Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu
In the fifth inning, Abreu took one deep to left-center field off Rockies reliever Jairo Diaz. The White Sox ultimately fell 7-6 to the Rockies.
Over his first 12 spring games, Abreu had not put one out of the park, but he did enter Tuesday's game with a .588 slugging percentage, aided by two doubles and a triple over 34 at-bats. He also entered with a .471 batting average.
It was the first time Abreu had hit a home run in a White Sox uniform since Sept. 27. He hit 36 home runs last year, but only seven came after the all-star break as he appeared to wear down during his first 162-game season. In Cuba, teams generally play about 90-100 games in a season.
"It would be nice for guys to hit some homers, but for him, he's so focused on the approach right now of getting that thing right, but I think when you leave here you want to have that and the approach part trumps hitting homers," manager Robin Ventura said before the game about Abreu's home-run drought. "He can hit them and he's done it before so I don't expect him to not hit any homers this year."
There was little to no concern in the White Sox's clubhouse about Abreu's homerless run thus far.
"I didn't even know he didn't have a homer to this point; I really didn't,' said pitcher John Danks, who started Tuesday's game for the White Sox. "We've seen what he can do and we expect another big season out of him. He doesn't miss the barrel much and I'm glad he's on my team."
Danks delivered a solid start before he started to run out of gas during his longest outing of the spring. In the end, he went 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
"I feel real good about it," Danks said. "I was able to throw all my pitches where I wanted to and when I missed I missed on the side I wanted to. My changeup was much improved, both breaking balls were good, and, for the most part, I was throwing strikes with the fastball."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On draft day in 2010, a once-excited Adam Eaton grew despondent when his value kept plummeting, first out of the top 10 rounds, then out of the top 15.
By the time his name was called as an Arizona Diamondbacks selection in the 19th round, his reaction was as much relief as it was that his professional baseball career was about to begin.
Flash forward 5½ years, and the $23.5 million contract extension Eaton signed with the Chicago White Sox on Friday showed the assessment of his own talent was more than just a heavy dose of blind self-confidence.
"It almost brings a tear to my eye because I've been looked over my whole life," Eaton said. "I say that I dreamed about it, but really, I didn't. When I was in high school I dreamed about playing college baseball, Division II, Division III. When I was in college, [it was] just dreaming about putting a professional uniform on in Missoula, Montana, a little town where that's all that is going on. To sign a professional contract for five years in the big leagues is crazy. It's absolutely crazy how far we've come."
Even when he did reach the major leagues, the obstacles remained. He suffered an elbow injury with the Diamondbacks in 2013 that cost him a significant chunk of his rookie season. Then, there were teammates who thought he was too rah-rah for their tastes.
The question marks could have been a factor in the Diamondbacks including Eaton in a three-team trade that also involved the Los Angeles Angels last offseason. The White Sox could not be happier.
"These guys are hard to find, and you have a guy who addresses several needs of being able hit at the top of the order, get on base, run and play defense at a premium position. That's a nice piece to have on any club," general manager Rick Hahn said Friday.
Eaton always felt his grinder style had major value, even when he was causing opponents problems when he attended Kenton Right High School in Ohio.
When scouts and talent evaluators told Eaton he would go no later than the 10th round in the 2010 draft, and possibly sooner, he was eager to learn what club would take him. When the draft went on and on and on, eager turned to anxious.
While disappointed, Eaton understood what was happening. A 5-foot-8 baseball player who has a tendency to throw his body all around the field isn't exactly a safe recommendation for a scout to make to his bosses.
Even while knowing those concerns, Eaton has refused to play any other way, and because he continued to do it his way, Eaton got a contract Friday that validated the confidence he had in himself.
"Rick mentioned to my agent when I got traded that hopefully we'll have talks next year," Eaton said. "For me to prove him right, it was big for me to go out and hit .300 and play good defense day in and day out. And then to be able to have those talks is great.
