CHICAGO -- It was one day after Alex Avila's one-year, $2.5 million free-agent deal with the White Sox became public that the catcher received a call from former Tigers manager and former White Sox coach Jim Leyland to add a little information on his new team.
"I knew how much the players enjoyed playing for [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura], and how professional the staff was," said Avila, who played seven years against the White Sox with Detroit. "[Leyland] told me how much I was going to love it and was telling me how loyal [White Sox owner] Mr. Reinsdorf is. It has been a great experience so far."
Avila stands as one of nine new players on the White Sox active roster, although they aren't really new anymore 38 games into the 2016 regular season. That total turnover seems awfully large to assimilate and mold into an American League Central champion roster and beyond, but the Cubs are the lone team with a bigger division lead than the South Siders' five-game advantage as of Monday.
Having this new group made up of Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Avila, Dioner Navarro, Mat Latos, Jerry Sands, Austin Jackson, Jimmy Rollins and Miguel Gonzalez basically arrive together to the White Sox made it easier on each individual. It's almost akin to a collegiate recruiting class.
General manager Rick Hahn has overhauled the roster since acquiring Avisail Garcia in a three-team trade at the 2013 non-waiver Trade Deadline, striving for the perfect blend. By all accounts, last year's clubhouse was a good one as well, but for whatever reason, this present group immediately meshed both on and off the field.
"The most important thing for me this year is the energy that Todd, Brett and Jimmy bring every day," said White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu via interpreter Billy Russo. "They come every day with a desire to win games, with a desire to help the other guys to be better."
"There's a certain mentality you need to have as a team and as players individually in order to be a winning ballclub," Avila said. "It's a team game, but at the same time, don't worry about someone else's role or trying to do too much in your own role. From the beginning, especially the new guys coming in because there were so many of us, we all understood. Guys on this team know what their jobs are, and our concern is solely on that."
Even with the five-game lead in the AL Central, the White Sox face a crucial point of the season, with 17 games in 16 days beginning Tuesday. Eleven of those games are against the Royals (seven) and Indians, with the South Siders coming off of a 1-3-1 run over their past five series.
This group features a number of players with playoff experience, meaning they not only know how to win, but also how to handle adversity. It's another reason to believe this season will continue to be as good as they expected.
"We are confident in ourselves," Abreu said. "We are good, but we know that we can be better and that's the motivation every day, no matter what happened last night. Today is a new day, and that's something that brings us energy."