March 2012

Roster Decisions

Saturday, March 31, 2012

This morning, Ken Williams, Rick Hahn, Robin Ventura and the coaching staff made a wave of roster decisions that got the team down to 25 players.  We’ve still got four exhibition games to play, so we need to stop short of saying this is our Opening Day roster (that will be announced Wednesday afternoon), but here were the moves:

  •  Optioned RHP Dylan Axelrod to Class AAA Charlotte.
  • Reassigned RHP Brian Bruney, C Hector Gimenez, INF Rey Olmedo, LHP Leyson Septimo and LHP Eric Stults to minor-league camp.

With the moves, the White Sox have 25 players remaining in major-league camp: 12 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders.

So it’s very good news today for RHP Nate Jones, RHP Zach Stewart and INF Eduardo Escobar.

Comments From KW

Following the announcement, General Manager Ken Williams met with the media to discuss the moves, as well as the team’s signing of Conor Jackson to a minor-league contract this morning:

Williams:

About the signing of Conor Jackson to a minor league contract today:

He was on a career trajectory that was seemingly … the ceiling was through the roof.  He got valley fever.  And from what I understand, it’s just a terrible thing to catch.  He’s working his way back.  He’s going to be working his way back in AAA.

On younger players like Stewart and Jones/how the White Sox are perceived by other clubs:

As we embarked on this past offseason, one of the things that I talked to you guys about was our confidence in some of the guys coming up in the bullpen.  We felt that could be a strength of ours and ultimately that’s why we decided to use what was one of our main strengths with guys like Addison Reed coming into the mix, Hector Santiago and Nate Jones.  I know that these names were not on the tip of every White Sox fan’s tongue.  But we felt as development people, and scouting people, strongly enough that we were going to have our five starters, move Chris Sale into the starting rotation, and still have a solid bullpen and build for the future with a couple of the deals we made to give us depth in the minor leagues.  In factoring all these things in, I think people are falsely, hopefully, looking at our club, and think because we have youth we are not going compete.  I think that’s a mistake.  These are talented people, they’re confident and they have a lot of heart.  We have taken care of our pitching over the years.  We have a history of having good, solid pitching, and I don’t think this year will be any different.

On position players and where the team might improve:

On the position player front, there have been positives across the board.  Positives with Adam.  Positives with Gordon.  Tyler Flowers has shown he can be a productive player offensively and defensively.    Paulie is Paulie.  One thing, I think we’re going to be situationally a better team, fundamentally defensively a better team, and I think our energy, it’s going to be interesting to watch our energy.  When Robin goes to a different line-up sometimes with Escobar, who provides a lot that energy, with Fukudome, who can do some things as well from the left side, a different look type of line-up.  I shouldn’t leave out Alex, he’s played a great right field and squared up a lot of balls this spring.

On Nate Jones seemingly coming out of nowhere:

It’s not out of nowhere for us.  When you throw 97-100 and you’ve got a hard curve ball, and I think you guys finally saw the change-up last night, which we developed when he started a couple years ago.  Last night, I think he was 98-99 and the change-up was around the 86 range and had some sink and fade to it, along with the curveball, it just makes everything better.   I think he got in trouble early in spring cause when you’re just sitting on two pitches, guys could guess. When you put another thought in their mind, you’ve got something to work with.  I’ve been impressed with his aggressiveness.  He was a little geeked up last night, trying to make that last impression and walked the first couple guys.  But then he really settled down and got in the swing of things.

Will Escobar get enough at-bats:

Robin likes him.  He likes his energy.  He likes his ability to switch hit.  He can surprise you with his ability to drive the ball. He can bunt. He can run. He can move runners.  There are a lot of things he can do. He can play third, short and second.  So I think he is going to get his fair share of playing time.  There is nothing wrong with one of the other guys taking a day off.  Even if it’s just one day a week, getting him some at-bats, and I think Robin is committed to that.

At what point he knew Jones would make the team:

At what point did I know? A couple of weeks ago.  But the coaching staff has to get comfortable with their own assessments.  That’s why we have our morning meetings.  We don’t have a lot of them.  We sit around the coaches room and talk about these guys daily.  If they only knew how much time we invested in them and their careers, they would be shocked.  A couple weeks ago, it became evident to me that he had taken that next step.  He just had to go out there and prove it and prove it to the coaching staff.

On having some insulation in the minor leagues if you need someone to come up:

We’re still not losing confidence in guys like Charlie Leesman, guys like Molina.  Castro too. He was one the best prospects in baseball just a year and a half ago, and got his delivery this year out of whack.  And I think Coop and Curt Hasler have simplified it.  Just a little step back in his delivery and he’s getting out front again as he used to, and the ball is coming out of his hands really nicely.  So on the pitching front, we feel good about it.  We feel good about some of the position player prospects too.  I’m going to be surprised if Jared Mitchell doesn’t, with his hand position and swing pattern, I’m going to be surprised if doesn’t come and come fast.  Andy Wilkins is another guy from the left side.  We’ve not had a lot of left-handed hitting coming through, so we’ve got to be right on the development end of things to have these guys come through and do what we thing they can do.   There are more positives, like Trayce Thompson.  This kid has some power.  I was at Muhammad Ali’s charity event not long ago and Dave Winfield was there and asked me how things were going and I said, ‘Man, I’ve got this kid in the minor leagues and if he can jut grow out like you grew out, he could be a monster.’  We’re really excited about a guy like him.  There are a lot of positives, it’s been a good camp.

