February 2008

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Photo by Ron Vesely

Friday, February 27, 2008

Today’s Game

Two in a row!  Break us up.  At 2-1, we’re off to our best spring training start since going 3-0 in 2004.  Of course, that and a quarter will get you …

But the good news …

Jerry Owens went 2-4 with an RBI, Jeff Liefer 2-4, Juan Uribe 2-3 and the Sox pounded out 13 hits in the 7-5 win.

"It’s about experience and confidence," Ozzie Guillen said about Owens, who led off.  "I told him, ‘Let your ability take over and do it.’  The opportunity is there.  He needs to take advantage of it."

Mark Buehrle started as was his usual efficient self over two innings.

"Great," Guillen said.  "Great outing.  He wanted to pich another inning but we wouldn’t let him."

Mike MacDougal scuffled in his 1.0 IP, allowing three runs as the Dbacks pulled to within 4-3.

"We need Mac to get back on track," Guillen said.  "It’s like a big puzzle and we need to put it together.

"It’s about command.  I’m not a manager who likes to give up on players.  Every time you see him on the mound, you hope for that click," Guillen said, turning his hands to indicate gears locking together.  "I have confidence he’ll bounce back."

Saturday’s Lineup

Owens, CF; Ozuna, 2B; Swisher, 1B; PK, DH; Dye, RF; Crede, 3B; Ramirez, SS; BA, LF; Lucy, C.  Floyd on the mound.

Last Friday in February

Friday, February 29, 2008

Today’s Lineup at Arizona in TEP

Owens, CF; Cabrera, SS; Thome, DH; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Fields, 3B; Quentin, LF; Liefer, 1B; Uribe, 2B.  Buehrle pitching.

Also throwing:  Broadway, Carrasco, Macdougal, Dotel, Harrell.

Yesterday’s Highlights

Sorry, I forgot my wireless card for our game at Hi Corbett.

The highlights:  Jose Contreras looked great in his 2.0 IP … Alexi Ramirez was 4-5 with three runs scored, two doubles and an RBI … Nick Swisher had a two-run double … Brian Anderson was 2-5 with two RBI … Joe Crede played …  and we actually beat the Rockies for the first time since early March in 2006.

Notes and Items

When the White Sox take a split squad to Hermosillo, Mexico for Sunday’s game against the Dbacks, Minnie Minoso and Jerry Hairston will join the club for the trip.  Both starred in the Mexican League during their years as players, while Hairston met and married his wife in Hermosillo.

Robin Ventura is scheduled to make an appearance in camp for a few days starting March 6.  It will be great to see RV, who underwent a unique transplant on his right ankle (still one of the worst on-field injuries I have ever witnessed … the others, Iowa wrestler Randy Duncan, Chad Kreuter in that collision at home plate and Ozzie hurting his knee in 1992).

Proud papa Herm Schneider is hoping to see daughter Kaitlin when here University of South Florida softball team takes part in a tournament here in Tucson this weekend.

Game Two

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today’s Lineup against the Rockies

Swisher, CF; Ozuna, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Crede, 3B; Ramirez, SS; Anderson, LF; Phillips, C; Negron, RF.  Contreras pitching.

Other pitchers:

Linebrink, Russell, Vasquez, Haeger, Perez, Ohka.

Day Late

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Today’s Game

As someone dryly noted:  "Today is the first game of the games that don’t count."

Our lineup against the NL Champion Rockies

Bourgeois, CF

Cabrera, SS

Thome, DH

PK, 1B

Dye, RF

AJ, C

Fields, 3B

Uribe, 2B

Anderson, LF

Danks, LHP

Danks will be followed by Harrell, Wassermann, Sisco, Jenks, Logan, Day and Ohka.

The Rockies are countering with Franics, Towers, Redman, Koronka, Speier and Strop.

Remember, today’s game can be heard on WSCR Radio 670 AM and viewed on mlb.tv.

We were 10-22-1 last spring, yikes, before going 12-11 in April to begin the season. We are happy these games don’t count, particularly when we play the Dbacks and Rockies, in that we have gone an amazing 2-21-2 vs. those two teams in Cactus League play since 2006, including an 1-11-1 record in 2007.  We are 1-11 vs. the Diamondbacks since 2006 and 1-10-2 vs. the Rockies.  It’s all Klein’s fault.

