March 2010

Sox Win Impressively in Camelback Ranch Finale

With the White Sox blanking the A’s 2-0 yesterday in their last spring home game, I can’t help but think we’re going to see a lot of similar games this year. With one of the best starting staffs in baseball and potentially an outstanding pen, it’s reasonable to expect that the Sox will keep the opposition from lighting up the scoreboard more often than not.

Offensively, the Sox have lost the power of Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye. The hope is that the “Ozzieball” approach will score as many runs and folks like Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios and Andruw Jones can provide adequate power numbers. That said, I still think lower scoring games will be the rule rather than the exception. And, to me, that’s a good thing.

Back to yesterday, it was neat and clean. Mark Buehrle (5 innings), Tony Pena (1), Randy Williams (1) and Bobby Jenks (2) combined for the shutout and Konerko and Quentin both went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Quentin hit his fifth homer of the spring.

The South Siders close out spring training this week. They make the short trip to Goodyear today to face the Indians, have split squad games against the Mariners in Peoria and their AAA affiliate in Charlotte on Thursday and journey to Atlanta to face the Braves on Friday night and Saturday. Then it’s onward to Chicago for Opening Day Monday against Cleveland.

uscell.jpg                                      Opening Day: Five Days and Counting…

Sergio Santos is Living the Dream, Reaches the Majors as Sox Announce 25-Man Roster

After failing to get a sniff of the major leagues as an infielder with five organizations, Sergio Santos is finally a big-leaguer–as a relief pitcher. He earned that distinction with a fine spring and today the 2002 No. 1 draft pick of the Diamondbacks was named to the White Sox 25-man roster heading into Opening Day. And he’s only been pitching since last year.

The other roster question was also answered as Jayson Nix made the team as a utility infielder/outfielder.

The final cuts were infielder/outfielder Brent Lillibridge, outfielder Alejandro De Aza, pitcher Dan Hudson (Charlotte) and hurlers Greg Aquino, Erick Threets and Charlie Leesman plus catcher Donny Lucy (assigned to minor league camp).

The Sox will go into battle beginning next Monday with the following roster:

Pitchers (12): Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia, Bobby Jenks, Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, Scott Linebrink, Tony Pena, Randy Williams, Sergio Santos

Catchers (2):  A.J. Pierzynski, Ramon Castro

Infielders (7):  Paul Konerko, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Mark Teahen, Mark Kotsay, Omar Vizquel, Jayson Nix

Outfielders (4): Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Andruw Jones

85521035.jpg                                    The dream comes true for Sergio Santos

Enough Ties Already, Let’s Get a Win or Two Before We Leave Glendale

When Ozzie commented that, in essence, the Sox would start getting down to business during the last week of the season, I don’t think he had last night in mind.

Blowing a 7-0 lead, the Sox salvaged their fifth tie of the spring with Scott Linebrink (he gave up four runs, two earned) and Tony Pena (he committed a balk that allowed the tying run to score) the mound culprits and the defense playing a major role in the blown lead with four errors.

Offensively, the Sox were led by red-hot Mark Kotsay (pictured below), who homered with three RBI and raised his spring average to .426. Alexei Ramirez went 3 for 5 and Paul Konerko 2 for 3 with an RBI. He’s now hitting .345 this spring.

Mark Buehrle and the Sox face the A’s today in Glendale with the possibility that the club will announce the 25-man roster as well.

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With Opening Day a Week Away, Ozzie Says: “I’m Glad With What I Have”

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You wouldn’t know it by the 8-15-4 spring record or the fact the White Sox lost both ends of a split-squad doubleheader yesterday to the Rangers and Royals, but Ozzie Guillen is happy with the team he and GM Kenny Williams have put together.

The truth is that spring training records mean little. Of course any time they’re keeping score you want to win, but getting the regulars ready for the season and the liberal use of secondary players and youngsters to see what they can do is the main purpose. And there is really no proof that a winning record in Arizona or Florida will mean a winning season or vice versa. For the record, the Sox went 14-18 in the spring of 2005.

The Sox brass is reportedly meeting today to make decisions on the 25-man roster. The big issue appears to be whether or not they keep 12 or 13 pitchers or an extra infielder. It seems like Sergio Santos would be the 12th pitcher with Greg Aquino and Dan Hudson vying for the 13th spot. If 13 hurlers go north, it could spell the end of Jayson Nix in a Sox uniform since he’s out of options.

Sox notes of note: Despite yesterday’s two losses, there were some bright spots. In the 10-8 loss to the Royals at Camelback Ranch, Mark Teahen continued his resurgence. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI, lifting his spring average to .277…Scott Linebrink, Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz each pitched a scoreless inning against K.C….The Sox were blanked 5-0 by the Rangers in Surprise, but Paul Konerko‘s two hits brought his spring average to .327 and Gavin Floyd gave up only a pair of runs with six strikeouts in six innings of work…John Danks makes the start tonight at home against the Angels.

