Chicago White Sox: Rick Hahn

White Sox to skeptics: No mystery here

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
4:08
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Not to ruin the day of conspiracy theorists everywhere, but the Chicago White Sox insist that Chris Sale's foot fracture was indeed a freak accident in the driveway of his temporary Arizona residence.

General manager Rick Hahn was the first to reveal that Sale suffered an avulsion fracture of his right foot while unloading items out of his truck.

Perhaps fueling the minds of the conspiracy theorists was Sale’s tongue-in-cheek tale about how the injury happened.

“There was a guy who broke into my house and it was pretty dark,” Sale said with a straight face when asked what happened. “I grabbed my throwing star. I missed him, so I hit him with a roundhouse, tied him up, threw him by the curb. That was the end of it.”

Asked about it again, Sale had a hard time breaking character.

“Well, yeah, by looking at the other guy’s head when I kicked him, it didn’t look good,” Sale said. “Initially I was a little worried, but after the x-rays and all that stuff, it worked out.”

Sale never did confirm the true story, only saying it was something he had done “a million times.” Perhaps fueling the impromptu comedy act was that while a fracture was revealed, he was relieved to know it would only take three weeks to heal. Sale compared the injury to a sprained ankle.

The consensus among the coaching staff, the front office and Sale himself is that the left-hander should be ready to go at some point during the first week of the season. That might not necessarily mean Opening Day, but he isn’t expected to be out of action past the first week to 10 days of the season.

“It’s not the best news you get in the morning when he twists his ankle and he’s out three weeks,” manager Robin Ventura said. “It could be worse. We are just going to get him back on track and get him going. But it’s just an unfortunate mishap at home, and you just go on after that.”

Rodon, others to fill temporary Sale void

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
3:37
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With Cactus League games set to begin next week, the Chicago White Sox will not move any of their four remaining starters into Chris Sale's vacated rotation spot.

The team announced Sunday that their projected Opening Day starter suffered a right foot fracture and will miss three weeks of baseball activity.

The decision suggests that the White Sox remain hopeful that Sale will return by the April 6 season opener at Kansas City.

Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Hector Noesi will remain in their regularly scheduled starting spots, and if Sale isn’t ready to go by the opener, an adjustment can be made later in the spring.

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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.

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.”

New look all around for Gordon Beckham

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
5:56
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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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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Ernie Banks remembered fondly at SoxFest

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
5:03
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's fan convention took on a decidedly somber tone Saturday after the death of Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks was announced late Friday evening.

There was no crosstown rivalry Saturday, as before each panel discussion tributes were made toward the Hall of Famer.

During a mid-morning panel discussion featuring members of the club's 2005 World Series championship team, radio broadcaster Ed Farmer offered his own tribute to Banks, whom he called a friend. The packed house followed with a round of applause.

"When you talk about Ernie, you have to smile," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "He was always in a great mood. I never heard him complain about anything. He was always upbeat. He always had a wisecrack. I know he was Mr. Cub, but he was really Mr. Baseball. He was really a great, great ambassador for the game."

White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone, who pitched three seasons for the Cubs in the 1970s and was a former Cubs broadcaster as well, also remembered Banks fondly.

"I've never heard anybody say, 'I don’t like Ernie Banks,'" Stone said. "It's like saying you don't like Santa Claus. How can you not like Ernie Banks? He was one of the most lovable human beings that our game has ever produced, and he never lost that child-like enthusiasm."

Banks' positive disposition eclipsed his production on the field, a monumental achievement considering that he hit 512 home runs and had a career .500 slugging percentage.

"I don't believe you're going to remember the home runs; I think he hit 512 of them," Stone said. "You're not going to remember the fact that he was a Hall of Famer because that was obvious to anybody who watched him play.

"I think what everybody is going to remember about Ernie was the enthusiasm he brought to each and every day; the positive attitude that he always had and the lesson in like he taught anybody who cared to listen to him, which was you don't have last season, you don't have last week, you don't have yesterday, you have to look ahead and see what tomorrow brings and tomorrow is going to be a great day."

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who grew up in the northern suburbs, said Banks meant as much to baseball as he did to the Cubs.

"Growing up, I probably met him more as a kid and outside of baseball," Hahn said. "I spent a little time with him from time to time during Cubs-Sox series. He was just a tremendous ambassador for the game, for the city. His enthusiasm and his passion for baseball is going to be missed. It’s a big loss."