On if Jordan Danks made strides this spring:

Yeah, he did, he did.  He struggled last year with his foot position, his balance, and his load position.  He was never in synch, well I take that back, there were times he got in synch.  But he showed up from day one, he was balanced, and threw the ball as well as we’ve seen him, and consistent with it.  If Jordan Danks stays with this approach this entire season, he’s going to have a good year.

Supporting Youth Baseball

Yesterday, the third annual Dennis Gilbert Baseball Classic, presented by State Farm Insurance, started play in Los Angeles.  This year’s field includes a record 28 L.A. high school baseball teams that will compete in the week-long tournament at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.

For those who don’t know, the tournament’s namesake, Dennis Gilbert, has been with the White Sox organization for almost 12 years as a special assistant to Jerry Reinsdorf.  Dennis had very successful career as a sports agent and always has been and remains one of the most generous people in baseball.  He personally funded the baseball diamond at Los Angeles Southwest Community College, which is used by the local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, is a board member and supporter of the MLB Urban Youth Academy and donated tickets to a Dodgers game to ALL participating players and staff in this year’s tournament.

As many of you are well aware, the White Sox, Jerry Reinsdorf and Ken Williams have invested their time and CWS Chairties resources in the organization’s inner-city baseball initiatives, trying to reverse the downward trend of participation by African-Americans in the sport of baseball.  This weekend’s tournament in Los Angeles is another great event and opportunity to accomplish that mission and stems from the generosity of Dennis Gilbert.

Trying to Turn a Mariners Fan Into a Sox Fan

I recently received this email from Mitch Robinson on his efforts to turn a his son, Mariners fan, into a White Sox fan. The story is so great that I thought I would share it below. Perhaps adding this to today’s blog will help him make his case.

Scott,

This is my 10th consecutive spring training in Arizona after so many as a kid with my parents in Sarasota. ‘Appreciate the chance to continue the tradition with my son.

Please feel free to use this picture on your blog as needed/if you wish.

“10 year old Eli Robinson of Tacoma, WA gets Paul Konerko’s autograph before Sox-Royals game in Surprise”

I’m doing my best to turn him into a Sox fan as he has grown up with the Mariners.  At least he is a Hawkeye fan as his mom/my wife is Mary Boone, from your DI days;). We will be on the practice fields and at the game today.

Thanks for your continued efforts on your blog.

-Mitch Robinson

Robin

Friday, March 30, 2012

Here’s a transcript of Robin Ventura’s postgame meeting with the media following yesterday’s 3-1 White Sox win over the Dodgers:

Was taking out Rios just a precaution?

Yes. I wasn’t at the game yesterday when something happened with him and Lillibridge. He just said it was bothering him a little bit, so we’re just going to take him out of today’s game. He should be available tomorrow, but I don’t want to do anything right now to push it.

(Editor’s Note: Outfielder Alex Rios was scratched from Thursday’s lineup with a sprained left Achilles tendon suffered Wednesday when he and Brent Lillibridge stepped on one another pursuing a fly ball.  Rios wanted to play Thursday, but Head Trainer Herm Schneider said, “No.”)

Regarding the last few innings…

Yeah, yesterday we kind of had it flipped around with Addison and Hector, and kind of flipped it around today. But for me it’s nice to see them go back-to-back days and still throw the way that they did. That was the most important thing for me. That’s good to see.

(Editor’s Note: Pitching Coach Don Cooper schedules relievers to throw back-to-back games once each spring to see how guys’ arms’ bounce back.)

About Santiago’s screwball against Ethier, a left-handed hitter…

We don’t know quite yet how we’re going to use all of that, but to see him go in and not have to really use the screwball, get ahead with fastballs and get that groundball; it’s good to see.

Are you still evaluating the eighth-ninth inning positions?

Yeah, we’re not making any decisions today off of that. I’m happy with all of them. We’re putting them in there to get their innings and get their work. But none of that could mean anything as far as where they exactly were today.

Do you think telling a guy his role is overrated?

Not overrated, no. Just at this point we haven’t totally concluded how we’re going to do it.

What has impressed you about Matt Thornton’s spring?

His velocity is up, and the location of his pitches. He’s just a good pitcher, and I’m glad he’s on our team. That’s about as simple as I can get. He has good stuff, he’s a good teammate and all of those things, a leader, so I’m happy we’re able to use him however we’re going to use him.

How impressed were you with the first few innings from Sale?

He was pretty good. He let a couple people put some in play, so I docked him a few points. But he was throwing hard and locating with it, his off-speed pitch was good too, keeping them off balance. But he’s capable of that. Again it’s just spring, so you bring him out before the innings or the pitches get up there. I’m very happy with his performance today.

Do you pay extra attention to Sale against really good hitters like Matt Kemp?

Yeah, I think today might not have been Matt’s best day. But you look at other guys with what they do, how they see it, and he was making a lot of people not have very good at-bats today. So that’s what you notice more than anything.

