The Sox Journey Begins…
The first day of pitchers and catchers is always special–even though the day began with 30-degree temperatures and frost covering the infield grass.
Here’s some White Sox baseball talk from the opening day of camp to warm you up after the long winter:
GENERAL MANAGER RICK HAHN ON:
John Danks’ Recovery
“The thing about Danks, which we talked about a little at SoxFest, the biggest challenge with him right now is slowing him down. When you have a guy coming back from injury, if you’re going to have some sort of hurdle or obstacle, that’s a good one to have. But, it’s going to be on [Don] Cooper and Robin [Ventura] as we go forward to make sure he’s not biting off more than he can chew. He feels strong, he looks great, he’s eager, and that’s all wonderful but we still need to put a little bit of a governor on him so that we’re going to be able to get him through hopefully seven months.”
The A.L. Central
“Our division is going to be tough. I think, obviously, Cleveland’s improved over the 68-win team they were last year and Kansas City has improved over the 72-win team they were last year, as well. I think it’s going to be tough for any one team to run away with it in the Central this year, and I think it’s going to be a fun summer…From our standpoint, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to compete and plan to compete with our pitching, although they’re a stronger offensive club then they (the Indians) were the day before. We still feel that we can measure up with anyone in the division one through twelve in our staff, and that’s going to be a key to our success going forward this year.”
The balance of pitching, offense and defense:
“I hope my imprint is that we lead the league in runs scored and (the least) runs allowed. But, I think it’s going to be based upon what personnel we have on hand, what’s available on the open market, the trade market and what’s available in our system before we decide on an annual basis what will be priority. My personal preference would be to emphasize pitching and defense on any given year. We’ve talked about this before, in our ballpark, being a hitter’s park, the differences between a good offense and a bad offense tend to blur a little bit. Bad offenses get picked up and good offenses can only go so far on the upside. So, the differences in the pitching staff become more important. But, if based on the talent we have in house or the talent that’s available in the market place, if it makes more sense to go more on the offensive side then we will adapt when that time comes.”
Making acquisitions to help the club:
“We’re continuing to talk to other clubs. There’s sort of an inclination when you get to camp to let everyone settle in and assess where you are, especially from a health standpoint, before you go out and make a move. But, since I’ve been here, we’ve acquired Damaso Marte and Matt Thornton in March in Spring Training deals and those are obviously players that can help a championship club. We’re going to continue to be diligent and stay in contact with clubs about some previous targets that haven’t changed hands yet as well as potentially some new ones over the coming weeks.”
Addison Reed in the closer’s role:
“Obviously he established himself last year. At the same time, I feel like we’ve got some options, if need be. Based on a given situation, if it’s Donnie Veal that needs to come in and get a tough lefty or even (Matt) Lindstrom on a certain day given the amount of usage in the last several games. I feel that Robin should have, knock on wood, the depth and alternatives to play the best matchup. I try not to get too hung up on “this guy’s the closer or this guy’s the setup man.” I know it makes guys a little more comfortable to know when they need to get ready, at the same time given the communication that I expect Cooper and [Bobby Thigpen] and Robin will have with our guys, they’ll know that we’re going to go to the best guy to get the most important out when it arises. A lot of times that’s going to be Addison in the ninth and sometimes, perhaps it might not be.”
Pushing Chris Sale more this year and what the front office learned about him from last season:
“Obviously [we felt] last year was a success in terms of building up [his] innings and being able to respond and communicate with the player in terms of what he’s feeling and adjusting our plan. We learned a few things. One, how to handle Chris, and we improved and got that relationship to the point where there’s a level of trust and honestly that should help all of us going forward in terms of responding to how he feels. Secondly, I hope that it set a nice example for other guys. Whether it’s (Jose) Quintana or another young player who’s taking an innings jump like we saw Chris do last year, we have some experience going through this. Actually, whether it’s a young guy making an innings jump or a guy coming back from an injury that you need to monitor a little bit and adjust your schedule on the fly, we’ve got a little experience with that. In terms of the first part of the question: pushing Chris…we enter this year that he’s like any other starter. Obviously, with any guy we’ll adjust the plan if he’s not able to meet certain hurdles as they arise. Our intention is to send him out there without restriction.”
What the club learned from losing the A.L. Central lead at the end of the season:
“It leaves you with a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s not just me or the guys in the baseball department; it’s everyone in uniform, player, coach and scouts alike. Initially it takes you a little time to get over that. You don’t want to watch the playoffs and see other teams succeed when you feel that you should be there. In terms of going forward, you eventually get over that and I think you turn that into a positive that it becomes a challenge to finish things off. Again, Robin and his staff did a great job last year with the focus on any given day being winning that night’s ballgame, not fast forwarding ahead. We’re not going to push out and say, “Come September 15th, or whenever it is, this is how we’re going to finish strong,” we have to win Opening Day and after that the next day. I expect that focus is going to continue in the same tenor that it did last year.”
