White Sox Ready for Fall

thomedugout

By Soxman

The Chicago White Sox are officially ready for fall after they waved a flag with a color that’s a fashion taboo to after labor day: white. The actual “fall” of the team occurred when they failed to dominate their easiest home stand of the year two weeks ago.

So,  Jim Thome is traded to the Dodgers for a player that doesn’t even rank among the Dodgers top prospects.

For all of the excitement that Mr. Incredible Jim Thome gave to the Sox in his four seasons on the southside, Kenny Williams said thanks by giving him a chance to achieve a milestone that has thus far eluded him in his Hall of Fame career: a World Series ring.

Less we never forget

-His 500th career home run, which also happened to be a walk-off winner in an otherwise miserable 2007 season

-His multitude of mammoth dingers, the largest of which made us 2008 Central Division Champions.

To a lesser extent, Jose Contreras was also given a similar gift for his 2005 play-off pitching heroics, a trade to the wild card seeking Colorado Rockies

When the flag was waved it was waved loudly.  Through a personal memo sent to contending teams, Williams announced his “everything must go” sale of aging inventory.

Among the items “for sale” were Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Scott Linebrink, Octavio Dotel and Scott Podsednik.

With the exception of Konerko and Linebrink, who are under contract for at least one more season beyond 2009, player rentals could be had to a bidder willing to pay just pennies on the dollar.

So what does this mean to the 2010 and beyond Chicago White Sox?jose-contreras-2005-studio-plus-posters

Here are four quick points:

1. The Jim Thome trade identifies a need for a left handed hitter.

As Kenny Williams often has multiple plans, and has a history of bringing players back for multiple tours:

-Jim Thome could return at a reduced price.

– A free agent option that could make sense is Nick Johnson.  He has a career on-base percentage of .400 with good contact capability.  His injury history could bring him in at a reduced price and the allure of the DH spot could save miles on his body.  The launching pad of U.S. Cellular field could also help his power numbers.   He could rotate the DH spot with Paul Konerko reducing breakdown risk to Paulie as well.

2)      Absent from the “For Sale” List was Freddy Garcia.

Is this a hint that he could be a firm part of the Sox plans in 2010?  Your rotation would be set:

Jake Peavy
Mark Buehrle
John Danks
Gavin Floyd
Freddy Garcia

Assuming all players remain healthy, this would be a better than average rotation, surely among the strongest in the AL Central.


3)      Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko might not return in 2010

See point one.  Depending on which of Kenny’s plans are activated, both could return.  Given Konerko’s contract and no trade clause, he’s the most likely of the two to be on the 2010 roster.  Along with Mark Buehrle, he’s the face of the organization, which is an intangible Kenny Williams values.

In the spirit of re-building and going with a youth movement:

Tyler Flowers, hitting a combined .297 with 15 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this season is one option, who we will see in the month of September.  While I hope they do not give up on him at catcher, an indicator could be whether or not he plays any first base in the Arizona Fall League.

Dayan Viciedo could be another.

Savings from letting Dye go could be used to add Chone Figgins, a versatile player with speed that Williams has coveted for years.  His style of play is conducive to “Ozzie Ball” as well.


4) Alexei Ramirez might not be the long-term answer at shortstop.

Sure the white flag trades have no nexus to this statement, but I had to make it anyway.  Alexei has the second lowest fielding percentage among White Sox regulars.  He could move back to second base where he was serviceable, or return to the outfield. alexeicheshirt

He’s only owed $2 million over the next two seasons and his offensive capability makes him a bargain, so he is not likely to be traded.

Gordon Beckham makes more sense at shortstop as a player to build around in the infield.

There are a host of possibilities in the off-season including bringing back Scott Podsednik, who could act as a speedy super-sub.

Here’s ONE possible line-up for 2009 if some of these moves were made.

Chone Figgins- 3B
Gordon Beckham- SS
Carlos Quentin- LF
Paul Konerko- 1B
Nick Johnson- DH
Alex Rios- RF
A.J. Pierzynski- C
Alexei Ramirez- CF
Chris Getz- 2B

Remember there are always options.

More posts as the off-season approaches.

Hold the Cheese: A Sox-Brewers Exchange

bernie-soxman

By Soxman and Melissa S. Wollering

You have to reach back to years of California’s rolling blackouts, Mad Cow disease media-hype and the release of the very first Apple’s IPod for the last time the Chicago White Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers.  2001 was remarkable.  Fast-forward to 2009, as Soxman and Melissa cheese it up about the latest meeting between the two teams, sure to be as memorable as the smell of limburger left in a vehicle at 90 degrees for 8 hours.