(Editor’s Note:  Kemp, the National League MVP, had a Golden Sombrero.  Not sure Kemp liked facing Sale much.)

Are his two walks this spring also impressive?

Yeah, he’s bounced back even when he gets deep in counts and it might be upside-down for him. But he comes back, and fights back and does the best he can not to walk guys.

Regarding Jesse Crain’s health…

Yeah, he was great. Just making sure he can come back and throw without any reservations. We made sure of that when he was throwing in the Minor League game before he came back up here. But he’s probably happier than I am that he got to go pitch in a regular game.

What is your take on Viciedo’s at-bats recently?

It’s gotten better. I think his frustration level has subsided somewhat.  He got a couple hits the other day, and today. Even if it’s not the hardest hit ball, it’s still a relief to kind of be doing something. He’s getting closer and closer, so I’m happy with him.

Are you more comfortable in the ‘manager’s chair’ during the game now?

Yeah it’s one of those things where you’re thinking ahead. It’s still harder in spring training to think that way because you’re making sure guys get in certain innings. There are 25 guys, 25 players to use if you really wanted to. It’s nice to be able to look at it and in-between at-bats you can take guys out, like we did the last couple of days, just to make sure guys get in and face the guy we want them to face.

Larry Bowa said that the game moves a lot faster than guys think who are first-time managers. Thoughts…

Yeah, I know what he’s saying, but it is what it is. I’m not leaving. I’m staying here. (Robin shrug and smile).

Setting The Record Straight

Yesterday, the alleged intruder who broke into general manager Ken Williams’ house this winter was declared unfit for trial by a judge.  In news stories yesterday that re-visited the event, it was again mentioned that the alleged intruder stole and was wearing a fur coat owned by Williams.

Williams asked me – again — to set the record straight.  So for the record, Ken Williams does not own a fur coat.  Repeat: Ken Williams does not own a fur coat.

We’re not really sure how this report first came about – Williams might admit to having a winter coat with lining inside but no boots with the fur, or, repeat, A FUR COAT.

No word yet on the culinary choice of frozen lobster.

Se Habla Béisbol

Earlier this week, the White Sox announced that all regular season games will be broadcast on radio in Spanish on 97.5 FM ESPN Deportes by veteran play-by-play announcer Hector Molina, with respected Venezuelan baseball writer Billy Russo serving as color analyst.

Molina has previously broadcast White Sox games in Spanish, as well as Bears and Bulls, in a broadcast career that spans nearly 30 years.  He once partnered with White Sox legend Chico Carrasquel in the White Sox Spanish radio booth.  In 2005, Molina covered the Major League Baseball playoffs and the White Sox World Series.

Russo, a national baseball writer who contributes to the Associated Press and ESPN Deportes, has broadcast games for the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP) and covered the White Sox for the team’s Spanish website (orgullosox.com) for the past two years.

We spoke with Hector and Billy this morning about their new roles, the upcoming season and what our Latino/Spanish-speaking fans should expect from their broadcasts:

Hector, how does it feel to be returning to the White Sox Spanish radio booth? Billy, joining the booth?

Hector:  It really feels like coming back home. I broadcast White Sox games from ’92-’99 and then in 2005 I covered the World Series.  This is a heck of an opportunity; it just feels great!

Billy:  This is an amazing opportunity that comes with great responsibility.  A responsibility to work hard for the organization, with a deep history and a passionate fan base, and represent the greatest city in the world.  I am thrilled to be a part of it all and look forward to helping the Sox further connect with the Latino/Spanish-speaking community.

Hector, you spent time with Chico in the broadcast booth, you have done basketball and football games, tell us about your past experience broadcasting Chicago sports?

Hector:  When I started with the White Sox in 1992, I had the pleasure and the honor of working with Chico Carrasquel, which was amazing.   Across my career I have spent nine years with the White Sox, which included the World Series, and eight years with the Bulls during the Michael Jordan era, to name a few.  You can imagine how exciting it all has been.

Billy, what are your thoughts on this 2012 White Sox team?

Billy:  I feel like this is going to be a very interesting season, with a lot of surprises.  Robin Ventura is now manager and guys have reacted extremely well and are behind him.  There is a great sense of hope and high expectations among the team.  I’m really excited to see how this season plays out.

Hector, what is your favorite memory of broadcasting for the White Sox?

Hector, there’s so many of them. You meet so many people and every game is a different experience.  If I had to pick a favorite memory, it has to be the 2005 World Series!

Billy, how do you feel about partnering with Hector Molina in the radio booth?

Billy:  Hector has had an incredible career.  I have so much respect for him and his experience in sports in Chicago.  Getting the opportunity to work with Hector, who worked with a national hero of ours in Venezuela (Chico Carrasquel) is tremendous and it really motivates me to do the very best job I possibly can do. 

Running For A Cause

The White Sox are teaming up with the Blackhawks and the Bulls to host the second annual “Home Team Charity Run” (HTCR) on Sunday, April 22. This event includes a 5K and 10K race, both of which will start and finish at U.S. Cellular Field.  The 10k race will finish near home plate inside U.S. Cellular Field.  Most importantly, a portion proceeds from the race will be shared equally among the respective charities of the three participating teams.

