Keppinger expects leg will be fine

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Keppinger expects leg will be fine

Jeff Keppinger is in good shape now but admits earlier this offseason he was worried when an X-ray revealed a broken right fibula rather than a sprained ankle.

The White Sox newest addition said Monday he expects to be ready for spring training when the team reports to Glendale, Ariz. in just over two months. The walking boot worn by Keppinger -- who signed a three-year, 12-million deal with the White Sox on Monday -- comes off Tuesday and he will start his rehab shortly thereafter.

It especially wasnt a fun time, Keppinger said. I thought I rolled my ankle and sprained it. I was wearing flip flops coming down the stairs and just slipped and thought I could catch myself and just didnt land right. I come out of (the walking boot) tomorrow and get on my way with walking and get better so I should be all good shortly. It was pretty nerve wracking.

The competition for Keppinger was heavy this offseason.

The New York Yankees were one of many teams in pursuit of Keppinger, a .288 career hitter, who, along with Dustin Pedroia and Albert Pujols, is one of three hitters with more walks and extra-base hits than strikeouts since 2007. Keppinger is tailor-made for the White Sox as general manager Rick Hahn wants his offense to be less reliant upon the long ball next season. He wants his team to be able to score even when it doesnt hit home runs. Hahn said the White Sox were high on Keppinger from the start of the offseason but the broken leg cooled the chase, at least temporarily.

It actually probably slowed things down a beat so that us and the others clubs involved could get the medical records and post-op report and the follow-up report, Hahn said. It may have slowed things down by a week or two, but there certainly was a great amount of interest in him and we were there from there the start. Once we were comfortable with the prognosis on the fracture we were right there back in it and we were able to close something off down in Nashville last week despite the fact that there was a fair amount of competition.

Keppinger heads into spring as the White Sox third baseman, though he said the club hasnt informed him of where he will play or hit. With no more than 36 strikeouts in any of his eight seasons, Keppinger appears to be a strong candidate for the second spot in the White Sox lineup. Hahn received a good report on Keppinger from assistant GM Buddy Bell, who briefly managed him in Kansas City in 2006 and likes Keppingers makeup.

Jeff adds a valuable and different type of offensive player to our lineup, Hahn said.

Keppinger likes the idea of hitting second because of the different aspects to the offensive approach. Hes a career .288 hitter.

Sometimes you have to take pitches to allow the leadoff batter to steal, Keppinger said. Other times you have to just kind of give yourself up for the team and move guys over for the three hitter. I kind of like the challenges the two hole brings. Its kind of tough sometimes to do all those little things, but I pride myself in being able to get them done.

His first task, however, is to get his right leg back up to speed. Keppinger doesnt anticipate any problems.

That was what I told by the doctors, Keppinger said. Im about to be out of the boot and healed up and basically its just strengthening the leg back up. I should be good to go come spring. That certainly all matters based on how rehab goes but I dont imagine there being any tough parts of rehab that are a struggle for me. I just need to strengthen it back up and get the flexibility back in my foot.

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A torrid two months at the plate helped Jose Abreu end what he found to be an extremely trying 2016 season with numbers close to his career norms.

But even though he finished with an .820 OPS and 100 RBIs for a third straight season, Abreu admits that 2016 was a season unlike any other he'd faced.

While he didn't disclose any theories for the cause of his lengthy struggles, the White Sox first baseman said Sunday he's pleased to have finished on a positive note and thinks that rebounding from those difficulties will only make him stronger. Abreu — who hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in 695 plate appearances — is also a fan of new White Sox manager Rick Renteria and is equally impressed with the prospects the club acquired this winter.

"Yes, those were different challenges, especially in my mind," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I never in my life experienced some of the kind of struggles like I did last year. But that put me in a better position as a player, as a person too. I'm in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience."

In spite of his struggles, Abreu was still a league average player through the first four months of the season. But the 2014 All-Star hardly resembled the player who produced a 153 OPS-plus over his first two seasons. His timing was off and Abreu — hitting .269/.325/.413 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs through July 30 — wasn't driving the ball as he typically had in his first two seasons, when he smacked 66 homers.

Abreu was lost at the plate and nobody could figure out why.

But after the arrival of his son, Dariel, who visited him for the first time since he moved to the United States, Abreu took off. He hit .338/.402/.568 the rest of the season with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in 249 trips to the plate.

"Right after last season ended, I had my meeting at my house with my family, just to explain to them how the season was because they know about baseball," Abreu said. "But sometimes they can't register how the process is in a season as long as the major league season is. We talked about it. I explained to them all of the challenges, the problems I had during that season. Once we ended with that meeting, last season was in the past. We moved on and we were trying just to figure out things and how can I do better for this season."

Now in his fourth season in the majors, Abreu has a firm grasp on how the White Sox operate and likes some of the team's modifications. He likes how Renteria thoroughly communicates what he has in mind for the club. Abreu also enjoys being seen as one of the team's leaders and wouldn't mind being a mentor to prized prospect Yoan Moncada.

Now he hopes to carry over his strong finish to the start of the 2017 campaign.

"I'm working on it," Abreu said. "That's one of my goals. Everybody knows that at the beginning of last season, I wasn't performing good. It was kind of a surprise for me, too. But I'm in good shape right now and I believe I will be able to succeed."

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot.

The White Sox rookie said Sunday that he noticed the injury gradually building up before he decided to stop his workout on Friday and headed for the training room. An MRI performed Saturday on Tilson -- who is rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early -- revealed the reaction, which isn’t severe as a stress fracture. Given Tilson previously had a stress fracture in his right foot, the White Sox said he'll be sidelined from impact work for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed Herm, thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Tilson wouldn’t be surprised if his injury is related to overcompensating for his left leg, which he has worked tirelessly to rehab since he suffered the injury on Aug. 2 and then had season-ending surgery. Manager Rick Renteria described it as an “irritation” in the area where Tilson suffered a stress fracture in 2013. In the interim, the White Sox will test some of their other options in camp, including veteran Peter Bourjos and minor leaguers Adam Engel and Jacob May, among others.

“But we don’t foresee it to be a long-term issue,” Renteria said. “By being able to shut him down now, it’ll be something he’ll be able to recover from. We’ll just readjust his timetable.”

Minor as Tilson and the White Sox say it is, the outfielder admitted he’s down about having to deal with it after the progress he’d made in his rehab.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But he suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson made enough progress to be a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

“I guess you could say I’m disappointed,” Tilson said. “But it’s a very minor setback and it’s part of the process. I had a major repair, and these things come up and hopefully we can minimize them as much as we can and hopefully this is the last one. But I’m just going to deal with it and do whatever I can to move forward.”