White Sox confident Abreu nearing return

Heuer, Foster building on 2020 success; Robert hits intrasquad homer

February 26th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox remain optimistic that will return to camp sooner than later as he continues to stay away from Spring Training in compliance with MLB intake protocols due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Abreu is said to be completely asymptomatic and he believes he contracted a mild case of the disease in January, which is reinforced by the presence of COVID antibodies in additional testing, according to the White Sox original statement. There was some thought the reigning American League Most Valuable Player could return Friday, but per manager Tony La Russa, nothing is 100 percent certain with the White Sox opening Cactus League action Sunday at Camelback Ranch against the Brewers.

“I heard Monday at the latest, but I’m not even sure about that,” La Russa said. “We’re all waiting to hear what [head athletic trainer] James [Kruk] finds out from MLB.”

General manager Rick Hahn received word from Abreu that he was doing everything he needed to do to stay in shape in his hotel room, although it’s difficult to imagine a hotel room housing a hitting cage. Hahn also told MLB.com there’s no concern with Abreu coming to camp prepared to work, and there also doesn’t seem to be much worry with lingering effects, even with Yoán Moncada’s issues in 2020 after testing positive for COVID during the intake process prior to Summer Camp.

“Look, the Moncada experience was certainly an eye-opener and frightening for everyone who saw what it could do to a well-conditioned athlete,” Hahn said. “I don’t think anyone will take this for granted -- a player coming back fully healthy -- until we see it.

“But the fact pattern and experience that is associated with José here is, at least on paper, not too disconcerting. Knock on wood, once he’s back, we should be able to not look back on this hopefully.”

Heuer, Foster working with experience
Right-handed relievers and were two unexpected bright spots from a 35-25 season in 2020, marking the organization’s first playoff appearance since '08. Heuer, a sixth-round pick in the '18 MLB Draft, and Foster, a 20th-round selection in '16, basically were names to watch last year at this time. Now, they are pretty close to locks to break camp with one of baseball’s top bullpens.

“It's a little more settling,” Heuer said. “You've just got to worry about doing your own business, you don't have to worry about any of that outside stuff. But at the same time, you don't want to get complacent, you don't want to assume anything. You just put your work in and take care of your business like you're still fighting for that job.”

“There are a lot of arms here, and I’m never trying to be complacent,” Foster said. “I had a pretty good year last year, but I don’t really carry that as assuming I have a spot. I’m always going to go out there and compete to ensure I get a position.”

Foster, 26, produced a 6-1 record and 2.20 ERA over 23 games, with 31 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. Heuer, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA in 21 games, fanning 25 over 23 2/3 innings. Both hurlers added approximately 12 pounds of good weight, or lean mass, during the offseason to help them withstand a 162-game season.

Intrasquad leads to Cactus League
Triple-A Charlotte manager Wes Helms and White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino were the designated pitchers for Friday’s intrasquad game at Camelback Ranch, so it wasn’t quite the first step toward a World Series title. But Andrew Vaughn and Luis Robert homered, with Jake Burger lining a double to left in the competition.

“Outfielders were hustling and infielders were diving. The effort was excellent, and a lot of hits,” La Russa said. “Frankie and Wes, they gave them pitches to hit, and the boys put it on there.”

La Russa returns to the dugout for Spring Training action Sunday.

“I get fired up for exhibition -- I’m much more anxious and interested in watching us play than what I’m going to feel in that dugout, because it’s all about our team,” La Russa said. “Our coaches all understand what our responsibility is, so the most honest answer I can give you is I’m excited and anxious to take the field and play against Milwaukee.”

Third to first
• Outfielder Mikie Mahtook agreed to a Minor League deal with the White Sox and joined their Minor League mini-camp Friday.

• Non-roster invitee Mike Wright starts Sunday’s Cactus League opener against the Brewers. Alex McRae, also a non-roster invitee, starts Monday in Tempe against the Angels.

• Chicago's first three Cactus League games will last six innings, five innings and six innings, respectively.

He Said It
“[Michael Kopech's] one of the most electric guys I've seen in person. Just having him around, it's been sweet so far to watch him throw. I'm excited to see him in a game. And obviously, [Garrett] Crochet throws rockets, so he's always fun to watch, as well.” -- Heuer on Kopech and Crochet in the bullpen