What a day for the White Sox rebuild.
It started with the crowd going wild for Dylan Cease, the No. 18 prospect in baseball who strolled out to the mound for his major league debut and left it with his first big league win. It ended with the crowd going wild for Jose Abreu, the veteran leader in the White Sox clubhouse who blasted a three-run walk-off homer to complete a doubleheader sweep on the South Side.
In between, that same crowd saw a pair of Yoan Moncada home runs. It saw Lucas Giolito and James McCann coaching up Cease in the dugout. It saw the White Sox, losers of a combined 195 games during the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, grab a pair of victories.
It saw the future coming together.
The White Sox faithful have been asked to exercise an awful lot of patience during Rick Hahn’s ongoing rebuilding project. Well, that patience is starting to pay off, and it’s becoming very clear to those involved what is being built on the South Side.
“Something very big,” Abreu said after the game through team interpreter Billy Russo, “and I don’t want to leave here.”
Abreu’s status has been one of the pending mysteries of a season brimming with positives, and he’s been one of those bright spots, heading to his third All-Star Game next week in Cleveland. The walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th inning Wednesday night was his 20th dinger of the season. He’s driven in 63 runs. He’s on pace to set new career highs in both of those categories.
But he’s still, for now, slated to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2019 season. The White Sox, of course, have been very transparent about their desire to keep him around, and Hahn has even displayed an intent to do so, at times. It sure seems like Abreu is a part of this team’s long-term plans.
What takes no deciphering is what Abreu wants: He wants to be along for the ride.
“We are going to be good,” he said. “We have a lot of talent. We see Cease today, what he did in his first outing in the majors. Yoan has been doing it through the whole season, and he’s going to get better. Eloy (Jimenez) is going to get better, too.
“We have a lot of talent here, young guys. That’s something that made me realize I’m very blessed being here in this organization. I want to be part of this organization going forward because I know we are going to be very, very good, and I think you can see that right now.”
Indeed, we can, Jose. And few of the White Sox bright spots have been driving all of Abreu’s points home more forcefully than Moncada. After a disappointing 2018 season, his 2019 campaign has been terrific. He owns a .305/.355/.542 slash line to go along with his 16 home runs and 47 RBIs.
Moncada might not be a part of the trio of White Sox heading to the All-Star Game, but he has a case to make that he’s the team’s best position player right now. In addition to those strong offensive numbers, he’s playing some great defense at third base on a nightly basis. His two home runs in Wednesday’s second game — which came from two different sides of the plate — went a long way, the second in clutch fashion, tying things up at 6 in the bottom of the 10th.
“He's definitely growing and improving in all facets,” manager Rick Renteria said. “You're starting to see both sides of the ball, too, having impact. He's gaining more experience, continuing to grow up, continuing to improve and hopefully guys continuing to have that type of growth.”
You don’t need to be a baseball insider to realize what’s happening on the South Side. All that minor league talent is making its way to the major leagues, and a core is developing. Moncada, Jimenez, Cease, Giolito, McCann, Tim Anderson, Michael Kopech. Soon Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal will be a part of that core, too. And Abreu. He might have a few years on this group of impressive youngsters, but he wants to help guide them to the top of the baseball mountain.
“Pito's a leader,” Moncada said through Russo. “He's a veteran on this team. He's always trying to find ways for us to get better. And we need him. We need him here because he makes us better.”
They’re still mid-climb, but this whole rebuild thing seems to be shifting into overdrive. Abreu wants to make sure he’s along for the ride. Can you blame him?
“If I were the owner, I would sign myself here,” he said. “Hopefully, yes, I want to stay here.”