Successful Finale in Tucson, Beckham is OK (Whew!) and Getting Down to Business

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tucson2.jpgFrom 1998-2008 the White Sox called Tucson Electric Park (above, top) their spring training home after 37 years in Sarasota, FL. With both the Diamondbacks and Rockies moving to the Phoenix area next spring, the Sox played their final game in Tucson today at venerable Hi Corbett Field (above, bottom), beating the Rockies, 6-2, with an impressive 15 hits.
The Sox rebounded from a 10-1 pounding at the hands of the D-backs on Friday in their TEP finale. Mark Kotsay went three for three  with a walk, including a double and a triple. Alexei Ramirez had a pair of singles with two RBI, Paul Konerko collected two hits and an RBI and a rejuvenated Mark Teahen singled twice and scored two runs. After a couple of days in minor league camp, Teahen has been hitting and is now up to .256. Jayson Nix also doubled in a run.
On the pitching side, Randy Williams and Greg Aquino, a candidate for the last pitching roster spot, threw scoreless ball.
Sox notes of note…

It looks like Gordon Beckham‘s abdominal strain was nothing to worry about as reported yesterday. He should be back at second base Sunday…Sox have a pair of split-squad games
tomorrow. They are at home against the Royals and on the road in Surprise vs. the Rangers.
Dan Hudson is scheduled to start at Camelback Ranch and Gavin Floyd will be given the nod against Texas…Ozzie has made it known that starting Monday it’s time to bear down and get ready for Opening Day with the starters playing nine innings. There undoubtedly will be a different intensity that has resulted in an 8-13-4 spring record thus far with a mixture of starters, prospects and other minor leaguers.

When Hitting a Home Run is Not a Good Thing and Other Notes From Spring Training

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White Sox notes of note…

* After receiving an alert on my BlackBerry yesterday that Brent Lillibridge (above) smashed a home run in the Sox 5-3 loss to the Padres, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember the last time a home run was a negative for the player hitting it. There certainly have been times when a home run meant nothing–for instance, in a blowout game–but this was rare. Why? because Ozzie has been preaching to Lilli that he shouldn’t try to be a power hitter and he’s much more suited to play small ball. So, instead of the Sox brass liking what they saw, it very well could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in Brent’s quest to win a roster spot in his tug of war with Jayson Nix.

Speaking of Nix, it looks like he’s won the battle. Earlier in the spring Ozzie expressed his disappointment in both Lillibridge and Nix, but in Jayson’s defense he has hit .345 to Brent’s 214. A negative for both is their strikeout totals. Nix has K’d nine times, Lillibridge eight.

Sergio Santos, the much-ballyhooed “out of options” converted infielder who is making a bid as a reliever on the 25-man roster, had his scoreless spring halted yesterday. He gave up two runs, two hits and a walk in one inning of work. Reading comments from Ozzie, it doesn’t appear this blip will affect Santos’ chances.

* While Santos struggled against San Diego, both J.J. Putz and Scott Linebrink pitched scoreless baseball.

* In the category of small victories, after his two-run homer on Wednesday Mark Teahen doubled against the Padres–hopefully showing he’s on his way back.

* Interesting piece by Scott Merkin on whitesox.com focusing on the mentor-student relationship between vet Jake Peavy and up and comer Dan Hudson. Peavy: “To be as young as he is, he does a great job of just kind of observing and taking in everything…
Huddy has a great idea of what is going on, and I love his makeup and ability.”

* Freddy Garcia and the Sox face the Diamondbacks today at their former spring home in Tucson.

Mark it Down: Teahen Breaks Out of Slump as Sox Hammer D-Backs, 10-3

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Will the real Mark Teahen please step forward? The new White Sox third baseman (pictured above) was acquired from the Royals during the off-season partially due to his dominance over Sox pitching–particularly Mark Buehrle. In other words, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Whether he has been trying too hard to impress his new teammates or simply is in a routine slump, Teahen has had a very disappointing spring. Going into yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch, ultimately a 10-3 Sox victory, he was hitting .143. It got so bad that instead of staying with the varsity, Teahen was jettisoned to minor league camp in an effort to get him straightened out. Well, so far so good.
This afternoon, Teahen’s first appearance since his short stint in the outer fields, he went 2-4 with a single and a two-run homer–his first extra base hit this spring. While Teahen provided the best news of the day, there were other happy highlights:
* Omar Vizquel snapped out of a slump by going 2 for 4 with a double, two RBI, a walk with two runs scored.
* Carlos Quentin was 3 for 5 with two RBI.
* Juan Pierre went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and his fourth stolen base of the spring.
* Mark Kotsay was 2 for 4 along with two runs scored.
* Pitching-wise, John Danks hurled six good innings, allowing three runs and five hits. Greg AquinoBobby Jenks and Erick Threets each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the win.
The Sox are now 7-11-4 this spring. They travel to nearby Peoria tomorrow afternoon to face the Padres.

