Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham

Johnson makes impressive first impression

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
1:55
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Micah Johnson connected with the first blow in the brawl that is expected to be the battle for the Chicago White Sox's second-base job.

It wasn’t just that Johnson had three hits in four at-bats during Tuesday’s intrasquad game, he also used his speed to cause all kinds of trouble for the defense and was able to score three runs.

“That’s my job to get on base any way possible,” Johnson said. “Yesterday I just tried to work on a few bunts and stuff and then get to two strikes, then just figure out how to get on base then. I was just working on stuff, and when I get on base my next job is to figure out how to score anyway possible and to put pressure on the defense.”

Johnson not only stole two bases, he was on the run a third time and ended up turning the play into another run.

“Probably my favorite play yesterday was 3-1 count, I was on first and Trayce (Thompson) hit a ground ball to short when I was stealing,” Johnson said. “They threw the ball away, and I was able to score on that. That’s just another way to score a run right there. Or (Emilio) Bonifacio bunts when I try to steal second, Melky (Cabrera) hits a ground ball and (Adam) LaRoche hits one in. That’s beautiful baseball man. It’s unbelievable.”

Johnson’s main competition for the Opening Day second-base job figures to come from Carlos Sanchez, with Gordon Beckham available if either falters. Sanchez got the start in Tuesday’s Cactus League opener.

“He just makes stuff happen when he’s out there,” manager Robin Ventura said of Johnson. “That’s part of the draw of him when you see him on the field, you’re drawn to him, he makes a lot of stuff happen. Everything seems to be going 100 miles an hour when he’s out there. He just creates havoc, can put it in play and that means runs because he makes stuff happen.”

And to think, Johnson didn’t start using his legs to his advantage until two years ago. He ended up stealing a combined 84 bases on three different minor league levels. Last season, his leg issues reduced him to 22 steals.

“In college I was more of a power hitter, I guess,” said Johnson, who is completely recovered from hamstring issues. “I hit double-digit home runs. I just never ran as much. Then I realized what you can do to a game with speed. I realized that God gave me the ability to run, and I have to use it now. I never really used it before.”

If he keeps having days like he did on Tuesday, he’s going to use those legs to run all the way to the Opening Day lineup.

“You have to stay consistent,” he said. “Every day can’t be good and every day won’t be bad. The bad days help you appreciate the good ones, and the good ones will help serve as a reminder during the bad days. You have to wash it away.

“You have to stay humble and realize that this game can be taken away at any second. Realize that it was a good day is a good day now but you can go cold quickly.”

White Sox set for Shirts vs. Skins

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
11:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After getting rained out Monday, the Chicago White Sox will play their only intrasquad game of the spring at the conclusion of Tuesday’s workout.

Originally scheduled for a seven-inning game, manager Robin Ventura hinted that a couple of more innings could be added after Monday’s scheduled 4-inning game was called.

The highlight of the game figures to be the brief outing from right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who will make his first appearance in a White Sox uniform in a game setting.

Ventura will be a keen observer, but he will turn over the managing duties to Triple-A skipper Joel Skinner and Double-A manager Julio Vinas. Skinner appears to have the most major league ready team of the two. The game has been dubbed Shirts vs. Skins (for Skinner).

The lineup for the visiting Skins: Adam Eaton, CF; Gordon Beckham, 2B; Jose Abreu, 1B; Conor Gillaspie, 3B; Avisail Garcia, RF; Andy Wilkins, DH; Tyler Flowers, C; J.B. Shuck, LF; Tim Anderson, SS.

The lineup for the home Shirts: Micah Johnson, 2B; Emilio Bonifacio, CF; Melky Cabrera, LF; Adam LaRoche, 1B; Alexei Ramirez, SS; Matt Davidson 3B; Tyler Saladino, DH; Geovany Soto, C; Michael Taylor, RF.

The White Sox will kick off their Cactus League schedule Wednesday afternoon at Camelback Ranch against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jose Quintana will start for the White Sox.

