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BALTIMORE — Jose Abreu’s early difficulty putting a barrel on the baseball has been replaced by a lot of loud contact.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

White Sox reportedly 'remain strong factor' in the race for Manny Machado

White Sox reportedly 'remain strong factor' in the race for Manny Machado

The Padres emergence into the Manny Machado sweepstakes has altered the landscape from the White Sox perspective (at least from the outside).

It may have even caused some White Sox fans to lose a bit of hope. Here's Ken Rosenthal to the rescue, reassuring that the White Sox "remain a strong factor" in the chase for Machado's signature.

Is this new? Is this news? The White Sox have been in on Machado since his three-city tour that included the Yankees, Phillies and White Sox back in December so them being a strong factor isn't much of an update.

The fact that the White Sox front office and ownership appear to be aligned in Machado being the first choice ahead of Bryce Harper is relevant. It is also relevant that the Padres and Phillies may "not see it as convincingly." We're still playing in vagaries at this point, but this is more encouraging news than hearing the Padres offering a big amount of money for Machado, adding another very serious suitor to the list.

This update comes after Rick Renteria said "don't be surprised" if Yoan Moncada is the White Sox starting third baseman come Opening Day.

The mixed signals and vague reported updates will continue until Harper and/or Machado pick their destinations. Until then, White Sox fans can take this as a mild bit of positive news.

 

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Rick Renteria says 'don't be surprised' if Yoan Moncada is White Sox third baseman come Opening Day: So what's that mean for Manny Machado?

Rick Renteria says 'don't be surprised' if Yoan Moncada is White Sox third baseman come Opening Day: So what's that mean for Manny Machado?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — That potential position switch for Yoan Moncada isn't so potential at the moment. It's happening.

The guy who started 148 games at second base during his first full season in the big leagues is practicing at third base as the full squad has come together here at Camelback Ranch. That was been mentioned as a possibility throughout the offseason by Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria.

But the skipper took things to another level Monday, saying that it shouldn't be a surprise if Moncada is the White Sox starting third baseman come Opening Day.

"I think we are going to work him over there as much as we can during the spring. And don’t be surprised if you see him there Opening Day," Renteria said. "The reality is the more flexibility we have with him, the more he knows what he can do. He sees himself and has been an excellent third baseman, before we (acquired) him, in the amateur ranks.

"It’s one of those things where we want to be able to see and keep ourselves open to all the possibilities and see if he can handle it. There’s no better time than spring training. He’s been working over the winter on it a little bit. As we see him continue to work, we will be able to make a determination as to where he’s at and how good he might be able to be. We’ll keep working at it."

Now, of course the immediate reaction is what this has to do with the guy who's not here, Manny Machado.

The White Sox are still in pursuit of the 26-year-old free-agent superstar, who still hasn't made up his mind on where he's going to sign despite major league camps being in full swing in both Arizona and Florida. Machado plays on the left side of the infield — a two-time Gold Glover at third who moves to shortstop, his original position, last season — and plenty of fans are jumping to the conclusion on social media that because the White Sox are sliding Moncada to third and prepping for him to be the starter at the hot corner that one of two things is happening: 1. The pursuit of Machado is dead, or 2. Machado insists on playing shortstop after all and it's Tim Anderson who'll be moved.

Here's why neither of those things is the case.

Moncada's move to third base has little, if anything, to do with Machado and a lot more to do with Nick Madrigal, last year's first-round pick who is what the White Sox call a Gold Glove caliber defender up the middle, specifically at second base, where he's played since he joined the organization. Madrigal, who the White Sox described as the best all-around player in college baseball when they drafted him, could move through the system quickly, and when he arrives at the major league level, they want to have a spot for him.

But they want to have a spot for Moncada, too, as they still think highly of his ceiling and what he'll be able to do as a hitter one day, despite the 217 strikeouts and other less-than-ideal numbers posted during his first full season in the bigs in 2018. And so with no obvious long-term answer at third base within the organization, getting Moncada there sooner rather than later could make him more comfortable once Madrigal arrives and once the transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode comes. And that could all happen within the next season or two.

Renteria went as far as saying that a move to third could help Moncada improve both on defense and offense. He made 21 errors at second base last season, one of the highest totals in baseball. For what it's worth, in 31 games at third base as a member of the Boston Red Sox organization (including the Arizona Fall League), Moncada made eight errors.

But the manager thinks a move to third could help him focus in the field and at the plate.

"I think that playing third might allow him to free himself up, simply because he’s going to have to be more focused," he said. "At second base, you can get a little bit more lackadaisical. I think that it’s possible, and there’s no guarantee, that playing third base rounds out his focus a little bit more on both sides of the ball. At least that’s an expectation or a hope we might have.

"I think that his range factor is huge, his arm is good. Understanding the nuances of the game at third, getting reacquainted with it again will be a factor in how well he’ll do. But I think that just allowing him, and then allowing us to use (Yolmer Sanchez) at second base a little bit more gives us a little bit more well-rounded infield."

Most importantly, though, Machado simply isn't here. He might be eventually, but he isn't now. And yet Renteria and the White Sox still have to get ready for the upcoming season. If Machado doesn't come, Moncada would likely be the team's starting third baseman, and this is in preparation of that. If Machado does come, it's not a hard fix: Moncada slides back to second base and Sanchez likely takes a bench role.

Renteria said before SoxFest that Machado told the White Sox he'll play anywhere they ask if this is where he ends up signing. That was important info considering Machado's supposed preference for shortstop. And so Tim Anderson likely stays the everyday shortstop whether Machado signs or not. Moncada is the movable piece, and his return to second base would be easy in the event Machado comes to the South Side.

But Renteria is constructing his everyday lineup with the players he has right now. It's a contingency plan in case Machado goes elsewhere, not a sudden change of strategy because the White Sox have given up hope.

"I think I’ve been saying I can’t worry about who’s not here. I’ve been focused on the guys that are here," Renteria said. "I have to move forward that way. And like any team, anything can happen. You make adjustments as those changes occur, if they occur. Right now, the guys that are in that locker room are the ones that I’m most focused on. And we’re trying to make sense of how our roster will look and how our lineups will look with the guys that we do have."

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