(SM)  Nope, I’m not going to do it.  There will be absolutely no gloating by this White Sox super fan regarding our series sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why?  Well, I have two reasons.  One: our victories actually helped the Cubs in the standings.  Two: the Brewers are my second favorite team in the National League.  Yes, for Soxman, there are other teams in baseball beyond the boys who protect the diamond at 35th and Shields.

The Brewers franchise is the little engine that could.  The small market team, built from home-grown prospects and complemented, not defined by free agents. I love their park and their fans, so you will not hear me “drop a beat down” on this team.

That said, to quote the 70’s sensation Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  Any thoughts you would like to share overall on the competitive series that took place at Miller Park this weekend?

white-sox-brewers

(MW)  First off, I count a sweep as taking three of three.  Brewers won on Friday 7-2, so let’s say you ‘won the series’.  Your pitchers got it done when ours didn’t, your hardwood performance made our players appear to be using toothpicks, Pierzynski was ‘one to watch’ even though Paul M. Banks thought I was nuts for saying so last week.  To top it all off, you robbed Trevor Hoffman of a perfect ERA.  Robbing Hoffy made me feel as though the Sox had cursed death upon my future first-born child.  It left me that empty.

(SM) Okay, let’s look at each game in a little more detail.  The first game to me was not a loss by the White Sox as much as it was a loss to Ozzie Guillen.  He pulled Clayton Richard after pitching five solid innings and only giving up one earned run.  It  was also the start of a great series (and hopefully a hot streak) for Corey Hart.  A double, a triple, and 3 RBIs.  Our bullpen, which had been pretty automatic, gave up six earned runs.  For a final thought, where in the heck did former Cub, Casey McGehee come from?

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(MW) He came from Cubbie purgatory where if you vow to contribute to the Milwaukee Brewers after a life with the Cubs, then you reach heaven after your career is finished. Amen, brother! He got the leadoff spot in Sunday’s lineup and contributed to that game, too, before it took a Turnbow nosedive.

I also love pitchers that can get it done on both offense and defense. On Friday, Suppan retired the side in just 7 pitches in the 2nd inning. Then he stepped up to the plate in the 3rd and advanced Kendall to second with a nice Sac.   Richard doubled for his first major-league hit in the 5th, too. Ozzie pulled him for that error in the following inning, which I agree, wasn’t completely necessary. Still, Suppan and Richard impressed overall.

(SM) Game II.  Let’s just say your premonition regarding Manny Parra in last weeks exchange with Paul M. Banks was spot on.  Six earned runs in an inning and two-thirds pitched.  What is wrong with this guy?  With an ERA over seven, perhaps he’ll follow his opponent’s lead and figure everything out in the minors?  Did I mention that Jose Contreras appears to be back?  Eight innings of two-hit ball.  Bottom line, that was the story of this game.  Care to offer your perspective?

(MW) If you care to sweep Manny Parra’s glove and uniform under Miller Park’s bleachers, douse them with lighter fluid and start tailgating around them with a couple of Usinger’s famous bratwursts, then by all means SWEEP away. Let’s just say I awoke Sunday extremely unsurprised that he was sent down to AAA Nashville. 

What cracked me up though is that Macha is so disgusted, he currently does not give a rat’s rear-end about trying to replace him. We brought up the reliever Chris Narveson and will use Seth McClung to start if need be.  However, the next 8 games include two off days, so a 4-man rotation works until June 27th. Attanasio is probably doing some Father’s Day shopping in the starting pitching department, aisle better than a 7.52 ERA? You had to know this was coming.  It’s not IF, it’s WHEN with the Milwaukee Brewers and their pitching woes.

Contreras impressed with the number of innings pitched, copious amounts of strikeouts and no signs of returning ailments. That is a trifecta to me because those Achilles can take some time. Hey, come to think of it you know, we could use a starting pitcher…

(SM) Well, if we are going to tailgate, I’d prefer Johnsonville beer brats.  The series finale was like bizarro baseball world in my opinion.  Jim Thome attempts to bunt, Mark Buehrle homers and Trevor Hoffman gives up his first run of the season.  Corey Hart brought us back to reality by belting two homers and Casey McGehee appeared to be playing with Cubs ire as he went 3 for 4, falling a triple short of the cycle.  Thoughts ?

