White Sox

Where the Opening Day roster stands after White Sox outright Juan Minaya

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USA TODAY

Where the Opening Day roster stands after White Sox outright Juan Minaya

It might not have seemed like a big deal, the White Sox outrighting relief pitcher Juan Minaya on Friday.

Minaya had a 21.21 ERA in five spring appearances, and that earned him a reassignment to minor league camp and opened up a spot on the team's 40-man roster. While Minaya's regular-season numbers haven't been nearly as horrible as they were during Cactus League play this spring — as evidenced by a 3.28 ERA in 46.2 innings last season — there are a lot of younger relievers who might be key figures in the bullpen of the future. The White Sox opted to give those guys preference heading into another rebuilding season on the South Side.

But another round of spring cuts — Randall Delgado went to minor league camp Friday, too — gets us closer to the White Sox roster for Opening Day.

Minaya looked to be a prime contender for a spot in the bullpen, especially after finishing the season incredibly strong, with a 0.73 ERA in 12 appearances over the final month of the 2018 campaign. He was also out of options. But now that spot will go to someone else.

Who? Well, Alex Colome, Kelvin Herrera, Nate Jones and Jace Fry all figure to be locks for the bullpen. Youngsters Ian Hamilton and Caleb Frare could claim spots after getting their first tastes of the big leagues last season. Ryan Burr has been excellent this spring, the owner of a 1.35 ERA in five appearances. That could get him a spot. And then there's the need for a long man, a job that would likely go to Manny Banuelos or Dylan Covey. Banuelos, who the White Sox traded for this offseason, is out of options and despite a tough spring, it'd be weird for them to trade for a player and then risk losing him via waivers by knocking him off the 40-man roster. So maybe he's the final piece of the bullpen puzzle.

Minaya getting outrighted also opens up a spot on the 40-man roster, one that could logically go to Ervin Santana should the White Sox decide on him to be the fifth starter in the rotation alongside Opening Day locks Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Ivan Nova. General manager Rick Hahn said earlier this week that the team doesn't necessarily need a fifth starter for the first few weeks of the season because of the way the schedule is set up with numerous off days. If Santana, coming back from a finger injury that limited him to five starts last season with the Minnesota Twins, isn't quite ready for Opening Day, the White Sox could go with another bullpen arm and wait to add Santana to the active roster until he's needed. But the easier way to go might be to have him take Minaya's vacated spot on the 40-man.

So that's the pitching staff. Where are the White Sox with their complement of position players?

The catching tandem is obvious, Welington Castillo and James McCann, and the starting infield, plus a designated hitter, is pretty well set in Jose Abreu, Yolmer Sanchez, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Yonder Alonso. The Opening Day outfield is less of a certainty, but Daniel Palka, Adam Engel and Jon Jay would be a good bet. So that leaves two bench spots, which would figure to go to Leury Garcia and Jose Rondon. That is, of course, not good news for the recently concussed Nicky Delmonico, though it's possible he could edge out someone for a spot if he plays well in his nearing return to the Cactus League lineup.

What throws a wrench into this whole thing is the upcoming arrival of Eloy Jimenez, expected to happen at some point during the month of April. Basically, it means one of those outfield jobs is temporary. Which one? Good question. Jay doesn't figure to be going anywhere, and Jimenez will likely be an everyday player — perhaps the only such player in the White Sox outfield — once he arrives. That leaves two roster spots for the trio of Palka, Engel and Garcia, though Rondon could potentially be squeezed out with Garcia able to play the same infield positions Rondon can.

But that's a question the White Sox don't have to answer for another month or so. As for the Opening Day roster, those decisions will come quicker, but there's a tad more clarity after Friday's cuts.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins on hitting, catching and a Dylan Cease story you have to hear

Chuck Garfien and Ryan McGuffey speak with Charlotte Knights catcher Zack Collins about

-His hot start to the season at the plate (5:30)

-How James McCann helped him with his catching during spring training (7:20)

-How he's changed his approach at the plate this season (13:10)

-What he orders at Chick-fil-A (15:40)

-Why he's not thinking or worrying about getting called up to the majors (17:50)

-An incredible story about Dylan Cease (20:30)

-His thoughts on Tim Anderson's bat flip (28:20) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

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White Sox Talk Podcast

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A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

A Jose Abreu awakening could make an already productive White Sox offense even more fearsome

Hitting has not been the biggest problem for the White Sox. But even after a win to kick off this week's series against the Baltimore Orioles, they're still under .500 and in fourth place in the aggressively weak AL Central.