Versatility trumps power for Sox's bench

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
3:53
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE , Ariz. -- If the decision is between a bench player who can play multiple positions or a reserve who can can potentially hit one deep late in games, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Venture will take the former.

A projection of the Chicago White Sox's Opening Day roster shows little to no power potential from the bench if Ventura needs to swap out a line-drive hitter for a slugger with the game hanging in the balance in the late innings.

And if the White Sox carry eight relievers into the start of the season, like Ventura has suggested, that could leave the bench reduced to guys such as Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham and a backup catcher (Geovany Soto, perhaps).

If the White Sox go with a seven-man bullpen, that still might not solve the lack of bench power. Candidates for a bench spot with a 12-man pitching staff include J.B. Shuck, Leury Garcia or perhaps a third catcher.

If this were the National League, where pitchers are swapped out when their spot in the lineup comes up, that would be one thing.

“I would rather have the flexibility and guys who can go play multiple positions,” Ventura said. “You would like to have the guy who can do that, but in the past we’ve had a lot of those guys and not a lot of flexibility. I would rather have it the other way.”

Because of their defensive ability, both Bonifacio and Beckham could get significant use as defensive replacements in the late innings. Over the long haul, that figures to be more valuable than catching lightning in a bottle and getting a pinch-hit home run every once in a while.

“I think you cover yourself more on the versatility side,” Ventura said. “We have (power) guys in the lineup. I don’t know how many guys we are going to be pinch-hitting for. Maybe in an NL game you have that. In our games, I’m not going to be pinch-hitting for (Jose) Abreu. So let it go. I would rather have versatility.”

Micah Johnson speeding into 2B fight

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
11:25
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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Micah JohnsonAP Photo/John LocherMicah Johnson's speed could help him win the White Sox's second-base job.


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kansas City Royals fans were not the only ones standing up and cheering at the base-running exploits of both Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson this past postseason.

Top Chicago White Sox infield prospect Micah Johnson was loving it as well, mainly because the Royals’ speedsters were showing what an advantage it can be to have multiple guys flying around the bases.

Johnson is in a battle for the open second-base job this spring and one asset he plans on using to his advantage will be his own above-average speed that allowed him to steal as many as 87 bases over four separate minor league levels in 2012.

“That was pretty cool to see,” Johnson said of the Royals’ running game in the postseason. “It was fun for everybody to watch. I remember playing against Terrance Gore in low A-ball, and now he was up there on the biggest stage, stealing bases.

“For me, speed is my game. You can see what kind of havoc it causes when you are on the bases. Pitchers worry, the defense worries. I know on defense, when Terrance was on the bases, it’s not fun. You have to cheat a little bit at second base so you can beat him to the bag he’s so fast.”

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Key White Sox relationship starts at the top

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
2:20
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Both Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera got right to work on the intricate relationship that needs to exist between a leadoff man and a No. 2 hitter.

Eaton says the bond between the two hitters is more delicate than people realize, especially from a leadoff man’s perspective. Eaton plans to be more aggressive with stealing bases this season, while also being aware of the distraction he could be causing to the batter at the plate.

While some No. 2 hitters prefer that their teammates run only on certain counts, early returns show that Cabrera is more than willing to let Eaton run whenever he gets the itch.

“It’s a process,” Cabrera said through an interpreter Wednesday. “We have to learn each other and how we can be successful together.”

Eaton has been working with new White Sox base running coach Vince Coleman, as have the other fleet-of-foot players in camp, and plans on increasing his disappointing total of 15 steals last season.

Eaton and Cabrera actually started working on their relationship Tuesday, the first day of full-squad workouts for the White Sox.

“He seems like a pretty easy-going guy, which is nice,” Eaton said. “Some guys are like, ‘Hey, no. I want you to do this in certain situations.’ ... We took leaps and bounds just on Day 1. Hopefully we’ll continue to work on that. I think it’s going to be very important to the offense.”