"It's just confidence in the club and confidence in me, and I think it's going to be a lot easier for me to go out there and compete every day and compete at a high level with their confidence within me. It's a great day."
Contract talks started just over two weeks ago, and Eaton admitted to having many sleepless nights. His reaction was typical, and it's why many teams put contract talks on the shelf once the season begins. Jose Quintana was pounded in a Cactus League game last year, just before his own contract extension was finalized.
One year earlier, Chris Sale had his own contract extension completed. The Eaton contract means the White Sox have Sale, Quintana, Jose Abreu and Eaton locked into long contracts, all at team-friendly rates.
"To be in company with those guys, being signed early, it's a thrill for me," Eaton said. "With that being said, I kind of touched on it earlier, we've got a good group of core guys who are going to be here three, four, five years. It's exciting. The South Side should be proud and excited for that, some good arms and then myself and some other guys along for the ride. We're happy with that."
Even when he talks, Eaton's self-confidence bleeds through. He's been with the White Sox for just one full season, but so far, he's earned the right to tell it like it is.
The Chicago White Sox's off day on Thursday means the stretch drive of spring training is near, and moving forward, lineups will start to look more like they will on Opening Day.
It also means that there is no better time than the present to take a stab at that Opening Day lineup, complete with a guestimate at the starting pitcher on April 6 at Kansas City.
There wasn’t much for early Cactus League games to reveal, other than the potential second baseman, with Micah Johnson accepting that challenge and crushing it. Johnson, who has zero major league experience, is expected to make his White Sox debut on April 6 at Kansas City after batting .444, with a .500 on-base percentage, through Wednesday’s games.
A look at the expected lineup for the opener against the American League champion Royals:
The top third of the order gives the White Sox pieces in their right place for the first time since their World Series days a decade ago. Eaton, with his speed and a .362 on-base percentage from last year, is an ideal leadoff man. Cabrera has loads of experience in the No. 2 spot, while Abreu showed last season he could be one of the best active hitters in the game.
The middle of the order provides intrigue, as LaRoche takes over the cleanup spot, bringing a left-handed power bat that has averaged 22 home runs and 76 RBIs over his 11-year career. Garcia gets a do-over after a shoulder injury cost him most of the 2014 season and Ramirez is finally done with situational hitting in the No. 2 spot and will get a chance to swing away from the six hole.
The bottom of the order won’t just be where the weaker hitters go to hide. Gillaspie was among the American League batting leaders as late as early August last year, while Flowers turned around his season with 10 home runs and a .553 slugging percentage in the second half. If Johnson can get on base and utilize his speed, he can actually serve as a second leadoff man in front of Eaton as the lineup turns over.
As for the starting pitcher to replace a recovering Chris Sale, manager Robin Ventura says he knows who it is, but he’s keeping his selection to himself for now. Why the secrecy? Well, in doing it that way, Ventura reserves the right to change his mind at any point.
Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana are the two possibilities for the opener, with Samardzija holding the honor in each of the past two seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Quintana has shown he is worthy after delivering a 3.50 ERA over the past three seasons (87 starts).
Even if the White Sox wanted to reward Quintana for his efforts over the past three seasons, simple convenience has Samardzija the likely candidate for the Opening Day role. Samardzija has been lined up to pitch in front of Quintana all spring and the rotation remains in that order, with the former Notre Dame product perfectly lined up to pitch April 6.
In his two Opening Day starts, both at Pittsburgh, Samardzija gave up a combined seven hits with no runs over 15 innings.
Chew on this: If Conor Gillaspie does not run out of gas at the start of August, perhaps the Chicago White Sox are looking at a third baseman that ends the season hitting in excess of .320 with an on-base percentage above .370.
Those were the levels Gillaspie was at when July came to a close, and he was among the top 10 batting leaders in the American League. Then came a .223 batting average in August, to go along with a .267 OBP. September was worse, as Gillaspie limped home with a .183 batting average and a .246 OBP.
Simple scouting reports and pitching adjustments could account for some of Gillaspie’s slide, but stamina clearly was at play as well.
