Chicago White Sox

Former rivals Hamilton, Hinrich show great chemistry

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Former rivals Hamilton, Hinrich show great chemistry

Through the Bulls first four preseason games, theres been a mix of good, bad and ugly. One of the bright spots has been the consistently solid play of the veteran backcourt pairing of Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton.

Once former rivals in his previous Bulls stint, Hinrich frequently guarded the then-Piston Hamilton the two have shown remarkable chemistry thus far. After being plagued by injuries in recent years and questions about whether theyve lost a step, the experienced guard duo seemingly has something to prove.

For Hinrich, who was traded from Chicago to Washington and subsequently, to Atlanta in the Bulls effort to clear cap space prior to the free-agent frenzy of 2010, hes showing that hes still a starting-caliber point guard. His teammates have certainly noticed.

Just being back with him is cool because weve got such history. Hes a veteran. To have him back in Chicago is so good. The way he plays, he knows the game. Hes a real unselfish player. He gets everybody better. He has that good veteran leadership, Taj Gibson told CSNChicago.com. He seems real rejuvenated. In practice, he just goes really hard. Look at most of the preseason games; hes been a spark for us. The skys the limit for him, as long as hes healthy.

In Hamiltons case, after an injury-riddled debut campaign in the Windy City, remaining healthy is also the goal. After the early returns, albeit in exhibition games, the results of a therapist-aided offseason regimen have been obvious.

Playing against him, it was frustrating because it was like, Man, how hes getting open every time on the curl? He just never stops running and I think he wears down defenders when he runs because he can do it. A lot of people cant do it. Him and Ray Allen are real gifted at that, said Nate Robinson after Hamilton scored 23 points in last weeks home win over Milwaukee. I told Rip he can go a whole game without even dribbling the ball.

Its pretty fun to be on the other side. The grass is greener.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Well see how that unfolds. The big thing is his health.

I think when he was on the floor, he played well, but when you miss 40 games, thats a lot, he continued. Hes put a lot of work into improving his body. Hes feeling a lot better this year, so thats a good sign and then, he has to maintain it throughout the course of the season.

Thibodeau has been cautious with his starting guards, resting Hamilton in Minnesota last Saturday and sitting Hinrich against Milwaukee because of a minor right-thumb injury. But the duo is cut from the same cloth both are efficient offensive players and if not elite defenders, pesky with a lot of big-game experience and their hard-nosed similarities appeal to the coach.

At this point, it can be gleaned that although Hamilton privately yearns for more minutes, Thibodeau is gun-shy, due to his various ailments a season ago. The opposite could be true for Hinrich, whose workload could be heavier than its been in years with Derrick Rose out to begin the season.

Regardless, with Hamiltons preseason-leading 15.3 points per game in 25 minutes a night and Hinrichs 11.3 point and six-assist averages in 27.7 minutes per contest, for the time being, the veterans are getting the job done.

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

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USA TODAY

Joining Hall-of-Fame company the latest feat for Jose Abreu, White Sox model of consistency

Just how valuable is Jose Abreu to the White Sox?

Well, whenever you join Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only baseball players ever to do something, you must be pretty darn valuable.

Abreu joined that elite company Saturday night, driving in both runs in the White Sox forgettable 8-2 loss to the visiting Kansas City Royals. Those RBIs brought his total to 100 on the season, making him the third major leaguer ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in his first four seasons.

“Every year after a season I meet with my family and we review my season and my stats. Last year when we had the meeting, I told them next year I’m gonna hit 30 homers, I’m gonna drive in at least 100 and I did it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I was able to do it and that’s something that made me feel proud of myself and proud of my family, too, because they have been the ones who have been supported me through my whole career."

Abreu’s known as an extremely hard worker, a template to follow for many if not all of the youngsters coming up as the future stars of the White Sox rebuild. And so it makes this moment all the sweeter for him and those around him.

“It is especially important not just for me but for my family and my team,” Abreu said. “I think that this is a reward for the effort and all the work you put in for preparation for your season. It’s special when you get this kind of result and consistency in your stats. But the most important thing is it’s a reward for my family. And this organization, maybe we are not in the position we want to be right now as a team, but I know that better times are to come.”

“He works extremely hard,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think everybody was feeling it for him tonight. He’s been pushing. He fouled a ball off of his left shin the other day, and you see him kind of gimping around there. … He’s not one to do anything to deter from continuing to help the team win first and foremost, but along the way he’s able to collect some individual merit points, so to speak. And put himself in a very special class.”

The big question surrounding Abreu isn’t whether he’s worthy of being the leader the young White Sox of the future need to turn rebuilding mode into contending mode a few years down the line. The question is whether he’ll still be around by then. His final year of arbitration is 2019, meaning if the White Sox are looking at 2020 as the year of true contention, it will take a new contract to keep Abreu in town.

A few things factor into that, of course. No. 1, Abreu could continue this consistently terrific pace and be lured away by another team willing to spend more to acquire his services. No. 2, though, is his age. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2020 season starts, and while that’s not old by most standards, it means he’ll demand a big contract — and likely a lengthy one — as he reaches the latter part of his prime. It’s not to suggest Abreu will dramatically slow down in terms of production, but it will most definitely be under consideration as the White Sox look to keep their window of contention open as long as possible.

For what it’s worth, Abreu is constantly thanking the White Sox organization for the opportunity to do what he’s done over the past four seasons, and he’s said how much he wants to keep playing for this franchise.

What is of no question, however, is Abreu’s worth as a top-of-the-line offensive player. His totals with a week’s worth of games left in the 2017 season: 31 homers, 100 RBIs and a .305/.356/.551 slash line. All those percentages would be his highest since his outstanding rookie season in 2014.

And his worth as a leader, as a guy who could be a rallying point for all these young players, that’s pretty darn valuable, too.

“I haven’t (tonight) made light of what I believe he’s becoming as part of this organization and what he is as far as what he does for the team,” Renteria said. “You got a couple of young men in there that are growing up and becoming a part of what I believe are leaders within that clubhouse. And he’s one of them. He’s certainly deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s worked for it. He’s been in this organization since the inception of his major league career. He’s someone that we all are happy is a part of us.”

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

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With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

Saturday got off to a good start for the Fire with New York City FC drawing at home, but the Fire were unable to gain ground in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Fire fail to gain ground, they lost ground. Philadelphia smashed the Fire 3-1 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, leaving the Fire four points behind NYCFC for second and vulnerable to the chasing pack. Atlanta can pass the Fire for third place with a win against Montreal on Sunday, and still would have a game in hand.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fire with a trip at San Jose coming up on Wednesday. The Earthquakes are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and have one home loss this season.

While Philadelphia has won a majority of its home matches this season, it was the easiest of the three remaining road games on the Fire’s schedule. In addition to the trip to San Jose, the Fire close the regular season at Houston, another team in the playoff hunt that has just one home loss this year.

So Saturday wasn’t such a good day for the Fire.

The game marked the first start for defender Joao Meira since Aug. 16, but midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho missed once again. This was the third straight game Schweinsteiger missed and two straight for Juninho.

Philadelphia took the lead on a Chris Pontius header in the 10th minute and added goals in the second half by Pontius and C.J. Sapong to secure a three-goal lead. Luis Solignac, who came off the bench to replace David Accam in the 60th minute, provided the Fire with a consolation goal, but there wasn’t another to make things interesting in the final minutes.

With four games left in the regular season, the Fire have a pair of tricky games coming up with that trip to San Jose before a big one at home against NYCFC.