Sox Cut Seven, 32 Remain in Major League Camp

In less than two weeks (Monday, April 5), the White Sox open up the regular season against the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

Today, the Sox got a bit closer to their Opening Day 25-man roster by sending two players to Charlotte–pitcher Carlos Torres and catcher Tyler Flowers–and five others to their minor league camp. They include outfielder Jordan Danks, first baseman Josh Kroeger, third baseman Brent Morel, second baseman C.J. Retherford and pitcher Ryan Braun. There are now 32 left in the big league camp.

The likely scenario finds two roster spots yet to be filled. The Sox expect to take 12 pitchers north–starters Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Freddy Garcia and a bullpen of Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton, Scott Linebrink, Tony Pena, Randy Williams and one of the following: Sergio Santos (pictured below), Dan Hudson, Greg Aquino, Erick Threets and Charlie Leesman. The best bet to make it is Santos, who is out of options and has been very impressive this spring.

imgc.jpegThe other spot, a backup infielder/outfielder, will probably go to either frontrunner Jayson Nix, who is out of options, or Brent Lillibridge. The wild card here is if the Sox decide to go with red-hot outfielder Alejandro De Aza instead of Nix or Lillibridge. Or, they could go with 11 pitchers and take both De Aza and Nix/Lillibridge (pictured below, left to right, under the watchful eye their skipper). One last possibility, admittedly remote, is to take a 13th pitcher instead of the extra position player.

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The White Sox From A to Z: Notes From Spring Training

After a week at Camelback Ranch, it’s back to reality. Here are my spring training thoughts from A to Z:

* A — A big plus for me was to see both Andruw Jones and Alex Rios off to great starts. Jones has hit two home runs, eight RBI and is hitting .385 with a .467 on base percentage. Rios has been nursing an injury, but is hitting .304 with a pair of homers, six RBI and a .346 OBP.

* B — The Natural, Gordon Beckham (pictured below), doesn’t look like he’s going to suffer from the sophomore jinx. So far in the spring, he’s hitting .333 with five doubles and a homer and is getting on base 43 percent of the time. He’s also been making every play at second base.

* C — is for the catching situation. A.J. Pierzynski is hitting at a .345 clip and shows no signs of slowing down. Ramon Castro is a capable backup. There was never any question that Tyler Flowers would begin the season at Charlotte, but it is a bit troubling he’s off to such a slow start.

* D — One of the highlights of Sox spring training has been the play of former Florida Marlin, outfielder Alejandro De Aza. Despite being destined to begin the year with Charlotte, he is hitting .333 with seven RBI. He’s an exciting player who very well might be up in Chicago at some time during the season.

* E is for errors, which I’m happy to say will hopefully occur much less in 2010. The Sox will be a more versatile and fundamentally sound team so there will likely be fewer miscues and brain cramps.

41231.jpg* F — is for the Twittergate “flap,” which looked for a while like it would be a major
distraction. Luckily Ozzie stopped it before it really impacted the team.

* G — Our old friend Freddy Garcia (pictured below) takes the hill this season as the fifth starter. He seems a lot older because he’s been around so long, but Freddy is just shy of 34 and should give us the necessary push at the No. 5 spot in an outstanding rotation.

* H — If Freddy doesn’t come through the Sox are well-protected with Dan Hudson, who pitched at every level of baseball last season and did a creditable job with the Sox in September. He looks like the real deal.

* I — I predict that the Sox will win the AL Central with the Twins, Tigers, Royals and Indians finishing in that order.

* JBobby Jenks has been struggling with his calf, but he says he’ll be ready to go Opening Day. The Sox have some depth in the bullpen, but losing Jenks would definitely be a big blow.

t1_1206_garcia_getty.jpg* K — We need Paul Konerko to have a big year, especially with the departure of Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye. It could be Paulie’s last season in Chicago, but let’s hope it’s one of his best.

* LScott Linebrink has proven himself to be a capable reliever, but you wouldn’t know it from his performance a year ago. He’s been up and down this spring, but he needs to rebound to max out our pen.

* M — As THE lefty in the bullpen, Matt Thornton (pictured below) is indispensible. While I was in Arizona he was perfect. The other half of the main DH platoon with Jones, Mark Kotsay, is on fire this spring, hitting .433 with a .514 on base percentage and a .500 slugging mark.

