It’s going to be a spring like no other in recent years. As opposed to the past few seasons when the conventional wisdom was that the White Sox were bonafide contenders, there is virtually no one on the outside that is predicting success for the Sox in 2012.
It all starts tomorrow as pitchers and catchers officially report with a group of position players who want to get a head start.
The good news is that there are surprise teams each year that fool the so-called experts. As I’ve stated in this space before, I have no idea how the Sox are going to fare, but they very well could have the makings of one of the teams that will fool the baseball world. If…
* Robin Ventura takes to this managing thing.
* Adam Dunn is the Adam Dunn of old.
* Gordon Beckham reverts to the success of his rookie season.
* Alex Rios plays like he did in 2010.
* Matt Thornton, Addison Reed or someone else becomes a competent closer
* Jake Peavy is close to his previous Cy Young form and he and his fellow starters–John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Phil Humber and newly-appointed rotation member Chris Sale–make up for the innings lost with Mark Buehrle‘s departure.
We’ll have to wait on these and other issues, but my gut tells me things aren’t going to be as dark as everyone is saying.
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
I’m going to miss Our Ozzie.
I’ll miss his bewildering stream of conciousness, his fall-down-laughing humor, his solid managing and his debunking of the Cubs and Wrigley Field. Most of all, though, I’ll miss that we had “one of us” at the helm of the White Sox who no longer will be the face of the franchise.
Having said all that as a fan of Ozzie since he put on the Sox uniform in 1985 and one who saw him guide the Sox to a World Series title, it’s time for the skipper, and for us, to move on. Nothing lasts forever and it became obvious when Ozzie began campaigning for a contract extension. Sorry, Oz, but that was bad timing if you really wanted to stay in Chicago. A contract extension after presiding over one of the most disappointing seasons in the teams’s history? There was no way that was going to fly with the Chairman.
So, what now? I think it would be an exercise in futility to try and find someone as colorful and fits as perfectly as Ozzie did in the context of his Sox bloodline. That person doesn’t exist. That’s not to say we won’t hire an outstanding manager with the potential of getting better results–even someone with a high profile who will help bring the fans back into the fold. But there’s only one Ozzie and we shouldn’t look for a clone.
The names of candidates are out there, though Kenny Williams hasn’t tipped his hand. Tony LaRussa is a longshot at best. There’s Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar, Jr., up and coming AAA manager Joe McEwing, former manager and Sox player development director Buddy Bell, among them. Williams has said that because of Ozzie’s “warning” the Sox already have been focusing on a possible replacement and the decision could come sooner than later.
Last offseason, the Sox were “All In” for 2011. This offseason there undoubtedly will be substantial changes. A new manager, certainly new coaches and a belt-tightening that might see more familiar names–like Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton and Carlos Quentin–leaving as well.
It’s a time of change on the South Side. While I’ll miss Ozzie and some of the others, an overhaul is the right thing to do. We need to move on.
It’s never a good thing when your starting pitcher gives up six runs–highlighted by two homers and three doubles–in the first inning. But the White Sox, despite Jake Peavy‘s early meltdown, gave it a shot this afternoon and came up one run short in the 7-6 loss to the Twins. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had their chances to be heroes in the ninth, but didn’t deliver. Sound familiar?
So, the five game winning streak is history and we sink to six games behind the Tigers, who staged a late-inning rally for a come-from-behind triumph over the Royals.
Now the fun begins as we head to Detroit for a three-game series after tomorrow’s off-day. The pitching matchups:
Friday night: John Danks vs. Justin Verlander, he of the 20 wins–already.
Saturday afternoon: Gavin Floyd vs. Brad Penny
Sunday night: Mark Buehrle vs. Matt Scherzer
Look at the bright side, it’s the end of August and we’re still alive.
Duh, yeah, Alex Rios, you’re right about that: “The more wins we get, the better off we will be.”
I guess the White Sox centerfielder could be excused for his Yogism after he had a lot to do with the White Sox’s rare laugher this afternoon as they blanked the defending American League champion Rangers, 10-0. It was a banner day for the beleaguered Rios both at bat and in the field.
On a day like this when everything is clicking, it’s a pleasure to look at the box score:
–The South Siders scored 10 runs on 16 hits.
–Homers were cranked by Rios and Brent Lillibridge.
