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Abreu aims to be running man for White Sox

Veteran slugger also hopes to finish his career with club
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Abreu wants the green light. A few of them, actually.

He needs permission to steal more bases in 2018, he wants to keep his new beard, and in the long term, he's also open to finishing his career with the White Sox.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Abreu wants the green light. A few of them, actually.

He needs permission to steal more bases in 2018, he wants to keep his new beard, and in the long term, he's also open to finishing his career with the White Sox.

"I'm really happy to have an opportunity to make my mom's dream come true to see me play in the Major Leagues," Abreu said on Sunday. "I hope to play my whole career in the Majors with the White Sox, but I can't control that."

White Sox Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

Last season, the 30-year-old first baseman hit .304 with 33 home runs, 43 doubles, 102 RBIs, 95 runs scored and a .906 OPS. He is the third player in Major League history to begin his career with four or more consecutive seasons of 25-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs, joining Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio (1936-41) and Albert Pujols (2001-10).

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

While the numbers don't tell the entire story of Abreu's career, they do give some insight into how he has grown from being a legend in Cuba into one of the most recognizable figures in the game worldwide.

"Since I came to this country, I learned three keys to be a success," he said. "First, you need discipline, [and also] work hard and be always on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you're going to be good. Those are the three keys I try to teach the new kids and the young guys."

Here are a few other statistics to consider: Abreu showed up at camp 15 pounds lighter and is focused on being a better defender. He's serious about become a basestealer, even though he has stolen only six bases in his career.

"I really believe I can do it and I like the challenge," Abreu said. "I like to challenge myself and I think that's a good challenge for me, and I'm ready for it."

Vieira ready to compete in White Sox bullpen

Off the field, Abreu has come to realize the terms associated with the business of baseball. Last month, Abreu agreed to terms on a one-year contract for $13 million. In November, he opted out of the six-year, $68 million deal he signed prior to the 2014 season, with three years and $34 million left on the contract.

Because the White Sox are in the second year of a rebuild, Abreu's name has been mentioned in trade rumors.

Video: Jose Abreu is the No. 6 first baseman right now

"Everyone knows that things happen with every club in Major League Baseball and you always have to make an adjustment when those things happen," manager Rick Renteria said. "But that being said, with [Abreu], we're certainly very happy that he's still a White Sox, and we hope to see him as a White Sox as we move forward. He brings a lot to the table and we're going to continue to take advantage of it."

As for the beard, Renteria said the first baseman needs to "clean it up." He struggled to keep a straight face when he was asked about Abreu stealing bases.

"They're all going to continue to improve their baserunning skills and if that happens to be one of the outcomes, him being able to take a base, that would be awesome," Renteria said. "But I'm actually more concerned about him making sure he gets himself ready to swing the bat and catch the ball at first."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu

Vieira ready to compete in White Sox bullpen

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE Ariz. -- White Sox reliever Thyago Vieira knows it's going to take more than his 100-plus-mph fastball to break camp with the big league club, so he has been working on a plan.

"I have a few surprises waiting for you guys," Vieira said with a smile on Sunday. "You are just going to have to wait until the games start. All I can tell you is that I worked very hard in the offseason, and I'm ready to win a spot on this team and help this team win."

GLENDALE Ariz. -- White Sox reliever Thyago Vieira knows it's going to take more than his 100-plus-mph fastball to break camp with the big league club, so he has been working on a plan.

"I have a few surprises waiting for you guys," Vieira said with a smile on Sunday. "You are just going to have to wait until the games start. All I can tell you is that I worked very hard in the offseason, and I'm ready to win a spot on this team and help this team win."

Vieira, ranked as the club's No. 20 prospect by MLB Pipeline following a November trade with Seattle, went 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA and two saves in 29 games for Double-A Arkansas in 2017. He logged 35 strikeouts and 15 walks in 36 1/3 innings. At Triple-A Tacoma in mid-July, he went 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA and two saves in 12 outings, to go with 11 strikeouts 11 and seven walks in 17 2/3 innings.

White Sox Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

"I think that in watching his bullpens, we're all talking about, as with any pitcher, commanding the strike zone," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "Give him an opportunity to go out and show what he's got. We have quite a few guys in camp that we're really looking forward to seeing them pitch."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Vieira, who was signed out of Brazil in 2010, was acquired by the White Sox from the Mariners in exchange for international slot money in November. He spent the offseason training in his country and working on his secondary pitches.

"I know it's a great opportunity for me and I'm really happy to be part of the plan," Vieira said. "This is a really good group and I prepared myself to be here."

