Chicago White Sox

Jose Abreu explains why he is in 'a great position' despite All-Star absence

Jose Abreu explains why he is in 'a great position' despite All-Star absence

OAKLAND, Calif. — He may not be an All-Star, but Jose Abreu is unquestionably in a better place than he was one year ago.

The White Sox slugger said on Saturday morning one reason he’s rebounded this season is he’s focused too much on the present to spend time worrying about the past. A year removed from the worst stretch of his pro career, Abreu has rediscovered the form that made him the runaway winner for the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year award. He belted his 16th home run of the season on Tuesday as the White Sox fell to the Oakland A’s 7-6. Abreu, who finished 1-for-5 with three RBIs, is on pace to drive in 100 runs for a fourth straight season.

“I don’t like to turn back the page, I like to turn the page forward,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It was a tough situation for me last year. I’m glad I’ve overcome all those situations. I’m in a great position right now. I’m playing more like I know I can play. I’m doing my best. I’m glad for all the people who supported to me in that tough moment. I’m just glad to be at this point and doing my best.”

Abreu has contended since March he’s in a “much better place” this season.

The first baseman endured his share of trying times last year, especially off the field. He learned of the arrest of his trainer and close friend Julio Estrada last April for Estrada’s involvement in the smuggling case that helped bring Abreu to the United States in late 2013. Abreu also was informed he would have to testify in the case, though he’d be granted immunity for his participation. Beyond that, Abreu wondered if he’d ever be reunited with his young son, Dariel, who he’d only seen once since escaping Cuba.

Abreu headed into the 2016 All-Star break with 11 home runs and a .756 OPS. At that point he was only two weeks into a 32-game homerless stretch that ended on Aug. 4.

But Abreu has since been reunited with his son, who visits again next week, and testified in the trial in March.

Those developments have freed Abreu up and his play would suggest it to be the case. Through Saturday, Abreu is hitting .292/.340/.515 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs in 82 games. He didn’t drive in his 58th run of 2016 until his 107th game.

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The White Sox have benefitted from Abreu’s improved play. Saturday was the 40th time in which the White Sox have scored five or more runs this season. Last season, the White Sox scored five or more runs only 67 times.

“It’s a big impact,” manager Rick Renteria said. “All of our guys have started to pick it up. (Todd Frazier), (Abreu), (Avisail Garcia) has been consistent all season. We’ve had output from guys nobody expected that we hoped would give us some, (Yolmer Sanchez) and (Matt) Davidson. All through the lineup everybody doing their thing and giving us moments. They continue to grind and play. Abreu’s consistency has been impactful. They just feed on each other.”

They root each other on, too.

Abreu has shown only love for Garcia, who two days ago was named the team’s lone All-Star representative. Abreu has championed Garcia’s accomplishment, stepping into his interview on Monday afternoon to inform reporters that Garcia was “happy, happy, happy” to be headed to Miami for next week’s exhibition.

Even though his numbers have been All-Star worthy as well, Abreu is content to be in a good spot. After all, he’ll also be in Miami, hanging out with his son and the rest of his family, including wife, Yusmary, who is due in October.

“(The All-Star Game) is not a disappointment,” Abreu said. “I’m realistic and I know there are a lot of players that have better stats than me. I’m glad for them to go. I did my best and I’m just working hard to help my team win games. I’ve had the experience. I experienced it three years ago. No regrets for me.”

Lucas Giolito puts together another strong outing in White Sox loss to Astros

Lucas Giolito puts together another strong outing in White Sox loss to Astros

HOUSTON — He didn’t have his best stuff against baseball’s top offense on Tuesday night, but Lucas Giolito had his changeup.

The young White Sox pitcher showed once again that when he has confidence in an offspeed pitch he’s able to overcome situations where his fastball might not be as good as he’d prefer. Trust in the changeup and a good command of the fastball were more than enough to put together another strong performance.

While Giolito took the decision in a 3-1 White Sox loss to the Houston Astros, he once again earned plaudits for his pitching.

“He was really good,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “His changeup's very good. He obviously can spin a couple different breaking balls. It looks like a heavy fastball. So, a really impressive young starter to be able to navigate the lineup in different ways and get guys out in different ways and really compete.”

