White Sox

White Sox go from 'All In' to 'Don't Care'

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White Sox go from 'All In' to 'Don't Care'

GLENDALE, Ariz -- Position players arent expected to report to White Sox spring training until Tuesday, but one-by-one the three hitters who struggled the most in 2011 all coincidentally arrived at Camelback Ranch on Saturday -- three days ahead of time.

Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham.

Those are signs to me that guys are hungry to come back and play well, said manager Robin Ventura. Theyre willing to do that for the team and thats important in that theyre showing everybody else on the team that theyre already in. Theyre willing to come in and work, and do whatevers necessary.

Coming off his nightmare season of 2011 in which he batted .159 with 177 strikeouts, Dunn showed up Saturday looking to put it all behind him. He took batting practice in the off-season for the first time in his career, and recently met with new hitting coach Jeff Manto in Houston to help prepare him for the season.

My main goal is to be ready for Opening Day, and thats what Ill do, Dunn said matter-of-factly.

The White Sox slugger believes hell have a comeback season. So does his new manager.

Hes had success in the past, and thats what Im counting on, Ventura said. Ive seen him play. Ive seen him do well. I want him to come and be prepared and do that. He has a clean slate.

The same goes for Beckham, billed as a future star with the White Sox after his impressive rookie season in 2009. Unfortunately, his hitting woes deepened last season, batting .230 with 111 strikeouts. Gordon came to Glendale with a brand new mind-set, which could end up becoming the unofficial slogan for the 2012 White Sox.

Dont care. Dont care. Honey badger. Were all going to be honey badgers. Were not going to care at all this year, said Beckham, referencing the viral YouTube video about the fearless predator.

Beckham was joking -- sort of.

He plans on making White Sox honey badger t-shirts for his teammates, anything to help lighten the load after they carried -- and failed to meet -- such high expectations last year.

I think sometimes I take it way too seriously, Beckham said. I want to do so well for this team and for the fans, for myself that sometimes it gets too much of me. Be a little more carefree this year. Not care so much.

That calmer attitude will likely work for Beckham. What about Dunn?

Thats probably not my problem. I have enough fun for at least 23 of us sitting here, Dunn said with a smile. Ill still be myself.

No one is exactly sure which Alex Rios will wear a White Sox uniform this season. His Jekyll and Hyde stint so far has been exciting and dumbfounding, and everything in between. After having his best major league season in 2010 in which he batted .284 with 21 homers, 88 RBIs, and 34 stolen bases, Rios slumped big-time in 2011, hitting just .227 with 13 homers, 44 RBIs, and 11 steals.

I want to start over and have a very productive and helpful year. Thats what Im looking for, Rios said. I dont have any doubts in my skills. I know that I can produce. Its just a matter of staying positive, not cloud my mind with lots of things, like mechanics and all the things I was worried about last year. Its just see the ball, hit the ball. Thats what Im going to try to accomplish this year.

What position Rios plays in the outfield is a mystery. He prefers center and right, but those spots might belong to Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo.

Well see what happens, Rios said.

Ventura said Saturday that players will have to be flexible.

Guys will just have to be open to moving around and do whats best for the team.

Right now the team is walking into camp with a peaceful, easy feeling. Last year they were All-In. This year, with a more surfer mentality settling in, maybe the new slogan should be this:

Its all good.

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.”