have 66 in their last 14, an average of 4.7 runs per game.

What will Steve Cishek's role be with White Sox? 'Get three outs, any inning'

What will Steve Cishek's role be with White Sox? 'Get three outs, any inning'

It's safe to say the White Sox wanted to add Steve Cishek to their bullpen.

"According to my agent, within five minutes after the World Series, the White Sox called and expressed some interest," Cishek said Wednesday. "So when you get a call that soon, you know the team is up to something. Then of course with what they did this offseason, it made signing here very intriguing."

So what will Cishek's role be at the back end of that bullpen? For the newest member of the South Side relief corps, it's really not that difficult.

"I would assume it would be the same as it was with the Cubs," he said. "Get three outs, any inning."

Cishek is aboard to bolster that back end, one that heads into 2020 with some concrete names but some mystery, as well. Alex Colome will be the team's closer after racking up 126 saves over the past four seasons, and Aaron Bummer figures to be a frequent presence in the eighth inning of games after posting a 2.13 ERA last season.

Cishek was extraordinarily reliable for Joe Maddon and the Cubs in his two seasons on the North Side, with a 2.55 ERA in a whopping 150 appearances, many of them coming in high-leverage situations.

While Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero will start the season as options for Rick Renteria in high-leverage situations, too, that pair doesn't have quite the track record of Cishek. With Rick Hahn quick to remind about the volatility of relief pitching from one year to the next, adding a dependable arm in Cishek is an important complement to what the White Sox already had in the 'pen.

"I am fortunate enough now that we have guys that have all been at the back end of a ballgame and have had success in that particular role," Renteria said Wednesday. "I've got flexibility now and strength and hopefully having guys being able to take advantage of high-leverage situations. I use a guy two, three, four days (in a row), it's nice to have another guy I can probably slot in there to be able to do things like that. I have a little bit more flexibility right now."

Cishek's contributions on the pitcher's mound will obviously be of great import, but like every other veteran addition the White Sox have made this winter, he's also expected to do plenty in the clubhouse. While the Cubs teams he was a part of played in just one postseason game the past two seasons, he's no stranger to dealing with big expectations. The White Sox have those now after years of rebuilding, and Cishek should be able to help guide the players new to such an environment.

"With expectations, as long as we stay together as a team we can accomplish a lot," Cishek said. "A lot of the guys we've brought in have been through the fire. As a matter of fact, most of the guys have played in the playoffs the last four or five seasons even. So they have the playoff experience. They know what it takes to win and get to that level, and I think that's going to bode well for these young guys to see how they work, how us older veteran guys get after it and hopefully follow suit.

"I think we can teach these guys how to win."

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White Sox Talk Podcast: The person making the boldest White Sox predictions

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The person making the boldest White Sox predictions

Chuck Garfien is joined by the man who predicted a White Sox division title for the 2020 season before the Sox made any moves, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Castrovince also discusses his other bold White Sox predictions and why he's making them.

(2:48) - Why Castrovince selected the Sox to win the AL central

(7:03) - Why Castrovine selected Rick Renteria as AL Manager of the Year

(9:56) - Yoan Moncada will challenge Mike Trout for AL MVP

(12:43) - Will Luis Robert win Rookie of the Year

(13:54) - Why the Padres missed and the White Sox won last winter on Manny Machado

(18:57) - Was the Astro punishment enough?

(23:30) - For the love of Bruce Springsteen

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

White Sox Talk Podcast

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