Delmonico eyes roster spot
The brief stint in the big leagues for corner infielder-turned-outfielder Nicky Delmonico last season has him yearning for more. His play this spring could land him on the Opening Day roster.

Video: Delmonico looking forward to young core in 2018

"Right now, they have me in left [field] and I'm trying to be the best left fielder I can be, and push the people around me to be better," Delmonico said. "That's my mindset right now."

Delmonico, 25, finished with a .262 batting average, nine home runs, 23 RBIs and 25 runs scored in 2017. He also stole two bases and hit two home runs in a game twice in his first month in the Major Leagues.

"For me, it was awesome getting a taste of the big leagues and going into the offseason knowing what it's like and what to expect," he said. "I worked hard this offseason and stayed [in Arizona] and prepared for this moment."

Avilan feeling strong
Left-handed reliever Luis Avilan has not pitched in a game since Sept. 21 while with the Dodgers because of a sore left shoulder, so he's understandably not concerned about his role in the White Sox bullpen.

Video: White Sox add Soria and Avilan

"The main goal for me is to stay healthy because unfortunately, last year was the first injury of my career and kept me off the field," Avilan said in Spanish. "I'm strong again and I came in with the mentality to do what I did last year. I took two weeks off at end of the season and then I started training again."

Avilan, 28, went 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA last season with the Dodgers, producing 52 strikeouts and 13 holds in 46 innings. He allowed just 18.2 percent of inherited runners to score (4-for-22) while limiting first batters faced to a .196 average.

The lefty was acquired with Joakim Soria from the Dodgers as part of a three-team, six-player deal that also included the Royals last month. He joins a group that includes, Soria, Nate Jones and Juan Minaya at the back end of the bullpen.

"Honestly, I don't know what my role is here, and really, that's not something I think about," Avilan said. "When they call me, I'll be ready to do my job. That's all I am focused on."

Robert, Jimenez arrive
Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, ranked as the club's No. 1 and No. 3 prospects by MLB Pipeline, arrived at camp and took a few swings in the batting cages on Sunday morning.

Video: Robert could move through White Sox system quickly

Jimenez and Robert are expected to address the media on Tuesday, one day after the club's first full-squad workout on Monday. Outfielder Avisail Garcia is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday.

Robert, who is ranked as the No. 4 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, made his White Sox debut last week at the club's mini-camp. Jimenez was also there.

Worth noting
Right-hander Dylan Covey was outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte on Sunday morning.

Covey, 26, went 0-7 with a 7.71 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 18 games (12 starts) in 2017. With the move, the White Sox 40-man roster stands at 39.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Luis Avilan, Nicky Delmonico, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Thyago Vieira

Abreu embraces mentor role with countrymen

MLB.com @scottmerkin

There's a row of lockers at the back of the Camelback Ranch White Sox clubhouse where Jose Abreu could have resided with other more veteran players like Avisail Garcia, Joakim Soria, James Shields and Nate Jones during Spring Training.

Instead, Abreu chose to keep his locker just to the left of the entrance as people walk through the doors, with one caveat: Abreu wanted Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, his Cuban countrymen and top young prospects at the heart of the White Sox rebuild, to be next to him.

There's a row of lockers at the back of the Camelback Ranch White Sox clubhouse where Jose Abreu could have resided with other more veteran players like Avisail Garcia, Joakim Soria, James Shields and Nate Jones during Spring Training.

Instead, Abreu chose to keep his locker just to the left of the entrance as people walk through the doors, with one caveat: Abreu wanted Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, his Cuban countrymen and top young prospects at the heart of the White Sox rebuild, to be next to him.

"I feel good because we are three Cubans here and I think that we can have fun," Moncada told reporters on Saturday through interpreter Billy Russo. "Last year, I was with Abreu here and he taught me a lot. I hope to keep learning from him. Now this year, we have Robert, and I think that Abreu and I can teach him some things and we can help him get used to this process. I think it's going to be fun. I'm just excited."

Abreu arrived at camp sporting a beard. Moncada told reporters "he needs to shave." Aside from the new facial look, nothing has changed with the White Sox leader and voice of the team.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In this age of pinpoint and expert analytics, that mentor factor often gets overlooked or looked down upon. Some quipped during the offseason if players such as Moncada and Robert couldn't survive at the big league level without Abreu, who the White Sox hold two years of contractual control over, then maybe they don't have a Major League constitution.

But Abreu's presence for players like Moncada, Robert, Eloy Jimenez and many others isn't about reliance as much as it's about guidance. Abreu becomes the veteran who can explain different nuances of big league life, not to mention taking on more of the media responsibilities while the prospects learn how to fail and grow.