You’ll see us wearing NIU baseball hats today.  Our players will sign these after the game and we will hand them over to the school so that they can be auctioned off to support NIU’s fund.  Our players are also going to sign various items and we will auction those off at whitesox.com in March with proceeds going to NIU (if you care to show your support in this way).

Coming Up

Our pitching for the next fe days:

Thu, vs. Colo — Contreras, Linebrink, Russell, Vasquez, Haeger, Perez, Ohka

Fri, vs. Ariz — Buehrle, Broadway, Carrasco, Macdougal, Dotel, Harrell, Day

Sat vs. Ariz — Floyd, Logan, Jenks, Wassermann, Sisco, Haeger, Perez

For the opposition:

Thu — Aaron Cook

Fri — Brandon Webb

Sat — Dan Haren

(Go get um guys)

Yesterday

Sorry, but I tried to blog yesterday afternoon only to get repeated "Site under maintenance" messages.

My tee time was fast approaching (sorry, it likely was my last chance to play this spring) and then we had a staff dinner last night, so I didn’t get a chance to post.

So here are thoughts/observations from yesterday’s intrasquad game:

Two biggest stories … Joe Crede’s return to the field and Javier Vazquez’s performance on the mound.

Cede was 0-2 but made a copyrighted Joe Crede play on a slow roller.

"The best ever," someone yelled as Joe fielded the ball on the run in and fluidly fired to first for the out.

In his first at-bat, Vazquez struck Joe out with a tight breaking ball.

"Jeez," someone commented, "the guy hasn’t seen live pitching in seven months and Javy throws that hammer to him.  Not fair."

Vazquez was dealing, striking out three in 2.0 IP and throwing noticeably harder than anyone else over the two games.

Funniest moment:  When Brad Eldred, a large man, tripled into the left field corner in the fifth inning, he rounded second base to the chant, "C’mon Big Country."

Highlights … Konerko bomb off a Charlie Haeger non-knuckleball, Nick Swisher home run, dude.

Comments from Ozzie:

On Joe

"It was nice to see him back.  We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.  That’s the big question.  I was happy with what I saw.  We need to wait and see how his body reacts."

On Joe and Josh

"We need to get them both on the field (all this spring), take a good look at them and then pick the one who is going to do the best job for us."

On Javier

"Outstanding.  He’s so professional and goes about his business the right way."

On the games

"I see a lot of good things.  So far they’ve (the players) have done everything we’ve asked."

On roster decisions

We have three positions to decide by the end of spring, Ozzie said, indicating 2b, OF and the last pitcher.  Four guys will battle for the 2B spot, which likely will also determine who the extra outfielder will be.

"I’ll wait for the games," Guillen said.  "They are going to dictate who we take with us to Chicago."

And the games begin today.

Injury updates:  Jerry Owens is fine.  Removing him from the intrasquad game was precautionary.  Mark Buehrle threw a bullpen yesterday and is on schedule to start Friday.

Intasquad Action

Monday, February 25, 2008

Action On The Diamond

"Let’s watch a big-league game," yelled Ozzie Guillen at high noon, "some people pay to watch this and they pay me to watch it!"

And with that, it was time to begin the first of two abbreviated intrasquad games prior to Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against the Rockies (heard on WSCR 670 AM and on MLB.TV).

Just prior to Gavin Floyd’s first pitch, we all discussed having Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald throw out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of his seeing more intrasquad games than any other member of the media.

Gregor said thanks, but no thanks, so the honor will have to wait.

To the game …

Nick Swisher went 2-2, including one hit off a one-bounce pitch, and scored twice, although his team dropped a 3-2 decision in 3 1/2 innings.

Guillen, an expert at hitting the split finger, admitted he collected three hits in his career on pitches that hit the dirt first.

"It bounced and he hit it," said catcher AJ Pierzynski.  Swisher ran to first base laughing.

"Jack Morris, Paul Byrd and Dave Stieb," Guillen said with pride.