(MW) Hart does well in June, it’s his month.  It is the month of the harvest, when his ‘International Harvester’ as a batting song actually makes sense for 30 days.  JJ Hardy looked absolutely dismal.  He got shoved down the batting order to eighth on Monday as a direct result. He is something like 1 for 32 right now in at-bats.

hardyflow1

Buehrle surprised with his bat and I enjoyed watching White Sox fans cheer in utter shock!  I cheered with them.  Heck, who cares?  It was exciting. Looper didn’t deserve any cheering whatsoever, so…. 

Also, let’s describe how Melissa watched the 0.00 ERA on the gigantic wrap scoreboard flicker at status quo for the last time in Brewers history for Hoffman.  Let’s pause 30 seconds for silence.  Now let’s never speak of it again. I heard he was .8 innings away from making club history.  I said let’s never speak of it again! This is me, writing to myself in my alter ego.

(SM)  I actually did a Sox Exchange once with my alter ego Bruce Wayne Parker, so I know how these things go.  It will get better.  Earlier this season, I scouted the Brewers farm system, taking in Nashville Sounds game.  All the buzz surrounded super-prospect Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar, yet most of the return on investment thus far seems to be coming from McGehee, who only hit .167 with the Cubs last year despite driving in 92 runs for AAA Iowa.  Former Brewer Scotty Podsednik has been that guy for us.  Left for dead by the Colorado Rockies, Pods was out of work until mid-April when the Sox took a chance on him.  The 2005 World Series hero has made the  most of his second chance with Sox, posting a .360 OBP, and hitting .311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, and 8 SB.  The Brewers and Sox both have a history of getting the most out of frugal signings.  Do you think its that Midwest mentality or dumb luck ?

(MW) It’s karma…we lose people like Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins who go on to semi-resurrect their careers with other organizations.  But we also give away people like Scott Linebrink to the White Sox and watch him implode on himself, like he did Saturday. 

You win some, you lose some.  So, somewhere smack in the middle of Midwest mentality and sheer dumb luck. That dances around your question like a circus performer on hot coals. Sorry, Soxman. But I agree, kudos to the Sox for picking up Scotty Po Po.  I cheered for him this weekend and I was in the vast majority!  You would have been proud of my Milwaukee Brethren.

(SM)  Finally, lets play Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox (and Brewers) and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball… 

elvis-hart-240x320

White Sox pitching was good for Corey Hart.
 

(SM) Maybe, He was in a 2 for 23 slump on Wednesday, looks like Ryan Braun against the Sox. 

 

(MW) Mirage, it had nothing to do with the pitching. In June 2007, Hart batted .336 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs from the leadoff spot. June of ’08 was decent, too.

 Jose Contreras is back.
 

(SM) Maybe, 2 starts, 16 IP, zero ER, and three hits allowed.  Enough said. 

(MW) Maybe, watch his health, keep stretching that achilles and I don’t see why not.

The Brewers will be buyers at the trade deadline.

(SM) Maybe, they need another solid starting pitcher and perhaps a hitter hat can get on base. 

(MW)  Strong Maybe if not Definitely. For the first time in years, more MLB teams are looking to trade for bats. It may give us an advantage when seeking pitchers. Starting pitcher = happening for us.

 The Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline.

 (SM) Mirage, who are they going to give up on?  Sellers are a possibility. 

(MW:) Mirage, they’ll be selling to teams like the Brewers and salvaging the future. My sincere apologies, but…

The Brewers and the Sox will meet in the 2009 World Series.
 

(SM) Mirage.  Not unless we start scoring more runs. 

(MW)  I like your thinking!  But probably not, so mirage it is. Bless what we have in common until then–our hatred for the Cubs!

(SM) Great exchange Melissa!  Good luck to you guys down the stretch.

Taking the 5th, White Sox Starting Pitching Options

Paul M. Banks 

Now that Jose Contreras (0-5, 8.19 ERA) is gone, hopefully, his replacement will keep the White Sox rotation from spinning off its axis every fifth day.

Contreras was contrarian to the Sox winning ballgames, so he’ll go and attempt to work out his issues at AAA Charlotte.

On Wednesday Clayton Richard, the former University of Michigan quarterback, will take his spot in the rotation when the Sox play at Cleveland. Richard was a somewhat effective spot starter and solid reliever down the stretch last season. His rookie season contributions during a division championship run were reminiscent of another rookie in another championship season: Brandon McCarthy, who stepped up down the stretch of the 2005 championship year.

Richard gets the first opportunity, but if he fails, here’s the other “options.