It began in Spring Training last season for Abreu and Moncada and continued on even when Moncada went to Triple-A Charlotte. Now, Moncada can use what he learned from Abreu to assist Robert.

"When we worked together in the minicamp, I told him to hang in there," Moncada said of his advice to Robert. "He needs to have discipline in his work, and this is a very good organization, and then he's going to like it. I'm just excited for him to be here. I'm waiting for him to be here."

Video: Robert could move through White Sox system quickly

More veteran wisdom exists within the White Sox clubhouse beyond Abreu. Young pitchers and hitters alike have talked about Shields' shared knowledge, not to mention help from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and Garcia to name a few.

Abreu has proven to be one of the game's most potent middle-of-the-order hitters during his four-year-career, never dipping below 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, a .290 average or an .820 OPS in any single season. Moncada hopes to find similar production in his first season as the team's everyday second baseman.

"Last year when the team called me, I thought they just were going to give me a few chances to play at second base, but they gave me the opportunity to play every day and it was a really good experience," Moncada said. "This year, knowing that I'm going to be at second base every day, I'm going to feel more comfortable. I already have the experience."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert

Giolito confident after success at season's end

Young right-hander feels like he belongs after putting 2016 struggles behind him
Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standing tall and lean, Lucas Giolito looks every bit the ideal right-handed pitcher. Add a power fastball and plus curveball, and it's no wonder he's been so well regarded for years.

It's why he was a first-round Draft pick by the Nationals in 2012 and why he had to be included in the White Sox's haul that sent Adam Eaton to Washington in December 2016.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standing tall and lean, Lucas Giolito looks every bit the ideal right-handed pitcher. Add a power fastball and plus curveball, and it's no wonder he's been so well regarded for years.

It's why he was a first-round Draft pick by the Nationals in 2012 and why he had to be included in the White Sox's haul that sent Adam Eaton to Washington in December 2016.

White Sox Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

But psychological steps Giolito took last season are, in his words, the reasons he finally found consistent success in the Major Leagues at the end of the year and why he has confidence in similar results for the coming season.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"That feeling of belonging at the highest level," Giolito said Friday morning before the White Sox hit the field for their third day of pitchers and catchers workouts. "The feeling of confidence when you go out there to pitch against whatever lineup it might be in the big leagues. When you have that, then you're able to perform at your highest capabilities. You're able to perform your best."

Such performances were on display late last year when Giolito, at 6-feet-6 and 255 pounds, compiled a 2.38 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings after a callup from the Minors.

Notebook: Castillo confident in ability to mesh with pitchers

It was a big improvement from the results he had in brief big league stints in 2016 while with the Nationals. And even the way Giolito pitched during Spring Training a year ago and at the beginning of the season in Triple-A didn't foreshadow what was to come.

"Obviously, a year ago at this time, or 50 weeks ago at this time, we were in camp he was scuffling," White Sox GM Rick Hahn said this week. "Sometimes, especially with high-profile guys coming out of the Draft like Lucas was, you want to live up to those expectations so badly with the organization that showed faith in you and then similarly when you wind up getting traded you want to prove that you were with it to the new organization, so Lucas had a lot of those things sort of working in between his ears at times, which I think could get in the way."

Video: KC@CWS: Giolito tosses seven innings of one-run ball

Giolito, 23, acknowledges now there was a lot of self-imposed pressure.

"It's not like they're telling you if you don't perform you're going back down," he said of his six appearances with the Nationals in 2016, when he had a 6.75 ERA and gave up seven home runs in 21 1/3 innings. "But you know in the back of your head, 'I'm in the big leagues for a reason; I better do my job.' I put too much pressure on myself in that sense then. Whereas now, just why not have confidence in myself. Just enjoy that moment and enjoy the experience."

That clarity came to him midway through last season. He applied it at Triple-A Charlotte and brought it with him to Chicago.

"Trusting the stuff. That's really important, and I was able to do that a little bit more last year," said Giolito, who set a 200-innings goal for himself after he was capped at 174 last season. "But I need to continue to build off that. I think if you want to be successful in the big leagues you have to feel like you belong in the big leagues, and it took me a little while to figure that out. But now I feel a lot better about that and I'm looking forward to, like I said before, building off it and working on things I need to work on and achieving more success."

Chris Thomas is contributor to MLB.com and covered the White Sox on Friday.

Chicago White Sox, Lucas Giolito

Castillo believes in ability to mesh with pitchers

Anderson happy for clean slate; Davidson already impressing
MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Despite being with his fifth team in four years, catcher Welington Castillo says it isn't that difficult to adjust to a new organization and pitching staff.