 Matt Thornton on the race

All runners will receive a long-sleeved moisture-wicking jersey customized with one of the three teams they choose to represent.  The top three male and female runners in each age bracket in the 10K race will win a pair of tickets to a game for each Chicago team (a total of six tickets for three games).  The top five male and female runners in the 5K run/walk will receive a HTCR plaque recognizing their accomplishment.

After the race, former players from all three teams will sign autographs, and 500 lucky runners selected at random will have the opportunity to have their picture taken with the White Sox and Bulls championship trophies.  Also, there will be a post-run festival with food, beverages, and performances from local bands, including singer and songwriter Michael McDermott.

Last year, more than 2,000 runners participated in the race.  So for all of you runners/”weekend warriors” come out and get a run in for a good cause.

Visit www.HomeTeamCharityRun.org.

 

Late Split Squad

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seems strange to be playing a split-squad game today (home vs. San Diego, road at Colorado), this late in the spring.  I opted for the game in Scottsdale (closer to my spring home) in part since that was where Robin Ventura was heading, along with Paul Konerko.  Salt River Field is sold out again today with stunning Arizona spring weather and the grass berm full of people.  What a great setting for spring training baseball!

Funny to see Tyler Saladino, Jordan Danks and Jim Gallgher in today’s lineup since they were reassigned to minor league camp this week, but that’s what split-squads require.

Saladino is scheduled to be featured on National Public Radio this summer as he describes what life is like for a minor league player.  He did his first interview yesterday – to show you what a class act he is, he stuck around camp for two hours even after being told he was being sent down just to do the interview.  Then he headed off for a hair cut.  This certainly wasn’t the spring he expected.

Wish I Was There

Congratulations to the Walter Payton College Prep girls’ soccer team on retaining the 2012 Hydrant with a 7-0 win over North Shore College Prep yesterday.  One of the big downers of spring training is all the kid activities I miss …

Glory Days

White Sox General Manager Ken Williams turned back the clock on Wednesday.  He ran into Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki before the game and Tulowitzki said hello from his dad, also named Ken.

“He pitched against you in high school,” the player told Williams.  “He played at Milapitas High School.  Said you hit a few home runs off him.”

Williams realized it was Tulowitzki’s dad who served up the longest ball he claims to ever have hit, a home run out of centerfield at PAL Stadium that landed on an elevated highway beyond the field.

“Tell your dad I said, ‘Hi’,” Williams said.  “Longest ball I ever hit.”

Once the exchange was over, I leaned over to Williams and said, “You know what this means? … This means you are old.”

Roster Moves

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The day started early for Manager Robin Ventura and Bench Coach Mark Parent.  Prior to today’s game vs. the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox made the following six roster moves, reassigning OF Jordan Danks, INF Jim Gallagher, INF Dan Johnson, INF Dallas McPherson, C Josh Phegley and INF Tyler Saladino to minor-league camp.  Ventura and Parent met with each player to tell him of the roster move.

“Those are always tough,” Ventura said of the cuts.  “You see guys come out here and work hard and do things, but it’s just the nature of the game and what you have to do to get down to your roster spots.”

The White Sox now have 31 players remaining in major-league camp: 16 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders and five outfielders.  Opening Day approaches.

Camp Outings

Both Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain pitched in minor-league intrasquad games today, with Peavy going 7.0 IP (12 hits, five runs, earned, one walk and seven strikeouts) and Crain 2.0 IP.  Ventura was pleased with both, and proclaimed that Crain had passed his 24-pitch test and had made the Opening Day roster.

Here are Jake’s comments after his start:

On his Triple A start against Sox minor-leaguers:

“I feel okay; I’m tired. It was good work. It was a long day’s work, but it was good. We got everything we went down there to accomplish in, and we threw a lot of fastballs, a lot out of the stretch, so it was good.”

On how he felt he did during the start:

“(Pitching Coach Don) Cooper came out about halfway through it, we were looking good early mixing our pitches in early, and then he came out and said let’s work on fastball command from here on out at about 70 pitches in. That’s key because your body starts getting tired, your legs start getting tired and your arm starts wanting to drag a little bit so it’s a lot harder to command your fastball so we worked on that. There’s reason behind that because you’re missing just a little bit on throwing those balls and catching the plate, and I gave up some hits on that, but that’s good, that’s what you go down there for. I didn’t go down there for that exact purpose, but when you’re down there there’s a lot less pride involved than when you’re up here instead of trying to get out there in front of thousands of fans.”

On if he’s excited to start on Opening Day at home:

“I’m looking forward to starting (Saturday) in Texas. Everything I’ve got right now is geared towards Texas. Obviously getting the start at home against Detroit will be fun, but we got our work cut out for us in this first week of the season starting with Texas. Here for the next week or so we’ll be doing a lot of preparation, watching a lot of video of last year and meeting with Twiggy and some of the scouts on what the Texas guys have been doing here late in spring. It’s a big week for us and it’ll be exciting to get back home, but I got a big start before I get there.”