The White Sox have been desperate for a true No. 2 hitter, having used guys like Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez in that spot in recent seasons. Had it not been for the moves to acquire starter Jeff Samardzija and reliever David Robertson, though, the Cabrera acquisition wouldn’t have happened.

General manager Rick Hahn reached out to Cabrera early in the free agent process, but by late November, his grand plan to revamp the roster looked like it would never get off the ground. Talks with the A’s on Samardzija weren’t going anywhere and Cabrera was interested in other options.

“With Melky, for example, he really wanted to win, ‘but with all due respect are you guys really in a position to win and am I really a difference-maker for you?’” Hahn said of Cabrera’s concerns. “We had conversations like this.”

Ultimately, Cabrera remained a free agent long enough for the White Sox to make the moves he liked, and for chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to approve a plan to spend a little more than projected over the winter.

“When I first saw the trade of Samardzija and the signing of Robertson and the other guys I told myself, ‘I have to be there,’” Cabrera said. “It was very exciting for me to sign with the team and be with this team.”

Now the White Sox have an impressive top of the order from Eaton and Cabrera, to Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Avisail Garcia and Ramirez.

“If we can forget Jose, just me and (Cabrera) can (be) a little duo at the beginning,” Eaton said. “That’s going to be key for the success of the team.”

Nobody is going to forget about Abreu, but Eaton’s point is well taken. If Eaton and Cabrera can be their own dynamic duo, the heart of the order will reap the rewards.

At 33, Ramirez wants more games, not less

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
5:17
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Put me in coach … and leave me in there all season long.

Alexei Ramirez, the closest thing the Chicago White Sox have to an iron man, said that even though he turns 34 toward the end of the season, he has no intention of cutting back on his games played.

In 2014, Ramirez played in 158 games for the fourth consecutive season, four short of a full season.

“I feel better now than when I was young,” said Ramirez, who looked rejuvenated last year after a sub-par 2013 season. “I like to play every day. For me, I want to play 162 games.”

For those few days that Ramirez gets a break this season, the White Sox can go with Gordon Beckham or Emilio Bonifacio as a backup. Otherwise, the job belongs to Ramirez, who finished last season as a Gold Glove Award finalist.

“I was happy for the nomination, but it isn't in my hand to win or lose the award,” he said. “I hope that in the future I can get a chance again to get a nomination and maybe win the award.”

Ramirez will make $10 million in the upcoming season, with the White Sox expected to pick up his team option at some point for 2016 that will again pay him $10 million. After that, he is a free agent.

“I don't know if it's the best team or not since I’ve been here,” Ramirez said. “We're just here for the first time today. We have to work on an everyday basis and try to be the best team possible.”

White Sox big boys go easy on Rodon

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
4:10
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Top prospect Carlos Rodon got his first chance to face live hitters while wearing a Chicago White Sox uniform Monday, relishing the opportunity even if the matchups were not extremely competitive.

Hitters like Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Conor Gillaspie and Gordon Beckham got into the batter’s box against Rodon during the first day of full-squad workouts, but they mostly tracked pitches instead of taking aggressive swings.

Rodon mixed in some two-seam fastballs, but it is the changeup that the coaching staff hopes will eventually be a plus pitch to mix in with his fastball and highly-regarded slider.

He was wild in his matchup with Abreu, missing the strike zone both low and high, admitting that it was hard not to notice the rookie of the year in the batter’s box.

“You see him there, he’s a big dude,” Rodon said. “Just trying to drill the zone, the changeup is what we mainly threw him and today there was just a bad set of changeups. Then Gillaspie came in and the changeups got better. I don’t know why, I just got a feel for it.”

Tuesday was just one of the many steps Rodon will have to go through on his way to an eventual major league debut. Next up on the list will be Cactus League games.

“I know it’s the fourth of March,” he said about the start of the Cactus League schedule. “I’m just taking it day by day. Still working on that changeup, working on that fastball and when the time comes to pitch in a game, I’ll be ready.”

Is eight enough for White Sox's pen?

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
2:48
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With so much versatility on the Chicago White Sox bench this season, manager Robin Ventura admitted the team is toying with the idea of heading into Opening Day with eight relievers.

