Big additions spur big expectations for White Sox
CHICAGO (AP) A decade removed from their most recent championship, the Chicago White Sox once again are eyeing big things.
They believe they're ready to make a jump after back-to-back losing seasons.
Their sights are set on an AL Central title, maybe even more, after a busy offseason. All the White Sox did was add pop to their lineup, boost their rotation, overhaul their bullpen and send expectations soaring.
''Obviously postseason first, and World Series,'' new closer David Robertson said. ''I mean that's what I look forward to every year. That's where I want to be.''
The addition of Robertson to the bullpen is one of the big reasons the White Sox believe they are armed and ready after going 73-89. But it's not the only one.
They added All-Star Jeff Samardzija to a rotation that already included ace Chris Sale, and the lineup got some more punch, too. They signed Adam LaRoche from Washington, giving AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu more protection, and brought in Melky Cabrera to solidify the No. 2 spot in the order behind Adam Eaton.
Is that enough to compete with Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit in the division and make a run in the playoffs? The White Sox believe it is. Their fans are pumped, too.
With that in mind, here are some things to look for this season:
LINED UP: It would be hard for Abreu to match, let alone exceed, what he did last season. He simply terrorized pitchers, batting .317 with 36 homers and 107 RBIs one year after defecting from Cuba. But as good as he was, there were some big holes in Chicago's lineup. The White Sox tied for fourth in the American League in homers. But they were just eighth in the AL in runs, ninth in batting average and 12th in on-base percentage.
LaRoche, who signed a $25 million, two-year contract in November, gives them some sorely needed power from the left side. He hit 26 homers and drove in 92 runs for Washington last season. Cabrera, a .301 hitter with Toronto, helps solidify the top of the order.
''I think we're jelling together as a team. Hopefully that translates to wins in April,'' Eaton said.
SALE-ING ALONG: With Sale, Samardzija and Jose Quintana, the White Sox are certainly strong at the top of the rotation.
Sale made the AL All-Star team for the third time last season while going 12-4 with a 2.17 ERA. He struck out 208 and walked 39. Samardzija, acquired from Oakland, moves into the No. 2 spot. A White Sox fan growing up in Indiana, he could wind up starting the opener at Kansas City after pitching the previous two for the Cubs, with Sale recovering from a broken foot.
CLOSING TIME: Chicago tied for seventh in the majors with 21 blown saves and had the fourth lowest save percentage (63.2) last season. That should not be an issue this year. Robertson, who took over as closer after Mariano Rivera retired and saved 39 games for the New York Yankees last season, is the biggest addition in an offseason makeover. But Chicago also beefed up the supporting cast, bringing in Zach Duke.
RODON WATCH: Top prospect Carlos Rodon got sent to the minors Wednesday, but he might not be there for long.
The No. 3 pick in the draft last spring, he is on a fast track to the majors after three standout seasons at North Carolina State. The 22-year-old left-hander finished his first major league spring training with a 2-0 record and 3.06 ERA in 17 2-3 innings, giving up one homer and striking out 21. He made nine minor league appearances in 2014.