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South Side Spring Training 5: Abreu’s past in the spotlight again

1. Another detail from Jose Abreu’s journey to America emerged on Wednesday, as the first baseman testified that he swallowed a page from his fake passport during a flight from Haiti to Miami.

The White Sox first baseman was forced to re-live that moment and those days and weeks leading up to it because he was called to testify in the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, two baseball agents standing trial on allegations they were involved in an operation that smuggled baseball players to America.

A full account, from Abreu’s perspective, of that August 2013 journey was largely unknown until a Chicago Mag profile on the slugger two years ago, but even then, Abreu hasn’t spoken much about it in public. It’s never been in his nature to be particularly loquacious. An article by James Fegan 11 months ago detailed this eloquently.

Yet he arrived, after a harrowing trip out of Cuba with his family, on far too small of a boat to make the journey, and the typically murky process Cuban expatriates have to navigate to MLB free agency. The almost Late-90’s Bad Boy Records-style shiny suit Abreu wore to his introductory news conference remains the biggest misdirect he’s ever thrown at Chicago as to his personal nature.

Regardless, his testimony Wednesday — he’s expected to continue Thursday — serves as another stark reminder of what he went through in order to achieve his dream and provide for his family.

2. Heralded pitching prospects Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez simultaneously made their spring debuts with the White Sox on Tuesday in split squad action, and neither went particularly well.

Kopech allowed four runs in one inning of work, while Lopez lasted 1.1 innings and allowed five. As you might expect, Don Cooper didn’t seem worried.

“If anybody has a tough outing in the first one it’s like a mulligan for me,” Cooper said. “You gotta understand, some of these guys it’s their first big league camp. Some of them are 20 years old so you’re anxious. You want to go show everybody what you do and you might be revving it a little too high sometimes, but that’s part of the learning process, too.”

The spotlight on the first starts by that duo, as well as Lucas Giolito, are mostly because they’re just that — firsts. Cooper noted that they’re plotting courses for each pitcher and, considering the calendar just hit March, worrying about a one-inning outing doesn’t seem the best course of action for anyone.

3. Speaking of debuts, James Shields also made his first Spring Training start on Wednesday and afterward spoke about his disastrous 2016.

“To be completely honest with you, there was no rhyme or reason for it,” he said. “I think my delivery was out of whack. My ball was flat. For the most part I was up in the zone. There was a combination of things. We addressed that toward the end of the season last year. We’re addressing it right now and moving forward.”

Shields is short on details, so either he knows what went wrong and doesn’t want to talk about it, or he doesn’t know … and doesn’t want to talk about it.

Either way, the current state of the White Sox means he’s going to get every opportunity to prove he can still be a major league pitcher.

4. Bovada released its win total props and set the White Sox over/under at a nice 69.5. That might seem low if you’ve been looking at the 76 wins projected by PECOTA, but it’s important to remember that, unlike computer projections, gambling over/unders are designed to get action. And while PECOTA looks at the White Sox roster as it stands today, oddsmakers can factor in additional rebuilding moves most of us assume are coming.

5. Injuries: Todd Frazier told reporters Wednesday that he was feeling good but had no timetable for his return from a strained left oblique. Nate Jones left his outing on Wednesday after taking a batted ball off the knee, but the report after the game was that it was just a bruise and he’s considered day-to-day. But then again, aren’t we all?

Lead Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

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