That would give the White Sox a 13-man pitching staff, which isn’t unheard of, but a 12-man staff is more common.

“You could take the other route where you bring an extra pitcher,” Ventura said Monday. “With the versatility we have, we have some options on how we are going to go early in the year, with some days off and probably have some rainouts and things like that, but you want to be protected all the way around. Right now, we are pretty open to it.”

The biggest versatility asset the White Sox have is free-agent pickup Emilio Bonifacio, who can play both infield and outfield. It’s possible that Bonifacio could end up as the only backup outfielder on the club. Gordon Beckham also provides infield versatility, requiring less position players on the roster.

The bullpen was one of the White Sox’s major weaknesses last season and one of the biggest focuses of the front office to fix. Additions included new closer David Robertson and left-handers Zach Duke and Dan Jennings.

A possible eight-man bullpen could include: Robertson, Duke, Jennings, Daniel Webb, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra and Maikel Cleto. Top prospect Carlos Rodon also is a bullpen candidate, but he will go through spring training in a starting role and could end up as a starter-in-waiting at Triple-A Charlotte.

“You can always slip-slide (Rodon) back into a relief role,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “But I have said this before, long term, he will be a starter for the Chicago White Sox at some point, dot, dot, dot. We’re not sure when that time is.”

Beckham's first priority is at second

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
3:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brought back into the Chicago White Sox family for his ability to play multiple positions, Gordon Beckham is actually coming into spring training with the intention of winning back his old second base job.

And that’s the way the White Sox like it.

“Listen, I plan to compete for a starting job, and if that’s not where I’m meant to be then I’ll do whatever I need to do,” said Beckham, who arrived to camp three days before position players are scheduled to report. “If I didn’t have that mentality, I wouldn’t be playing baseball.”

There was a bit of an insurance-policy feel when Beckham was signed as a free agent earlier this month. But his ability to also play third base, with a few days at shortstop a possibility, is what convinced the White Sox to sign the player they traded last August.

“He’s coming in here to try and win a job and talking to him, that’s what he should be trying to do,” manager Robin Ventura said. “There is also the flexibility that he can play multiple positions, and his first thing is to try and win a job. The other thing for us, we’re going to need him to play other positions in spring training to have that under his belt as well as we head into the season.”

While moving all around the infield would seem to limit his chances of winning the second base job, Ventura challenged that thinking.

“I know what he can do at second,” Ventura said. “It’s being able to have that flexibility coming in and trying to win a job.”

The mental side of the game seemed to get the best of Beckham at times, including the pressures of trying to live up to his fantastic rookie season of 2009, just one year after he was a first-round draft pick.

Returning to the White Sox then, after closing out last season with the Los Angeles Angels, would only seem to put Beckham right back into the same scenario, but he isn’t looking at those potential negatives.

“I didn't know about pressure when I was getting called up, I just went out and played,” Beckham said. “I think as time went on, that kind of mounted, so for me to get away for even five weeks was important to me and I told that to (GM) Rick (Hahn). I needed to get away to kind of clear my head a little bit. I kind of view this differently. I don't feel that any of the weight that I had is still on me. I don't know why, but I don't feel that way.”

Beckham said it was his part-time role with the Angels that helped him to make necessary changes to his hitting approach. Instead of making slight tweaks when he was playing daily, he had the time to make more significant changes in his mechanics.

If he can avoid putting pressure on himself, the White Sox could end up with a solid part-time defender, who contributes on offense as well, that is, if he doesn’t win the second-base job in the spring.

“For him, even coming in this year, it might have been helpful to get traded away and go away for a while and come back with more of a clear conscience of who he is, where he’s at,” Ventura said. “You get some information from somewhere else that maybe sticks in your skull differently than it did here.

“So, he’s in a good frame of mind and that’s the other big thing. All stuff that has been said about him, but he can play baseball. We know that. He’s a good player. I’m just glad he’s coming in with a clear conscience.”

