Tagged: Jim Thome

Mauer, Morneau and All That Gang are on the  Way

In promoting upcoming series, White Sox Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Bob Elson would say something to the effect of, “Folks, come out to the ballpark for a big series this weekend. The New York Yankees will be here with Mantle, Maris, Berra and all that gang.”

That was a half-century ago, but if Elson were around today he’d talk about the Minnesota Twins with Mauer, Morneau, Span, Kubel, Hudson, Thome and all that gang descending on The Cell for a three-game series this weekend.
After watching the Sox the past two nights, it doesn’t appear that it’s the best time for the South Siders to challenge the Twins. Two straight 5-3 losses to the Indians with weak hitting and bullpen woes have not given Sox fans a great impression of what’s to come in 2010. Plus the Twins are on fire, taking three of four from the Angels in Anaheim.
The pitching matchups:
Friday: John Danks vs. Francisco Liriano
Saturday: Freddy Garcia vs. Scott Baker
Sunday: Mark Buehrle vs. Nick Blackburn

As Hawk would say, strap it down. Joe Nathan is nowhere to be found, but the M & M boys will no doubt make ther presence known.
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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…

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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Sometimes in Baseball, Down is Up and Up is Down

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GLENDALE, AZ–Former major league catcher and broadcaster Joe Garagiola once wrote a book called Baseball is a Funny Game. Indeed. Very often what you expect to be your strength is your weakness and vice versa.
This notion can certainly be applied to the White Sox DH situation. Many have been skeptical about the current rotation of Andruw Jones (pictured above), Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel with others like Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko getting some playing time there to get a breather during the course of the long season. Many thought the Sox should have signed Jim Thome or made a bigger push for Johnny Damon before he signed with the Tigers.
Granted, we’re still in the middle of spring training, but the Sox DH scenario is looking awfully good. Following Jones’s 2 for 3 day yesterday where he doubled, stole a base and smacked a three-run homer in the 5-1 win over the Dodgers, the former Braves All-Star is now hitting .400 with seven RBI, three stolen bases, a .500 on base mark and .750 slugging percentage. Equally as significant, he’s in great physical shape. Kotsay, an Ozzie favorite, is batting .391 with a .500 on base percentage, five RBI and a trio of thefts.
Sox notes of note: While the DH situation may be a pleasant surprise, if yesterday is any indication, the Sox strength–pitching–will certainly continue to be so. Jake Peavy led the staff, giving up one run and one hit with six strikeouts in five innings to get the victory. Matt Thornton, Tony Pena, Scott Linebrink and Carlos Torres each pitched one scoreless inning…The South Siders have made more roster moves. First baseman Dayan Viciedo, outfielder Stefan Gartrell and pitcher Jeff Marquez were optioned to Charlotte while pitcher Daniel Cabrera and outfielder Jason Botts were released…There was a lot of White Sox talk at my dinner last night with former Sox and Arizona Cardinals PR guru Paul Jensen, who now promotes Camelback Ranch, and longtime Sox and Bulls TV producer Jim Angio…Sox enjoy their only off-day of the spring today with the Cubs looming at Camelback on Friday. The game is a sellout.

Sox-wise and Otherwise

My final weekly offseason musings on the White Sox and more. In just two days, four hours and 56 minutes, pitchers and catchers officially report and the 2010 season will be underway.

My Random Thoughts Heading into Spring Training:

*  He’s coming, he’s not coming, he’s coming, he’s not coming, he’s…That’s basically what we’ve been through this week with Johnny Damon. I’m through guessing what will happen. We’ll just have to wait and see and deal with the decision when it comes down. And it very well could be determined before you read this. Who knows?

*  As I look ahead to the 2010 Sox, I can’t help but think that the two keys to whether or not we make the playoffs will be Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios. While the personality of the team will change, putting a priority on pitching, speed, versatility and defense, there still needs to be some significant power now that Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome are no longer on the South Side. Quentin and Rios must rebound from last year whether or not the other factors listed above prove successful.

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 *  Speaking of Jermaine, it’s painful to see he’s still on the outside, looking for a decent
deal. Despite his horrible second half in 2009, you have to think he can help someone. Here’s hoping the news of him signing is imminent. Dye, like the other 2005 guys, holds a special place for us. Even more special for Jermaine, considering he was the World Series MVP.

*  I’m looking forward to seeing Jordan Danks and Jared Mitchell in spring training. It doesn’t seem like either outfielder will make the 25-man roster, but Danks is right on the cusp and actually could make the jump at some point this year. Mitchell is a couple of years away, but inviting him to major league camp is a smart idea–he’ll get a jump start on getting acclimated to major league life.

*  I love this. Jerry Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen will be featured in The Club, an original reality series on the MLB Network The show will follow the Sox braintrust to provide “unprecedented behind-the-scenes access” to a major league front office. The Club premieres Sunday, July 4 at 8:00pm, ET.

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*  By the way, has Damon signed yet?

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Where Have All the Ex-White Sox Gone?

While Sox favorites Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede are still looking for new homes, a number of other former Pale Hosers are with new teams–for example, Jim Thome (Twins), Jose Contreras (Phillies), Scott Podsednik (Royals) and Jon Garland (Padres). The following is a list of the most recent ex-Sox to sign: one fairly significant, the others not so much.

610x.jpg*  The well-traveled, but talented, shortstop Orlando Cabrera is now with the
    Cincinnati Reds. For the record, this is the “fairly significant” signing.

Timo Perez, a reserve outfielder on the 2005 World Champs, signed a minor league
    deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Josh Fogg, a one-time closer candidate for the Sox, inked a minor league
    pact with the New York Mets.

*  Lefty hurler Jimmy Gobble, who had a cup of coffee with the Sox, is now with the
    Colorado Rockies after agreeing to a minor league contract.

*  Catcher Gustavo Molina, not related to Bengie, Jose and Yadier, signed a minor
    league agreement with the Boston Red Sox.

*  Pitcher Horacio Ramirez, who had a short stint with the South Siders, just signed
   with the San Francisco Giants on a minor league deal.