White Sox

Jose Abreu still likely to hit second for White Sox on Sunday

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Jose Abreu still likely to hit second for White Sox on Sunday

DETROIT -- Sounds like it’ll take more than a postponement to keep Jose Abreu from hitting second for the White Sox.

Though he joked a good night’s sleep could change his mind, White Sox manager Robin Ventura suggested he would keep his slugger in the second spot for Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers.

With the White Sox struggling against left-handed pitchers all season, Ventura wants his best hitter to get as many possible opportunities to hit and had placed Abreu second in Saturday’s lineup against Tigers lefty Kyle Ryan. Even though the game has been rained out, Detroit will start southpaw David Price and that is likely to keep Abreu hitting second for the first time in his career.

[MORE: Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game rained out]

“We’ve had a tough go left-handed wise,” Ventura said. “Shuffling it up enough to move him up and give him another opportunity if it’s there. I think with a lineup you tend to shuffle and find something that works and this looks like a good move right now, to be able to get him up there and something to shuffle the deck.

“We’ll see how it goes, but I like having him bat that many times, definitely.”

Surprised by the news but willing to do whatever he’s asked, Abreu said his approach wouldn’t change with the switch. Ventura doesn’t want the slugger to change, either.

Abreu hasn’t batted this high in the order since in his early days in Cuba. All of his starts with the White Sox have come with him hitting third or fourth.

“It doesn’t matter what spot in the lineup that I am,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The only difference now being in the second spot is that I’m probably going to get one more at-bat and I’m going to see more pitches.

“I’m going to keep my regular approach.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Jose Abreu jersey here]

Abreu even said he’s capable of bunting if it’s necessary, though Ventura made it clear he doesn’t want to see that. But Abreu said he works on bunting every day in batting practice and can do it if needed.

“They are there,” Abreu said of his skills. “I always try in BP to bunt. It’s not for the routine. I try to do it because you never know what situation in the game you have to do it. If the opportunity is for me to bunt, I’m going to bunt.”

Even though they signed Melky Cabrera to hit second, White Sox No. 2 hitters have a collective .220/.255/.257 slash line with the .511 OPS representing the worst numbers from any spot in their lineup. That .511 OPS from two-hole hitters ranks 30th in the majors, 94 points below the next worst team and 226 points below the .737 league average.

The White Sox have also struggled mightily against southpaws with a .563 OPS. They’re hitting .673 versus right-handers.

“I like him to be up there,” Ventura said. “That two hole for us has always been a rough spot. And with us facing lefties, we have enough righties to be able to fill in the rest of the spots. Just move him up and give him more opportunities.”

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.