Pablo Ozuna went 1-2 with a triple.  His head-first slide into third base brought a cry of, "He’s back!" from a fan in the stands.

Jerry Owens led off for the winning team and went 2-2 with a run scored and a bunt base hit.

Paul Konerko doubled, Orlando Cabrera drove in a run with his own hit-and-run double, Jermaine Dye had an RBI single and Royce Huffman doubled and scored.

Ehren Wasserman and Andrew Sisco threw scoreless innings, while Scott Linebrink and Floyd (W, 0 ER/2.0) also threw well.

Photo Day

The day started early with Photo Day setback at 6 am.  Players and staff headed through the line at 7 am with Jim Thome one of the first to go through.

Later, Jim was running speed ladders with strength and conditioning coach Allen Thomas.  As I worked out on the elliptical, I was impressed watching a superstar veteran working the ladder over and over, by himself, on an early Monday morning.

A few posters Saturday questioned the level of work based on the schedule. 

Players are out at 8 am every morning working on specific skills … today I saw Joe Crede and coach Bryan Little bunting as the sun started to shine in the desert.  Baserunning is a daily subject, led hilariously by third base coach Jeff Cox.  Remember, with six or seven fields available to us, a great deal of work can get done in a pretty small amount of time.

Our advertising agency, BBDO, was down from Chicago using Photo Day to shoot some of the team’s new commercials.  Two are done and in the bank.  You’ll start to see them during spring training games.  The rest, which will be filmed today and tomorrow, will air once the season starts.

Puke

Mark Buehrle brought his young (and cute) son into the lunch room after yesterday’s workout.

Ozzie’s eyes lit up like a grand father’s.  He took the little boy, and of course, immediately got a smile and a giggle out of the kid.

"C’mon," said Guillen, "You know what happens everytime I hold you.  You can do it."

He handed the baby back to Buehrle. 

The kid, Braden, immediately spit up all over Mark’s arm and himself.

"That a way," said Guillen.  "I knew you had it in you!"

As I am sure you read, Mark is battling a little soreness and skipped throwing in today’s intrasquad game.  It’s not serious, so he’ll see how he feels heading into Cactus League play.

Sunday in Tucson

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Odds & Ends

With Tiger Woods and Stewart Cink on the big screen TV in the lunch room, White Sox players enjoyed an abbreviated day on Sunday with many heading out the door by noon.  Intrasquad games start tomorrow, so days will grow longer as we prepare for Wednesday’s Cactus League Opener.

A couple of players were heading to The Gallery Golf Course to catch the final 18 holes of today’s Match Play Championship.

I don’t get the whole rodeo thing, but it’s been extremely popular this spring in our clubhouse with up to nine guys taking in the action.  I’ve heard Tucson rodeo is the big time.  I’ll stick to golf.

Signs of Appreciation

So I’m driving down Campbell to the ballpark yesterday morning at 7:15 am (I’m late because I had to wait for the dry cleaner to open).

An ugly orange/rust-colored car in the lane next to me is driving erratically (at 7:15 am?).  It tries to force its way into my lane.  Almost stops abruptly.  I’m thinking, what in the world? 

The driver’s arm is up blocking his face and I notice a big watch, like a Rolex.  It looks like he’s trying to dial a phone.

I speed up to get away from the guy, and wouldn’t you know who it was?  Ozzie and Joey on their way in to the park.  After honking and tossing water on my car, we both made it in to camp.

Ozzie was making fun of me all morning about it.

Then Mr. Williams lights into me …

I’ve been working out each morning … basically, with the hopes of living longer (lower blood pressure, lose weight, etc.)

It seems the GM didn’t like my shorts.

"Don’t let him in here with those Pete Maravich shorts on," he informed Allen Thomas, our strength and conditioning coach.  "I don’t want to see those pale legs."

"So," I answered.  "I give a guy a little smack during a game of golf and this is what I get?"

"Those are soccer shorts," Thomas interjects.

"Maravich shorts."

I figure I have two options.  Get a pair of shorts that hang down below my knees for my next workout or roll my "short" shorts even higher just to show him I’m not giving in.

Good to know I’m appreciated.