Perhaps no one hitter better demonstrated Giolito’s ability to compete than his sixth-inning showdown with Astros No. 5 hitter Marwin Gonzalez. Having just issued his first walk down 2-1 with two outs and a man on second, Giolito threw both his two- and four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball during a lengthy at-bat. With the count full, Gonzalez fouled off six consecutive fastballs before Giolito threw a changeup in the dirt for the whiff on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.

It was one of 18 changeups Giolito threw, with 11 going for strikes.

“The changeup was a good pitch for me aside from a few I left up in the zone,” Giolito said. “I had a lot of confidence in it and that was probably the offspeed pitch I was most comfortable going to in situations.”

Given his fastball velo was an average of 92.2 mph, confidence and comfort were critical. Houston entered the game with a team slash line of .282/.345/.479 and averaging 5.47 runs per contest. The American League West champions offer few easy outs and were clearly the sternest test to date for Giolito, who has never pitched more innings in a season than his current 167 between Triple-A Charlotte and the majors.

Even though the velo isn’t where he’s wanted it in the past two outings, Giolito has pitched well enough. Giolito produced his fourth quality start in six outings in the big leagues as he limited the Astros to two earned runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

“Felt pretty good about it,” Giolito said. “It was one of those days where I didn’t have my best stuff working. Had a lot of trouble getting the ball to the extension side. That’s something to work on this week going into the next start. But I felt good about how I pitched tonight for sure.”

The White Sox feel pretty good about the production they’ve received from Giolito, who struggled with consistency earlier this season at Triple-A and dropped down in the prospect rankings as a result. The right-hander said he’s pleased with how he’s learned to be more composed on the mound this season. He’s also clearly gained confidence and trust in his stuff.

“Based on everything we saw, the skill set that he would be able to manage his ability on the mound to attack the strike zone,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s throwing his breaking ball more effectively now, the changeup as well.”

“All in all he’s doing what he needs to do. He’s kept hitters off balance. His ball has some life. He has angle. We’re happy with how he’s continued to develop.”

Giolito’s offense didn’t do what it needed to earn him a victory despite another big night from Yoan Moncada. Moncada went 3-for-4 with three singles and shortstop Tim Anderson extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a ninth-inning single.

White Sox draft guru Nick Hostetler willing to sacrifice position for player development

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White Sox draft guru Nick Hostetler willing to sacrifice position for player development

HOUSTON — As much as he longs to pick first next June, Nick Hostetler has learned to cope in the name of player development.

The White Sox amateur scouting director sees a deep draft class full of high school and college players awaiting. He’d love if the White Sox didn’t have to sweat out other teams’ decisions in what will be another critical moment in the team’s accumulation process.

But Hostetler said Tuesday he’s learned not to let his own feelings get in the way of what’s best for the franchise. Even if the White Sox end up picking third or fourth next June, Hostetler appreciates that the worse draft position is the result of a hot streak by any number of young players.

“It’s really exciting to see some of these young kids have success,” Hostetler said. “I really do like seeing Tim Anderson hit .400 and Lucas Giolito doing what he’s doing. All of these things are so great for the ultimate plan, which is us winning at the big-league level. I don’t ever want to get so selfish where I’m worrying about one pick or whether we’re three or whether we’re four or whatever it is and to use that than to take away from the greater good.”

There’s no question one pick can make all the difference. Colorado has received good production out of the third overall selection of the 2013 draft, Jon Gray, who has thus far given them 7.1 f-Wins Above Replacement in his brief career. But that pales in comparison to the 21.0 WAR produced by second pick Kris Bryant.

Entering Tuesday, the White Sox boasted the third-worst record in the majors. But their lead over the flailing Detroit Tigers, who are fourth, has slipped down to 1 1/2 games.

While a 100-loss season still appears to be in play for the White Sox, it seems far-fetched they would catch Philadelphia or San Francisco to finish with a top-two selection next June.

No matter where the White Sox pick, Hostetler is excited about the prospects of the class, which has a nice blend of hitters and pitchers from high school and college. Hostetler said earlier this month it’s the best class he can remember since 2010.

Still, Hostetler jokes that he’s conflicted when it comes to September scoreboard watching.

“It’s hard not to sit there and look but I’ve done a really good job,” Hostetler said with a laugh. “I’m proud of myself for this. I’ve kind of removed myself from this point. I root for our guys to succeed and to win, but at the same time knowing ultimately come June and three or four years after we’ll really know if picking third or fourth actually mattered.”