There's a ton of baseball left, and their spot in the standings on April 22 indicates nothing about where they'll be at the end of September. But the issues that have cropped up in the early going — many of them having to do with what's gone on on the pitcher's mound — have signaled that another losing season in the thick of the ongoing rebuilding process wouldn't come as a great shock.

That point being established, there's still been more to smile about in the early going this season than there was perhaps in the entirety of the 2018 campaign, what Rick Hahn described from the beginning as "the toughest part of the rebuild." That turned out to be prescient, with the White Sox losing 100 games. This year, the early season emergence of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and, to a lesser extent, Eloy Jimenez have made it so there are exciting reasons to pay attention to what's going on on the South Side, all the while making for a lineup that can push across a good deal of runs.

Now imagine if Jose Abreu wasn't hitting below the Mendoza Line.

He's not anymore after a big night Monday, but the guy who's arguably still the team's best hitter when everything's right hasn't been right very often so far in 2019. That could be starting to change, though, and if it does, a lineup that's already a heck of a lot more threatening to opposing pitchers than it was at any point in 2018 could become even more fearsome, even more productive. And that leads to more wins, important not just for fans hoping for a surprise run at relevancy given the weak state of the division, but for a team building a lineup for the future that it hopes is scoring a whole bunch of runs in meaningful games in seasons to come.

Abreu went 3-for-5 in Monday night's 12-2 laugher in Baltimore, the White Sox bats looking even better with an opportunity to feast on Orioles pitching, which entered as the worst staff in the majors with a 6.21 ERA and owned a 6.37 ERA after Monday's blowout. But it's a three-game hitting streak for a guy whose average was down to .174 after Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. Since, he's 6-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs.

Maybe it's just a nice three-game stretch, boosted by a chance to swing against the big leagues' worst pitching staff. But it allows the White Sox to dream about a lineup made ever more dangerous by the regular production of a two-time All Star and one of the AL's reigning Silver Sluggers.

Again, offense has not been the main reason the White Sox are still underwater, from a win-loss perspective, at this point. They aren't exactly blowing the doors off the league when it comes to their offensive prowess, middle of the pack in baseball with 106 runs scored this season. But they entered Monday's game with a 5.44 team ERA, one of the four worst marks in the bigs. The bullpen's ERAs are still on their way down after short outings from the starting staff in the season's first couple of weeks forced them into unenviable situations. One run allowed in Monday's bullpen day should help with that. The team ERA shot down to 5.27 after Monday's game, still not enough to vault them out of the bottom six teams in the league.

But reliable versions of Anderson (who's still hitting over .400), Moncada and Jimenez are pieces this lineup didn't have last year, and they've been three of the best parts of it so far in 2019. Leury Garcia has been quietly productive if not flashy while doing it. James McCann, who hit a three-run homer to start the scoring in Monday night's rout, has put up good numbers in limited time while splitting catching duties with Welington Castillo. Even Ryan Cordell, only the team's starting right fielder for a few days, has shown promise with a couple homers already. There have been holes, of course, chiefly Yolmer Sanchez — who was still hitting under .100 on April 13 but is now batting .231 after a three-hit night Monday — and the sent-down Daniel Palka. Abreu and Yonder Alonso, in the middle of the White Sox order, have been unproductive, as well, while the younger guys have flourished around them.

But an Abreu turnaround — or, really, an awakening, considering how early it still is — would boost the numbers and make the lineup capable of even more on a regular basis.

It could also be another factor in the ongoing conversation about a potential Abreu contract extension. While Hahn has suggested it's unlikely that such a deal would be struck during the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see it come before Abreu is set to hit free agency once the 2019-20 offseason begins. The White Sox are such big fans of what Abreu does in the clubhouse and as a mentor for younger players that production might not play as big a role as it normally would. But obviously the consistency of that production in Abreu's first five big league seasons certainly helps. To keep that production going with a late-April awakening would be all the more reason to keep Abreu around for the transition from rebuilding to contending.

The White Sox lineup has been promising to this point. It could become downright potent if Abreu starts knocking the ball around as we all know he can.

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