Tomorrow is photo day, the annual early-morning, smile-for-the-camera sitdowns for players and staff with our scoreboard crew, team photogs, licensees, broadcast partners and card companies.  It’s always looked forward to by all.

I’ve give you some intrasquad game highlights tomorrow.

Cheers.

Saturday Sun

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ha-Ha-Ha

I just re-read some of the comments to by last post and realized I did, indeed, write "prostrate" and not "prostate."  It does make it funnier, although reinforcing that I am semi-illiterate (or at least it proves I don’t have an editor looking over my shoulder).

Yesterday

Sorry I missed yesterday but a series of conference calls, mini crises, etc. blew my day.  I was out of gas, went home and went to bed at 8 pm.  Exciting Friday night.

The last hour I’ve been getting text-message scoring updates from my son’s indoor soccer game in Frankfurt.  News is, they won, 10-7. 

Crede Update

Joe continues to undergo treatment on his hand both before and after workouts.  He fielded balls yesterday and today and should be full speed ahead soon.

Culture Shock

All during Ozzie’s clubhouse speech on Thursday and the first two days of workouts, I’ve wondered how this must all seem to Cuban Alexi Ramirez.  Omer Munoz translates for him, and I’m sure you’ve all read about how wiry Ramirez is.  Alexi homered yesterday in batting practice.  Today, with KW, Ozzie, Rick Hahn and a PR guy sitting down the left field line in golf carts, he scattered the group with a line drive.

Venezuelan Debate

Ozzie and infield instructor Manny Trillo were arguing the other day about who was the better offensive player during his career.

Guillen sent Pat O’Connell from the media relations staff to the computer where Pat pulled career numbers.

"Hah," Guillen screamed.  "Wait until I show him this!"

Ozzie topped Trillo in career batting, .264 to .263, had more career hits and appeared in more career games.

Wednesday

We open Cactus League play on Wednesday against the Rockies.  The game will be broadcast on WSCR Radio and online on MLB.tv.  John Danks will start, followed by Jack Egbert, Ehren Wasserman, Andrew Sisco, Bobby Jenks, Boone Logan and Dewon Day.

You probably read that our entire team will be wearing NIU baseball caps that day to pay tribute to the school and the five students who lost their lives tragically earlier this month.  After the game, our guys will sign the hats and the White Sox are donating them to NIU to be used to raise money for a fund set up in the students’ memories.

Jose Contreras is scheduled to start Thursday’s game against Colorado at Hi Corbett Field.

The team will play intrasquad games on both Monday and Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday opener.  Neither intrasquad contest will be a full nine innings.

Typical Day

Every day in spring training is dictated by the official schedule, produced by bench coach Joey Cora.

At the top of the sheet is a favorite saying.  Today’s was:  "To think you can creates the force that can."

Here’s tomorrow’s schedule for the Sox:

9 am          Mini Stretching for Early Work

9:30          Full-Squad Stretch

10:05         Throwing

10:15          Defensive Work

10:35          Fundamentals (cut offs and relays)

10:50          Water Break

10:55          Baserunning, sliding and conditioning

                  Pitcher Fielding Practice

11:15          Conditioning

Tomorrow is a short day with no hitting.  Consider it a day of rest before the games begin next week.

First Full Day

Workout

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Something Special

There is something so very special about the first day of spring training when the full squad has reported.

"This is a special day," said new third base coach Jeff Cox as the day began.  "For me, it’s like Christmas, New Year’s, Easter or your birthday.  It’s just a special day."

No matter how many spring trainings you attend — 17 for me — this day brings a special excitement.

"And you take it for granted until you don’t have it anymore," Cox noted.

I remember growing up as a kid and what it meant to read The Sporting News as camps opened in February.  As I grew older, we would trek to Florida for spring training, spending our time in ballparks in Cocoa, Fla., or St. Petersburg. 

Once when my cousin and I returned from our March trip to spring training — 13 games in 12 days — my aunt asked to see our vacation photos.

As she looked at shot after shot of Cal Ripken, George Brett and the 1983 Cardinals, she asked, "Didn’t you guys ever go to the beach."

Why in the world would anyone ever go to the beach when there was a baseball game to watch?