White Sox spring previews: Catcher/Bench

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19
10:30
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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Tyler FlowersAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastTyler Flowers will get another chance to solidify his role as the White Sox's everyday catcher.
While Tyler Flowers will get another chance to solidify his role as everyday catcher, newcomer Emilio Bonifacio will head a versatile group of Chicago White Sox reserves.

The White Sox have a number of intriguing catcher options this season, but Flowers is expected to be the guy Opening Day. He showed signs of his offensive potential in the second half of last season when he batted .280 with a .553 slugging percentage, collecting 10 home runs with 24 RBIs.

At $2.67 million this season, Flowers isn’t breaking the bank so if he can call a good game, continue to improve with his glove and hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 home runs with 80 RBIs, the White Sox will take it. High strikeout totals also are part of the package with Flowers, but he can offset that with a solid slugging percentage.

Backup candidates include veterans Geovany Soto and George Kottaras, who both were signed to minor league deals with invites to big league camp.

While Rule 5 pickup Adrian Nieto was Flowers’ backup last season, the expectation is that he returns to the minor leagues this season to get a full season of at-bats. Nieto had to stay on the roster the entire season under Rule 5 specifications, otherwise he had to be offered back to his old club, the Washington Nationals.

In December, the White Sox acquired Rob Brantly off waivers from the Miami Marlins. In 2013, he was the Marlins’ Opening Day catcher, only to struggle offensively that season and then struggle again in 2014 at Triple-A. The White Sox are taking the chance that he can be more like the guy who batted .290 with a .372 on-base percentage in 31 big league games in 2012.

Kevan Smith, who batted .290 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs at Double-A Birmingham last season, will get a look in big league camp.

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White Sox spring previews: Infield

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
10:30
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jose AbreuJon Durr/USA TODAY SportsJose Abreu is a huge presence in the White Sox infield.
The only change in the Chicago White Sox infield in 2015 will come at second base, as a spring training battle is expected to heat up between youngsters Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson.

Then there is Gordon Beckham, who has returned on a one-year contract. The White Sox made it clear they would like to see one of their youngsters take the job and run with it, but Beckham, who is aimed at more of a utility role, does provide somewhat of an insurance policy at second.

Jose Abreu is the unquestioned star of the infield, coming off a historic rookie season in which he posted a .317 batting average, hit a White Sox rookie record 36 home runs and delivered 107 RBIs. He also posted a league-leading .581 slugging percentage. Abreu became the first rookie in baseball history to finish in the top five in all three Triple Crown categories.

What’s next for the American League Rookie of the Year? Given that his production tailed off dramatically during the long season, an improvement in stamina would suggest he's capable of posting even higher numbers.

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White Sox request waivers on Viciedo

February, 4, 2015
Feb 4
6:11
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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CHICAGO -- On the day the Chicago White Sox requested waivers on Dayan Viciedo for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release, they acquired minor league pitcher Yency Almonte from the Los Angeles Angels.

Viciedo had been designated for assignment Jan. 28 to make room for infielder Gordon Beckham, who was signed as a free agent.

The Almonte acquisition also has a Beckham connection. He becomes the player to be named later in the trade that sent Beckham to the Angels in August. The right-handed Almonte, 20, was 2-6 with a 5.91 ERA over 11 starts last season between the rookie league and Single-A levels.

New look all around for Gordon Beckham

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
5:56
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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CHICAGO -- After a breakup that officially lasted just 26 games, the Chicago White Sox and Gordon Beckham were reunited under the premise that this time it will be different.

Take Beckham’s role, for starters. While the White Sox would still like to see Carlos Sanchez or Micah Johnson win the second base job in spring training and make it his own for an extended run, there still stands a chance that Beckham makes an eye-popping run this spring to the starting lineup.

The reality, though, is that Beckham’s days as an everyday player figure to be done, and his utility days now are ahead. That’s how the Los Angeles Angels saw it at the end of last season when they acquired Beckham via trade in late August and used him more on the left side of the infield (19 games at third base and shortstop) than the right (five games at second). He also pinch hit twice.

