February 25 is always a special day on my
calendar—it is Monte Irvin’s birthday. And this year he’s celebrating No. 92.
For those of you who might not be familiar with him, Monte is a
Baseball Hall of Famer, honored primarily for his outstanding Negro League
career. He was also a star for the New York baseball Giants in the 1950s
and was a key driving force in ’51 as the Giants dramatically overtook the Dodgers for the National League pennant. Last year, the club retired his No. 20 jersey.
He was a mentor to
the great Willie Mays, was a special assistant in the Baseball Commissioner’s
Office and arguably the greatest all-round high school athlete to come out of
New Jersey. Monte is also the finest person you’d ever want to know.
I have been Monte’s friend for 36 years (that’s the two of us pictured above). From the moment I began
working with him in the Commissioner’s Office in 1975, I felt honored to be in
his presence. He is smart, funny, principled, kind and generous. He’s the type
of person who makes you feel better about yourself just by being around him.
Happy Birthday, Monte, and many more.
. Paul Konerko
. Juan Pierre
. Alex Rios
. Gordon Beckham
. A.J. Pierzynski
. Alexei Ramirez
. A pretty formidable offense to be sure.
But you know who could be the most important piece of all? In my opinion, Carlos Quentin.
CQ has been flying a bit under the radar in light of Dunn’s arrival, the re-signings of Konerko and Pierzynski and the emergence of Ramirez as a star. But remember that just three seasons ago he was the golden boy and a favorite to win the A.L. MVP until his unfortunate injury. And last year, considered a down year, he still slugged 26 homers and drove in 87 runs.
My Quentin theory is based on the fact we pretty much know–or we think we know–what to expect from all the players mentioned above. Because of Quentin’s injury woes, though, he’s somewhat of a wild card and actually was mentioned in trade rumors during the offseason. But a healthy, productive Quentin could make an already potent lineup an offense that is off the charts and one of the best in baseball.
There will undoubtedly will be more to talk about from Camelback Ranch starting tomorrow when the full White Sox squad reports for work.
Today, the last official day of pitchers and catchers (although many position players have reported early), Jake Peavy took an important step toward his recovery and early arrival Alex Rios expressed his confidence in the 2011 Sox.
In Peavy’s case, it was the first time he faced hitters since his right shoulder injury on last
July 6. And it felt good even though he’s only 75 percent. Here’s what he said:
“…Today is a fun day and a big day for you because there’s certainly times when you think you’ll never do what I did today again.”
While Peavy was making progress, centerfielder Alex Rios, coming off a terrific season where he slammed 21 homers, drove in 84 runs and batted .284, sounded pretty confident about his team’s chances.
“We’re the team to beat. We have good additions to the team,” Rios told reporters. “The core is solid, and with the additions, we’re even stronger. I think we’re going to give a hard time to a lot of people out there.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
Many feel that there will come a time in the not so distant future when 21-year-old Dayan Viciedo
will be considered as one of the most powerful hitters in baseball. Count me as one of those people.
There is no doubt that he lacks plate discipline and as a result hardly ever draws a walk. But when he connects, the ball jumps off of his bat in electric fashion. And being only 21, in his third season playing in the U.S., Viciedo has got time to develop as a hitter. In 106 plate appearances last year, he connected for five homers, drove in 13 runs and batted .308 in his first experience in the majors.
He also has time to develop defensively. Having started as a third baseman in 2009, he moved to first base last year and now is being groomed as a rightfielder because of the Sox logjam at first and third. It’s not an entirely new position for him as he played there in Cuba.
Viciedo, who some actually thought might reach the big club as a 19-year-old, will find it a challenge to make the 25-man roster this spring. He’s vying to win the final spot among position players along with Alejandro De Aza, Brent Lillibridge and Lastings Milledge.
Whether or not he makes it to Chicago this spring, the future is bright and all the signs are positive. He came into camp in good shape and has said all the right things about accepting the fact he may begin the year in AAA Charlotte to get the necessary at-bats.
The early days of spring training, the time before the exhibition games begin, don’t bring a whole lot of news, but we all know that’s not the point. The point is that baseball is back.
So, while pitchers and catchers enter their fourth day of getting back to their summertime routines and only a handful of position players have reported for duty, the news is slim aside from the proclamation that Chris Sale will be in the bullpen. The following will have to do for now:
—Adam Dunn reported to camp early and had to explain to his son why his number has changed from his familiar No. 44 to No. 32. The reason? Peavy is 44.
—Mark Buehrle, two-time Gold Glove winner and the author of the best defensive play of 2010 (on Opening Day), flubbed a few grounders in drills yesterday. In typical Mr. Perfect fashion, he laughed it off.
—Jake Peavy‘s first start of the spring is now scheduled for March 4 in Tempe against the Angels. Considering how important he is to the starting rotation, it’s something we should all keep a close eye on.
–The spring games will determine the makeup of the Sox roster and what the complement will be regarding pitchers and position players. At this point it appears everyone is in agreement that 12 pitchers is preferred, but the fact that a fifth starter won’t be needed until April 10, might mean 11 will go North for Opening Day.
–No surprise here: Ozzie told reporters he goes more on instinct than relying on computer printouts. Duh…
–A couple of ex-Sox notes: Joe Crede decided not to report to Rockies camp and instead opted for free agency…Centerfielder-turned-pitcher Brian Anderson is now a candidate for a spot in the Yankee bullpen. He pitched in the Royals’ minor league system in ’10.
The first day of White Sox spring training brought the following news: Chris Sale
will begin the season in the bullpen. Whether or not he’s the closer will be determined later.
Despite the fact that the recovering Jake Peavy might not be ready for Opening Day, resulting in an open spot in the starting rotation, last year’s pitching phenom will join the revamped pen. According to reports, Phil Humber, Lucas Harrell, Jeff Gray, Charlie Leesman and perhaps a wild card or new acquisition will compete for the fifth starter’s job until Peavy is 100 percent.
This definitely seems to be the right move. For the time being, Sale will have much more value in the pen as evidenced by his lights out debut last season. And the hope is that Peavy will return sooner than later, eliminating the need for Sale in the rotation.
Peavy on Day 1 under the watchful eye of Ozzie and KW
On the surface, the White Sox have only a couple of roster spots to fill this spring. But with Kenny Williams at the helm, you never know. With KW, when you least expect it,
With that scenario in mind, here are five questions to consider:
* Will the Sox find a way to acquire Ozzie favorite Michael Young and his sizeable contract?
* Will the likes of Edwin Jackson and Carlos Quentin be trade bait to free salary to sign Young or others?
* If Young is out of the picture and Brent Morel wins the third base job, will the Sox find a taker for Mark Teahen‘s overpriced pact?
*Instead of going with internal personnel like Phil Humber, Lucas Harrell or Anthony Carter, will the Sox obtain a veteran fifth starter before Jake Peavy returns or a reliever?
* Will there be a fourth outfielder available somewhere that the Sox would deem more valuable than Alejandro De Aza or Lastings Milledge?
It all starts tomorrow with pitchers and catchers.
It’s a longshot at best, but wouldn’t Michael Young look great in the Silver and Black?
Ah, just a few days to go and we’ll be reading about White Sox Baseball every day, hopefully through October, as pitchers and catchers report on Thursday for the start of spring training.
Among the storylines…Adam Dunn‘s arrival, Jake Peavy‘s comeback, Chris Sale‘s landing spot, Gordon Beckham trying to overcome his sophomore slump, the progress of the revamped bullpen, the battle between Brent Morel and Mark Teahen for the third base spot and the fight for the last couple of roster spots.
I’m ready to see it and ready to write about it.