White Sox

White Sox defense continues to benefit from Austin Jackson's presence

White Sox defense continues to benefit from Austin Jackson's presence

David Robertson’s expression Sunday afternoon said it all and the camera caught every second of it.

In the span of a few seconds, the White Sox closer’s emotions went from disgust to disbelief to joy as Austin Jackson raced back to take at least a double away from Oswaldo Arcia with no outs in the ninth inning.

Similar to Jose Quintana earlier in the game, Robertson parlayed a big effort from Jackson into a scoreless inning as he closed out a 3-1 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field. Robertson recorded his 10th save and the White Sox improved to 22-10. While you can point to many reasons why the White Sox already own a five-game lead in the American League Central, the team’s improved defense is certainly one of the biggest keys to its early success and Jackson is at the forefront.

“Austin covers a lot of ground and makes great reads,” Robertson said. “I couldn’t believe he got to that ball today.

“I was excited. It was a great catch. I didn’t think he was going to catch it. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to stay in the park.”

Jackson’s grab is only the latest installment in a season full of defensive highlights for the White Sox, particularly in the outfield. After they finished 26th of 30 in Defensive Runs Saved last season with minus-22, White Sox outfielders collectively entered Sunday atop the majors with 12.

Though much of the credit has been assigned to right fielder Adam Eaton, and rightfully so, you can’t overlook the contributions of Jackson, who signed a one-year deal with the club on March 6.

Defensive metrics aren’t as much of a fan of Jackson as they are Eaton. Eaton leads all players with 13 DRS while Jackson has produced minus-3, meaning three fewer runs than the average player at his position.

But what goes unaccounted for on a stat sheet is how Jackson has taken over as the captain of the outfield. Eaton said Jackson’s verbal skills and knowledge of hitters around the league has routinely had him in the correct spot, which allows him to just go out and play.

Jackson agreed that the back and forth between himself and Eaton has been a critical component.

“We’ve been doing a really good job of communicating out there,” Jackson said. “That’s the key to us being able to getting to a lot balls in the gap, cutting off balls, keeping guys at first base — just being able to talk to each other and make sure we’re on the same page and in the proper position when we’re out there.”

Back when Jackson signed, catcher Alex Avila said he’d never seen his former Detroit Tigers teammate dive to catch a ball because he sees it so well off the bat. Jackson displayed his technique in the first inning on Miguel Sano’s liner to center field as he raced over to catch it to the surprise of base runner Eddie Rosario, who had already rounded third base. Jackson easily fired the ball in for a double play.

“His defense is fantastic,” manager Robin Ventura said. “The play in the first inning and the play there in the last inning, it just solidifies everything in the outfield. He can cover a lot of ground, Adam can cover a lot of ground. It's important for us to play defense, but just the dynamic of all three of those guys out there, it's been great for us.

“He has great reads, great routes. I didn't think he was really going to get to the last one. Just a great route to get there and get your glove out.”

Robertson wasn’t the only one to celebrate the catch in center. According to MLB.com’s Statcast, Jackson raced 94 feet at 19.4 mph to rob Arcia of extra bases. His route efficiency was determined to be 96.0 percent.

Perhaps surprised himself, Jackson pounded his glove and later tipped his cap.

“It’s fun — I look at those guys and I see how pumped up they are and vice versa,” Jackson said. “We kind of feed off each other’s energy and like I said, that’s been a big key of what we’ve been able to be so good out there.”

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

0130_carlos_rodon.jpg
USA TODAY

Carlos Rodon's first rehab start went well, White Sox set date for next one

Carlos Rodon's return to the South Side is coming soon.

The top-five draft pick recovering from last fall's shoulder surgery made his first rehab start Saturday with Class A Kannapolis and threw well. Rodon allowed just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, striking out six and walking none.

The White Sox announced Sunday that Rodon's second rehab start will come Thursday with Triple-A Charlotte.

As for the exact date Rodon returns to the big league roster, it's unknown at this point. General manager Rick Hahn said that Rodon will make multiple rehab starts. One might look to the pitcher's recovery from a spring injury last year as a guide. Rodon made four rehab starts in June before debuting with the White Sox on June 28.

This recovery is different, of course. Rodon is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on May 28.