In conversations with White Sox personnel this offseason, the team was at least partially sold on Beckham’s willingness to do whatever the club needs. It helped lead to his new one-yard, $2 million deal.

“Obviously I would love to play every day, but I’m not going to get into what I’m doing or what the White Sox want me to do in terms of that,” Beckham said Wednesday. “My most important goal is to help them win, and ultimately, whatever that entails, whether it be at second base full time or around the infield a bunch of times, then that’s what I’m going to do. That’s the best way to put it.”

The oddity here is that when the White Sox and Beckham parted ways in August, part of the conversation was about Beckham needing a fresh start in a new locale. The former first-round draft pick out of the University of Georgia, never was able to build on his impressive rookie season in 2009 and the burden seemed to mount as his career progressed.

“I would say that I’m in a much better place than I was in August of last year,” Beckham said. "Getting away was good for me in general. I needed some time not only to kind of reboot but also to work on my game, and that’s something I feel like I did out in Anaheim.

“Although I was playing a good amount, I wasn’t playing every game, so I used the time that I wasn’t starting to really work and take (batting practice) and understand my swing a little better while fielding balls at shortstop and third base. I felt like it was really beneficial for me and not just the physical aspect.”

So after giving Beckham every chance possible to earn an everyday job, and then finally deciding last year that it wouldn’t work, why would Hahn and manager Robin Ventura elect to bring him back so quickly?

“Robin spoke to Gordon about this at length, and I spoke to Gordon a few days back before we finalized the deal,” Hahn said. “He’s in a real good place mentally I think in terms of coming back here and the role. He’s excited about contributing in any way to what he feels, and we all feel, will be a really good club. He got a taste of that, helping a good club win in Anaheim win, by filling in in various roles and using his talents to the max in terms of how he fit when specific needs arose out there.”

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Johnson won't take 2B chance for granted

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
5:28
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham was traded during the 2014 season, while Marcus Semien was traded after it, so it should feel pretty good to be Micah Johnson right about now.

The second baseman with the highest upside in the organization is the favorite to take over the position in the major leagues this year, but he will head into spring training as if nobody knows his name. He plans on proving his worth with his play in the desert.

“Whoever was in spring training last year remembers that I was nave and I thought I had a chance to make the team last year,” Johnson said Thursday. “It’s the same mentality. I’m going to go play hard every day and do what I can every day, not do too much. I think I’ve had a couple of conversations with (hitting coach) Todd Steverson and guys are saying, ‘Just be yourself and don’t do too much out there.’ That’s how I will approach it. I’m not going to approach it with arrogance at all, but I will be confident.”

Johnson was in Chicago in advance of this weekend's SoxFest, and was in the team’s ticket office to make calls thanking season ticket holders for their support. During the process he remarked at how surprised he was that everybody knew who he was, even though he hasn’t even played in a major league game yet. Nave indeed.

“I didn’t expect that,” Johnson said. “I expected a lot of ‘I don’t know,’ or, ‘Where’s (Paul) Konerko?’ But it’s fun just to talk to those guys just to see how excited people are around here.”

Excitement is high thanks to an influx of veterans like starter Jeff Samardzija, closer Brian Robertson, left-handed reliever Zach Duke, slugger Adam LaRoche and left fielder Melky Cabrera, to name the newcomers who will make the most impact.

“Yeah, it’s unbelievable,” Johnson said about the buzz surrounding the team. “I’m not far from here. I’m from Indiana, so I can feel it. I have a lot of buddies up here who are White Sox fans, and talking to those people, wow it’s exciting man. Back in the day, I can compare it to, I guess ’03 with the Cubs, or ’05 with the Sox or maybe ’98 with the Cubs. It’s exciting, but this is probably the most exciting I’ve seen since I was alive.”

Assuming the new veterans can deliver as expected, the White Sox can get by with their second baseman playing solid defense and showing the capability of getting better at the plate as they learn the league.