Clubhouse Confidential

Sticking to the old adage of what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, I’ll leave Kenny’s and Ozzie’s speeches to the troops to your imagination … you won’t be far off.

Suffice it to say that a couple of themes continued to be repeated, and they’re themes we’ve talked about publicly …

Last year was no fun for anyone.

We don’t want to go through that again.

We’ve been in a bad mood about it since last July.

This team has the talent to win.

We need to have one focus each and every day — preparing to win a championship.

Cough, Please

The day started with my annual physical.  Nothing like needles, blood work and fingers to wake you up at 7:30 am.

After proudly carrying my urine specimen into the office (where exactly do you put the specimen jar as you drive down from the Foothills to the complex?  The beverage holder?  I opted for the trunk, driving down curving Campbell Road thinking, "What happens if it tips over?  How do I explain that to Avis?"), I checked in with Brian Ball, our assistant trainer.  Herm Schneider and Brian do a terrific job of running an efficient Physical Day, and they are kind enough to add an aging PR guy to the list.

Having done many of the tests and the eye exam during the week, my first stop this morning was at the EKG machine.  Everything seemed to check out OK, although they used me as a Guinea Pig for a new nurse learning just how to stick on the alligator clamps.

"Gosh," she said.  "It would sure hurt if I pinched your skin."

Gee.  Sure would.

Then, it was on to the BP table … which, let’s just get it straight, the BP cuff and I aren’t friends right now.  The number is high, but not as high as two days ago.  I take it as a victory.

Then on to the immunization table.  No tetanus for me.   Another small victory.

Then bloodwork, which was a piece of cake.

Final stop this morning was to be weighed and measured.  At 5-11, somehow I’m two inches shorter than my high school basketball program height.

Last night my loving spouse, after telling me I was indeed, fat, challenged me to see who could lose the most weight this spring.  I stupidly (or not), bragged that I would be closer to 180 pounds than 200 by the end of March.  So as I stepped onto the scale, I told the trainer, "Here’s 20 dollars.  Inflate my weight so I get a head start on her in pounds lost."

And the digitial read out was:

200 pounds.

Ouch!

Earlier, I met with our internist to have the one test every man over 40 years of age dreads.  As he snapped on the rubber glove, I prepped myself mentally and physically.

Imagine a 10-second pause that felt like 25 minutes.

"Hmm," he said, in deep medical thought.  "It’s really small."

He was talking about my prostate.  Really, he was.

Double ouch.

(I just read this to my wife before posting.  She laughed, said I was crazy to post this because of the TMI rule and reminded me that women and children read my posts.  "Take out the prostate thing," she advised.  Awww.  It’s all in fun, I replied.  Then go ahead, she answered, it’s your life.  Isn’t it great to have such wonderful support?)

The last stop — one I skipped — was the ortho table.  When you have very little physical ability, some might even question whether any ability at all, you don’t really have to worry about how your muscles and joints are working. 

After all, any idiot with a computer and a key pad can keep a weblog nowdays.  Just ask my wife.

Match Play

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day Before Full-Squad

Today marked the final workout with just pitchers and catchers officially in camp … pitchers threw to hitters today for the first time … word is that Danny Richar will be late reporting due to visa issues (Ozzie was not happy) …

Ozzie on Tomorrow

Ozzie is already fired up (I almost wrote juiced but thought that’d be the wrong word to use) to speak to the team tomorrow in his annual address.

"I’m going to record it for my own records," he laughed, although he may be serious.  "This year’s speech will be a littel different than it’s been in the past.

"It’s going to be a fun meeting.  No matter what I say, it’s about their (the players’) performance."

Lunch Table Conversations

Some of the very best, and funniest, conversations each day occur in the community lunch room.

I can’t betray people but I can mention some of the topics …

Like the other day when debates ranged from is hunting a sport to what to watch on the one big-screen television: Daytona 500 or golf (you can guess who wanted what).

The hunting debate went something like this:

"How can you call that a sport?  You’re sitting in a cage in a tree.  You put garbage down on the ground to attract the bears and then you shoot them.  How do you consider that a sport?  Maybe if the animals were armed it would be fair …"

And on and on and on.