So to combat his issues, Gillaspie added a significant amount of muscle in the offeason and took a major step that he had been pondering for some time. Gillaspie quit using smokeless tobacco, primarily because of a side effect.
He acknowledged that tobacco acted as an appetite suppressant, and when he needed to eat in the latter part of the season to combat unwanted weight loss, he didn’t have the stomach for it. In fact, Gillaspie credited his ability to bulk up this winter to his new lifestyle change.
“Obviously, not chewing tobacco anymore, not having to spit all day, is probably the main reason, truthfully,” he said about adding somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 pounds of bulk.
He doesn’t necessarily think the added weight will turn him into a 30-homer threat, but if it gives him the ability to reach the gaps more often, he’ll take it. In the team’s intrasquad game, before Cactus League play began, he showed his new gap-reaching potential by hitting a pair of triples.
In Cactus League play, he is batting .300 (6-for-20) over seven games, with a double and two RBIs, before play Monday. He also has a .333 OBP.
“I'm trying to gear myself for the last couple of months of the season when a lot of guys get tired,” Gillaspie said. “I was probably a victim of that last year. I really got a little bit overwhelmed towards the end of the year and I'm trying to combat that by hopefully staying a little bit stronger and obviously starting with baseball activities a little bit later this winter in the hopes that prepares me for the end of the season.”
Gillaspie ended 2014 with a .282 batting average, which was solid enough, but that was far below his midseason peak of .327, which he reached after a three-hit game at Detroit on July 29. He ended with a .336 OBP, a number that was as high as .379 after that same July 29 game.
Outside of running out of energy over the final two months, something Jose Abreu struggled with as well, Gillaspie has also struggled with the battle of being his own worst critic. He said he is working on not being so hard on himself as the season progresses, knowing how much of a role the mental side plays.
And his areas of improvement are not just limited to finding strength in the dog days of August. Defensively, Gillaspie and Abreu combined to be one of the lower-ranked infield corner duos last season.
Fueling his overall desire to get better is the fact that Matt Davidson looms as another third-base option for the club, and one with much more power potential than he displays.
“From Year 1 to Year 2 I made some great strides,” he said. “If that means I play every day, great, if not, I’m happy with whatever role I’m put in. I know at the end of the day I put in a lot of hard work and hours, and thinking ahead to prepare for the season. At the end of the day, I’m extremely happy with whatever happens with my career. That comes with age, and I’m starting to understand that as I get older.”
Four runs in the first three innings led to a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In those early three innings, Alexei Ramirez had a stolen base, Adam Eaton went first to third on a single and even Jose Abreu got into the act when he scored from first base on a double by Adam LaRoche. In Tuesday’s intrasquad game, Micah Johnson stole three bases and Conor Gillaspie legged out two triples.
It hasn’t exactly been St. Louis Cardinals circa 1985, but with Vince Coleman now on hand as the club’s new roving base-running coach, there was an aggressive flavor about the way they played.
“It’s not necessarily home runs,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Home runs are great, we do like those, but you’re seeing guys moving around the field, running around the bases, and it looks good. It feels good, too.”
There is plenty of improvement for the team to make on the bases. Not only was overall base running an issue last year, but the club was 19th in baseball in both stolen bases (85) and stolen-base percentage (70.25).
Based on how aggressive they figure to be this season, the total number of steals is certain to increase. If that steals percentage goes up, as well, all the better.
“We’ll be better than last year,” Ventura said. “How much so, I don’t know necessarily, but we feel the speed we have, the versatility we have, we will be better than we were last year.”
Coleman hasn’t been shy about preaching an aggressive style. He says it’s smarts and not necessarily speed that makes a great base runner.
“It's a mental approach,” Coleman said. “If you want to be great, it's not a destination that can be reached, it's a process, day to day. How good you want to be is a matter of how early you come to the ballpark and put in the work and minimize your negatives and maximize your positives. If you want to be one of those great athletes, you got to have a great work ethic.”