On if he’s excited for John Danks getting the Opening Day start:

“I’m excited. I told you guys that’s what I wanted. I’m not taking anything away from the Opening Day start, that’s fun and I’ve done that quite a bit in my career, but John is working into that. A few years ago, Mark Buehrle even said, John’s probably the most deserving guy off what he did the previous years, but they gave it to Mark out of seniority here. It’s a big step for John, and John is going to be here the next few years as the leader of the staff and for him to take on that responsibility so to speak. It’s really no responsibility that any of us don’t have after that Opening Day, but Opening Day is a fun day, especially for him there in Texas I’m sure he’ll have a lot of fans there. It’s a playoff-type atmosphere so I’m excited for John Danks as a buddy and as a teammate.”

On if the team is going to lose 95 games as predicted by Sports Illustrated:

“That’s not going to happen. That ain’t going to happen, I can promise you that. We’re going to get after it.  I don’t know how many we’re going to win and how many we’re going to lose, but we’re not going to lose 95 games. This team has too much pride. We’re going to play the right way and we’re going to compete, that’s just all there is to it. We’re not going to give away games. We’re going to have some growing pains, especially with how young we are in the backend of the bullpen, I’m sure there’s going to be times that we lose some tough ones or give one away but that’s to be expected. At the same time, we have enough veteran presence on this team, guys who have been in the fire before, to lead these young guys. We got great leadership from the coaching perspective and we got too much pride, this team’s going to compete. We’re not losing 95 games, I can tell you that.”

On the White Sox handling of his medical situations since coming to Chicago:

“No, the White Sox have been nothing but good to me and my family. Are there things that we all would have done different looking back? – maybe so, myself included. There’s no sense in living in the past, I don’t want to do that. I certainly have nothing bad to say about the White Sox. Herm Schneider and his staff have been outstanding to me through all that I’ve been through. The way things kind of happened it was a perfect storm here – being traded over here hurt, trying to get through the arm injury and them not knowing me and me pushing my body to the limit – it was just a perfect storm. Hindsight is 20/20 on everything we do in life and if the doctor’s had known I was going to go out there and detach my lat completely from the bone they wouldn’t have let me pitch, and if I had known that I certainly wouldn’t have done that. Hindsight is 20/20 and I think we can all look back and think if we would have maybe done something different, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re through it and we’re all one. I have a great relationship with Herm; I have a great relationship with (General Manager) Kenny (Williams) and those guys know that I’m going to give them everything I’ve got here in the last year of my contract and hopefully I’ll make the most of it.”

On if what he’s gone through has been his personality making him push it to the limit:

“Like I said, it was a perfect storm. Those guys I don’t think knew me, and in San Diego they certainly knew that I liked to be on the field, I like to do everything I can do. Especially when you get traded over to be the guy and you want to be out there. 2010 started off so slowly and my arm was hurting me, but then there, those last handful of starts, I was starting to piece it back together. I had just put together a complete game shutout there in Washington, and I was hurting, but at the same time I was starting to figure out mechanically what I was doing and I was pitching like I should pitch. I pushed my body to the limit and I thought that I could get through it, but that just wasn’t the case. You live and you learn and I certainly know my body now. I’m going to push it, there’s no doubt about that because that’s who we are as competitors. I’m looking forward to this year and a healthy 2012.”

Infield

The White Sox have taken infield every day this spring, and shortstop Alexei Ramirez came up with a fun way to break the daily grind.  As infield concluded, each infielder charged a high hopper to fire to first base (just like every infield conducted by every Little League team everywhere in America), but this time, he came up with three balls in his hand and threw all three gently to first baseman Adam Dunn.

Robin! Robin!

“I’m not Robin! I’m not Robin!’ hitting coach Jeff Manto calls out to the collected fans as he drives past on his golf cart.  “He’s back there.”

So how often does Manto get confused for Robin Ventura?

“Every day,” he said.  “Every day.”

“Maybe someone should get a haircut,” I responded.

White Sox Lefties on Opening Day

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

With yesterday’s pronouncement by manager Robin Ventura, John Danks is now scheduled to be the 25th left-hander to start for the White Sox on Opening Day when he takes the mound Friday, April 6 at 1:05 p.m. against the Rangers in his home state of Texas (get up close with Danks, here.).  Following in the footsteps of his good friend, Mark Buehrle, Danks makes it 12 of the last 13 OD starts by Sox left-handers (Jose Contreras in 2006 is the only right-hander to break the streak).

According to research by Comcast Sports Net’s Chris Kamka, six White Sox pitchers have made multiple Opening Day starts, led by Buehrle’s nine, while 18 made just one.

The multiple starters include:

  1. Buehrle                9
  2. Pierce                   7
  3. Wood                    5
  4. John                      3
  5. Peters                   3
  6. Williams               3

Having Wilbur Wood (1972-76) on the list is pretty obvious, and I think Gary Peters is as well, but I was surprised to see Tommy John crack that list.

My biggest surprise reaction to the one-time starters was that Doc White only received one OD start, while I was surprised by some of the OD starters who fell somewhat short of fitting the common expectation of “ace.”  The list includes: Wells, Sirotka, Reuss, Horton, Koosman, Burns, Trout, Kravec, Brett, Pizarro, Wight, Lopat, Lee, Smith, Kerr (a little surprised he didn’t start more), Russell and Flaherty.