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton offered his condolences.

"[He was a] Hall of Famer. You look at the statistics that he put up," Eaton said. "And as a person, it seemed like he was top notch. On and off the field, he did it the right way. It's a sad day for baseball, and definitely here in Chicago for South Siders and North Siders alike. He'll be missed for sure."

Rodon mixing business with pleasure

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
3:28
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Top Chicago White Sox prospect Carlos Rodon has been multitasking this weekend, using his time at SoxFest to meet fans, but also getting in some work in advance of spring training.

Rodon not only met pitching coach Don Cooper for the first time Thursday, he threw an indoor bullpen session at U.S. Cellular Field in order to help the two get more acquainted on a business level.

“I spoke with him over the phone a couple of times this offseason and I finally got to meet him, and we worked on it,” Rodon said. “We threw a pen and we got to talking about some things. He’s a great guy.”

The White Sox say they still have not made a decision if Rodon will be targeted toward the major league rotation or the bullpen, but when spring training begins the left-hander will be stretched out as a starter.

It would be easier to move from starter to reliever than the other way around, so it keeps the team’s options opened. To his credit, Rodon isn’t saying what he prefers, he just wants to help.

“Yeah, I’m willing to do whatever,” he said. “I’m just there, they tell me what to do, I show up and I pitch. That’s the way I look at it.”

A year ago Rodon was attending classes at North Carolina State and was just getting started on his senior season. The White Sox made him a first-round pick in the June first-year player draft. He was the third overall selection.

There was even talk that he could be in the major leagues in September, an expedited path that Chris Sale took, but the White Sox eventually nixed that plan.

“You know, that wasn’t up to me,” Rodon said. “The decision was up to them, and I guess they made the right decision. I got some time off, I needed some time off. It would have been nice to be in the big leagues, but it just didn’t happen. It didn’t work out that way.”

He will have his challenges making the team out of spring training. The White Sox look set with a starting rotation of Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Hector Noesi. The bullpen also has two left-handers in Zach Duke and Dan Jennings.

At this point, the odds are strong that Rodon starts the season as a starter at Triple-A Charlotte, remaining just a phone call away if needed.

“He’ll come to spring training and work with all the other starters,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Whether we adjust that midway through, as far as limiting the length of his outings and then putting them closer together to prepare for a bullpen role, is something we’ll discuss in Glendale (Ariz.).

“Ultimately, we view Carlos Rodon as a member of our rotation. But how he gets there, whether it’s through making starts in the minors and then joining the rotation in Chicago or a stint in the bullpen similar to Chris Sale of Mark Buehrle from previously, we’ll decide in March of April.”

Cooper is in agreement with Hahn.

"We didn’t draft this guy third in the nation to be a reliever," Cooper said. "At some point he’s going to be a starter. We haven’t discussed when is that point. Right now, he’s going to come to spring training, show us what he can do and he’s going to give us all the information we need."

When spring training starts, Rodon will set his sights on the making the major league team, naturally, but he is aware of an important step in that process.

“I’m just here to get better, here to listen, and whatever they have in store for me, obviously I have to do what they say,” he said.

Sox hope to steal knowledge from Coleman

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
2:00
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- With speed already on hand, and more headed toward the major league roster, the Chicago White Sox hired a new coach to harness much of that base-stealing potential.

General manager Rick Hahn announced to a packed house during his panel session early Saturday that Vince Coleman will join the coaching staff as a roving base-running instructor. He will be on a one-year contract and will spend time on the major league level as well as in the minor leagues.

“In the offseason we identified wanting to have someone with some base-stealing acumen, and obviously with tremendous credentials like Vince has it’s a means to augment our coaching staff and help draw out a little more from certain players,” Hahn said. “I think a fan asked about Adam Eaton. Certainly, that’s one. And Micah Johnson, wherever Micah Johnson is (playing), he’ll be working with him as well. It’s a real good get in terms of rounding out some of our staff.”

Coleman was the National League rookie of the year in 1985 and a two-time All-Star as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He stole at least 100 bases in each of his first three seasons, including 110 in 1985, which is a major league rookie record and the ninth-most in a season all-time. He stole 752 career bases.

