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

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