Next Time Use Modeling Clay

Thinking of Wilbur Wood reminded me of another Roland Hemond story from the other night.

It seems that then manager Chuck Tanner had a friend who made lamps (which begged many questions of Roland that I chose not to ask).  And this friend approached Tanner about making a lamp base modeled after Wilbur Wood’s hand and forearm (again a slew of questions, but I didn’t want to interrupt Roland’s rhythm).  So Wood agrees to go see this friend and allow a cast model to be made of his hand.

So Roland and Tanner are sitting in the manager’s office when Wood returns from his appointment with the lamp-maker … but there is a problem.  His entire left arm is wrapped in gauze and tape.  Something had gone amiss.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Wood told the duo.  “That stuff burned my arm badly.  It’s all blistered and raw.”

Two jaws dropped simultaneously.

“Just joking,” Wood erupted, unwrapping his fake injury to show a perfectly fine hand.

I am sure he started that night’s game.  Chances are pretty good back then.

 

Congratulations

Monday, March 26, 2012

 

To John Danks, who was named Opening Day starter by White Sox manager Robin Ventura after today’s game.

“He’s that guy for us,” Ventura said.  “When I look in his eyes, I like what I see.”

Danks has the added pleasure of starting the game in his home state of Texas as the White Sox face the Rangers at 1:05 p.m. CT on April 6.  Hook’em Horns.

 

Ventura added that Jake Peavy would pitch game two, with Gavin Floyd starting game three.

“I’m happy with our guys,” he said.  “I like where they’re at.”

Spring Training Notes

With about one week remaining in camp, it seemed like the right time to send along some of the key positive story lines we have enjoyed here in Glendale as we prepare for Opening Day on April 6 and the U.S. Cellular Field home opener on April 13.  Over the past few days, I’ve asked staff, coaches and other observers to name their biggest/best surprises from the spring, and in no particular order, here is the list:

  • The New Manager, Coaches and the Mood in Camp – For those of you who know him, it has been amazing to see Robin Ventura’s unruffled karma spread through camp.  There is an incredible amount of positive teaching going on – the coaching staff jokes about “Coaching Up” — and there is an efficient focus on details and fundamentals in camp.  We have been able to see this attention to detail exhibited in games in terms of outfielders hitting cut-off men, bunting (both as sacrifices and for base hits) and our ability to harass the opponents’ running game.  Almost every person I asked, listed this as the biggest positive for the spring.
  • Adam Dunn and Alex Rios – With four home runs, 12 walks and only three strikeouts so far this spring, Adam Dunn has looked very much like the Adam Dunn of 2012, not the Adam Dunn we saw post appendectomy in 2011.  Alex Rios connected on his first home run of the spring yesterday, but it has been his work ethic that has impressed to date.  Prior to the game yesterday, he was the last player off the field after batting practice, staying behind to hit off a tee with hitting coach Jeff Manto.  All were happy to see him rewarded later in the game.
  • Quality Starting Pitching Day in and Day Out – After a rough start to the spring, the White Sox starting rotation has really been impressive over the past 10 days. White Sox starting pitchers are 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA (7 ER/24.2 IP) during the team’s current three-game winning streak and 5-1 with a 2.96 mark (17 ER/51.2 IP) over the last 10 games from 3/17-26 (Sox are 7-3 during that span). Philip Humber threw 7.0 IP (one unearned run) on 3/25 vs. San Francisco, Chris Sale worked 6.0 scoreless IP on 3/19 vs. Cincinnati and Jake Peavy went 5.0 scoreless IP on 3/17 vs. Seattle.
  • Impressive Infield Defense – In Brent Morel, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko, we believe we have one of, if not the best, defensive infield in the division and arguably in the American League.  If you missed Gordon’s most-recent gem, see it, here. Watch Alexei’s circus play today, here
  • Bullpen As a Real Strength To This Team – While Robin Ventura has not yet chosen a bullpen closer, the spring performances of LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Addison Reed and RHP Nate Jones have impressed.  Names like those add to the depth of a real team strength, joining established pitchers like Matt Thornton, Will Ohman and Jesse Crain.  It’s still too soon to tell how the bullpen mix will ultimately fall out, but GM Ken Williams, Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper have many very solid options based on what we’ve seen this spring.
  • Minor Leaguers Impress – Each spring, a few minor leaguers impress in big league camp and become names to follow during the season.  This year was no different.  Seeing Jared Mitchell healthy and running well was a real pleasure, and a young middle infielder, Tyler Saladino, caught everyone’s eye, even receiving a rare “call up” to major league camp after arriving in Glendale for minor league mini camp. They will be fun to follow throughout the minor league season.
  • A.J. Pierzynski’s New-Found Speed I actually only added this line to see if you had read this far, but for those of you who missed his inside the park home run due to early bed times in Chicago, here are the fastest 17 seconds of the spring. If you did not read about it and chuckle, as A.J. rounded third base, former 2005 White Sox teammate Geoff Blum, now a Diamondbacks third baseman, called out, “You gotta go, Tubby.”