"I know how to manage that situation," Castillo said Friday morning before the White Sox workout at Camelback Ranch. "The more I catch them, the more I talk to them, that relationship will come out. I don't worry about that. I know myself and I'm going to try to get with everybody and try to get the confidence out of them."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Despite being with his fifth team in four years, catcher Welington Castillo says it isn't that difficult to adjust to a new organization and pitching staff.

"I know how to manage that situation," Castillo said Friday morning before the White Sox workout at Camelback Ranch. "The more I catch them, the more I talk to them, that relationship will come out. I don't worry about that. I know myself and I'm going to try to get with everybody and try to get the confidence out of them."

White Sox Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

After Castillo spent eight seasons in the Cubs' organization, he played for three teams in 2015 (Chicago, Seattle and Arizona), spent all of '16 with the D-backs and played for the Orioles last year.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I was very comfortable with Welly when I was on the North Side," said manager Rick Renteria, who managed the Cubs in 2014. "I always liked him as a player, a catcher; always driven, hard-working."

Castillo, too, is glad to reunite with Renteria.

"It's helped a lot. I know him, he knows me. He knows what kind of person, what kind of player I am," said Castillo, a career .259 hitter who hit .282 with 20 home runs last season. "I think that will help a lot, because he knows the kind of player I am."

Video: Anderson talks about getting ready for the season

Anderson in better place a year after tragedy

After he carried his grief for a murdered friend through much of last season, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson says he is in a much better place this spring.

"This is the most comfortable I've been," said Anderson, who arrived at the team's Spring Training facility almost two weeks earlier than required. "I'm talking more, smiling more. I'm in a great position. I'm so honored and humbled and excited to be in the position I am."

Along those lines, his only goal -- or at least the only he would share with the media -- for the upcoming season is to have fun.

"Have fun, have fun, just have fun," he said. "The rest of the goals will get accomplished when I have fun."

Renteria has already taken notice of Anderson's demeanor.

"He looks very, very relaxed. He looks very happy," Renteria said. "I think that this year he is able to come in, fresh mind, prepared to go out and compete and do the job that he ended up finishing doing during that latter part of [last] season."

Davidson already impressing

Matt Davidson, like Anderson, didn't have to report to camp until Monday. But he arrived plenty early and put on an impressive show during a batting-practice session on one of the back fields.

"He certainly looks very comfortable. The ball is jumping off his bat very well right now," said Renteria, who watched as nearly 30 position players took BP. "Matty was swinging the bat like this even last year when we came to Spring [Training]."

Davidson could end up as the White Sox starting third baseman or designated hitter come Opening Day, and likely will see some time at first base during the season. In his first full year in the Majors a year ago, he hit .220/.260/.452 with 26 home runs and 68 RBIs in 118 games.

Chris Thomas is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago White Sox

Pipeline Podcast: Luis Robert expectations

MLB.com

The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis are joined by Jordan Shusterman and Jake Mintz of Cespedes Family BBQ. To listen to the show in its entirety, visit the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.

Mintz: Alright so we have one final guy we want to ask about before we wrap things up. This is also one of the most intriguing and mysterious, I would say, prospects that we've had in recent memory.

The following is an excerpt from this week's Pipeline Podcast, in which Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis are joined by Jordan Shusterman and Jake Mintz of Cespedes Family BBQ. To listen to the show in its entirety, visit the MLB Pipeline Podcast page.

Mintz: Alright so we have one final guy we want to ask about before we wrap things up. This is also one of the most intriguing and mysterious, I would say, prospects that we've had in recent memory.

Shusterman: So mysterious in fact that I may have pronounced his name wrong. Luis Robert.

Callis: Well we're going with Robber officially. I've heard it so many different ways. He's not French, so I've ruled out Ro-bear, although that was what his initial pronunciation appeared to be. But I think it's Robber as in like bank robber. We need Chris Berman to give him a kitschy nickname and then we can determine the pronunciation from there.

Shusterman: We've been calling him Lou Bob.

Callis: I like it.

Mintz: I think we're going to stick with it. That simplifies things. But as a prospect, this is one of the most -- obviously we've seen plenty of awesomely talented Cubans come over, but this guy is one of the last guys to get the big money before the new rules kicked in. And he showed up, he hasn't played stateside yet, but he's here now in big league Spring Training. And he just could be -- like now we had him in the Top 30 on the Pipeline Top 100. He's got all kinds of crazy tools. Where do you think he starts this year, and is this a guy that you assume would maybe take some time to adjust to stateside baseball? Or could he just put it all together immediately and show up and be a top-10 prospect and in the big leagues in 2019? Jonathan, what do you think?