Call it a somewhat dramatic approach, but it has inspired guys like Eaton and Johnson to put in the work. Now they get the chance to test what they have learned in games.
“Moving runners over, double steals, going on balls in the dirt, scoring from second base, those are the things that you try to focus on,” Coleman said. “It’s not just hitting home runs. I played on a (Cardinals) team that only had one power hitter, and that was Jack Clark. And so the rest of us had to check our egos in at the door and know that we had to pitch well, play good defense and run the bases well. We did that consistently.”
“It’s something that’s very painful for all of the Cubans that are here and for the fans of the White Sox, the organization and everyone,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s something that’s very difficult. He was an incredible person. I learned so much from him.”
Minoso was one of the greatest offensive players in White Sox history and broke the color barrier with the club when he played in the 1951 season. He has yet to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
“Outside of the field, I learned so much from him,” Abreu said. “As a person, he taught me so much. I felt really close to him. This is a very difficult time for me. He was always there for us.”
Minoso was often present at U.S. Cellular Field, even until last season. He was in attendance for Abreu’s introductory press conference with the team last winter. Abreu said that even though they had only been acquaintances for a year, Minoso had become like family.
“He said so much, but one thing I’ll always remember and something he always said was to respect the organization you are with,” Abreu said. “We talked a lot and he would always tell me that every day.”
After struggling emotionally, Abreu said it was good to start playing in games again, even if he did go 0-for-2 in Tuesday’s intrasquad contest, grounding into a double play in his first at-bat. He appeared to slip out of the batter’s box during his first at-bat.
“I slipped a little bit that’s just something that happens on the field,” he said. “The ground was a little loose, but that’s just something that happens to us out there. It’s nothing.”
The first-year White Sox starter did admit to looking down at his uniform top Tuesday, just to confirm it was real, but he has always had an appreciation for his line of work no matter if it was with the Chicago Cubs, the Oakland Athletics or now on the South Side.
“I look at the front and go from there,” Samardzija said. “I’ve said many times, it’s just an honor to have a big league uniform on. I’m lucky to have had some ups and downs in my career so you appreciate every chance you have to put one on and you represent it well. Any time you’re on the mound you act like it’s your last time up there. That’s how you have to treat it.”
Facing White Sox hitters, he gave up two runs in the first inning, one on a ground out from Melky Cabrera and another on a sacrifice fly from Adam LaRoche. The speedy Micah Johnson had led off the game with a soft-hit single and Emilio Bonifacio followed with a bunt single.
Samardzija settled down from there, giving up his two runs on three hits over his brief two innings of work. He isn’t scheduled to make his Cactus League debut until Sunday.
“Right into midseason form pushing into that sixth inning when the first two guys get on and you’re protecting a one-run lead,” Samardzija joked about the start to his outing. “That’s the exciting thing about facing live hitters, and in this case a scrimmage, but you know, spring training you can throw as many bullpens as you want but you don’t get the same experience as live games.
Originally scheduled for a seven-inning game, manager Robin Ventura hinted that a couple of more innings could be added after Monday’s scheduled 4½-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.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Minnie Minoso figures to one day be elected into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, although the shame of it now is that he will not be alive to see the honor.
The Chicago White Sox legend passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 90.
Minoso batted .304 with 135 home runs and 808 RBIs over his 12 seasons with the White Sox. He played 12 of his 17 major league seasons with the club. He hit 186 home runs over his career with 205 stolen bases.
The latest opportunity to enshrine Minoso in Cooperstown came this past December, but he was not elected by the Golden Era Committee, which also overlooked former White Sox players Dick Allen and Billy Pierce.
Chairman Jerry Reindsorf was immediately at odds over the decision, especially in the case of Minoso and Pierce.
“I’m very disappointed Minnie and Billy didn’t get in because they clearly deserve to get in,” Reinsdorf said during the baseball winter meetings in San Diego. “I don’t know what player out of the era of the 50s and early 60s would be more deserving than Minnie. You look at the stats and the only people that did better than Minnie did in every category are already in the Hall of Fame.”
