BALTIMORE -- Scott Carroll used the past month to transform himself into a new pitcher. He wasn't going to the mound every fifth day as a member of the White Sox starting rotation, so he had a chance to rediscover his confidence and develop a new pitch.
The pitcher took the opportunity to work on his cutter -- a nice complement to his sinker -- which he's now throwing with more regularity and which he can now bring with him back to a starting role.
"The stuff that I'm featuring now in my repertoire is a lot more just aggressive," Carroll said. "I'm able to get both righties and lefties out consistently and it's helping out because they can't just defend against the sinker. They have to defend against both sides with the cutter and sinker."
He'll make his first start since May 19 on Thursday when Chicago opens up a four-game series with the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre in Toronto. He will replace Andre Rienzo in the rotation, who is being moved to a long-relief role after losing five consecutive starts.
Armed with a new pitch and carrying expanded confidence, Carroll has the ability to make this stint in the starting rotation last longer than his previous five-game stretch.
"I think a guy that goes out there starting that's not very comfortable with [a pitch] doesn't necessarily want to use it," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
That wasn't the case with Carroll's cutter in the bullpen. Since he wasn't being counted on to deliver six or seven innings every five days, Carroll had more time to develop the new pitch and even had chances to throw it in some of the lower-leverage situations as a long reliever.
So there were perks to his time out of the rotation -- a time that he took in stride and didn't view as a "demotion." The rookie has shown people that he doesn't have to just be a starting pitcher in this league, but that he also has the ability to be a solid reliever. After going 2-3 with a 6.15 ERA as a starter, Carroll logged a 1.83 ERA in six appearances out of the bullpen -- all of which lasted at least two innings.
"It was a good opportunity for me to put another feather in my cap and show that I have the ability to do both things and my skills can be used in the bullpen or starting," Carroll said. "I think it helped me mentally and just confidence-wise to incorporate a new pitch."
Abreu believes Home Run Derby affects swing
BALTIMORE -- Jose Abreu has been through the home run derby drill before, so he's not particular keen about competing in this year's Gillette Home Run Derby if he scores an invite from American League captain Jose Bautista.
The first baseman competed in five contests in Cuba and found that they typically hurt his swing.
"I change my whole mental approach when I go there," Abreu said through a translator. "It messes with my mind. I never go to the plate trying to hit home runs. It's something that I'm blessed with and it happens, but I never go trying to hit home runs, so I feel like when I have gone to these things, it has been not beneficial to me afterward."
Entering play Wednesday, Abreu ranked third in the Majors with 22 home runs and led the American League with a .607 slugging percentage, despite missing 14 games with left ankle tendinitis. As of Monday, when All-Star voting totals were last updated, Abreu was behind only Miguel Cabrera at first base. Abreu trailed the reigning MVP by about 800,000 votes.
With his impressive rookie season, Abreu has a strong chance to be named an All-Star even if he's not voted in by the fans and would be an attractive choice to participate in the Home Run Derby on July 14 at Target Field.
Unfortunately for baseball fans, that opportunity isn't quite as attractive to him.
"Right now, it's not a priority for me," Abreu said. "My priority is to play for the team. If this is something that I have to do, I'll do it, but that's something that is not a priority in my mind right now."
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 10:59 p.m. CT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.