Mayo: I could see him being a top-10 prospect by next year for certain and start moving quickly. I know he hasn't played here yet, but he's not 17. I don't know what the White Sox plans are, but I would probably send him to Winston-Salem in the Carolina League. Let him skip over Kannapolis, and if you want to give him a month in Low-A just to get his feet under him, I don't think that would be a problem either.

You have to always remind yourself that there's a human element of the transition to playing a full season and playing in the United States. I don't care how talented you are. I think the talent is going to move him up their system fairly quickly. If you told me that he will finish this year in Double-A, I could believe it. We have an ETA for him of 2020, and I think that could be erring on the side of conservative, which is fine. I think it's extremely possible. I could see him -- given his toolset and showing an advanced feel to hit and things of that nature -- just getting started that he could move pretty quickly.

Callis: I'm going to disagree with you slightly just for the one thing. I would definitely send him to Low-A because he struck out at about a 23 percent clip in the Dominican Summer League, which is a step above high school baseball. If there's a knock on him as a prospect when he was an amateur, there's a little concern about the hitting ability and the swing-and-miss. I would let him go to Low Class-A. Also while he's trying to adjust to the U.S., which is often a huge adjustment for these Cubans to get a bunch of money, sometimes the off-the-field stuff is difficult too. I would just let him go to the Sally League and let him tear it up for half a season, and then you can promote him to High-A. And if you wanted to expedite his development, you could send him to the Fall League after the season too and then let him take off. I would probably be a little bit more cautious at the beginning, but I'm with you 100 percent in terms of his upside. This guy has a chance to be special. I mean he's essentially, if you took Yoan Moncada and put him in the outfield, and you only let him hit right-handed, he'd look a lot like Luis Robert -- or Lou Bob, which I also think is the best way to call him.

Mintz: Yes. Lou Bob. We've got to get that name.

Mayo: We're going to start using that regularly here on the podcast when we start talking about him. So, guys, thank you for that.

Chicago White Sox

Hall election still sinking in for humble Thome

Popular former White Sox slugger joining 'greatest fraternity in sports'
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Jim Thome lived a Hall of Fame existence long before he got the official word Jan. 24.

The left-handed slugger posted those sorts of elite numbers on the field, topped off by 612 career homers, 1,699 RBIs and a .956 OPS. His character inside and outside of the clubhouse was unmatched.

CHICAGO -- Jim Thome lived a Hall of Fame existence long before he got the official word Jan. 24.

The left-handed slugger posted those sorts of elite numbers on the field, topped off by 612 career homers, 1,699 RBIs and a .956 OPS. His character inside and outside of the clubhouse was unmatched.

But the honor of joining Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in the 2018 class still holds great meaning for the proud native of Peoria, Ill.

2018 Hall election results | Did You Know? | Coverage

"It's the greatest fraternity in sports," a beaming Thome told reporters during a Thursday news conference at Guaranteed Rate Field. "As a player, you don't ever dream of being in the Hall of Fame. It happens later on, through hard work and longevity and a long process.

"It reflects kids. It reflects moms and dads. It reflects wives. It reflects brothers and sisters, friends and organizational friends. If you work in that organization, the happiness it brings to them as well. And to me, that's the coolest part.

"Yes, I'm very proud to be a Hall of Famer," Thome said. "But I think the best part is how you get to enjoy all of this with those close ones and loved ones."

Video: Thome on his life since being elected to Hall of Fame

Thome will be giving his induction speech July 29 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but in his true humble nature, many others will be with him on stage in spirit. He will be joined by his wife, Andrea, on a Cooperstown orientation trip at the end of next week to get housing in order and get questions concerning matters such as the speech answered.

In the interim, Thome continues to return messages of congratulations arriving some three weeks after the announcement. One of those messages came from Hoffman, simply stating, 'Can you believe this has all happened?'

"I'm still answering text messages, trying to get back to people out of respect to them. It's just been wonderful," Thome said. "It's been a great ride, as I hope the next six months are leading up to it."

There have been numerous significant influences across Thome's 22-year career, from Charlie Manuel to teammates to people he knew dating back to his days in Peoria. Let's not forget his family. Thome has been the same sort of important influence on many players around him, including countless White Sox prospects in his current role as special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn.

Video: Thome thankful for all of HOF support after election

White Sox prospect Eloy Jimenez received special praise from Thome on Thursday, but learning from Thome is not only about his baseball knowledge but also how a Hall of Famer approaches the game.

"I would say hard work and respect, treat people good and at the end of the day, it's who's accountable, and who was there," Thome said. "I want my teammates to know I loved them, but I was ready to play every game. I did everything I could from the minute I woke up to the time I went to bed, preparing to be the best player I could for my organization and my teammates.