True Story

A White Sox front office executive (not me) was at Scottsdale’s Fashion Square Mall recently when he was frozen in semi wonderment as a pristine white Rolls Royce car came up the street toward them.  As it reached the group, it slowed perceptibly, rolling slowly up to them.  The group, which included kids, grew a little uneasy.

Suddenly, it stopped and the door flew open.  A large Dominican leaped out and smothered our executive in a great big bear hug.

It was none other than Juan Uribe!

“Juan!  A Rolls Royce?” he questioned.

“Uribe!” came the smiling response (how can you argue with that).

Note:  For a long time, this executive believes that Uribe thought he signed his pay checks, which might explain the warm welcome.

Tour Day

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Today was “Tour Day” at Camelback Ranch Glendale as a team of Little League White Sox from a Phoenix neighborhood visited the team before the game, meeting Jerry Reinsdorf, Gordon Beckham, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez.

“I think they are in shock,” laughed head coach Ron Carmichael, of his charges, who open their season Wednesday against the rival Diamondbacks.

“You guys try to win as many games as you can, and we’ll do the same,” Konerko said with a smile.  When asked by the team’s first baseman about making the throw across the diamond to third, Konerko said, “Tell your pitchers not to let guys get on base and then you don’t have to make that throw!”

Several of the kids talked with Ramirez in Spanish and asked for an autograph from Jackson Miranda, the team’s manager of cultural development and a translator for Ramirez.

“I’m not sure who translates for whom at this point,” joked Miranda, who passed on signing and told the kids to get Ramirez’s autograph instead.

White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf spoke to the kids, explaining how he became involved in baseball, buying the White Sox with a group of friends.  He talked about becoming a baseball fan as a kid in Brooklyn and Jackie Robinson.  “Maybe someday baseball will return to Brooklyn,” Reinsdorf told the kids with a chuckle.  “What’s the most important thing to remember about baseball?” he asked.  “Have fun.”

Minor Deal

The White Sox acquired outfielder Greg Golson from the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations earlier today.  With Brandon Short out of the year, the Sox were in need of outfield help at Class AAA Charlotte.

Applause

RHP Jesse Crain took the mound today for pitcher fielding practice and the coaching staff and his teammates erupted in mock applause.  He demurely acknowledged the recognition with a smile and wave of his glove.  Crain has been sidelined for the past week or so after straining his right oblique.  Happy to finally get off the training room table, he threw a bullpen session as well.

Remembering Eddie Collins

Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, who starred for the White Sox from 1915-26, died on this date, March 25, in 1951.

 

Late Night, Early Morning

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In case you missed it because of sleep or other priorities, last night’s White sox game featured the best in baseball drama – an inside the park home run.  And you’ll never guess who delivered!

“You gotta go, Tubby,” with that Dbacks thirdbaseman Geoff Blum exhorted and mocked former teammate A.J. Pierzynski as he rounded third and headed for home as his shot off the center field wall ricocheted around the outfield.

AJ beat the throw home, sliding safely across the plate.  It is an around-the-bases dash well worth watching again.

Gators

And you can bet that catcher will be in downtown Phoenix today rooting on his Florida Gators.

Another Item

It was pretty late last night, so understandable if you missed it, but Nate Jones threw the ball VERY well in his two-inning stint, striking out five and reaching 97 mph with his fastball.  It was an impressive way to end a long day.

Roland, One of A Kind

I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with former White Sox GM Roland Hemond last night.  Hemond, who now works for the Diamondbacks but was also at the game to talk about this year’s celebration of Dick Allen and the 1972 team, reminisced about his time with the Sox with some great stories.

During Allen’s heyday, the Sox had a driver whose daily responsibility would be to get Allen to the ballpark in time for the game, but not by much.

“At 7:30 before an 8 p-.m. game he’d be eating ribs at the Hickory Pit,” Hemond recalled, “and then he’d hit a three-run homer.”

When Hemond became GM of the White Sox, one word of advice he received was to avoid getting tangled up with Dick Allen.  So when Hemond acquired both Stan Bahnsen and Allen in a trade at the winter meetings of 1971, the same guy told him … “Congratulations on Bahnsen.  Good luck with Allen.”

The next offseason, Hemond received the Executive of the Year Award.  When he saw the very same “advisor,” he called out … “Thank you, Dick Allen!”

Hemond recalled that he once almost traded Wilbur Wood.  “It really is true that the trades you don’t make are sometimes your best ones,” he laughed, in talking about Wood’s importance and durability to those Sox teams.

Hemond disclosed that he talked Steve Stone into returning to baseball after the sore-armed pitcher was ready to move on to a career in restaurants.

“You shouldn’t be hanging it up,” Hemond told Stone at the Pump Room one day before the 1973 season.  Stone returned, pitched well, and had a chance to become a free agent.

“But he showed a lot of class,” Hemond recalled.  “He could have been a free agent but instead, he said, ‘You guys showed faith in me, I owe it to you to stay here.’”

The next year, Stone again was a free agent.  This time, owner Bill Veeck said Stone owed it to himself to try the market.  Stone went on to win the AL Cy Young Award that season with the Orioles.

