Cody Asche has already settled in with White Sox

Cody Asche has already settled in with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Joining a new team after six pro seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies didn't exactly put Cody Asche's mind at ease last month.

Then he set foot into the White Sox clubhouse.

A non-roster invitee to camp, Asche has since found a comfort zone and it has translated to the field. With 11 days left in camp, Asche -- hitting .364/.563/.909 with six extra-base hits in 32 plate appearances -- is firmly in the mix for the Opening Day roster. 

"You lay awake at night before you come to spring training with a new club wondering how it's going to be and how scary it could be, being it's your first time," Asche said. "It's nothing like I would have imagined. I felt like I fit in right away, and I'm really taken aback by the humbleness of the superstars in this room, (Jose) Abreu, (Todd) Frazier, (Jose) Quintana. Those guys, they're really great teammates."

A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, Asche was "very surprised" when the Phillies decided to designate him for assignment on Dec. 2. The University of Nebraska-product quickly rose through Philadelphia's farm system and was promoted to the majors late in the 2013 season. Asche -- who hit 31 homers and has a .684 career OPS in 1,287 PAs -- struggled defensively at third base in 2013 and 2014, which prompted the Phillies to switch him to the outfield the past two seasons. Arbitration eligible this offseason for the first time and due a raise, Philadelphia opted to move on.

"I didn't see that coming at all," Asche said. "I thought at least I would be back in camp and fighting for a job again. That's baseball. That's how it goes. I wasn't the first, and I won't be the last.

"I don't want to prove to them anything. A lot of people have to make tough decisions in this game. Sometimes they're right and sometimes they're wrong."

The White Sox are hopeful the Phillies were incorrect in their evaluation of Asche, who signed a minor-league deal with an invite to camp on Dec. 22. Though he faces longer odds as a non-roster invitee, Asche's chances are helped because he's one of the few left-handed sticks in camp.

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The White Sox have added some flexibility to Asche's game by trying him out at first base this spring. They've been pleased with how he's handled his chances there as well as his offensive performance, which includes three doubles, three homers and nine walks in 32 trips.

"He's making it tough on everybody," manager Rick Renteria said. "Done a nice job preparing, executing and the things he is capable of doing. He's a pro and is doing things he's capable of, not trying to do too much. He's shown well. He's a pro and a person that kind of grows on you. He's pretty witty and very professional going about your business."

Asche said it didn't take long to feel comfortable in his new digs. He and Renteria had a chat at the start of camp where the manager "laid it on the line and told me what was going to be expected of me," Asche said. He has since found plenty of friendly faces, whether it's a quick word with Abreu or joking with Frazier.

Asche thinks he's matured as a person over the last few years. Though it has been tough to move on from old friends in Philly, Asche said he's only looking forward.

"No one wants to be DFAed from their parent club that drafted them and brought them up, but I always welcome new challenges," Asche said. "It's been real easy to play for these guys and around this group of teammates.

"I want to be a part of this culture. I want to be a part of this team. I want to play hard for Ricky. "I want to play hard for the guys in this room, and that's really all I'm focused on."
 

James Shields' first bullpen session a success

James Shields' first bullpen session a success

PHOENIX -- James Shields’ first bullpen on Wednesday went so well that he’s already scheduled for another on Friday.

The White Sox pitcher already has his eyes on the next few steps he’ll take, which potentially could include a three-inning simulated game on Monday. On the 10-day disabled list retroactive to April 21 with a lat muscle strain, Shields is very encouraged only three weeks after he was shut down. He’s one of several White Sox pitchers who have made good progress of late along with Carlos Rodon, Nate Jones, Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam.

“I can’t feel anything right now,” Shields said. “Just trying to build up arm strength as quickly as possible. Surprisingly it’s back a little bit quicker than I thought. It’s actually coming out pretty good.”

“It went really well. Threw 30 pitches. All my pitches. With some good effort.”

Shields has gone from frustrated to upbeat over the last 11 days. He began to play catch when the team started it’s 10-game road trip and hasn’t had a setback. The right-hander and the club are mapping out what Shields will do next based on how he’s responding.