"That's what it's about. You have to have the desire and discipline to grind."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox

Kopech's method: Meditate, then throw 100

Rodon completes throwing program; Shields brings new arm slot
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech has discovered that a key to his success is finding a healthy way to hurry up and wait.

Slow down and be patient, he still tells himself. He uses meditation to keep him grounded and focused on what he can control and not on what he can't.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech has discovered that a key to his success is finding a healthy way to hurry up and wait.

Slow down and be patient, he still tells himself. He uses meditation to keep him grounded and focused on what he can control and not on what he can't.

"It helps me be relaxed in games and when training comes around," Kopech, 21, said. "It's just something I picked up last year and started doing before every start, and I realized how beneficial it was for me personally, and I kept doing it throughout the offseason."

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the game's No. 3 right-handed pitching prospect, Kopech threw a bullpen session Tuesday and said he felt good about it despite spiking a few breaking balls near the end of the throwing session. The owner of a 100-mph fastball, Kopech admitted his secondary pitches are a work in progress and improving the pitches will be part of his focus this spring.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Last season, he struck out 172 over 134 1/3 innings at Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham. He is expected to start the year at Triple-A, but he could be in the big leagues this season.

"Last year, I think I was a little too anxious," he said. "In midseason, I ran into a few hiccups, a few speed bumps because of that, just getting a little too far ahead of myself. This year, I'm just going to be patient and take it day by day and let the team do the deciding."

Rodon passes first rehab test

Left-hander Carlos Rodon, who had arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder in September, completed a two-week throwing program, the first step of his rehab, and is proceeding to the next phase.

He was scheduled to throw back-to-back days Thursday for the first time since surgery.

Video: Rodon discusses the experience he gained from 2017

"I know I will be back at some point," Rodon said. "I can't tell you when, but I will be back pitching for my teammates."

Rodon struck out 76 in 69 1/3 innings in 12 starts for the White Sox last season, but he did not take the mound after facing the Rays on Sept. 2.

Video: Renteria on Rodon feeling loose after surgery

"So far everything has progressed as we would have hoped," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "In terms of a timing or final endgame, I can't put that out there just yet. It would still be pure speculation other than to tell you we're going to take whatever time is required and err on the side of caution."

Shields sticks with new arm slot

Veteran right-hander James Shields changed his arm angle on the fly last August against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and used it in his final nine starts with moderate success.

Video: LAA@CWS: Shields strikes out eight over seven innings

He's brought the new arm slot and mechanics with him to Spring Training.

"I got some really good reviews and reactions to it, and the hitters were having a little tougher time with that arm angle, so we'll check it out, see what happens," Shields, 36, said.

Shields posted a 4.31 ERA and allowed a .730 OPS over nine starts and 54 1/3 innings after making the change.

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: .@whitesox James Shields is working a new angle this spring and he discussed his arm slot this morning at camp. Here���s a chart of his release points pre-Aug 5/post-Aug 5 when he starting dropping down. (HT/@MannyOnMLB) https://t.co/yHGAjimK6L pic.twitter.com/doX3IlLqba

"In the last 10 years, I've been kind of messing around with it, being with guys like Chad Bradford and Randy Choate and watching them throw at that angle," Shields said. "Bradford is more of a knuckle-dragger, he's a submarine guy, but I kind of mess around with it, and I threw it one pitch in Fenway against Boston and it worked out pretty good, so we just decided to do it the rest of the season and it went well."

The veteran's primary goal is staying healthy. He was placed on the disabled list for the first time last year because of a strained right lat.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, James Shields

Sox righty Lopez reflects on family's sacrifices

Young starter says grandfather sold cows to buy him glove, cleats and baseballs
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez recalls the people that helped him fulfill his big league dream, he thinks about his grandparents, his mother and the coaches that have shaped his life.

He's also quick to thank his agent, his friends and cousins back home in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, for all of their support. He's especially grateful for La Morena and Pamela, the two beautiful, but sometimes ornery cows that set him on the track to stardom.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez recalls the people that helped him fulfill his big league dream, he thinks about his grandparents, his mother and the coaches that have shaped his life.

He's also quick to thank his agent, his friends and cousins back home in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, for all of their support. He's especially grateful for La Morena and Pamela, the two beautiful, but sometimes ornery cows that set him on the track to stardom.

"I was 5 or 6, playing baseball using a milk carton for a glove and no shoes and my grandfather didn't like that," Lopez said in Spanish. "So, one day, he buys me a glove, cleats and balls, and everybody, especially Grandma, wondered where he got the money. He sold his cows so I could play baseball. Believe that? I remember her being so mad because he spent all the money on me and didn't give her a penny and him [just continuing to tell] her that he wanted a better future for me."

