This and that from SoxWorld following an impressive 8-1 victory over the Indians to split the four-game series after dropping the first two…
1. Alejandro De Aza is a terrific story. Signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2001 and later drafted by the Marlins in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, it wasn’t until 2007 that he finally made his big league debut with Florida. He was selected off waivers by the White Sox after the 2008 season and 10 years after signing with L.A., De Aza became a regular last year, hitting .329 with a .400 on base percentage in 54 games from the leadoff spot. Based on his 2011 performance, the Sox felt he was ready to take over permanently–evidently they were right. So far this season he has been outstanding, As a result of his red-hot series in Cleveland his batting average has risen to .285 with a .369 on base percentage.
2. Adam Dunn continues his quest for “Comeback of the Year.” He connected with home run No. 10 last night, giving him 25 RBIs. Add that to an OPS of .970, all indications point to the fact that he is indeed “back.”
3. Paul Konerko keeps rolling along. He’s been so good and so consistent in his first 31 games that there’s a tendency to take him for granted. That, of course, would be a mistake. He’s got six homers and 18 RBIs along with a .345 batting average and a terrific 1.010 OPS.
4. Dayan Viciedo is due to break out anytime now–and, boy, would it be welcomed. If Viciedo can overcome his slow start (3 homers. 5 RBIs, .204 BA), it would mean so much to the offense. Let’s hope he snaps out of it soon.
5. Brent Morel has been struggling, to say the least. He has yet to hit a home run, has only four RBIs and is hitting a paltry .172. The skipper has shown his support for his starting third baseman, but if Morel doesn’t turn it around it’s inevitable a change will be made. There doesn’t seem to be a great alternative on the current roster (platoon of Escobar and Lillbridge?) and the likely choice at AAA Charlotte, Dallas McPherson, has been injured.
6. Jake Peavy‘s performance this season has been amazing. Don’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star and a candidate for his second Cy Young.
As deflating as last night’s 10-3 loss to the Red Sox was, look at it this way. Despite the current three-game losing streak the Sox are still in a virtual tie for the A.L. Central lead. It seems that the division rivals, including the Tigers who just got swept at home by the Mariners, are struggling a bit as well.
It was only a few days ago that the Sox swept Seattle, won the opener of the A’s series and were at 10-6. That’s just baseball. And the current slide aside, I feel good about how the Sox are playing. Just wish Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel could turn it around and Hector Santiago can avoid the long ball.
Beckham and Morel are mysteries. Will they turn it around? Will one or both spend some time in Charlotte? Will the Sox turn elsewhere at second and third? Stay tuned.
As far as the closer situation, the Sox certainly have options if Santiago’s problems continue. Addison Reed (pictured above) seems like the logical choice, but Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain (once he’s healthy) will be the mix as well.
I hope Hector overcomes his woes, but the thinking is here that Reed will be the closer by the All-Star break–maybe a lot sooner.
I couldn’t bear to post my blog yesterday after the Sox meltdown Monday night against the Orioles. A 4-2 lead in the ninth should be enough, but we all know that there are always going to be a bunch of these heartbreakers during the course of the season. We just don’t want to admit it–and I couldn’t face writing about it, especially the 10-4 final score.
I had good feelings about the South Siders bouncing back last night with John Danks on the mound, but very few teams are going to win games with two, maybe three hitters, doing what they’re supposed to do. The result? a 3-2 loss.
To state the obvious, we are struggling offensively. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are among the culprits along with Brent Morel. And the few who are on their game, like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, haven’t provided enough firepower to overcome the slackers.
The new skipper is still showing confidence in the non-producers. It’ll be interesting to see how long he waits before a makes an adjustment or two.
Regardless of who you may have chosen as today’s White Sox “Pick to Click,” you could likely make a case for your choice as the Sox celebrated their home opener with a host of heroes in their 5-2 triumph over the powerful Tigers.
Conventional wisdom would seem to be on the side of Dayan Viciedo, who put the Sox ahead 1-0 in the fifth with a long homer over the centerfield fence (pictured above) and made a spectacular catch in left of the bat of Andy Dirks to prevent the tying and go-ahead from scoring with the Sox ahead 3-2. The catch was certainly a game changer.
But how about Alexei Ramirez, whose diving grab behind the second base bag started the key double play off the bat of the dangerous Miguel Cabrera with one out and men on first and third in the eighth inning. Another game changer.
Or how about Jake Peavy, who gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 while striking out eight.
Then there was Paul Konerko who singled in Alejandro De Aza in the sixth for the sec0nd Sox run and A.J. Pierzynski who tripled in Konerko all the way from first for run No. 3.
And we can’t forget three others–De Aza who tripled in the eighth and scored on a Brent Morel single to give the Sox a 4-2 advantage (the fifth run scored on a wild pitch) and Hector Santiago, who recorded his third save.
OK, let’s give it to Dayan with a bunch of honorable mentions.
Sox note of note: In the category of nothing’s perfect, it’s interesting to note that the three regulars in today’s lineup who weren’t very heroic were the same three hitters who had such poor seasons a year ago: Adam Dunn, who K’d four times, Gordon Beckham, who struck out on three occasions, and Alex Rios, who struck out twice. In all fairness, Rios did smack a double and was at the plate when the final Sox run scored on the wild pitch.
