February 2007

Mulligan

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007

Can We Do That Again?

So let’s see … Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Bobby Jenks on the mound, you figure our chances are pretty good in our Cactus League opener.  WRONG.

On a windy, cold day (for Tucson), the Rockies handed us a 12-4 defeat.  We really aren’t very good in February.  But the good news is that March comes tomorrow.

The better news is that although Bobby Jenks left his scheduled inning after facing two batters, his issue was tightness in his right shoulder (no pain) and the move was more precationary than anything else.  He will be re-evaluated tomorrow.

Ozzie on the Game

"This will sound kind of funny, but I liked what I saw from Buehrle," Guillen said, of his left-hander.  "Gar wasn’t attacking the strike zone.

"Overall, this was a bad game.  It’s so cold and windy.  You didn’t know where the ball was going.  It was tough to evaluate."

Tomorrow

The Sox play split-squad games against Arizona (here) and at Colorado.

The lineups:

Vs. Arizona

Owens, CF

Valido, SS

Thome, DH

Dye, RF

Mackowiak, LF

Fields, 3B

Hall, C

Rogowski, 1B

Lopez, 2B

Vazquez, RHP

At Colorado

Ozuna, LF

Sweeney, RF

Crede, 3B

E. Perez, 1B

Spivey, 2B

W. Gonzalez, C

Terrero, CF

A. Gonzalez, SS

Phillips, P

Competition Is A Good Thing

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Today In Camp

Today was a day of friendly competition in camp.  Following this morning’s annual meeting with our team and the MLBPA (Player’s Association), our team headed out onto the fields around 10:30 am.

Part of the day’s schedule included competition between two teams in a situational hitting contest.  Each team roared as players competed in various skills inside the batter’s box.

Pitchers took turns fielding sharply hit balls back at them.  A coach hit fungo shots at them with a soft baseball as they practiced fielding the come-bakcers.  Mark Buehrle took a turn wearing Jon Garland’s glove (and imitating Jon’s dropped throw from last year, remember the one that actually fell behind him), while Garland fielded one round using Buehrle’s glove (no errors).  Safe to say that our starting pitchers might be the best fielding pitchers in baseball.

Tomorrow’s Lineup

Competition begins for real tomorrow with the first Cactus League game of the spring as the Sox play host to the Rockies.

Our lineup:

Erstad, LF

Iguchi, 2B

Thome, DH

PK, 1B

Dye, RF

AJ, C

Crede, 3B

Anderson, CF

Uribe, SS

Observations, Quips and Grimaces

Monday, February 26, 2007

Observations, Quips and Grimaces From Today’s Intrasquad Game

Josh Fields went 2-2 with a home run and three RBI to lead the Thomes to a 7-5 win over the Konerkos in today’s intrasquad action on the back fields of the White Sox complex in Tucson.

Juan Uribe was 2-2 with a double and run scored, and Tad Iguchi went 2-2 with two RBI for the victors.  Kenny Perez and Brian Anderson led the Konerkos with two hits apiece.

Nick Masset (2 ER/1.1 IP) earned the victory in relief, while Eduardo Sierra (3 ER/1.0 IP) took the loss.  Charlie Haeger (1 ER) and Jose Contreras (4 ER) were the only pitchers to throw 2.0 IP.  Starter Gavin Floyd left the game in the first inning (0.2 IP) with a slight sprain of his right ankle.  It is not serious, and he is expected to take part in drills tomorrow.

Now for the behind-the-scenes stuff …

Before the first pitch, assistant general manager Rick Hahn pointed out, "We’ve never been a very good February team."

The first ball of the game was hit to shortstop Juan Uribe.

"Don’t hit it to Uribe," someone shouted, "He’s on a work-release program."

When Charlie Haeger hit Joe Crede with a knuckleball in the first inning, the slo-motion incident drew oohhs and ahhhs from the bench.

"He should be ashamed to take a base after getting hit with a knuckleball," Ozzie Guillen said.