La Morena and Pamela would be proud. The White Sox hope Lopez will be a horse in the rotation, and on Thursday, he took the first step of 2018 with his first spring bullpen session. Lopez's goal for '18 is to rack up 200 strikeouts and pitch 200 innings.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

For now, Lopez slots in the rotation behind veteran James Shields and Lucas Giolito. Carson Fulmer, Miguel Gonzalez and newly acquired Hector Santiago are also competing for spots.

"He's a very gifted young man and his bullpen went really well," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "It looked like he was hitting his spots consistently and he's just working. We are looking for all of these guys to have more consistency and maintain consistency through the course of the season and not try to get outside of themselves."

Last season, Lopez went 3-3 with a 4.72 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He was slowed by a right oblique in August and said his fear of tweaking his right side again kept him from feeling comfortable on the mound.

"That's the past and I'm completely healthy now," Lopez, 24, said in Spanish. "Overall, last year was a great experience and I feel like I learned a lot. I know it's going to make this year even better because I'm better."

Video: CWS@KC: Lopez strikes out Gordon amid quality start

The right-hander spent the offseason working on a slider, and he's proud that his changeup can induce soft contact while also striking out hitters on both sides of the plate. The fastball remains his primary pitch, but he hopes to keep hitters off balance with his curveball.

"He did a nice job for us when we called him up and he continued to improve," Renteria said. "Obviously, he has a very good arm. We want him to be able to pitch more efficiently and pitch deeper into games."

As for La Morena and Pamela, Lopez said he hoped they lived long and fruitful lives. He fondly remembers the days when the pair would chase him around his grandfather's lot.

"I was able to buy my family a house and that was one of the proudest days of my life," Lopez said. "They are so happy with my career. But they don't want the cows back. I told my grandfather I would buy him some, but he told me not to worry because he's too old to take care of them."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Reynaldo Lopez

Hahn likes progress, excitement with ballclub

White Sox GM isn't rulling out possible additions to roster
MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The term "rebuild" was the most popular word at White Sox camp on Wednesday.

The expression was embraced by some and ignored by others. Its mere definition was up for interpretation.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The term "rebuild" was the most popular word at White Sox camp on Wednesday.

The expression was embraced by some and ignored by others. Its mere definition was up for interpretation.

According to Merriam-Webster, the verb means to make extensive repairs to. Reconstruct. Restore to a previous state. According to the players in the White Sox clubhouse, the word implied some of that, but it also meant don't count this team out because this is baseball, and you never know what can happen.

Spring Training information

"I'm not going to talk about anything other than winning ballgames," manager Rick Renteria said when asked about the R-word. "You can't approach any season in a professional sport other than focusing on the process and hoping for the outcome you're hoping to get.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I'm not going to sell them short. We'll shoot high and we'll see where we fall from there. I'm not going to lower the bar and be happy if we surpass that bar. I'm not that person. We're going to shoot high and see where it falls."

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn makes it clear that he doesn't consider "rebuild" a bad word. And no, that doesn't mean he wants the fans to pump the brakes on their excitement for the upcoming season. It just means it's OK if some choose to slow their roll.

Hahn and Renteria shared lots of other words after the first workout for pitchers and catchers. Here are five key takeaways from their first extended chat of Spring Training.

1. The White Sox are still paying attention to the free-agent market
Could they add more players? That's to be determined. One thing is certain, the club is keeping its options open.

"It's hard for me to predict. Our focus right now is on the guys who are in camp," Hahn said. "We're still having some conversations, whether it's with free agents or even with other clubs as they try to set their rosters that could conceivably lead to additions. But with camp open at this point, our focus is on this group we have here. If more additions come over the coming days and weeks, great."

2. The White Sox are keeping an eye on veteran pitcher Tim Lincecum
Well, sort of. It's not uncommon for clubs to attend showcases for a player like Lincecum, who has a showcase on Thursday in Seattle, even if they are not in the market for the player's services. It's uncertain if the White Sox will have scouts at the workout, but nobody will be surprised if they do.

"We tend not to talk about where our scouts are, but we cover a lot of ground," Hahn said. "That being said, we have a lot of pitchers in camp right now and we're not actively looking to add there. If the opportunity arises to add some more potential impact, we'll explore it."

3. Be excited about the future and patient with the present
There's definitely a buzz and lots of optimism around camp. That's a good thing.

