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GM Rick Hahn plays White Sox’s hand close to vest once again

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BOSTON — The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and Rick Hahn already has his poker face on.

When it comes to his team’s rebuild, the White Sox general manager has no qualms admitting his job isn’t finished — there’s work to be done.

The White Sox, who improved to 43-47 with a 4-0 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday night, need better pitching, to know which way they’re going at catcher, in left field and at third base in order to become perennial contenders.

The team’s roster also features several players whom Hahn has indicated he’s willing to trade as well as others who are speculated to be on the block. But even with all those variables and rumors circulating about the futures of Dayan Viciedo and Adam Dunn — both of whom homered Monday — as well Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza, Hahn is playing it cool.

[MORE: Could Avisail Garcia return in 2014?]

It’s a luxury he’s afforded unlike last season, when it was clear the White Sox needed to find a new direction and fast. So unless Hahn gets what he wants, the White Sox trade activity could be very limited over the next 3 1/2 weeks.

“There’s certainly no urgency to do anything,” Hahn said. “I think most of the players I’ve read about online that are rumored to be out there are all under control beyond this season. There’s no urgency to cash in an asset, so to speak, before it expires.”

The White Sox were an antique train wreck short on patience last July.

Not only were they on their way to 99 losses, the White Sox were built around an aging offensive core of Paul Konerko, Dunn and Alex Rios. If they had any hope of quickly turning things around, Hahn had to maximize the value of Jake Peavy and Rios, both of whom had a year left on their deals and trade appeal.

[ALSO: Chris Sale appreciates fan support in Final Vote]

Hahn netted outfielder Avisail Garcia and three minor-leaguers in the Peavy deal and then freed up playing time for their young outfielder in the trade of Rios to the Texas Rangers. Both moves gave the White Sox some of the financial flexibility they needed to sign Jose Abreu in the offseason.

In December, Hahn traded closer Addison Reed and Hector Santiago for prospect Matt Davidson and center fielder Adam Eaton. All of a sudden, the White Sox had a new identity in a span of five months.

That paradigm shift gives Hahn and the White Sox less urgency to be active.

Even though three infield prospects at Triple-A are knocking down the door — Micah Johnson is close, Marcus Semien has already produced in the bigs and Carlos Sanchez is back on track — Hahn isn’t forced into a deal because Beckham has a full season before he hits free agency.

Just because Hahn made it clear in December he’d part with either De Aza or Viciedo for the right price, neither is a free agent next season, which means he doesn’t have to just give them away. De Aza has another full season before he’s a free agent and Viciedo isn’t one until 2018.

Hahn isn’t blind to the notion his defense needs improvement and the offense needs more consistency, especially in the lower half. The pitching needs to be much better too and he’s aware of that as well.

Hahn said the White Sox, who entered Monday with 30 fewer runs scored than allowed this season, have earned their current record.

[ALSO: Abreu’s parents will fly to All-Star Game to watch son play]

“We really haven’t had that run of momentum of success that we hoped for,” Hahn said. “We’ve fallen into a couple of ruts along the way that last year was much more difficult for us to dig ourselves out of. We are pleased with that side to be able to stop the negative trends when they have come up on us.

“At the same time, we haven’t gone on that positive run of success that we’ve been waiting for that is going to put us in position to clearly be in the thick of a pennant race.”

He’s hopeful any moves he makes over the next 24 days to six months to next spring can aid in that cause. But he only intends to complete a deal if it fits the plan and giving away controlled contracts for less than fair value doesn’t seem to be part of it.

Hahn could be bluffing, but that doesn’t sound likely.

“We are willing to make a deal at any point where it makes most sense for or long-term interests,” Hahn said. “Whether that happens in the next two weeks or it takes until the offseason or spring training next year, we are not going to force the issue.”

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.