“We are trying to figure that out right now,” Shields said. “I think tentatively I’m going to do almost like a three inning bullpen on Monday. That’s kind of how far I’ve gotten right now.

“Everything feels really good.”

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From a physical standpoint, Putnam’s first time off a mound was good. He just wasn’t as pleased with how he threw on Tuesday night.

Putnam, on the DL with right elbow inflammation, had thrown multiple flat-ground bullpens before he moved to the mound for the first time in a month. While he wasn’t thrilled with the first effort, he wasn’t surprised, either.

“Even if you have a completely healthy arm, you know a month off the mound and you get back up there, you will have some aches and pains,” Putnam said. “I’m not disappointed. I’m not frustrated. I’ve got to build up.

“Having this be the first time in a while, I’m not concerned about it at all.

“It’s not a linear process. There’s going to be some ups and there will be some downs. If it were just kind of every other day you go throw and you feel a little better than last time, that would be great. I would love that. But it’s not always that way. I learned that last year. I’m just trying to be cognizant of that as we go forward.”

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Dylan Covey exited Tuesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with left oblique soreness. The short-handed White Sox won’t know until Wednesday at the earliest how long they could be without their Rule 5 starting pitcher, who missed significant time in 2016 with the same injury.

Covey sustained the injury in the third inning of a 5-4 loss to Arizona in front of 17,865 at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks homered twice off the right-hander, scoring four times in 2 1/3 innings. The bullpen pitched well enough to allow the White Sox to rally, but they fell just short despite Jose Abreu’s 100th career home run and loading the bases in the eighth inning.

“Where I’m at now, doing some ice and stuff, I feel a lot better compared to last year,” Covey said. “I could hardly move last year. Trying to stay optimistic. Hopefully this will be a short little recovery.

“The next stop in the timeline is see how it feels in the morning.”

Though both James Shields and Carlos Rodon are on the mend, the White Sox are already down two starting pitchers. Rodon is further along having thrown off a mound four times, including 60 pitches in a simulated game on Monday. But the White Sox don’t have a lot of depth in the farm system as they’re not willing to forgo development to fill a need in Chicago.

What could further complicate the team’s plans is that they already were potentially in need of another starting pitcher for Friday’s doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers.

“He had a little strain,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We’ll re-evaluate him (Wednesday). Strain of the oblique. We’ll check it out tomorrow. Hopefully it’s nothing too lingering.”

Covey exited the game after he recorded the first out of the third inning. He induced a ground ball and signaled the bench, which brought out Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider. Covey, who allowed two more home runs on Tuesday, didn’t attempt to throw any warmup pitches before he exited.

The right-hander brought an 0-3 mark and a 7.64 ERA into the contest. Paul Goldschmidt tripled in a run off Covey with one out in the first inning ahead of a two-run home run by Jake Lamb. Chris Herrmann also blasted a solo homer to left to start the second inning. Covey, who had made only six starts above Single-A before the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft last December, has allowed 13 home runs in 37 2/3 innings this season.

“I only felt it on the pitch,” Covey said. “Might have been maybe a little tight leading up to the game. Felt fine throughout the game, it was just on that pitch I felt it.”

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The White Sox bullpen picked up the slack as Chris Beck, Gregory Infante, David Holmberg and Tommy Kahnle combined to allow one run over the final 5 2/3 innings.

That allowed the White Sox to work their way back into the contest. Melky Cabrera homered in the second inning to make it a two-run game. After Arizona scored in the bottom of the second, Todd Frazier’s two-run homer made it a 4-3 game in the third inning.

Abreu blasted a solo shot off Jorge De La Rosa in the eighth to get the White Sox within a run. They loaded the bases with one out but J.J. Hoover struck out Omar Narvaez and Yolmer Sanchez to maintain the one-run lead for Arizona.

“We had a lot of hard-hit balls today, and sometimes they fall, sometimes they don’t,” Renteria said. “I really do want to commend our guys for fighting and playing the game. They’ve been doing it all year long. This is no different. There are ups and downs, and right now hopefully we continue to play as focused as we have been and we’ll get some shutdown innings that help us, and we’ll continue to try to score some runs and see if we can win a ballgame.”