White Sox

White Sox: Trusting the process, Jose Abreu busts out of his slump

White Sox: Trusting the process, Jose Abreu busts out of his slump

BOSTON — After slogging through the season’s first two months with a brittle .686 OPS, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu finally appears to be breaking free of the worst slump of his brief major league career. 

Entering Tuesday night’s contest against the Boston Red Sox, Abreu is hitting .348 with a 1.008 OPS through 17 games this month. He has four home runs in June — he only had six in April and May — and his go-ahead two-run double in the 10th inning of Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel on Monday earned the White Sox a much-needed win. 

Abreu hasn’t completely erased his first 53 games of the season, which saw his OPS bottom out at .675. His slash line is up to .267/.325/.440 but well beneath his career .296/.357/.521 mark. But hitting coach Todd Steverson saw Abreu stick with the right approach — it’s not as simple as him making good contact once for everything to click — throughout his early-season ineffectiveness, which has allowed him to re-emerge as a force in the White Sox lineup in June. 

“One knock doesn’t make a season and one knock doesn’t make an average go (up) 30 points, either,” Steverson said. “As anybody will understand if you watch this game long enough, this game’s a process. One game isn’t going to give you 100 points. We play every day, or almost every day, for a reason, and that’s to continue the process. 

“He’s done well on the process, he’s getting better, there’s still more left in there.”

Manager Robin Ventura said Abreu’s pitch recognition has improved over the last few weeks, leading to the 29-year-old Cuban slugger swinging at better offerings. Opposing pitchers battered him on the inner third and in off the plate during the first two months of the season — he’s always struggled to do much with those pitches — but as opposed to years past, Abreu wasn’t able to take or fight those pitches off with much effectiveness. 

In June, Abreu’s done a better job at working opposing pitchers into missing out over the plate, where the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder can extend his arms and slam line drives to every field. Kimbrel tried getting Abreu to chase low and out of the zone on Monday, but missed with a 2-2 fastball low and down the middle that Abreu ripped into right for his game-winning double. 

“During the whole at-bat I was trying to find his fastball because I know he has a very good fastball,” Abreu said through a translator. “I also was thinking of his curveball — I was trying not to swing at a bad pitch, especially his curveball because I know he throws the curveball down in the zone. I was able to battle and at the end find a fastball to put the barrel on the ball and get a base hit.” 

Abreu had gone through slumps before in his first two years with the White Sox, but those lasted days or weeks, not months. While the White Sox got off to a hot start (23-10) without him steering the middle of their order, Abreu’s powerful presence was sorely missed during the early part of a stretch that’s seen the team fall under .500 and to fourth place in the American League Central.

The White Sox lineup has yet to fire on all cylinders — third baseman Todd Frazier is hitting .125 with a .561 OPS in June — but getting Abreu back on track is a good start. 

“I think it’s perseverance,” Ventura said. “… He had a plan. He’s sticking to it, and he’s going to fight through it. But now he’s also swinging it better, seeing it better. That becomes a big thing for him. You can see his hands working a little bit better, getting the barrel to it, hitting the balls harder. When you stick it with that way, that gives you more confidence.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.