"He should have caught it," a quick-witted scribe replied.

"Hey, Dwayne Wade," AJ Pierzynski offered.  "Need a wheel chair?"

(Please remember sarcastic, clubhouse comments can be a bit biting at times.  It is nearly always meant in fun … nearly).

The intrasquad game takes place on one of the back fields.  Writers, coaches, staff (like me) and scouts stand just 15 feet from home plate.  You literally can feel the bat hit the ball.  It is amazing how fast the game becomes when you sit that close.

Off to the side, pitcher Javier Vazquez spent time playing ball with his young son and riding around in a spare golf cart with the youngster.

With player after player running on the basepaths (three stolen bases, two caught stealing), Guillen noted, "I like that."  He sent Brian Anderson in the second inning with a whistle and a wave of the hand.

As Haeger came in to warm up to start the second inning, he tossed a catcher’s mitt to AJ.  The mitt, more like a first baseman’s glove, really, is used only to catch the knuckleball.

At one point, Guillen danced away from an annoying bee.

"That thing might bite you, and you might be dead in this desert."

As Andrew Sisco retired the first two hitters he faced, Guillen applauded, "Attaboy.  Attack the strike zone."  Sisco walked the next two and left the mound chiding himself.

At another point, Ozzie turned to Pat O’Connell of our media relations department (Pat was scoring the game) and asked, joking, "What’s the inning Rosey?" (Bob Rosenberg is the longtime official scorer at most White Sox games).

After the game, Guillen commented:

"I was pleased with the way we went about it today.   The team is hungry.  We want to feel the same way we did in 2005."

On the bullpen’s performance:

"The fight (for jobs) is going to be there all spring training.  They all have good arms.  It’s our job to make them better."

And on Brian Anderson’s day:

"Brian is an important part of our ballclub.  Last year, we had a lot of patience with him and took a lot of heat.  We need him to play like he can.  He had a good game today."

Sunday Stuff

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sights and Sounds From A Sunny Day In Spring Training

Hitting coach Greg Walker beginning a long day by heading out to the batting cages at 7 am with a coffee in hand.

Tomorrow’s Split Squad Lineups

For the Konerkos …

Ozuna, LF

Sweeney, RF

Konerko, 1B

AJ, C

Crede, 3B

Cintron, SS

Eddie Perez, DH

Anderson, CF

Spivey, 2B

Contreras pitching

For the Thomes …

Erstad, CF

Iguchi, 2B

Thome, DH

Dye, RF

Mackowiak, LF

Fields, 3B

Uribe, SS

Hall, C

Rogowski, 1B

Floyd pitching

Thoughts and Quotes from Ozzie Guillen

Ozzie said Josh Fields would spend about 20 percent of his time in the outfield this spring and 80 percent at third base.  "Right now, my headache is that I have a lot of outfielders.  The kind of year he had, he should be in the Big Leagues.  But he has a Gold Glover ahead of him.  If he’s not going to play every day, it’d be a crime not to use him (and have him sit on our bench)."

Ozzie said Darin Erstad is concentrating on the outfield, although they will have him take ground balls at first base.  "I don’t want him to be moving back and forth," Guillen said, adding he would only use Erstad at first if he has to pinch run for Konerko in certain situations.

"I know he can help us," Guillen said of Eduardo Perez, who is battling with several guys for a roster position.  Perez is playing first and can help in the outfield.  He real value comes against left-handed pitching.

On The Trades

Ozzie was asked for his evaluation — on Feb. 25 — of the team’s offseason trades:

"I am real satisfied with the trades Kenny made," Guillen said.  "I think they made us better this year and in 2008, 2009.  I like what I see.  Both of the guys from Texas could be here helping us now and into the future.  They were fair trades, but I think we got the advantage because we got four pitchers for two.

"Did we need to make this trade?  Yes.  We needed a better bullpen."

Which led Guillen to talk about his potential bullpen staff.