Hemond has nothing but good things to say about his seasons with Veeck.

“We used to go around Chicago, attending dinners and meetings,” he recalled with a smile.  “Bill told me to never leave early, to always stay and talk to everyone.  Finally, after five dinners a night, night after night, I said, “Bill, look around.  I’m talking to you.  You’re talking to me.  Everyone else is gone.’

“I wouldn’t trade those five years with him for anything,” Hemond said.

There was one moment Hemond might like to forget.  It came when the conversation switched to old Payne Park in Sarasota, Fla.  The team worked out of trailers.  Hemond was inside on the phone one day when he heard BAM! BAM! BAM!

“What was that?” everyone wondered.

“Keep the door shut!” someone yelled.  The loud BAM ringing through the trailer was a disgruntled, recently released player trying to sledgehammer his way inside to reach Hemond.

Hemond left laughing at Ron Leflore’s famous, four-base error on a ball that bounced off his head.

“He blamed it on Mount St. Helens,” Hemond joked decades later.

Honoring the 1972 Team

 Here is the info about how the White Sox and the Chicago Baseball Museum plan to celebrate Hemond, Dick Allen and members of that famous 1972 team in June:

WHITE SOX TO HONOR DICK ALLEN

Former White Sox General Manager Roland Hemond and Other Members of 1972 Team

Scheduled to Attend Tribute on June 24

CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox will honor former White Sox first baseman and 1972 American League Most Valuable Player Dick Allen at U.S. Cellular Field prior to the game on Sunday, June 24.  The seven-time All-Star and White Sox fan favorite is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game vs. Milwaukee (1:05 p.m.), with other embers of the 1972 White Sox team and legendary former Sox general manager Roland Hemond in attendance.

During the June 24 game, and all 2012 Sunday home games, the White Sox will wear red pinstriped throwback uniforms and red caps to honor the 1972 team.  The first 10,000 children (13 and under) in attendance on June 24 will receive youth XL 1972 replica jerseys, presented by Pepsi.

“The 1972 White Sox team stands out in franchise history.  Personalities and stars like Dick Allen, Goose Gossage, Bill Melton and many others changed this franchise and deserve to be recognized,” said Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing.  “Seeing Allen throw that first pitch and those pinstriped jerseys will bring back a lot of memories for fans of that generation and create new memories as well.”

On Monday, June 25, Allen and other members of the 1972 White Sox will be honored by the Chicago Baseball Museum at their fundraising dinner at U.S. Cellular Field.  The festivities for the museum’s dinner will begin at 6 p.m. at the Stadium Club,

Tickets for the June 24 game at U.S. Cellular Field can be purchased by visiting whitesox.com or calling (312) 674-1000.

For more information about the Chicago Baseball Museum’s tribute dinner, visit ChicagoBaseballMuseum.org.

Longest Day

Friday, March 23, 2012

Manager Robin Ventura and bench coach Mark Parent took part in spring training’s longest day, driving to the team’s 1 p.m. game in Tucson against the Dodgers before taking the unconventional return trip – via small airplane into Glendale’s nearby airport – for the 7:05 p.m. nightcap against the Diamondbacks.  It didn’t help matters that the day game took three hours, 33 minutes to play with the Sox losing, 17-4.

The plane reportedly belonged to a good friend of Ventura’s, and I joked that if you looked up just before game time and saw a bright orange plane with OSU or TB on it, it might be RV.

 

Closing in on 50K

 Our twitter account, @whitesox, is closing in on 50,000 followers.  Help push us over the mark by following us (if you don’t), joining twitter (it’s not scary and not all about what someone had for lunch that day) or recommending it to others.

White Sox History

Like most of you, I enjoy scanning the web for interesting info.  Today, I found this from The Baseball Historian blog about Chick Gandil and the 1919 Black Sox/

Buddy

Vice President of Player Development and Special Assignments Buddy Bell took part in an annual conference call with White Sox bloggers today.  Check out his comments on South Side Sox

Celebs in the House

 Hall of Famer Frank Robinson is expected in the ballpark tonight, along with former Sox pitcher Kirk McCaskill and his youth baseball team in town for a tournament.

 

 

 

Predictions

Thursday, March 22, 2012

If you have seen the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated, it is pretty clear they are not high on this year’s White Sox team.  The magazine has us winning 67 games, losing 95 and coming in dead last in the division, 26 games behind the Detroit Tigers.

 

Fortunately, championships are not won based on preseason predictions.  If that were the case, the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox would have met in the World Series – that was the magazine’s prediction last year. In reality, they were just two of the six teams pegged for the 2011 postseason by SI that did not make the playoffs.  Not only did they miss on 75% of their playoff picks (Boston, Colorado, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Oakland, Minnesota), but four of those teams finished under .500 last year.

While preseason predictions are going to be written in every publication, it’s clear, based on even the most recent evidence, they are nothing to get worked up over.  

I ran across a few things online that I found interesting earlier today. Take a look/listen and let me know what you think.

Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox manager, discusses his first camp as skipper on “Inside Pitch” live from Spring Training on MLB Network Radio

MLB.com story by Bernie Pleskoff on White Sox

SI.com article on Ventura leading the Sox

 

 

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