Even as the White Sox rebuild, Jose Abreu continues doing Jose Abreu things

0520-jose-abreu.jpg
USA TODAY

Even as the White Sox rebuild, Jose Abreu continues doing Jose Abreu things

It should come as no surprise, but even with the White Sox working through “the hardest part of the rebuild,” watching a couple young players struggle and owning the worst record in baseball, Jose Abreu has been his typically excellent self.

Abreu’s production is easy to take for granted because he’s been so unbelievably consistent at the plate during the entirety of his time in a White Sox uniform. After becoming the third player ever to hit 25 home runs and drive in 100 runs in each of his first four major league seasons — joining the amazing company of Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols — he’s well on his way to another one of those campaigns in 2018, even as the team around him experiences growing pains in this developmental season.

Abreu entered Sunday’s series finale with the Texas Rangers with a .306/.374/.531 slash line, and if the season ended today, those first two numbers would be the highest in their respective categories since his Rookie of the Year season in 2014. He leads the team in batting average and on-base percentage and ranks second in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.

It’s what the White Sox and their fans have come to expect from Abreu, who could be on his way to his first All-Star appearance since his rookie year.

“I think he’s just a mentally strong individual,” manager Rick Renteria said. “His routines are the same. He’s consistent. He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. I think he personifies a man that understands the complexity of the length of a major league season and doesn’t allow little valleys and or highs to affect him too much. He knows that they come and go.

“As long as he continues to do what he does on a daily basis to get ready for a ballgame, he knows that when it’s all said and done it all levels out and he’ll be able to produce and give you opportunities to score some runs.”

Despite advancing age and a decision coming on Abreu’s contract, there’s little mystery as to why the White Sox would want to keep him around through the period when the rebuild reaches its apex and the contention window opens on the South Side. The numbers he puts up on an annual basis would keep him a middle-of-the-order bat, even in a lineup that featured Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo, not to mention the guy who’s locker is right next to Abreu’s, Yoan Moncada.

And that’s another big reason the White Sox would love to keep Abreu on the roster. He’s a key figure in the clubhouse, a mentor to Moncada, his fellow Cuban, and a leader for many of the team’s young players. Having Abreu around as an example to these young guys coming up would be invaluable in helping the White Sox develop their organizational identity.

“I think he’s got enough time in here and he’s had enough success and based on the way he carries himself in the clubhouse and his daily work, I think people watch him by example and as he’s been here for a while I think he’s able to communicate with a lot of the guys,” Renteria said. “I think they trust him. I think it’s one of those things that just evolves. I think he’s been evolving into that type of leader. He’s a quiet leader, but when he has something to say, everybody listens.”

Abreu might not be a loud, vocal force like Yolmer Sanchez is inside and outside the clubhouse, but his comments about the young team around him and the rebuilding season show his outlook and his status as a veteran leader of this group.

“I think everybody knows and understands the process that we’re passing through,” Abreu said through a translator after Saturday’s win, in which he homered and extended his hit streak to 10 games, “but when you can win games like tonight it’s huge because you are letting them know, the young guys, how it is to win games and how it is to compete and to play good baseball and to have confidence with the things that you’re doing. It’s good, every victory, every win is good for us. It doesn’t matter how the score is, every game that we can win is good, it’s huge for us.

“Ricky is giving them the opportunity to play and to show that they can do and the confidence for them to show their talent. We are all excited to see what they can do and how they can help us. I think that we all belong at this level, and for us it’s an exciting moment for what all these young guys can offer.

“They all like to work. They all like to prepare, like to do their job, to show on the field what they are capable of, and I think that for me that’s something that let’s me know that they are trying to do their best, and they are trying to stay here and to help this team win games. That’s also what the front office is taking from them too, when you see the guys who are doing all the things that they ask for, and then sometimes they’re gonna rough days, but when you see that effort, you’re very glad and you’re happy because everybody is trying to do their best.”

The White Sox will have to make a decision on Abreu eventually, as he’s only under team control for one more season after the current one. But he’s voiced a desire to stay on the South Side, and it’s easy for the White Sox to forecast what they’ll get from Abreu, even as he continues to get older.

This guy’s as consistent as they come, on and off the field.