I’m not planning on purchasing playoff tickets just yet, but we all should be happy at what we’ve seen of the Sox as they’ve concluded their initial road trip with a 3-2 record.
* A.J. Pierzynski is on fire with two homers, six RBIs and a .313 batting average.
* Alejandro De Aza also has a pair of homers (hit in the same games as A.J. hit his) and is hitting a respectable .273 from the leadoff spot.
* Paul Konerko is homerless, but has driven in five runs and has an OPS of 1.100.
* Adam Dunn is hitting only .222 with just one homer and two RBIs, but looks much, much better and has an on-base percentage of .364.
* Dayan Viciedo has zeroes in HR and RBIs, but is hitting a somewhat acceptable .267.
* And there are always early-season stragglers looking to break out. In this case, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios and Brent Morel all need to get things going. I have to admit I’m concerned about Beckham and Rios while Alexei always gets off to a slow start.
* Chris Sale has to be the top early story here with his terrific performance against the Tribe in his first ML start. The other Sox victories were credited to Matt Thornton in relief against Texas and John Danks, who was far from in command yesterday in Cleveland, but gutted it out and benefitted from the 10 runs of support he got from his teammates.
* The pen has been solid with relievers Jesse Crain, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Thornton all possessing 0.00 ERAs. And aside from surrendering a leadoff ninth inning homer in the opener against Cleveland, closer Hector Santiago has been impressive with his two saves.
Now it’s time to go home and convince the Tigers that they’re human.
Happy Opening Day! And now the flurry of questions about our 2012 White Sox will begin to be answered.
The April schedule won’t be a cakewalk. First it’s three against the Rangers, beginning this afternoon, then three vs. the Tribe–all on the road–then home for three against the mighty Tigers and four vs. the Orioles. The month concludes with a six-game road trip to Seattle and and Oakland and a four-game homestand against the Red Sox.
I hate to get ahead of myself because facing the two-time defending American League champs the next three days is imposing enough. But the facts are the facts. The Sox, in need of getting off to a good start to excite the South Side fandom, have their work cut out for them.
Today, we’ll see Robin Ventura‘s managerial debut and a new lineup that will look like this:
Beckham , 2B
One mystery is the identity of the closer. Ventura has been mum on the subject, but it seems Matt Thornton, Hector Santiago and Addison Reed are the likely suspects, in no particular order.
One game won’t make or break the season, but it sure would be nice to get out of the box with a “W” against the league champs. And it would be even sweeter if Dunn is a big part of it so he can exorcise those 2011 demons sooner than later.
Scott Merkin whets our White Sox appetite today on whitesox.com with some facts, figures and projections to chew on:
* Pitchers and catchers report on February 23
* Full squad reports on February 28
* First Spring Training game, March 5, vs. the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch
* Opening Day, April 6, at Texas
Merkin’s Projected Batting Order:
Alejandro DeAza CF, Gordon Beckham 2B, Paul Konerko 1B, Adam Dunn DH, Alex Rios LF, A.J. Pierzynski C, Alexei Ramirez SS, Dayan Viciedo RF, Brent Morel 3B
John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Philip Humber
Matt Thornton Closer, Jesse Crain RH setup man, Will Ohman LH setup man (with all other spots up for grabs). Key bullpen prospect to watch is Addison Reed, who very well might be the closer (my two cents, not Merkin’s).
Nestor Molina RHP, Dan Johnson 1B, Ozzie Martinez IF and, of course, the skipper Robin Ventura
Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre, Omar Vizquel, Ramon Castro, Jason Frasor
As the historically inadquate Adam Dunn takes a seat on the bench and Alex Rios holds firm with his .212 batting average and equally-deficient power numbers, a new wave of excitement has hit the South Side.
The emergence of Alejandro De Aza, Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo, who all started the season at AAA Charlotte, has poured new energy into what has been a stagnant offense. In the last two days, as the Sox have won their third and fourth games in a row against the Mariners and Twins, respectively, the threesome has delivered big-time.
* Viciedo has gone 4 for 6 with a homer, four RBIs, three runs scored and a pair of walks in his first two major league games this season. It has been particularly satisfying to see how improved his plate discipline has been. Those two walks represent a major accomplishment.
* Flowers (pictured above), batting a very respectable .281 as he subs for the injured A.J. Pierzynski, hit his first career grand slam against the Mariners on Sunday and drove in two of the three White Sox runs last night in the 3-0 victory over the Twins with a double and a sac fly.
* De Aza has been a breath of fresh air since joining the club and slamming a home run in his first ’11 major league at bat. He’s got great speed, is excellent defensively and is sporting a .319 batting average. Last night he went 2 for 3, including a double, with a run scored and a key stolen base.
While youth is being served, we can’t ignore the fact that the Mr. Perfect has been outstanding as well. Mark Buehrle was on his game once again last night as the Sox moved to within five games of Detroit and four games in the all-important loss column. He gave up just four hits in 7 2/3 innings as he improved his record to 11-6 and his ERA to a fine 3.05.
You can make the case that the White Sox would have been better off, provided they won today’s game, if Dayan Viciedo didn’t single in his first at bat, slug a three-run homer in his second appearance and draw a walk the third time (which put him on base for Tyler Flowers‘ first career grand slam).
Now, all the pundits, internet geeks and talk show callers are going to be more vocal than ever that Viciedo should have been brought up weeks ago to compensate for the failures of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.
As inviting as it might be, I’m going to resist the temptation to criticize. The fact is that he wasn’t called up before and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m just going to look ahead and hope Viciedo, in that Hollywood ending I suggested in my last post, helps turn the tide.
On the heels of today’s 9-3 victory and three-game sweep in Seattle, the Sox come home to face the Twins in an abbreviated three-game homestand. And by virtue of the Tigers’ loss to Minny and the Indians defeat at the hands of the Royals, the Sox find themselves in second place, six games behind Detroit and a half-game ahead of Cleveland.
The Viciedo Era has begun.
Sox Note of Note: With all the talk about the barren Sox farm system, it’s particularly comforting to see Viciedo and Flowers come through this afternoon. Although he hasn’t been given as much credit as he deserves, Flowers has done a terrific job in place of A.J. Pierzynski, hitting .273 with a pair of homers and playing above average defense behind the plate. Let’s hope the performance of these two youngsters are a sign of positive things to come.
If it weren’t bad enough that journeyman lefthander Bruce Chen of the Royals has beaten–let’s be honest, dominated–the White Sox three times this season, now we get more negative news. As a result of a Chen pitch last Friday, A.J. Pierzynski has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a fractured left wrist.
With the Sox now only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers and the second place Indians in town, this isn’t the kind of news we wanted to hear. It has been reported that Pierzynski will be out at least a month and in the meantime Tyler Flowers takes over the starting catching duties with long-time minor leaguer Donny Lucy backing him up–at least for now. I don’t think there’s any question that the Sox will be scouring the waiver wire for veteran catching help with the trade deadline a couple of weeks away.