“Without (Coleman), I was looking at 40 (steals); that's my goal, I want to get back on track and get 40,” said Eaton, who had just 15 steals in 2014 and was caught nine times. “With him, I'm hoping to have more. It's definitely something I've worked on all offseason. I've worked on my quickness and being more efficient, just from my standpoint of what I needed to work on and getting in shape in that matter. I'm excited to work with him and what he has to offer.”

White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams has a relationship with Coleman and was instrumental in bringing him to the club.

“Doug Sisson does a great job in the minor leagues; he works with our outfielders and our baserunners,” Hahn said. “(First-base coach Daryl Boston) spends some time with the base runners in Chicago and has done a good job with it.

“It’s just a matter of bringing in another voice and someone who obviously has base stealing as a big element of their game, not just baserunning. It’s a different approach, element and voice he brings, and everyone is excited about it.”

The 52-year-old Coleman served as a baserunning instructor for the Houston Astros the previous two years. He was an instructor for the Chicago Cubs in 2004 and 2005.

Despite options, Flowers is main choice at catcher for White Sox

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
9:01
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Tyler Flowers is the Chicago White Sox's man behind the plate this season, even if the front office has added intriguing catching options this offseason.

General manager Rick Hahn made sure there was no confusion with pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training in four weeks.

“At this point, there’s no reason to move off of that,” Hahn said Friday at the team's annual SoxFest of the plan to start Flowers. “Competition is good. It brings out the best in people. And if someone comes in and fights for that job and earns it, I’m sure we’ll be flexible. But certainly we view Tyler as the starter.”

Challengers to the position include players with plenty of major league experience, such as Geovany Soto and George Kottaras, both of whom will come to camp on minor league contracts. The White Sox also have Rob Brantly, Adrian Nieto and Kevan Smith as catching options.

“It’s important to us to try to build up some catching depth, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do,” Hahn said. “We have a nice variety of different types of guys, whether it’s a veteran-type like Soto. Kottaras is a left-handed hitter that really could complement [Flowers], potentially, and obviously some younger guys in Brantly and Nieto, each of whom has options left and conceivably could be fits on a longer-term basis."

Flowers, 28, batted just .241 with a .396 slugging percentage last season but was much improved after the All-Star break.

Love is in the air at 2015 SoxFest

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
7:11
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Rick HahnAP Photo/Andrew A. NellesRick Hahn said he was proud of rebuilding the Sox roster without denting the farm system.

CHICAGO – As expected, the Chicago White Sox's annual fan festival, known as SoxFest, was more of a lovefest, with fans eager to praise rather than criticize the makeup of the team’s roster.

Offseason moves to add proven veterans such as Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Zach Duke have resonated well with the fan base. In fact, the annual SoxFest opening seminar featuring the general manager and the field manager was filled with compliments instead of the criticism of the past.

At one point, consecutive fans who took the microphone to ask questions of both GM Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura gushed in praise of the team that has been assembled. It even prompted Ventura to ask one of the fans if there was a “man crush” going on between him and Hahn.

“We’ve gotten a lot of outstanding feedback from people -- not just the last few days since we’ve been around here, but over the last two months,” Hahn said. “The letters and phone calls have certainly changed their tone from the middle of the ’13 season, and it’s nice to have that. It’s nice to get the fans to feel the same level of anticipation for the season to start and the high hopes.”

Ventura did get some criticism Thursday at a fan event not connected to SoxFest, with his use of the bullpen being questioned. But even the most reasonable fan could see that his hands were tied on a team without a true closer, one which didn’t have the use of Nate Jones for basically the entire season and which also saw Matt Lindstrom spend a significant amount of time on the disabled list.

The improved roster means Ventura will get even more scrutiny this season, and it’s something he said he welcomes.

“Sure, I think you want that,” Ventura said. “If there isn't [pressure] then you're not playing for the right things. If that's what it is, that's great. I'm not going to act any different or do anything different. That's fine. That's what we're shooting for. You want to have that.”

At the SoxFest opening ceremonies Friday, Hahn and Jose Abreu seemed to get the loudest applause when they were introduced. Also announced to the crowd were eight members of the 2005 World Series champions, including Aaron Rowand, Joe Crede, Tadahito Iguchi and Bobby Jenks.

If the current White Sox team aspires to emulate that '05 outfit, the road will be long, starting with the fight in the American League Central against the Detroit Tigers and the defending AL-champion Kansas City Royals.