Narvaez focused entering White Sox camp

"We love the excitement, not only coming out of that clubhouse but from our fans as well," Hahn said. "We're not going to do anything to stifle that level of excitement. At the same time, we know we're one year into a rebuild. These things traditionally take longer than that. We're thrilled with the progress we've made in the last year, but we know we still have a fair amount of work to go in this process. You've heard me said repeatedly, it's an important year from a player development standpoint. You've heard me say some of that development occurs at the big-league level. As more and more of these young guys continue to matriculate and become part of the big league club, there's going to continue to be development but if that comes with a level of enthusiasm and then success that is earlier than anticipated, fantastic."

4. Expect the unexpected
Who will be this year's Yolmer Sanchez? Is there another Nicky Delmonico ready to emerge in 2018?

"I think there are inevitably going to surprises. Unfortunately, you sort of prepare for the bad ones because you know there is going to be injuries along the way or under-performers," Hahn said. "You just have to brace yourself with enough depth, but those pleasant surprises are really something special. A year ago at this time, no one was really talking about Nicky Delmonico and we'll see what the future holds in terms of his role on a championship club, but he's a guy that has the talent, had the pedigree and that personality helps make him a leader in the clubhouse."

5. Players love Renteria and he loves them right back
Rickfest. Renterpalooza. Ricklove. Call it what you will, but there's no denying the players' affection for their manager. His high-energy style and solid communication skills make him a clubhouse favorite. He gets them.

"Every competitor in their own work, they take it seriously and they want to execute things they know will put them in position to have success," Renteria said. "You want them to understand it's OK to be a little irked with themselves if they miss a spot. They all know they'll make an adjustment to correct. I would rather have a guy who will run through a brick wall than I need to slow down rather than I guy I have to push. They're a neat group. I'm excited about them. They're driven. We talk about motivating and encouraging them to aspire, but these guys are motivated. Maybe they inspire us a little bit."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Nicky Delmonico, Yolmer Sanchez

Avisail prevails in arbitration case with Sox

MLB.com @basebollie

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia has prevailed in his arbitration case as first reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Garcia will earn $6.7 million in 2018 instead of the $5.85 million offered by the club.

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia has prevailed in his arbitration case as first reported by MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Garcia will earn $6.7 million in 2018 instead of the $5.85 million offered by the club.

"We went 17 years without having a hearing and then somehow we wind up with two this year," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "The fact of the matter is the system is designed to promote settlement and we prefer to settle as opposed to winding up in a hearing room due to the uncertainty of where those verdicts will come out. For whatever reason, this year we weren't able to, with either [Yolmer Sanchez] or Avi's agent, come to an agreement prior to winding up in a hearing room. That said, I've had conversations with both Avi and Yolmer and know it's going to have zero impact on their performance and even their relationship with us going forward. It's just part of the business."

Last week, a salary-arbitration panel sided with Sanchez in his case. Sanchez will earn $2.35 million in 2018. The White Sox had countered Sanchez's salary request with $2.1 million.

The 26-year-old Garcia broke out last season, slashing .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs (all career highs) in 136 games. He also set career bests with 171 hits and 27 doubles.

Garcia has played in each of the past five seasons with the White Sox, batting .278/.330/.422 with 55 homers and 240 RBIs in 492 games over that span.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

Chicago White Sox, Avisail Garcia

White Sox, Santiago agree on Minors deal

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox and left-hander Hector Santiago on Wednesday agreed to terms on Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to big league camp.

Santiago, 30, who was originally drafted by the White Sox in 2006 and later pitched with the big league club from 2011-13, has made 189 career appearances (130 starts) during seven Major League seasons. He also has pitched for the Angels (2014-16) and Twins (2016-17).

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox and left-hander Hector Santiago on Wednesday agreed to terms on Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to big league camp.

Santiago, 30, who was originally drafted by the White Sox in 2006 and later pitched with the big league club from 2011-13, has made 189 career appearances (130 starts) during seven Major League seasons. He also has pitched for the Angels (2014-16) and Twins (2016-17).

"We saw firsthand how valuable he can potentially be in various roles, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "The versatility certainly had an appeal to us and as a player we drafted and helped develop, I think we have a special fondness for Hector. He's a tremendous, tremendous individual and a great fit in the clubhouse."

Santiago, who is 40-46 with a 4.00 ERA, four saves and 683 strikeouts in his career, was slowed by injury last season. He enters camp healthy and without any restrictions, Hahn said.

Video: Hahn on signing Santiago to a Minor League deal

"It turned out to be more a back issue than a shoulder issue, which he felt he got resolved around mid-September, but it was too late in the season for it to really show on the field," Hahn said. "He feels like everything's resolved and our doctors are fairly comfortable with the diagnosis and prognosis going forward."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Chicago White Sox, Hector Santiago