"Look at the guys’ arms we have," he said.  "We have a closer each inning, from the fifth or sixth inning on.  I’m talking about closer stuff, not necessarily makeup.  But from inning five, six through nine, we can close people down.

Always a Laugh

From today’s briefing:

"Hermie told me that AJ is a little slow running the bases," Guillen said. (AJ’s ankle is a little sore).  "I told him, no kidding, what have you been watching over the past two years?"

"They asked Freddy Garcia (now with Philly) who was crazier, Charlie Manuel or Guillen?  I won.  I’m the No. 1 crazy guy."

 

Slumpering Saturday

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Quiet Saturday

Not much out of the ordinary happened today in camp.  It was tough to work out in the chilly air.  The skies were clear, bright and sunny, but it struggled to warm up all morning.  I doubt that anyone in Chicago today wants to read me complaining about the temperature.

Photo Day

Coaches and players took part in photo day this morning, the annual day set aside for MLB Licensees (card companies, photo agencies, broadcasters, etc) to take posed photos and head shots for the year.  These are the images you see on scoreboards and during broadcasts throughout the year.  So if guys look a little sleepy in these pictures, now you know why.

Pitching

Ozzie Guillen talked about his pitching for the intrasquad game on Monday and the first spring training games next week.

Monday’s intrasquad game matches Gavin Floyd, Charlie Haeger and Nick Masset against Jose Contreras, Oneli Perez, Andrew Sisco, David Aardsma and Eduardo Sierra.

Ozzie mentioned that he is most interested in seeing the new guys throw, mentioning Sisco, Aardsma, Danks and Masset.

On Wednesday against Colorado, the Sox will pitch Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, John Danks, Mike MacDougal, Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton.

Thursday vs. Arizona is Vazquez, Broadway, Sisco, Aardsma, Gonzalez and Buckvich, while at Colorado will be Phillips, Haeger, Russell, Malone, Tracey, Logan and C. Vazquez.

On Friday at Arizona, we throw Contreras, Floyd, Whisler, Day, Reynoso and Perez.

All Uribe

Friday, February 23, 2007

Juan Arrives!

After spending much of yesterday traveling after his court hearing in the Domincan, Juan Uribe came into camp bright and early this morning, took part in workouts and then met with the media.

"I’m gald to be here and glad to be part of the team again," he said through a translator.  "This whole incident has been tough for me and my family. I’m glad it’s over."

Uribe again reiterated his innocence in the entire incident, which occured in the Dominican on October 13.  While the issue may arise again when he returns to the Domincan after the season ends, Uribe should not miss any time during the summer, according to his agent, Martin Arburua.

"Juan has no more requirements related to the case," Arburua said.  "There is a hearing on March 17 regarding the other two individuals, but Juan is not required to attend.  He has no legal obligation to return to the Dominican during the season."

Several reporters questioned Uribe, Arburua and manager Ozzie Guillen about the safety of Latin players returning to their countries during the offseason.

"It’s hard for us to leave our countries," Guillen said.  "It would be hard for me to live without Venezuela.  We’re heroes there and people look up to us.

"But this does send a message to be careful."

Uribe said his accuser repeatedly approached him asking for money.

"But I waited it out, and waited it out, and now everything is fine," he said.  But Uribe said one incident won’t make him change his mind about spending the winters in his small hometown.

"You can’t blame an entire city or country for the actions of one guy," Uribe said.

Ozzie On His Shortstop

"We need him to get on base more, score more runs and strike out less," Guillen said.  "We need him to have a good year and the key for him is to stay in shape.  He’s working with Joey (Cora) here every day."

John Danks

Threw today and stopped by my office to pick up his complimentary Titleist golf balls from playing in Monday’s charity tourney.

"The way I play, I need all of these," he said.  We then watched Tiger Woods hit a drive way right during today’s match play action.  "That looks like me."

Bald Bobby

Bobby Jenks has agreed to shave his head to raise money for the St. Balderick’s Foundation.  Details to follow in later posts …

"

First Full Squad Day

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Full Squad

In some ways, today was the first day of spring with the entire squad (minus Gustavo Molina and Juan Uribe) in camp.

