Notes: No predictions from Abreu; Céspedes impresses

March 27th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox faced the Angels on Saturday at Camelback Ranch and came up short in a 12-3 loss -- here are three key takeaways from the action over the past two games.

No predictions from Abreu
If you are a White Sox fan or reporter in search of prognostications, then José Abreu probably isn’t the player to approach.

He’s focused on his work speaking for itself and being a consummate leader by example. Thus, Abreu smiled and went a slightly different direction when asked if this was the best White Sox team assembled over his nine seasons in Chicago.

“I don’t think I’m the best person to say if this is the best team or not,” said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. “But what I can say is, 'This is definitely one of the most talented teams I’ve been around.'”

Luis Robert and Abreu launched back-to-back home runs off Angels starter César Valdez with one out in the third, marking the first Cactus League blast for each. White Sox box scores across the season will feature numerous homers from each, and probably several games where they both go deep. But, for now, the most important thing for Abreu in this shortened Spring Training is feeling good.

“My focus right now is to stay healthy and get my body in rhythm,” Abreu said. “I’m excited to homer today, but I think that’s the goal right now. That’s my focus right now. Try to get ready physically and mentally for the season.

“Everybody has to pay attention to the progression of their swing. To me, I think the work I’ve been doing in the cages and carrying that over to the game, it’s part of the process to get ready.”

That preparation will not include predictions of a World Series title or even a second straight American League Central crown. This is a team that knows what it must do to take the next step, and Abreu represents it well.

“We are already thinking about moving forward,” Abreu said. “There are a lot of good teams waiting for us; the goal is to keep moving forward and reaching our goals.

“You have to learn from all the bumps on the road. The last two years, we have very good teams. We’ve been learning from those experiences, and with the team we have right now, I think we know what we need to do to accomplish our goals.”

More praise for Yoelqui
Tack on another highlight defensive play to the impressive camp of outfielder Yoelqui Céspedes. Chicago's No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Céspedes nailed Seattle's Luis Torrens while he was trying to tag from second to third in the seventh inning of Chicago's 3-0 loss on Friday.

Céspedes made the throw from deep center field and put it right on the mark for third baseman Jake Burger to apply the tag.

“He likes to learn, he wants to learn,” said Abreu, who watched Céspedes a few times in Cuba. “And he asks the right questions because he has that desire to learn. I think we all see the kind of player he is, and the kind of player he can be.”

“He’s got speed, you can see the arm. So, he’s not afraid to swing,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa of Céspedes, who has done well playing center. “I think he’s got to improve in a couple of areas, [like the] strike zone. But he has some unique, impactful talent.”

After finishing the 2021 season with Double-A Birmingham, there’s a good chance Céspedes starts '22 in the same locale.

Early caution
With 10 days remaining in Spring Training, La Russa continues to evaluate each position player and each pitcher individually in order to put together the final roster. As an example, right-hander Vince Velasquez entered camp looking to win a rotation spot, but La Russa doesn’t want to “rain on his parade” as Velasquez -- and Reynaldo López -- provide starter-reliever hybrid options that could help keep the White Sox staff strong even if they are pitching out of the bullpen.

“That’s positive hearing Tony has been showing and giving me that support,” said Velasquez, who allowed five runs in 2 1/3 innings Saturday. “But I still have a lot of work to do to earn that role. It’s just a matter of mastering my pitches to allow myself to go deeper into games and handing it off to the bullpen.”

“Everybody needs to understand that when we get to Opening Day, play three, off[-day] and then we play like 12 in a row,” La Russa said. “We are going to have to really watch carefully and be creative.”