White Sox

Jose Abreu might be starting to pull out of his slump, an example to White Sox young players

Jose Abreu might be starting to pull out of his slump, an example to White Sox young players

Perhaps things are starting to turn around for Jose Abreu.

It seems somewhat counterintuitive that the American League’s starting first baseman in next week’s All-Star Game is having his worst season as a big leaguer. But that’s been the case for Abreu, who after four remarkably productive and consistent seasons with the White Sox entered Friday’s game against the visiting Kansas City Royals with an OPS nearly .140 points below his career average. That’s mostly due to an extended slump in which he slashed .174/.218/.292 between May 27 and Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

But maybe Abreu’s pulling out of his tailspin. He collected a pair of hits in Friday night’s win, including a well-struck home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth. That was his first extra-base knock since a triple on July 1 and his first homer since June 27.

Heck, a single two innings prior was enough to spark jokes from the home dugout, with Abreu’s teammates joking that he should get the team to retrieve the ball as a commemoration of his first hit in what’s seemed like forever.

Wiseguys, eh?

Abreu, always happy to joke around, appreciated the humor. And it’s what the White Sox appreciate about him that might be finally bringing him out of a month and a half of poor results: his work ethic.

Abreu’s commitment to his craft is a repeated talking point for manager Rick Renteria, general manager Rick Hahn and Abreu’s teammates. It’s what they respect most about a guy who put himself in some pretty elite company during his first four years in the major leagues. It’s what makes him a role model to the younger players so critical to this rebuilding effort who have already reached and who have yet reach the South Side.

Abreu’s efforts during this slump and the work he’s done to try to pull himself out of it: another example of what the young White Sox can learn from this veteran leader.

“I’m trying to tell them, to let them know what you need to do when you’re passing through a tough moment,” Abreu said through a team translator after Friday’s game. “Just have confidence in yourself, belief in yourself, belief in the stuff that you are doing and the stuff that brought you here. I think that’s the way.

“That’s the key for you to overcome difficulties and tough moments, have belief in yourself, have confidence in your approach, confidence in your routine, your work. That’s the way to overcome the difficulties, especially at this level.”

None of the current major league White Sox have escaped lengthy stretches of struggles in this developmental season. That includes big pieces of the rebuild like Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. If they need some pointers on how to get back on track, looking to Abreu for help seems an obvious move, and the guys admit they get advice from Abreu on a regular basis.

Questions about hypothetical deadline and offseason trades will likely follow Abreu to Washington, D.C., next week. After all, if the rebuilding White Sox have a player good enough to start the All-Star Game, why wouldn’t they be interested in moving him for some young pieces?

Well, this kind of thing is why. Abreu is such an example to the young players who will soon make up the vast majority of this roster that the White Sox place a different value on him than other teams might. They see him as an important part of the developmental process for these prospects and young major leaguers. And he’s a good enough player to earn a start in the All-Star Game, which helps the argument that Abreu should be a part of the next White Sox contender.

That’s all to be determined, of course, but Abreu, with his work and his mentorship, is showing his value on a daily basis. And if this is him pulling out of his slump, then that value gets even greater.

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

The White Sox lost Saturday night.

That’s baseball, of course, they’re not all going to be winners. And this rebuilding franchise has seen plenty of losses. But the feelings have been so good of late — whether because of Eloy Jimenez’s 400-foot homers or Lucas Giolito’s Cy Young caliber season to this point or a variety of other positive signs that make the White Sox future so bright — that losing Saturday to the first-place New York Yankees seemed rather sour.

Obviously there will be plenty more losses for this White Sox team before the book closes on the 2019 campaign. Back under .500, these South Siders aren’t expected to reach elite status before all the pieces arrive, and it would be no shock if they’re removed from the playoff race in the American League by the time crunch time rolls around in September.