Minoso was a regular in the White Sox clubhouse over the years, ready to offer advice, especially to Latin-born players, and always armed with a quick wit. Last season, when Alejandro De Aza hit two home runs on Opening Day, Minoso greeted the outfielder the following day by calling him “Babe Ruth.”
Jose Abreu had formed a tight bond with Minoso last season as the two Cuba natives shared stories about life and baseball. Abreu took the news of Minoso’s passing hard Sunday and declined all interview requests.
Backup catcher Adrian Nieto, who also was born in Cuba, said conversations with Minoso were priceless.
“Very nice guy, very humble,” Nieto said. “He’ll go to everybody’s locker and say, ‘Hi,’ one by one. And he’ll ask how your family is doing, which says a lot about the person when they ask you about your family.
“I’ll never forget that he says when he’s up there in the stands, he lives that at-bat with us. If we got a hit he said it was like he got a hit. If we got out, it’s like he got out. Just to listen to him say things like that tells you what kind of person he really was.”
But you didn’t have to be from Cuba to have an appreciation for Minoso.
“He was around the clubhouse all the time when we were home,” John Danks said. “You could tell he followed us and wanted us to win as bad as we wanted to win. He had a heck of a career, he was a heck of a person and we’re just feeling for his family right now.”
Jeff Samardzija is only in his first season with the White Sox, but grew up a fan of the club and had the chance to talk to Minoso on occasion.
“It’s a tough loss, especially for the White Sox family, but moreso for the baseball family,” Samardzija said. “Minnie was one of those guys that came out and played it for the right reasons and loved the game. It’s just a shame.
“Hopefully when something like this happens you’re able to reflect on all the great things and all the great moments that people like (Minnie) gave you, and those memories, and then you enjoy them and apply them to your own life and hopefully you can learn something from them.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Adam LaRoche took the field with the rest of his Chicago White Sox teammates Tuesday on the first day of full-squad workouts and already views things as a good fit.
Much of that can be attributed to the presence of manager Robin Ventura, whom LaRoche has known since his father, Dave, was a White Sox bullpen coach in the 1990s.
"We were here in, what was it, '91 or his last year running around old Comiskey," LaRoche said. "It's funny. I'm still running into a lot of people here who worked at the old park who would remember my brothers and me. Some of my best memories are of getting to go to spring training and being with my dad and being on the field all summer long and getting to know the guys."
In addition to being around Ventura, LaRoche says he also knows Bobby Thigpen and Harold Baines from his younger days.
"It's neat because now I get to bring my son Drake, who's 13, and he's been coming to spring training for years," LaRoche said. "He's probably got more time in the big leagues than most of our clubhouse. For him to go and get some of the same memories I had has been awesome."
LaRoche spent time Tuesday in the same hitting group as Jose Abreu and saw reasons for optimism in his new teammate, both on and off the field.
"You hear about all his accomplishments and numbers and what he's done but I didn't realize -- you talk about leaders, even at his age -- that a lot of people look up to him," LaRoche said. "You can just sense that talking to coaches and players. Work ethic is unbelievable. He's a special player.
"We have a little language barrier there -- I have to work on my Spanish -- but I was able to reach out to him via text messages this offseason, and he's just a class guy. I really look forward to playing with him."
LaRoche is expected to bat in the cleanup spot this season, protecting No. 3-hitting Abreu in the lineup. At 35, LaRoche is no longer a youngster, but his .362 on-base percentage last year at Washington was his best over any full season of his career. He also hit 26 home runs with 92 RBIs and a .455 slugging percentage.
"You're happy to see him in the fold," Ventura said. "When you get out there, he doesn't seem rushed by anything, by any means. That's something he's not flustered by anything, a tough stretch, a good stretch -- everything's going to be the same for him as far as his approach, and I think that rubs off on a lot of people that he doesn't panic in any situation."
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.”