White Sox

White Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak taking early success in stride

White Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak taking early success in stride

BALTIMORE -- He has enjoyed this run without question, proving the White Sox correct and his former teams wrong. But Anthony Swarzak said he's doing his best not too get too caught up by the outstanding success he's had so far this season.

The veteran White Sox reliever said Sunday morning that he wants people to remember him come the All-Star break. If he keeps up this performance, that shouldn't be an issue. Toting a 95-mph fastball and a dominant slider, Swarzak has allowed three hits in 14 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. He has walked one and struck out 17 batters.

"I've had some pretty high highs in my career and some pretty low lows and you start to realize, what the hell is the difference?" Swarzak said. "I've still got to show up every day. The sun always rises the next day. So you want to have a consistent work habit and try to just play to win every day and get on a championship team. That's really what people remember is winning a World Series and being a part of something special, not a good April."

The first part of Swarzak's season has surpassed good. Swarzak said in spring training he's done saving his bullets and that's why his fastball velocity has increased from 93.6 mph in 2014. But his slider also has more bite than ever. 

Opponents are hitting .067 against Swarzak, who has set down the last 15 hitters he has faced and 33 of 34 overall. Not only are hitters having trouble with the fastball, they've got a .100 average against his slider, according to Brooksbaseball.net. That mark is well below his previous best against the slider (.253) in 2014.

"I feel like I've had a pretty good slider for a few years," Swarzak said. "I feel like it plays. But as far as not missing with it and executing and not scared to go to it two times in a row, stuff like that, everything is kind of mixing in well right now for me."

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Swarzak's performance and several key injuries have already shifted his role in the White Sox bullpen. Manager Rick Renteria has capitalized on Swarzak's run and used him in critical situations throughout the current road trip. Renteria thinks Swarzak's success is in part because of the downward angle on his pitches and explosive action.

"His confidence level is very high right now," Renteria said. "He's found a way to throw (the slider) so it's effective for strikes. He can come back with the velocity. When you have command of multiple pitches, hitters try to eliminate one or the other. But his fastball has tremendous life, so even if you're waiting for it, it's got a little giddyup."

Though he's off to a tremendous start, Swarzak knows it doesn't mean anything unless he keeps it going. Given where he is in his career, he's doing his best to stay grounded. He's happy to be pitching so well as one of his former teams --- the Minnesota Twins --- is set to open a series at the White Sox. But his desire is to be pitching just as well the next time the Twins roll back through town.

"It's always fun to prove people wrong and the organization right that you're with," Swarzak said. "Right now I'm just trying to grab a hold of what's going on as far as opportunity and my career and stuff. Right now I'm heading in the right direction, but it's all about consistency. If I have an equally bad month as I've had a good month, nobody's going to know who the hell I am come the All-Star break. It's one of those things where I'm trying to keep it all in perspective and take it one day at a time."

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

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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

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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.