Lance “jazz hands” Broadway- His name sounds like a stage alias in a really bad musical. And his fastball is equally lacking in intimidation. I don’t think Pitching Coach Don Cooper legitimately considers a Broadway audition because his velocity is impressive…if you’re pitching for the Schaumburg Flyers or Gary Southshore RailCats.

Jeff Marquez- Remember when he was considered to be a front-runner for the 5th starter position? Ancient history now as he’s on the DL with a 0-4 record and 14.15 ERA in AAA ball. Forget about the strides he made this spring. Fellow farmhand Jack Egbert was also considered an option earlier this year, but has similarly since fallen out of favor.

Wes Whisler- He has a 3-2 2.12 ERA as a starter in AAA and led the Knights in victories and games started last season- good for 10th in the International League ERA race. The 26-year-old prospect ranked second in wins, fourth in IP and ninth in ERA among all Sox farmhands. He wasn’t initially rated to be much of a prospect, but then again the Sox have fired people in their scouting department in recent years for a reason.

Hopefully, this situation won’t turn into another 2004, when it seemed like there was a new 5th starter every week. One of these youngsters should step up, otherwise it might be time to give the agents of Jason Grilli or Freddy Garcia a call. Lord help us if it someday comes to that.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

White Sox Exchange

By Paul M. Banks and Soxman

(PMB) About a month into the season, the AL Central is exactly like we said it would be: anybody’s for the taking. With all of the teams except last place Cleveland (ironically, my pick to win the division) all bunched up together.

And the Indians aren’t that far out, so this horserace is exceedingly difficult to handicap.

(SM)  While I did say “look out for KC” in many preseason interviews, it is interesting to see them on top of the pack right now.  Even with injuries to Alex Gordon, they are popping out enough offense to win.  Zack Greinke and Gil Meche are pitching like a legitimate 1-2 punch, and Joakim Soria is one of the most underrated closers in the game.

Still, all teams in the AL Central have at least 1-2 HUGE holes, leaving this division winnable for any team at his point.

(PMB) Let’s talk injuries, De Wayne Wise was already hurt, and then his replacement Brian Anderson goes down.  At least Dye was ok. Jerry Owens was still as awful at the plate now as he was in spring training, and last year and ’07 for that matter- opening the door for Scott Podsednik, who I think is washed up, and has been for a season or two. (His defense was terrible Monday night) Of course, he’s a sentimental favorite with Sox Nation, with World Series hero status, and there isn’t much else out there, so I totally understand the decision. Can you think of any better scenarios here?   Can the Lilliputian Brent Lillibridge roam the OF?

(SM) If this were a 60’s Batman episode, I would type, BIFF, ZAP, ZOW!!! In response to your rant there.  I think we’ve had some fairly freak injuries occur thus far.  Thome injured his heal running, Anderson hurt his ribcage swinging, and Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch.  While I don’t think Scotty Pods is completely washed up, his days as an everyday player are behind him, and he was always just an average corner outfielder and never much of a centerfielder.  He’s a fourth or fifth outfielder at this point in his career.

Jerry Owens elected to become a free agent rather than return to the minors for the Sox and signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners on May 4th.

Lillibridge is capable of playing CF, but is only hitting .167 on the season.

Brian Anderson was playing the best baseball of the bunch before his injury, essentially abandoning his homerun swing in favor of contact, and was truly beginning to earn my respect as a player.  His on-base percentage was also excellent at .383.

As the Sox have no plans to call on Jordan Danks or Gordon Beckham this season, this is really all we have to work with at this point.  My guess is the Sox will try to float until Anderson or Wise return.  Just beware, shoulder and ribcage injuries are the two worst injuries for a hitter, so the Sox will try to ensure they are fully recovered before rushing them back.

You know how I HATED the trade of Nick Swisher.  The answer?  Swisher could have played the same CF defense as Scotty Pods and is currently hitting: .300, 7 HR, 19 RBI, with a 1.122 OPS!  No use crying over soiled socks I guess.

(PMB)  Is Jose Contreras Contrarian to our cause? He’s been AWFUL!!!! In every start except one in this young season, and he was far from overwhelmingly impressive in that start. I guess we knew that between him and Bartolo Colon, we would only really get one decent pitcher at the back of the rotation, not two. Of course, no one will mistake Colon for Carlston Charles Sabathia, but he has looked like a Cy Young winner compared to Contreras, who’s likely washed up right?

