Just because I haven’t posted lately, it doesn’t mean I’m not eagerly awaiting the 2012 season. And it makes it more fun when the so-called experts, who frankly don’t have much more insight than those of us fans that follow the game closely, predict doomsday for our Sox.
Things seem to be coming together with a week to go before the opener against the defending A.L. champion Rangers. The remaining roster spots are in the bullpen and on the bench.
It looks like the pen will shape up with Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Will Ohman, Addison Reed and Hector Santiago with two of the following five fighting it out for the two remaining spots: Eric Stults, Brian Bruney, Nate Jones, Zack Stewart and Dylan Axelrod. The specific roles, including the annointment of the closer, are yet to be determined. The most interesting candidates are the rookie Reed, who closed for Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State, and Santiago, a New Jersey native who has impressed everyone in Glendale with an effective screwball.
If nothing unusual happens, Eduardo Escobar has won the last spot among position players. He’s had a good enough spring and displayed enough infield versatility to prompt the Sox to send the likes of Dan Johnson, Dallas McPherson, Jim Gallagher and Jordan Danks back to minor league camp.
It’s so hard to know what this team is going to be. For now, let’s sit back, relax and watch the Robin Ventura era begin.
In less than two weeks (Monday, April 5), the White Sox open up the regular season against the Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.
Today, the Sox got a bit closer to their Opening Day 25-man roster by sending two players to Charlotte–pitcher Carlos Torres and catcher Tyler Flowers–and five others to their minor league camp. They include outfielder Jordan Danks, first baseman Josh Kroeger, third baseman Brent Morel, second baseman C.J. Retherford and pitcher Ryan Braun. There are now 32 left in the big league camp.
The likely scenario finds two roster spots yet to be filled. The Sox expect to take 12 pitchers north–starters Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Freddy Garcia and a bullpen of Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton, Scott Linebrink, Tony Pena, Randy Williams and one of the following: Sergio Santos (pictured below), Dan Hudson, Greg Aquino, Erick Threets and Charlie Leesman. The best bet to make it is Santos, who is out of options and has been very impressive this spring.
The other spot, a backup infielder/outfielder, will probably go to either frontrunner Jayson Nix, who is out of options, or Brent Lillibridge. The wild card here is if the Sox decide to go with red-hot outfielder Alejandro De Aza instead of Nix or Lillibridge. Or, they could go with 11 pitchers and take both De Aza and Nix/Lillibridge (pictured below, left to right, under the watchful eye their skipper). One last possibility, admittedly remote, is to take a 13th pitcher instead of the extra position player.
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.
* 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.
* J — Bobby 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.
* 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.
* L — Scott 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.
* 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.
* Q — Carlos 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.
* 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.
* W — Randy 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).