Paul Konerko, whose contract ends at the end of this season:
“We like to keep any communication with the player about his contract private. We’ve had more success doing that than setting out deadlines. I will say, two previous times, two years ago and seven years ago, we’ve entered this phase of the last year of Paul’s contract and there’s been suspicion that perhaps this could be his last in a White Sox uniform. I think we even played the commemorative video during a last at-bat at some point, if not twice, during those stretches. We’ve been able to work things out by keeping things private and respecting the player-team relationship. I don’t have any public expectations for how this is going to play out. I do expect internally it’s going to follow the same open dialogue and tenor that we’ve had in the last couple times that we’ve been through this with Paul.”
MANAGER ROBIN VENTURA ON:
Being a first year manager
“Not to pinpoint, but you go through periods, where I think for me looking at it, a guy like Walt Weiss this year I can’t give him any advice that will solve everything, but I realize he’ll be fine. Any advice someone would have given you, it wouldn’t of helped, because there’s certain things that happen throughout a season that you can’t account for.”
The helplessness of the coaching staff the last two weeks of the 2012 season
“I think that’s part of sports. That’s what makes it frustrating, exhilarating and all those things in between. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, but that’s the way it goes. You get to that point where you’re trying to do a lot of different things and it doesn’t work. In the end, for me, the effort was there but it just didn’t happen.”
If there is a clear-cut 25-man roster
“You seem to think so. (But) until you see everybody out there and how it goes … you’d like to think it’s clear-cut and nothing’s going to change, but you just never know when you come to spring training.”
The AL Central being better now than it was at the end of 2012
“I would think so, yea. I think everyone has added, it’s going to be a good division. You also have the team that went to the World Series in our division from our league. It doesn’t get easy, I know that.”
The response to 2012 criticisms of letting Jake Peavy work into the 7th, 8th and 9th innings
“I still think he can do that. Those are decisions that you make and if it works great and if it doesn’t you get criticized. That’s just part of being in the position I’m in and it doesn’t just go with him. I think any move you make that doesn’t work it’s pretty easy to criticize. I feel for me, I’m doing what I think is necessary at the time. You can’t be right all the time, but knowing who I’m dealing with and knowing the people that we have, I’m going to make the best decision that we can at that time.”
Thoughts regarding Tyler Flowers showing up early–and replacing A.J.
“I think it’s big. He’s been here early working out and kind of setting the example for everybody else. He feels he’s ready, we feel he’s ready, and to give him that support. I like the fact that he’s come in here early and set the tone already and that he’s willing to go out and earn it, not just getting handed off to him. It’s tough when you have to come in after anybody like A.J., but he can only do what he’s going to do. He can’t worry about any of the peripheral stuff of being judged by somebody else. That’s just for me and the rest of the coaching staff to handle as far as keeping him focused on what he can control and what he can do.”
Working on situational hitting with runners in scoring position in spring training
“We always like to do that. I think we’ll probably have drills that add that. Again, last year you see it at a point where it didn’t happen. I think here in spring training you can set up drills to get that going, but there’s always an emphasis on getting those guys in and it starts here with little drills that we’re going to do. You hope that carries over.”
If there will be drastic changes to some of players approach at the plate:
“I don’t know if it’s drastic, but (we’ll) at least plant the seed. For me, home runs are great, but you also have to knock in a run from second base without hitting a home run and that’s one of the things I’d like to see us do a little better this year.”
How long will it be until naming the opening day starter
“We’ll wait a little while.”
If he’s played around with lineups in your head now with Keppinger in the mix
“We’ve done a little bit of it, but again I think having the ability to start so early down here we’ll see when everybody gets here because there’s so much time that I didn’t feel the need to write them out just to come down here and change them.”
Play of the Day
Lefty Chris Sale threw the first pitch of the spring as part of throwing Group A from the six-pack mounds.
Sporting Change: Uniform category
Fans will notice new spring training hats for the Sox with the S-O-X logo outlined in raised black piping.
Sporting Change: Facial hair category
Matt Thornton shaved off his lumberjack-like beard he had at SoxFest. “We liked you better with the beard,” someone shouted at the now-clean-shaven reliever.
PK in the House
Veteran Paul Konerko came in today to undergo his physical with the pitchers and catchers, getting it out of the way before position players report.
Catcher Hector Gimenez is not expected into camp until Friday or so due to VISA issues, and our condolences to White Sox conditioning director Allen Thomas, who lost his father over the weekend. He is expected to re-join the team at the end of the week.
A few uniform number changes to note: pitching coach Don Cooper is switching to #99 in memory of batting practice pitcher Kevin Hickey, who passed away last season; catcher Tyler Flowers moves to #21; while new coaches Bobby Thigpen (#58) and Daryl Boston (#17) slide into open spots.
There is a rumor (actually much more than a rumor) of afternoon golf with two foursomes of staff and coaches. Details to follow tomorrow.
Day 2 starts earlier on Wednesday, with the team dressed and scheduled to meet at 9:45 a.m. Group B pitchers will throw and the workout should end around noon.
Did you Know?…that John and Jordan Danks’ sister, Emily, was a starter on the Ohio State women’s volleyball team?
Photo of the Day