It was a busy day, with physicals completed this morning, a team meeting with Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen at 9 am and a workout from 10 am to about 12:30 pm.

Afterward, Paul Konerko and Ozzie sat down and talked with the media.

Ozzie

Once again Ozzie had the team laughing during his speech.   He made important points — this team has the talent to win, we need to prove ourselves, you need to respect each other and become a team — and he also made some humorous comments that need to stay in the clubhouse.  Ozzie spoke to the media some about what he said, so you can check that out on our website later today.

One point Ozzie stressed was that he doesn’t want contract status to become a distraction.

"I don’t want people caught up in that every day," he said.  "Konerko is a good example.  He played through his contract year and you didn’t hear a lot about it."

Paul Konerko echoed his manager.

"I went through it in 2005," Konerko said.  "It’s hard but once the season starts, it’s uncomfortable talking about yourself and not the team.  In Mark, Tadahito and JD, I don’t think we have players like that, who want to be distractions from what the team is trying to do."

Ozzie was pretty pointed when he talked about last postseason.

"Watching the playoffs from the couch was hard.  Expecting to make the playoffs and not, that hurt.  It hurt a lot."

Daily Schedule

While it changes slightly each day, tomorrow’s schedule looks like this (in response to Mark Liptak’s question about how much we work on fundamentals during the spring … "We" meaning players, not PR guys).

7 am … clubhouse opens

8:15 … clubhouse opens to media

8:30-9 … Early work by position, catchers batting practice

9:15-9:20 am … Meet in uniform on Field 4

9:20-9:50 … stretch

9:50-10 … Throwing program, broken down by position

10-10:20 … Defensive work by position

10:20-10:35 … Fundamentals (PFP) … outfielders hit in cages

10:35-10:40 … water break

10:40-11:40 … Batting practice on six fields (Coaches BP) … Baserunning (bunt, man on second, no outs)

10:40-11:40 … Live BP (pitchers throwing) … baserunning, sliding

11:40 … Conditioning

Practice ends around 12:40 with some players staying until late in the afternoon working out

Intrasquad

Is scheduled for Feb. 26 on the back fields (open to fans) … start time probably mid to late morning.

One For The Ages

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

WOW

I didn’t post yesterday because I was taking part in our annual Dbacks/White Sox Charity Golf Outing in Tucson.

If you read my post from Sunday, you’d know that many of our coaches and players joined Dbacks players and staff to play with four others in an outing at The Gallery (site of the Accenture Match Play Tourney) to benefit local charities.

One of the perks we get is that the Sox receive a foursome for the front office types who don’t really qualify as celebrities (i.e. me).  So MG, RB, EC and I joined Nick Masset as a fivesome (names withheld to protect the guilty).

The first hole was uneventful (except for two amazing shots I hit into a 30 mph wind on a Par 5 to make par). 

Then came the second home, a Par 3, and one of the most spine-chilling golf stories I’ve ever experienced (and it did not involve a rattlesnake or a mountain lion).

After hitting our tee shots (only one of which, not mine, actually hit the green), we headed toward the green.  MG and EC were in one cart.  I was in the other with RB.  EC stepped out and stretched his club into the cactus brush to snag his ball.

As he reached forward, MG warned to watch the cactus, called jumping Cholla because it literally leaps onto you as a heat-seeking missle (or so the Tucson natives tell us Chicagoans).  Sure enough, BAM, a grenade-sized piece of the cactus launches into the back of EC’s hand.  He yells in pain.

Now, we needed a television camera for the next five minutes as four "dumb" Chicago natives tried to tackle one grapefruit-sized cactus.  MG wrapped two towels around EC’s hand, while we tried to use a golf club to peel this thing off him.  With his hand down on the cart path, I grabbed the end of the club.  With a jump and a shout, the cactus came off … and flew up right into MG’s right eye (this is not a joke).