“We view ourselves as a contender, absolutely, but at the same time when we started this process midway through 2013, the intention was not to jump up and contend for one season, it was to put us in position for sustained success,” Hahn said. “We feel that we’ve acquired, in most every instance, an important piece for us for not just ’15, but for ’16 and beyond. And at the same time we were able to do this without leaving too big a dent on our minor league system, which is getting to the point now of being able to add guys who are going to contribute at the major league level not just in ’15 but beyond.

“Our absolute belief was that we were going to contend this year. That said, what we’re trying to do is put us in position so we feel that way every year.”

The sense from the SoxFest crowd was that a contending team was in their midst. It led to the profound level of optimism at the downtown event, with that feeling expected to last the entire weekend.

“We knew that at some point we were going to find ourselves in position where it made sense to start stretching and adding and being aggressive on the free-agent market and with our trades,” Hahn said. “Now, in retrospect, fans seem to understand that that process began in ’13, of putting ourselves in position to accumulate a young core to grow together, and merited the additions that we made this past offseason to put ourselves in position to contend.

“The enthusiasm is great and, personally, the things I enjoy hearing most about is the people saying they get it, they understand why the moves were made when they were made.”

Bonifacio deal official; Jordan Danks designated

January, 8, 2015
Jan 8
2:32
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While making the free-agent signing of free agent utility man Emilio Bonifacio official, the Chicago White Sox also announced Thursday that outfielder Jordan Danks was designated for assignment.

The club needed to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Bonifacio, and Danks ended up being the odd man out.

Bonifacio was added on a one-year, $4 million deal. He will make $3 million in 2015, with a $4 million club option for 2016. There is a $1 million buyout on the 2016 option.

The versatile Bonifacio was one of only 10 position players to see time at seven or more positions, including designated hitter, during the 2014 season. He got off to a hot start last season with the Chicago Cubs, batting .313 in April, and finished the season batting .259 with 47 runs scored and 26 steals combined between the Cubs and Atlanta Braves.

“Emilio brings an excellent mix of versatility, speed and experience to our club which will provide (manager) Robin (Ventura) with additional flexibility with the roster this year,” general manager Rick Hahn said in a release. “We expect Emilio’s ability to switch hit, help at multiple positions and steal a base to be very beneficial to us.”

Bonifacio looks to be lined up as the club’s fourth outfielder behind Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, although Dayan Viciedo still is with the club. Bonifacio can also back up at shortstop and be an insurance policy at second base in case the move to either Carlos Sanchez or Micah Johnson doesn’t pan out immediately.

Danks, the younger brother of White Sox pitcher John Danks, has appeared in 180 games over three seasons with the White Sox. The former seventh-round draft pick has a .227 batting average in the major leagues with eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 41 runs scored.

White Sox's chemistry test begins in earnest

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
5:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Adding a glut of experienced major league players is one thing. Getting them to play together and transform the Chicago White Sox into a winner will be something else entirely.

The White Sox introduced three of their new additions Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, handing out new jerseys to starter Jeff Samardzija, closer David Robertson and outfielder Melky Cabrera. Other offseason additions include relievers Zach Duke and Dan Jennings, as well as first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche.

If second baseman Micah Johnson and catcher Rob Brantly make the Opening Day squad, those eight players alone, many of them in key roles, represent nearly one-third of the roster. It is a serious shakeup for a club that has designs on making the postseason for just the second time since winning the World Series in 2005.

[+] EnlargeMelky Cabrera
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green"It takes a spring training to know each other, and then we become better friends when we have a team that we can play with and bring a championship or make it to the playoffs," Melky Cabrera said, referring to the time it takes for a team to jell.
But the playoffs won’t happen unless manager Robin Ventura can mesh all the parts of his revamped squad into a winner.

“As long as that common denominator is winning, I think it happens pretty quick,” Samardzija said about getting the team to come together quickly. “I think as a team and as a veteran group of guys, when everybody is on the same page and playing winning baseball, I think everything comes together pretty quickly.

“I think there is a formula for winning games in the major leagues consistently, and it’s pretty simple: You play hard, you prepare and have each other’s backs and you play for each other. I think as long as everyone is doing that, you’ll see a pretty quick mesh in personalities and camaraderie among the team, for sure.”