Ozzie often entertains the lunch room crowd with amazing one-man, one-act plays.  I truly wish I could video tape him in action.  It’s like being at an improv shop where someone in the audience yells out three topics and the troupe pulls together a play.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try "Hugo Chavez, oil imports and the Detroit Tigers."

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Finally, Golf

I read your comments to my last post and didn’t realize how much my cactus story (actually Mike Gellinger’s cactus story) reverberated with readers.

So, just to assure everyone …

No one was hurt during Monday’s golf classic and no cacti were harmed during the 5-hour round.

Charlie Haeger shot a 74, A 74!  Amazing.

Nick Masset was teed up on one hole only to see a golfer from the fairway next to us sprint into our fairway looking for his ball.  "Wait," someone told the pitcher.  "There’s someone in our fairway."

"It’s Kenny!" someone else laughed.

"Hurry up and hit," someone urged Masset.

"No way," he said.  "No way I’m taking that chance."

Laughs

A friend from Chicago is down for a day or two and I was suppose to golf with him today.  Too much work kept me in the office.  Instead, Harold Baines, Javier Vazquez and another player were going to show up for our foursome.  I can’t wait to talk to my friend, who probably hasn’t swung a club in five months and now has to teed it up with professional athletes. 

Worth a laugh …

Tuesday in Tucson

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Odds and Ends in Camp Today

Nick Swisher joined the ranks of the position players in camp this morning … Joe Crede fielded ground balls again today as he worked to return from back surgery …

Jim And Cooperstown

Twice this winter, Jim and Chuck Thome trips to Cooperstown were snowed out.  Jim and I talked about when the next opportunity to visit the baseball shrine would present itself given our season and when he might make it to bring his 500th home run to Cooperstown.

He figures I am a jinx — not the first to consider that — at least as far as the weather was concerned.

"And then the day I was going to come down here we were supposed to get a storm," Jim laughed.  "I’m thinking, not again."

Snow

Speaking of snow, as we walked off the 16th green today, someone did remind us that we could be shoveling snow right now.

My spouse kept mentioning the temperature today each time I spoke to her on the phone … something like six degrees.  I’m not sure why.

Cora Corrections

Joey Cora was all over me this morning for claiming that I was at the complex at 6:30 a.m. the other day, saying I lied.  I told him I pulled into the parking lot, checked my messages and email and walked into the building at 6:43 am according to my car’s clock.  He still thinks I lied.

So, now I am correcting my "error."

And good to know Joey is reading … he must be bored.

See you bright and early tomorrow morning.

Chuckles

Laughs all around today at the long-expected diatribe by my favorite columnist in our favorite, albeit dramatically-shrinking-right-before-our-eyes, tabloid.  I think the best approach for those frustrated by his rantings (you all know the drill by heart: everything wrong in the world, including evidently now, talk radio, is Jerry’s fault; Ozzie is heading toward self-destruction; the media who cover the Sox on a daily basis are lapdogs, etc.) is this: consider how much of what he writes seems to be autobiographical.  That would go a long way toward explaining the in-print fixations, conspiracy theories, obsessions, paranoia and repeated rantings and ramblings on the same topics, over and over and over and over again.  Maybe instead of a weekly trip to Tony’s Dr. Melfi, a column spews forth?

I sent an email to Jerry this morning telling him that now, in addition to always listing his age, he is "nearing retirement."

I think he appreciated the news.

New Media

I’ve spent the last two nights talking by video call to my family in Chicago.  Pretty cool stuff to get to see and hear the kids during the month or so while I’m here in Tucson.  They bought the camera for me for Christmas and it is the perfect gift.

There’s something special about seeing a seven-year-old’s loose tooth rather than just hearing about it.

Golf Tourney News

Mark Salas was in the fivesome behind mine on Monday as we played our annual Dbacks/White Sox Charity Pro-Am at The Gallery Golf Course in Tucson.

With everyone watching, Salas took to a Par-3 tee with a Parsimmon (spelling?) wood in hand.

"That club is older than I am," a friendly PR guy yelled to him.

"I got this club from Wilson when I signed my very first professional contract," Salas replied.

"Then it is older than me," the PR guy answered.

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