–A three-hit day was enjoyed by Lillibridge while Rios, Juan Pierre, Paul Konerko,Tyler Flowers, Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham had two hits apiece. The only Sox player without a hit was Alexei Ramirez, but he scored a run after drawing a walk.
–Other offensive highlights included a three RBI day by De Aza, two apiece by Pierre, Lillibridge and Rios and Flowers’ three runs scored.
—Gavin Floyd was outstanding as he won his 11th game. In seven innings, he gave up just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Chris Sale pitched a scoreless eighth and Jason Frasor struck out the side in the ninth.
–The only blemishes were the two errors, one by Lilli and one by Alexei.
With the victory the Sox are back at .500. They remain five games in back of the Tigers and are now just a half-game behind the Indians.
Sox Note of Note: It’s likely that Carlos Quentin won’t be back in the lineup until the end of the week at the earliest. The possibility of him being put on the DL is still there with Dayan Viciedo waiting in the wings.
Yesterday’s blog featured a photo that included Monday night heroes A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Sergio Santos celebrating after the game. Also in the photo was Brent Morel, who went 0 for 4 and committed what could have been a fatal fielding error if the Sox hadn’t rallied to win.
What a difference a day makes. Last night, Morel bounced back and was at the center of the offense as the Sox won their fifth in a row, 4-3. He drove in the Sox’s second run in the second inning with a single and homered in the fourth to widen the Pale Hose lead to 4-0.
While Morel’s bat, along with Carlos Quentin‘s 24th homer and Pierzynski’s RBI double, paced the attack, it was the shutdown bullpen that was most impressive as it held the O’s to only the three runs they scored off starter Gavin Floyd in the fifth. Granted, the pen hasn’t been perfect as evidenced by Jesse Crain surrendering the three-run homer to J.J. Hardy on Monday. But the talent and versatility that Ozzie has at his disposal gives the Sox an advantage over most of their opponents.
Here was last night’s scenario:
* Despite showing signs of tiring, Floyd began the seventh. He gave up a double to Felix Pie, who moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Floyd then retired the red-hot J.J. Hardy on a grounder to third. Two outs, runner on third, Sox killer Nick Markakis at the plate. Ozzie makes the call to the pen and lefty Will Ohman ends the threat by striking out Markakis.
* Jason Frasor came on to start the eighth. He walked Adam Jones and struck out Vlad Guerrero. With the lefty Chris Davis coming up, Ozzie called on Chris Sale, who retired Davis on a popup and then struck out Mark Reynolds.
* Instead of calling on Santos to begin the ninth, the skipper chose to have Sale face switch-hitter Matt Wieters. He struck him out. With the Orioles opting to call on Josh Bell to pinch-hit for lefty Felix Pie against Sale, Ozzie decided to stay with his lefthander. Bell grounded out to shortstop. Two outs, nobody on.
*Making his final move, Ozzie then called on Santos to face righthanded hitter Robert Andino and he proceeded to strike him out, the way he did with the three batters he faced the night before. For Santos, save number 24.
And at the risk of burying the lead, the Indians extra-inning win over the Tigers helped the Sox narrow the Detroit lead to four games. A win tonight and the Sox are back at the .500, something we doubted might happen again this season after last week’s four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees.
Rejoice White Sox fans, we’re back at .500 and seemingly on a roll after a nice, efficient 3-1 victory last night against the Red Sox.
Suddenly, things seem a lot bright brighter than they did a few days ago. Whether it’s the series victory over the Tigers, the emotional impact of the Edwin Jackson trade, the continued outstanding pitching, the callup of Alejandro De Aza and benching of Alex Rios or all the above, much more optimism is evident throughout White Sox Nation.
Certainly one of the biggest recent boosts has been the resurgence of Gavin Floyd, who lately has been lights out. In seven innings of work against Boston last evening he gave up a lone run (a homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia) on three hits with five strikeouts and in the process evened his record to 9-9. The offense, which is still not where it should be, provided just enough, highlighted by A.J. Pierzynski‘s two-run, seventh inning home run.
Three games back of Detroit and just a half-game behind second place Cleveland, it seems the Sox are going to make a serious run. But before I get too crazy, we still have two more games against the Red Sox, four vs. the Yankees and three in Minnesota. And who knows what trades are going to be made in the next two days that will impact the club.
I guess all that will take care itself. But, for now, like the Sox I’m back in the game.