But don’t tell these White Sox that an 8-4 defeat is a return to reality or a reminder that this team is still a work in progress. Even if, for a lot of players, development is still occurring at the major league level, the “learning experiences” that have been such a large part of the conversation surrounding this team in recent seasons and their daily goal of winning baseball games aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Yankees are sitting in first place and they lost two games in a row,” catcher James McCann said Saturday night, providing a reminder of how the first two games of this weekend series went. “Just because you're expected to win and expected to be World Series contenders doesn't mean you're not going to lose ballgames. It's how you bounce back.

“And it doesn't mean you're going to win tomorrow, either. It's just, how do you handle a defeat? How do you handle a bad at-bat? How do you handle a bad outing, whatever it may be? But it doesn't mean that we step back and say, ‘Oh, we're back under .500, we're supposed to lose.’

“We expect to win when we show up to the ballpark. You can take learning experiences whether you win or lose. Do I think a game like tonight reminds us we're supposed to be in a rebuilding mode? No. We still expect to win, and we're going to show up tomorrow with that mentality.”

Maybe that’s a description of the much-discussed “learning to win” young teams supposedly need to do on the road to contender status. Maybe that can’t happen until a team figures out how to bounce back from a defeat — until it learns how to lose and how to act in the wake of a loss.

For all McCann’s certainty about the team’s expectations on a daily basis, his explanation was peppered with questions. He said he’s seen the answer to “how do you bounce back?” from this club, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday night was fairly convincing evidence that the White Sox didn’t use up all their fight just getting back to .500.

So while the White Sox know they won’t win every game — that no team will — they need to know how they handle defeat. Losing, it turns out, might end up being more instructive about when this team is ready to win.

“I think we've done a pretty good job (bouncing back),” McCann said. “You look at the road trip in Houston and Minnesota where we took two out of four from a good Houston team and then played really not very good baseball for three days in Minnesota only to come home and have an extremely good homestand.

“It's the big picture. It's not the very next day. It's not, ‘We've got to bounce back and win.’ It's not a must-win situation in the middle of June. But it's how do you handle yourself? How does a game like tonight, do you show up flat tomorrow and let it snowball into a three-, four-game spiral? Or do you fight?

“And that's what this team's been really good at doing is fighting and not giving in.”

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Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

The temperature is rising on the South Side, and if you look outside, you know it has nothing to do with Mother Nature.

Instead, it’s a heat wave coming from a fresh-faced 22-year-old slugger who’s crushing baseballs, igniting a fan base and screaming “Hi Mom!” to his actual mother whenever he spots a TV camera with its red light on.

Eloy Jimenez has arrived with the White Sox, and according to a New York Yankees All Star who has known him for years, the best is yet to come.

“Not this year, but next year, he’s going to be even better,” infielder Gleyber Torres said about Jimenez.

The two of them were signed by that team across town in 2013 when they were both 16 years old. They were practically inseparable back then, and they remain tight to this day.

“I talk with Gleyber pretty much every single day now. He’s kind of like my brother,” Jimenez said. “We haven’t lost that communication, and I think that’s good for us.”

Torres echoed similar thoughts about Jimenez.

“In my first couple years with the Cubs, he was my roommate every day. We’ve got a really good relationship. We’re like brothers. We are really good friends,” Torres said. “I’m just happy to see what he’s doing right now.”

Which, lately, has been just about everything.

There was that majestic home run Jimenez belted on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals that landed on the center field concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field, the two walks the next day when the Yankees decided to pitch around Jimenez as if he was a perennial All Star, and then the two-homer game on Friday: The first one gave the White Sox the lead, the second stuck a dagger into the Yankees, as well as the heart of his longtime friend.

“For sure, I didn’t like it,” Torres said with a smile about Jimenez’s two-homer, six-RBI game. “I’m not surprised. I knew Eloy before he signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican. He’s a big dude. The power is coming every day.”

How good can Jimenez be? Torres, who plays on a star-studded team with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, sees Jimenez reaching the same stratosphere.

“He can be a star for all of MLB. He’s just a young guy right now, but when he matures a little more, he can do everything.”

Jimenez is turning up the heat in Chicago, and it’s not even summer yet.

The South Side can’t wait for the sizzle to come.

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