(SM) Colon has made the adjustment from what I call pitching with his arm, to pitching with his head.  For the first part of his career, Colon had overpowering stuff where he could even get hitters out when he threw mistakes.  As weight, injuries, and miles accumulated on his body, he learned to pitch with his head.

Jose Contreras was lit up for seven earned runs on seven hits over a mere 3.1 innings of work on Saturday.  With an 8.31 ERA on the season, is he done?  Maybe, but it is too early in the season to make that judgment for sure.  Contreras is one of the tougher pitchers to coach because he has at least three different deliveries on his pitches, which means his mechanics are that much more difficult to correct.  With the injury he suffered last season, I believe it will be at least another month before the Sox truly know whether he’s done or not.  The question is, can they afford to wait that long?  At 12-12, and only 1.5 games out of first, I think they still have a little time.

(PMB)  Let’s talk about possible replacements.


What about Lance “Jazz Hands” Broadway? Let’s say it again with loud, musical accentuation…Lance….Broadway!!! I don’t think Cooper is legitimately going to consider him an option because his velocity is….impressive, if you’re pitching for the Schaumburg Flyers. I know you’ve spoken highly of Clayton Richard, the former University of Michigan quarterback with significant starting experience from last season. Any other ideas or free agents out there?

(SM) I don’t believe the neon lights are bright on Broadway from a starting pitching perspective, although he does have a 4.15 ERA since his call-up, which is respectable.  Clayton Richard would be a candidate as well, but my gut says he’ll stay in the bullpen because Ozzie likes having two lefties out there.

Freddy Garcia’s name has been thrown around after he was cut by the Mets last week, however, he’s been horrible in the minor leagues and might retire.

Pedro Martinez and Paul Byrd are trying to pull a Roger Clemens “rent a pitcher” deal with a contender, but Pedro’s asking price is far too high.  Byrd is intriguing but far from a sure thing as well.  That’s really all that’s out there now unless you wanted to take a chance on another pitcher released by another team for being just as bad as anybody on our current roster.

(PMB)  All these issues of depth make me think about the Sox farm system. We know the Sox minor league affiliates are collectively rated amongst the worst by baseball talent evaluators, but there has to be some diamonds in the rough somewhere.

Easter weekend, my girlfriend and I traveled to Charlotte. The “Knight” before the holiday we took in a game at Knights Stadium, home of the Sox AAA affiliate. It’s kind of like what happens when you combine a Medieval Times outing with MILB. It was a lot of fun, even though they’re not located in the Queen City, or even in North Carolina for that matter. They’re actually across the border in South Carolina, past the outskirts of the Charlotte suburbs. I saw by far, the most lopsided baseball game I’ve ever been at. Our Knights lost 19-3; and this was no fluke as the Knights were outscored 61-17 in their first ten. Currently, they’re 9-14 on the season and in last place.

Jeff Marquez (remember when he was considered to be a front-runner for the 5th starter position?) got bombed so badly that he didn’t survive the second inning. This was no aberration either as he’s currently 0-4 with a 14.15 ERA in AAA ball. You understand why I didn’t bring up his name as an option for replacing Contreras. What about Wes Whisler? He led the team in most pitching statistical categories last season and has a sub 2 ERA. Any prospects you have your eye on at this level? Or within the system at all. Scouts are high on Justin Cassell (brother of NFL QB Matt Cassell) and Jon Link. Are they MLB ready soon?

(SM)  Again I shutter at the Nick Swisher trade when I look at the numbers Marquez has put up thus far.

Justin Cassell has an ERA over 6 at AAA.  That does not earn him a roster spot in my opinion.  Whisler is looking good for sure and could earn a call if the Sox want to make a move from within.  Despite not being a top ranked prospect he’s held an ERA in the three’s for most of his career.

Link, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for Rob Mackowiak, is a relief pitcher and would not be a candidate for the rotation.

Aaron Poreda could draw strong consideration also.  The Sox top pitching prospect has a 1.65 ERA in five starts for AA Birmingham this season. He pitched on Monday and threw a no hitter—sort of!  It was called after the top half of the fifth inning due to rain but it is still a no hitter in the record books!

We can’t forget about our 2009 tradition Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball…
We cursed Scotty Pods and Danks featuring them in Maybe or Mirage.

(SM)  Maybe. Pods is playing CF, and Danks is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA since I said he arrived here last week.


Jayson Nix will supplant Josh Fields at 3B.

(SM) Mirage.  Fields is doing a serviceable job and Nix is more of a natural second baseman.

