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.

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

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USA TODAY

As White Sox continue to pile up the strikeouts, Rick Renteria is taking the broad view

White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson has in his mind an ideal number of times he’d strike out in a season.

“If I had it my way I’d probably strike out 20 times a year but I don’t know how you do that, really,” Davidson said before the Sox defeated the Royals 9-3 on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

It’s not realistic for an everyday player to go through the season with that few strikeouts, especially on a Sox team that entered Friday’s game with 1,163 of them, the second-highest total in the major-leagues behind the Rangers’ 1,168. The Sox were on pace to strike out 1,570 times, which would break the franchise record of 1,397 set last season.

Against the Royals, the Sox struck out seven times, but made more than enough contact—including three-run home runs from Jose Abreu and Nicky Delmonico—to win for the eighth time in their last 14 games.

With the Sox going through the trials and tribulations that come along with a radical rebuild, perhaps it’s not a surprise the team strikes out as much as it has the past two seasons. They are young, aggressive at the plate and still learning at the major-league level.

“It’s just some of the experience and learning your swing and trying to improve on it every single year,” said Davidson, who went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts Friday night. “I don’t think coming up (in the minors) everybody was striking out as much as we do here so that just shows that the competition is better and we’re just also trying to learn.

“The MLB (web site) has a section just showing how nasty pitches are,” Davidson added. “Guys are really good here. It’s just a part of learning. It’s about seeing the ball, learning the zone, learning counts and understanding when they’re going to throw stirkes and when they’re going to throw balls and also just putting the bat on the ball.”

The Sox were particularly susceptible to the strikeout when they fanned 10-plus times during an eight-game stretch from Aug. 5-13, a franchise record. They fell one game short of matching the dubious major-league record of nine consecutive games with 10-plus Ks set by the Brewers in 2017.

Sox manager Rick Renteria said the cause of all the strikeouts “depends on who you want to look at. You could look at it collectively (or) you can look at it individually. We have one of the young men (Yoan Moncada) who has quite a few under his belt, both looking and swinging (for a major-league leading 172 this season). Two-strike approach obviously is something we talk about a lot and still has to be implemented in practical terms so that it's useful. We don't want our guys swinging out of the zone. We do want them to be able to defend themselves and keep a ball in play possibly when need be.

“But I'm not thinking in regards of how (strikeouts) continue to mount and what that indicates or doesn't indicate,” Renteria added. “We look at all of our guys individually and figure out what it is we can help them with in terms of attacking that strike zone and being ready to hit.”

Rick Renteria still looking for 'a little better effort' from Avisail Garcia despite injury

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria still looking for 'a little better effort' from Avisail Garcia despite injury

Rick Renteria proved once again that he won’t let his boys quit.

The White Sox manager pulled Avisail Garcia from Friday night’s 9-3 victory over the Royals after the outfielder failed to run hard out of the box during a first-inning flyout. It wasn’t the first time Renteria has made a point by pulling a player during a game. Garcia was yanked from a spring training contest for not running hard out of the box and Tim Anderson got the same treatment in July.

“I didn’t think (Garcia) had given me an effort on the Texas Leaguer,” Renteria said after Friday’s victory. “If the ball falls in, you have to possibly advance.”


Renteria was quick to point out that Garcia is playing with a right knee injury that the right fielder said would have to be addressed—likely with surgery—during the offseason.

“He does have a knee that’s bothering him a little bit,” Renteria said. “I told him, ‘you certainly looked like something was bothering you.’ He said, ‘I felt it click when I came out of the box.’ ‘I said you understand you can still give me a better effort out of the box (and) he said, ‘yes, I understand that. I’m feeling this.’ We addressed it a little bit. He’ll be back in there (Saturday night). He realizes he still feels he can give us a little better effort.”

Garcia, who has been on the disabled list twice this season due to hamstring injuries, said he understood Renteria’s decision. 

“I felt a click (in the knee) and I didn’t run,” Garcia said. “Even if I felt a click I can do a better effort if I want to play and I want to play. That’s why they take me out. I felt a click and I was a little bit scared about it but I’m OK.”

Renteria said it is important down the stretch to communicate with Garcia when it comes to managing his knee.

“That’s why we had the conversation,” Renteria said. “He doesn’t want to come out of the lineup. He says he can play every day, he says, ‘I can manage this, I can play through this, I’ll be fine.’ I said then give me a little more effort on some of those plays. I get it that you may feel it but if you feel it, just explain to me what’s going on and we can manage it that way. He really doesn’t want to come out. He wants to play.

“We’ve never had a problem with (Garcia),” Renteria added. “Despite a couple times here or there where we’ve taken him out, if you watch him he busts his rear end pretty much all the time. That was a rarity. At that particular point in time it was my decision to pull him out.”

Garcia said he will continue to play through the knee issue.

“I just have to keep going,” Garcia said. “But I was scared a little bit because I felt like a click. But at the same time, I didn’t run hard enough so I’m OK with it. I’m good to play.”

When asked if Garcia will get the knee taken care of following the season, he responded, “yeah, for sure. One-hundred percent.”