Holy ****. 

MG is staggered (these things really hurt).  We all are thinking, "Oh, my God, this thing just stuck him in the eye."

We sit MG down in the cart and I begin driving, racing back to the clubhouse (which seems like its suddenly 10 miles away).  RB and EC and right behind me. (We left Nick standing on the green wondering what was going on).

I pull up in front of the clubhouse and people are gawking at MG, who has this large cactus hanging out of his right eye, eyebrow, nose and cheek.

"We need a paramedic … Now"

Of course it seems like it takes 15 minutes for help to arrive.  MG is unbelievably cool and controlled, despite what must hurt like …

I get on the phone with our team eye doctor and try to explain what is going on and that if we end up at a hospital, we might need his expertise.

I’m thinking worse case (it must be genetic).  I see a night at the hospital, intricate eye surgery, possible vision loss.  This could be bad.

The EMTs arrive, four of them, in an ambulance and off the Accenture Course.

The first guy walks up and says, "Wow."

(Now, if you are a trained EMT, who I assume has taken courses and seen all kinds of gory tragic incidents involving human beings, I think the LAST thing you should say when you walk up to a conscious victim is, "WOW.")

But anyway …

The four of them are great.  They try to determine if it punctured his eyelid (imagine that conversation).  Decide it did not.  And one of the bravest of the brave takes this cactus by the end, says, "This might hurt at bit" and yanks it out of MG’s eye, leaving quills and bloody marks.

Queasy yet?

After blinking for a minute, MG seems all right.  They check him out, tell him what to look for, I report back to our eye doctor, and what do we do?

Of course, we go out and finish the round of golf.

If that’s not the definition of "Back to the Grind" then I don’t know what is.

MG went on to post three pars after the encounter with the Cholla, but alas, we failed to finish among the tourney’s top teams.

But oh, what a story.

I was told that Livan Hernandez of the Dbacks won the tourney with his team, while our Javier Vazquez finished second with his team.

Mike Gellinger finished first in my book.

Favorite Position

Sorry for that pun, but …

Joe Crede was in the house today.  Jermaine Dye yesterday.  The day itself was pretty typical of Day 3 in camp, boring.  PFP (pitcher fielding practice), throwing off the mounds, etc.

Day 2 In Tucson

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Day 2 Thoughts

I paid for my weather comments from yesterday.  Today broke cooler, say 60 degrees, overcast and windy.  If we hadn’t been in Chicago three days ago, you might even call this cold.

Tomorrow is supposed to bring the same, with a chance for rain.  Our annual Tucson charity golf outing with the Dbacks takes place tomorrow afternoon at The Gallery Golf Course.  The course is amazing and many of our players are looking forward to taking part.  Along with GM Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, Toby Hall, Charlie Haeger (last year’s champion), Bobby Jenks, Javier Vazquez, Gavin Floyd, Harold Baines (he is still trying to break that piece of glass from last spring’s Big Break episode), John Danks, Ryan Buckvich, Kevin Hickey, Mark Salas, Art Kusyner, Matt Thornton, Andrew Sisco, Nick Masset and David Aardsma are scheduled to take part.

Our event is held in conjunction with the PGA’s Accenture Match Play Championship, which features the top 64 players in the world.  That tourney begins Wednesday on the Gallery’s South Course.

Many of our guys are looking forward to catching some of the pros in action.

Ozzie’s Thoughts From the Day

About watching the second batch of pitchers throw a bullpen:

"When you have lots of kids in camp, you are always excited because of how hard they throw.  But they need to throw the ball over the plate.  It’s about confidence in your pitches.  When you are a power pitcher and can throw the ball over the plate, you’re going to have success."

Guillen pointed out that Jenks and Thornton are both power pitchers who were "helped" by coming to the White Sox.

"Right now, everybody’s throwing shutouts," Guillen said to laughter.

Ozzie was very impressed today by the bullpen session by Gio Gonzalez.