Samardzija got his first chance to assimilate to a new team last season when he was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics. He learned the do's and don’ts of making a transition and expects to apply what he learned once spring training starts.

He even got a jump on the process, calling Chris Sale to start learning the ropes early.

Robertson, though, has only been with the New York Yankees in a seven-year major league career. While he is making the transition to a new team for the first time, he isn’t anticipating any awkward stages.

“I’ve been a part of a changing team, an evolving team before,” said Robertson, who did play with Cabrera in New York for a few seasons. “Every year there’s change, and it doesn’t take long for guys to get together and figure it out. You’re around each other every single day, you get to know everyone and figure things out.”

While spring training is designed to get players’ bodies in shape, it will also be a quasi-spiritual retreat where the herd of new players will try to fit in with returning White Sox players.

“It takes a spring training,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “We start getting along together; we start knowing each other, and after spring training comes and it’s like we’ve been playing forever together. It takes a spring training to know each other, and then we become better friends when we have a team that we can play with and bring a championship or make it to the playoffs.”

The transition probably will work best if the new players defer to returning players such as Sale and John Danks for leadership roles. It will help if Alexei Ramirez takes a more vocal leadership role, as well.

As it is with nearly all teams that have made sweeping changes, all eyes will be on the club’s camaraderie starting on Opening Day. If the club starts winning, the clubhouse vibe will be credited, and if they lose, the lack of a tight-knit group will be blamed. With so many changes, the White Sox are going to have a hard time avoiding it.

“The one thing we were cognizant of along the way in this endeavor was, let’s not only target the best players, but the best fits in the clubhouse, character-wise and intensity, and people who can put it together,” executive vice president Kenny Williams said. “As I explained to David Robertson, it took us some lessons in the early 2000s that it’s not just the talent you throw against the wall, it has to fit together.”

As a college football player and a major league baseball player, Samardzija has been in plenty of differing sports environments and he has learned a thing or two about deferring to others.

“I pitch every fifth day, so any opportunity I get to watch other guys perform and do it at the highest level possible, I enjoy doing it,” Samardzija said. “Chris [Sale] is one of those guys, David is one of those guys, Melky is one of those guys, [Jose] Abreu and so on down the list. LaRoche, I have been a big fan of for a long time. I enjoy watching good baseball so we can learn from these guys and bounce ideas off them. It’s a great resource to have, and you’d be an idiot not to take advantage of it, for sure.”

Say what you want about clubhouse unity and whether or not it’s valuable, but the White Sox have made a point to recognize it. Ultimately, it will be their ability to play well that will take them to where they want to go, but seeing eye to eye will be one fewer obstacle to avoid.

“These are veterans who have seen a lot of people come and go into clubhouses,” Williams said of the trio the White Sox welcomed Tuesday. “They’ve had to be the veterans who welcome guys in. They’re comfortable and confident because they’ve been on both sides. They know the drill.”

Cabrera arrives with past missteps in tow

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
1:43
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- New Chicago White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera made his mistake and served his punishment -- not to mention serving it with heavy doses of contrition -- so the club thinks it’s time to move forward.

Not only was it a surprise that the apparently budget-restricted White Sox agreed to a deal with Cabrera over the weekend to the tune of three years and $42 million, another eye opener was the fact that the added a player who had been suspended for 50 games and missed the end of the 2012 season because of elevated levels of testosterone.

Not only did Cabrera elect not to appeal his suspension for PED use, he had been leading the National League in batting at the time and asked that he be taken out of consideration for the batting title. By not participating in the postseason that year with the San Francisco Giants, he also missed out on playing in a World Series, which the Giants won.

“Obviously we’re aware of what happened in the past, and no one condones what he did,” Hahn said. “But we are talking about an instance where there was a mistake he made and took ownership for, and showed honest remorse about from three seasons ago. He’s already gone through the understandable and deserved public scrutiny and has not hid from his past actions.”

Although current executive vice president Kenny Williams has roundly criticized PED users in the past, the White Sox have not completely turned their backs on players with a questionable history. Manny Ramirez was acquired at the tail end of the 2010 season and played 24 games with the team.

Cabrera got his second chance the past two seasons with the Blue Jays, batting .293 over 227 games north of the border, with 19 home runs and 103 RBIs. The biggest draw for the White Sox was Cabrera’s .351 on-base percentage in 2014 and his .339 OPB over his 10-year career.