* N — Will Jayson Nix, Brent Lillibridge or a perhaps a late spring pickup win the last remaining spot among position players?  Since it’s listed under “N,” my choice is naturally Nix.

* O — Brought to the Sox to back up and mentor Alexei Ramirez and Beckham, Omar Vizquel, who will be 43 in April, still looks perfectly capable of contributing.

43105659.jpg* P — Jake Peavy, entering his first Sox season, J.J. Putz and Juan Pierre (pictured below) all have key roles. From what I witnessed in Glendale, Peavy’s in mid-season form, Putz was up and down and it’s obvious what positives Pierre is going to give us from the leadoff spot. Another “P” is Tony Pena, a member of the relief corps who has compiled a 1.59 ERA in five appearances in Arizona.

* QCarlos Quentin looks ready to go, even though his spring stats aren’t gaudy. Health is the key here and CQ looks like he’s ready for the long haul.

* R — With the help of Vizquel, Ramirez will be better defensively and that may make him more relaxed at the plate.

* S — A converted infielder and former No. 1 draft choice of the Diamondbacks, Sergio Santos has been a revelation and a real candidate for the final spot in the bullpen. He’s been very impressive and brings a lot of heat. The fact he’s out of options may force the Sox to bring him North.

* T — If I have one major concern, it’s Mark Teahen. He’s been awful so far in spring training, presumably putting a lot pressure on himself. I don’t even want to think about what happens if he flops.

52656898.jpg* U — U stands for the Sox being underrated. Haven’t seen any of the so-called experts throwing compliments our way, let alone picking the Sox to win the AL Central. Hopefully I’m right and they’re wrong.

* V — I’ve thrown around the word versatile when writing and talking about the Sox. It was certainly apparent to me that they’ll be more running and bunting on this team–with players that can actually execute.

* WRandy Williams, the journeyman reliever who has pretty much locked up the role as the second lefty in the pen, has pitched eight scoreless innings this spring.

* X — Saw a few ex-Sox in Florida, including Orlando Cabrera, Nick Masset (Reds), Josh Fields, Chris Getz and Scott Podsednik (Royals) plus former farmhand Aaron Cunningham (Padres). I saw that Brian Anderson hit for the cyle for KC and went 5 for 5 in a game during that time, but I wasn’t there to witness it.

* Y — Why is Jordan Danks listed here? Because I had to find some place to give him his due, that’s Y. He’s big, strong, fast and will be a major element to the Sox fortunes for many years to come. We’ll likely see him in Chicago with his big bro some time this season.

* Z — Z stands for the many zeroes our starting staff will throw this season. The strength of the club is definitely our rotation with Peavy (pictured below, top), Garcia, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and last but not least Mr. Perfect, Mark Buehrle (pictured below, bottom).

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Sign of the Times: Twitter the Cause of Sox-Guillen Flap

guillen-large.jpgGLENDALE, AZ — It had to happen sooner or later. In this day and age of tweeting, Facebook and non-stop blogging, you knew something would occur that ultimately reached an inexplicable and outrageous level.
It’s certainly not the first time the downside of Twitter has reared its ugly head in sports, but in the case of the White Sox v. Oney Guillen, the middle son of Ozzie, it’s reached a new plateau.
The facts:
* Oney resigned from the Sox scouting department yesterday after being asked to tone down or stop his controversial tweeting. This came on the heels of the club kiboshing the idea of a Guillen website.
* Ozzie atypically refused to speak to the media after the Sox-Cubs game yesterday, presumably as a result of the Twitter matter. To his credit, the skipper later apologized via Twitter (what else?).
Will the Ozzie-Kenny Williams relationship be permanently affected? Will Ozzie choose family over the Sox? The end-game is anybody’s guess.
Speaking only for this Sox fan, I echo Kenny Williams’ comment a few days ago when he addressed the Sox and social media.
“All I care about is players playing, coaches coaching and managers managing.”
Amen.
Sox notes of note:  A record Cactus League crowd of 13, 413 watched the Cubs defeat the Sox, 8-4, at Camelback Ranch yesterday. The only real Pale Hose positives to report are A.J. Pierzynski‘s three hits, Juan Pierre’s two walks and two runs scored, Mark Kotsay‘s two hits and Matt Thornton‘s one scoreless inning. On the flip side, J.J. Putz and Scott LInebrink were both tagged for homers and the Sox loaded the bases with no outs twice and scored just a single run…This is unfortunately my final day of spring training. Because I’ll be in the air most of the day, I won’t post tomorrow. A spring training review will appear on Monday.
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