Darin Erstad

One of the very first position players in camp is Darin Erstad, who is recovering from ankle surgery this fall.  He looks great running and swinging in the batting cage.

"There’s a 10-year veteran chasing down balls and doing drills the right way," Guillen said.  "He’s hungry and has a great attitude.  I want the young kids to look at him and say, ‘Wow, there’s a guy I want to copy.’

"That’s the way people should play the game," Guillen said, "and it’s the way to begin to play the game."

First Sight of the Spring

Was pitcher Sean Tracey peddling into spring training on a radio flyer bike with a World War II helmet on his head (at least he had a helmet on).  It reminded me of Scott Radinksy, who used to bike to camp in Sarasota each day from Siesta Key.

SoxFest Leftovers

Great story from Paul Konerko and Robin Ventura.  It seems that Konerko was in Texas with a U-18 U.S. Baseball team.  Before the White Sox vs. Rangers game that night, the entire team met with Ventura, then a star with the Sox, who also was Mr. U.S.A. Baseball.

Ventura spoke to the team about playing baseball at the international level and about how important sportsmanship is to the game.

Konerko then watched from the bleachers that night as Nolan Ryan drilled RV and Robin charged the mound in that famous (or infamous) fracas.

While in Chicago for SoxFest, Robin took his wife Stephanie out to dinner.  I asked him about the evening and dinner.  We took the train, he said.

"Wait," I asked him.  "You couldn’t spring for a limo or even a taxi?  You actually took the Blue Line?"

Finally

Some SoxFest attendees might have been surprised to see Jim Thome, A.J. Pierzynski and Darin Erstad make appearances.

Thome actually re-scheduled a trip to Las Vegas for a charity event in order to see his teammates on Friday at the Palmer House Hilton.  A.J. shot up to Chicago for one day between a doctor’s appointment for his wife and her eventually birth of a son the next week (congrats to the Pierzynski’s on the birth of son, AJ).  And Erstad wanted to stick around, meet his new teammates and Sox fans, and find a home for the summer in the Chicago area.

This sense of team is what makes these guys so special.

Wolf Hound

I stood in the hallway just outside our clubhouse talking to Jim Thome the other day when a "wolf-hound" appeared in the hall, just outside the weight room door.

"Is that supposed to be here," I asked, "because around here you can’t always tell." (I’m thinking coyote or something).

"That’s Matt’s (Thornton’s) dog," Thome said, chuckling.

You can never be sure.

Finally

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007

About Time

After a computer hiccup from Tucson yesterday, finally, I am able to post.  And finally, after a long, cold winter (especially in Chicago the last few weeks), the White Sox took the field this morning for a workout.

First the pitchers and catchers went through morning physicals with our media workroom turned into a lab, complete with the lingering smell of rubbing alchohol.

Several new faces in the clubhouse this year and part of the morning dealt with introductions.  Several of the new pitchers, Andrew Sisco, Gavin Floyd among them, are huge (in a good way).  With Matt Thornton and Andrew Sisco, you won’t find a team with larger left-handers.

Spring Training’s routine doesn’t change.  Stretching, followed by playing catch, pitcher-fielding-practice (which after last October no one jokes about) and defensive drills.  Then the pitching staff, which is broken into Group A and Group B throws bullpens on a row of mounds.  Today was Group A’s turn, while Group B goes tomorrow.

Among the impressive sights on the first day were how Mark Buehrle threw the ball and the live arms of several of the young players.

Javier Vazquez only took part in the workout for a few minutes today before being sidelined with the stomach flu.  Carlos Vazquez felt tightness in his hamstring so did not throw.  Both are expected to feel better tomorrow.

After a long, too quiet winter for this blog (I apologize again), my goal is to begin posting each day with news, notes, quotes and comments from camp.

News that I am climbing back into the blog saddle again will be met with cheers and jeers from various readers, so feel free to let me have it.

Tucson’s temperature today is around 80 with not a cloud in the sky.  Don’t hate the messenger.  Don’t worry, Chicago, spring will come.

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