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.
Glendale, AZ—The uncertainty I’m feeling about the 2012 White Sox remains after having witnessed five spring training contests. As has been the pattern since the Sox left Sarasota for Arizona, the record is below .500–2-6 as of this morning. While that in itself is not serious cause for concern, all things considered a win is always better than a loss.
A few observations that contribute to the continuing uncertainty:
* Adam Dunn (knock on wood) looks much, much better. He’s making contact and looked his old powerful self with a three-run shot and a solid double against the Rangers last week.
* Alex Rios really hasn’t made an impression one way or another. A bit disappointing for those of us hoping for his revival.
* John Danks is struggling with his command. He doesn’t seem concerned since it’s happening so early in the spring, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
* Nestor Molina, who was acquired for Sergio Santos, got lit up in his first appearance, but seemed to be much more relaxed in a good outing the next time he took the mound. Simon Castro, who came to the Sox in the Carlos Quentin deal, had an appearance he’d like to forget. Entering the game in the top of the ninth with a 6-5 lead, he imploded with a walk, a wild pitch, a hit batsmen and then surrendered a grand slam home run, sending the Sox into defeat. Neither one will make the opening day roster, but much will be expected of both as early as this summer so it’s worth watching.
* I like what I’ve seen of Brent Morel. I think he’ll just get better and better. His infield mate Gordon Beckham, in somewhat of a do or die situation, has also been a positive. Defensively, they will combine with Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez to give the Sox a stellar infield presence.
* Matt Thornton is the leader in the clubhouse for the closer role, but youngster Addison Reed is lurking. Seems like the call won’t be made until the end of the spring.
* Tyler Flowers, the backup backstop, has struck out a lot, but has shown power. Those who have watched him see his potential at the plate, but he’s yet to show it on a consistent basis.
* One reserve position player will likely be selected from Eduardo Escobar, Ozzie Martinez, Dan Johnson, Dallas McPherson and Jim Gallagher. I would say Johnson is the guy right now.
It’s just been that kind of a spring.
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
It doesn’t escape me that the day the world was mourning Apple visionary Steve Jobs, the personification of thinking out of the box, that Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams named Robin Ventura manager of the White Sox.
All we’ve heard since Ozzie left for South Beach is that the top candidates were Sandy Alomar, Jr., Dave Martinez and Terry Francona. Then, yesterday, the Sox fooled us all and chose one of their own who has absolutely no professional coaching or managing experience.
I think it’s a terrific, inspired choice on multiple levels. Ventura is a proven leader, he is familiar with the White Sox, he’ll have credibility with the veterans, will nurture youngsters like Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo and will somewhat offset the loss of Guillen in the eyes of the fans. He will also be great with media in a non-Ozzie sort of way. He will be thoughtful with a touch of wry humor as opposed to his predecessor’s 24/7 stream of consciousness. And, as far as I know, he doesn’t have a twitter account.
As you would expect, many in the baseball community have come out of the woodwork very skeptical of the move. Everybody from Tigers’ coach Gene Lamont, a former Sox manager, to a legion of baseball writers. With experienced men out there for the taking, they’re saying, how can the White Sox pick someone with absolutely no experience?
My answer to them is that managing a baseball team is not rocket science. It’s about leadership. Everything else can be learned. What Ventura doesn’t know about pitching, he’s got Don Cooper. What he needs to understand about other facets of the game he’ll have an experienced bench coach and another quiet professional in Harold Baines. And in time, Robin, who was a smart player and a consummate pro as well as being enormously popular, will know all he needs to know.
Nobody, including Ventura, knows how this will play out. But with high risk there’s high reward. And although Mr. Jobs most likely didn’t know the White Sox from the Red Sox or Stan Williams from “No Neck” Williams, I think he would have approved of this decision.
Last night, after the White Sox failed to score Alex Rios from third base with nobody out in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Indians, it felt like it just wasn’t going to be our night–and, more to the point, it’s just not our year.
The Sox ultimately survived the 14-inning, 5 hour and 21 minute marathon, 8-7, thanks to Juan Pierre‘s game-winning single, but it was a maddening night for those of us watching the game. A game that put us over the .500 mark for the first time since April and moved us to within a half-game of the second-place Tribe.
Here’s what I mean:
–The Sox collected an impressive 22 hits, led by Paul Konerko and Brent Morel with four each, but stranded 16 runners.
–We threatened the record books with five triples (Rios, Alejandro De Aza 2, Alexei Ramirez, Tyler Flowers), but only two of them scored.
–The bullpen outpenned the Cleveland pen, as all six full-time relievers saw action. But Chris Sale gave up a homer to Travis Hafner in the eighth and Sergio Santos blew a save in the ninth to allow the Indians to tie the game and send it into extras.
But in the end, the Sox were able to pull it out and there were a host of positives. In addition to Konerko, Morel, the five triples and a mostly solid bullpen, Pierre homered (only his second) and had three hits in all. De Aza also totaled three hits and two RBIs (he’s pictured above sliding in with one of his triples) while Flowers had a double and a single and drove in a run. Even a struggling Gordon Beckham came through with a 14th inning double and scored the winning run.
It was a long night and I’m still trying to wake up. I would be feeling a whole lot worse if the uplifting win was, instead, a disheartening loss.