Johnson’s main competition at second base figures to come from guys like Carlos Sanchez, Leury Garcia and even Emilio Bonifacio, who really is expected to be more of a utility man.

None of those players have the upside of the speedy Johnson, though. After returning to Indiana University this offseason, Johnson said he is now refreshed and ready to go with the hamstring injury that cut short his 2014 season long behind him.

Had he not been injured, Johnson might have made his major league debut as a September call up. Now he has the chance to make his debut on Opening Day in April. He admitted it was tough at first to have to delay his White Sox debut.

“But then after a few days or weeks I realized this was a blessing in disguise that maybe I can go back this offseason and work on something, which I did, and I was able to go back to school,” he said. “I was able to do other things and be 100 percent healthy. Last year, I wasn’t healthy all year really. I got hurt in May. If I would have come up (in September), I might have lost a job because I wouldn’t have performed well. Now I’m 100 percent ready, healthy and stronger.”

And it’s not like he is completely without experience around the major league club. He did get to go through his first big league camp at spring training in 2014.

“Even being here, at SoxFest, I remember coming in here last year and I didn’t know anybody,” he said. “But this year, it’s like, hey, I can be confident to go out there and take extra swings and not follow the crowd. If I want to take extra ground balls, I know how it is now. I know how people go about their business. It’s going to be a good feeling.”

Abreu starts collection of rookie honors

October, 20, 2014
10/20/14
3:42
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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Jose AbreuMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsJose Abreu remains humble about his accomplishments as a rookie.


CHICAGO -- In a prelude to what is expected to be the result of the official American League Rookie of the Year award, the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu was honored Monday for his outstanding debut season.

The 27-year-old Abreu was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, a honor not related to the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award that is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Abreu earned 149 of a possible 160 votes to win the honor in balloting conducted among major league players. The Los Angeles Angels' Matt Shoemaker earned four votes, while New York Yankees teammates Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka each earned three votes. The final vote went to Abreu’s White Sox teammate Marcus Semien.

“For me, it means a lot that the players who play against me recognize my efforts and my numbers,” Abreu said through an interpreter Monday via conference call. “I am thankful for all of them to give me support. I don’t have words to describe what I’m feeling right now.”

Abreu finished the season with a major league-leading .581 slugging percentage, while also posting a .383 on-base percentage in 145 games. He was second in the American League with a .964 OPS and second in total bases with 323.

Abreu’s 36 home runs not only were a White Sox rookie record, they were also third most in the AL. He was also fourth in RBIs with 107 and fourth in extra-base hits with 73.

“When spring training started, I just [wanted] to be 100 percent for the season and be able to help the team win games,” Abreu said. “When the season was finished and I had the opportunity to check my numbers, I feel very comfortable. Now, I prepare for whatever is in the future. The next award for me is OK. I’m very humble for all the accomplishments I had this year.”

Abreu was uncomfortable talking about personal accomplishments all season long, constantly saying he was more in tune with the team aspect of the game.

“All the numbers all the stuff during the season was for me, my family, the White Sox,” he said. “I don’t have words to describe how I feel about this year. I am humble for all that stuff.”

Abreu’s power did wane during the final two months of the season as he participated in a 162-game season for the first time in his career. In his native Cuba, Abreu never had more than 312 at-bats in a season for his Cienfuegos club. He had 556 at-bats for the White Sox this past season.

His performance suggests even better numbers moving forward if he can pace himself for the long schedule.

“I really am not a person that follows the numbers from the past; I don’t like to talk about it,” Abreu said. “I will prepare every year to get the numbers I got this year and make them better.”

Abreu became the first rookie in major league history to rank among the top five in his league in each Triple Crown category. He also joined Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) to hit at least 30 doubles, 30 home runs and collect 100 RBIs in a rookie season.

The last White Sox player to win the Sporting News rookie honor was Gordon Beckham in 2009. Abreu is also the 11th White Sox player to be honored with the rookie award from the publication.

The official American League and National League Rookie of the Year awards will be announced Nov. 10.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.317 36 107 80
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208