“Frankly, I respect the fact that he accepted and served his penalty and lived with the consequences, and he’s done his best to put it behind him,” Hahn said. “Obviously our (MLB drug) policy not only allows for the suspension and the punishment, but also the redemption. Melky has performed at the highest level on the other side of this issue and we’re optimistic he can perform at that level moving forward.”

Fans' embrace let White Sox add Cabrera

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
12:18
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox front office might have purchased a new closer last week in David Robertson, but it appears as if the team’s fans were the ones who purchased new left fielder Melky Cabrera.

General manager Rick Hahn admitted Tuesday that because “sales” have been up all offseason, and especially since Robertson and Jeff Samardzija were acquired during the winter meetings last week, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to spend more than expected.

That meant the addition of Cabrera over the weekend for three years and $42 million, bringing aboard a new left fielder and No. 2 hitter in the lineup.

“Things have gone well so far from a sales standpoint, which played a role in Jerry allowing us to go beyond our originally targeted payroll,” Hahn said soon after the Cabrera signing was made official Tuesday. “As we sit here today, we’re beyond where we expected to go in terms of the 2015 payroll. That is, again, a direct result of Jerry saying he saw the fit (in Cabrera), he understood what we wanted to do and, in the end, gave us the flexibility to convert on the deal.”

That came in contrast to last week’s statement following the Robertson signing (four years/$46 million), when Hahn admitted that finances were now tight. Hahn said that wasn't a bluff.

And while Hahn said Tuesday that the club is under no edict to trim the fat from any other areas of the roster, more changes are still expected. One obvious move ahead is finding a new home for Dayan Viciedo, who was tendered a contract earlier this month and figures to make at least $4 million in the upcoming season.

“I don’t think it behooves us to get very deep into any conversation about any specific player in terms of potential future moves,” Hahn said. “I will say that there’s certainly an opportunity for Viciedo to play a role on this club however, the amount of (at-bats) for him have certainly diminished. I don’t think it would be a great shock to hear from other clubs that perhaps have a larger role for him and have interest in him joining their club to fulfill that role.”

Considering what Viciedo is set to make in 2015, the obvious need the White Sox have to trade him and the fact that his offense and defense have been disappointing, he isn’t in possession of a whole lot of trade value these days.

If that is the downside, though, to adding Robertson, Cabrera, Jeff Samardzija, Zack Duke and Adam LaRoche, the White Sox will gladly deal with it. Filling as many needs as they did with the caliber of players they brought aboard, not even the optimistic Hahn could see it all go down in the fashion that it did.

“We’re pleased with how we’ve been able to come through, but frankly I do think we probably have had a roll here that if you had told me six weeks ago we’d been able to convert on, I probably would have been a little surprised by,” Hahn said. “It’s what we set out to do. It’s what Jerry and Kenny (Williams) wanted to see from all of us, and the fact we’ve been able to convert on it makes us real pleased. The attitude we have down the hall, in our department, is we should feel good about what we’ve done, but it’s on to the next one now.”

White Sox make Cabrera signing official

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
9:56
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox officially announced their newest member of the outfield Tuesday as free agent Melky Cabrera has agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal.

The 30-year-old left fielder and No. 2 hitter will receive $13 million next season, $14 million in 2016 and $15 million in 2017.

Cabrera was a .301 hitter this past season for the Toronto Blue Jays in 568 at-bats, the second most at-bats in any one season behind the 658 he had in 2011, when he batted .305 for the Kansas City Royals. He posted a .351 on-base percentage in 2014 and has a .339 OBP over 1,211 career games.

“Melky provides us with a professional hitter, who reaches base on a consistent basis,” general manager Rick Hahn said in a release. "We think he slides into Robin's batting order perfectly and adds depth to a very versatile lineup. We are very excited about his addition to our roster.”

Robin, of course, is manager Robin Ventura, and in his fourth season at the helm of the club, he is expected to bat Cabrera right behind leadoff man Adam Eaton and right in front of rookie of the year Jose Abreu.

Cabrera reportedly turned down a four-year offer to sign the White Sox’s three-year pact and the opportunity to bat in front of a hitter like Abreu could have played into that decision.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.17 208 174
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .317
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208