(PMB) Mirage. Not even a mirage, if Nix is truly healthy then he’s just not ready for prime time yet, Charlotte calls.

Chris Getz will Hold the Lead-off Spot all season

(SM) Maybe.  He needs to stay healthy.  His .358 OBP is respectable.

(PMB) Maybe, especially when you consider “what else do we have?”

Alexei Ramirez was a one year wonder.

(SM) Mirage. He’s hitting .295 in his last 44 Abs and the weather’s heating up.

(PMB) Mirage. This producto de Cuba will start lighting up like a Cohiba soon.


Wilson Betemit has earned a starting job.

(SM) Mirage.  Sure he’s hitting .310 in 27 Abs. He’s a back-up for a reason.

(PMB) Maybe. We have injuries a plenty and it’s only May. Maybe that’s not “earning it” though.

Spring Sox Exchange

By The Soxman and Paul M. Banks

(PMB)  First off, I’d like to thank all the members of Soxman Nation that came out to give feedback on NBC Chicago.com in Soxman’s spring prospectus. We teamed up to possibly break the unofficial record for comments on the NBC homepage! Primary question out of the gate, what are your thoughts on the development of the kids most people have their eyes on: Jayson Nix, Dayan Viciedo, Aaron Poreda and Gordon Beckham…Of course, we all know these games don’t mean much, but do you like what you hear/see so far?

(SM) Spring training is really hard to get an idea of how a player will be, especially in the first few weeks because pitchers are often getting their mechanics down and even working on new pitches.

Listening to Ozzie Guillen speak, he is very impressed with all the aforementioned players thus far.
Beckham hit a game winning homerun on Sunday and smashed a 420-foot homer off former White Sox pitcher Jon Garland in the second game of the spring.

That said- I still believe he will start the year in the minor leagues.

Aaron Poreda thus far has not shown that he has developed a third pitch and cannot get anything but the fastball over the plate with consistency.  He’s likely to start in AAA as well.

(PMB) In my opinion, the biggest news this week is about starters Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon being way ahead of their rehabilitation schedule, with Contreras possibly throwing on March 14th (originally he was slated to return midseason).

(SM) He has looked cat-like fielding grounders off the mound which is very impressive considering some said he might never play again after rupturing his Achilles last year.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that both Colon and Contreras start the season in the rotation, forcing an even larger battle for the long relief job.

Clayton Richard looked awesome in his spring training debut.  After the heroics he demonstrated late last season, he has to have the edge for any vacant pitching spot on the roster.

(PMB) Yes, Richard’s heroics down the stretch was reminiscent of the pitching boost we got in August and September of another division winning year (2005) from another rookie (Brandon McCarthy). Speaking of March 14th, don’t you have an event/public appearance on that date in my original hometown of Palos Heights?

(SM) I’ll be throwing off the mound as well.  Likely over 200 bites of Irish soda bread into my mouth as a celebrity judge for charity.  It is for Trio Bar and Restaurant’s second annual Irish Soda Bread baking contest.
It costs $10 to enter a loaf of bread into the contest with a chance to win a trip for two to Ireland! All proceeds go to charity.   Batboy will be there as well signing autographs and posing for pictures.  We hope a lot of Sox fans will come out to represent the Soxside Irish.

Loaves have to be entered into the contest by 12:30.  Judging starts around 2:00 p.m.  Trio is

located at 11845 SouthWest Highway, Palos Heights, IL 60463.  For more information call Trio at 708-448-1900.

(PMB) What have you heard about the new Camelback Ranch spring training facility that our boys share with the Los Angeles Dodgers? Any of your loyal fans made the trek so far? Has Soxman ever done the spring training experience? Flying out to take in the exhibition season is supposed to become more popular and exciting in the future as more teams move to Arizona and share facilities, making the locations more concentrated these next couple years. This will give the fan more opportunities to see more teams without having to travel much.

(SM)  I have made the trek as Bruce Parker but never as Soxman…yet.  It is a great experience as the players tend to be a lot more friendly with the fans and you do get to see a great deal of talent in a concentrated location.

The only drawback as spring training becomes more popular is that prices are beginning to creep up and in the early pre-season games most of the stars don’t see much more than an inning or two of action.
Everything I have heard about the facility has been extremely positive thus far.

There is more than 118,000 square feet of Major and Minor League clubhouse space, 13 full baseball fields and three half-fields.

The shared stadium, where most games will be played, is the largest in the Cactus League with a capacity of 13,000 which includes 3,000 lawn seats, 12 luxury suites and a party deck

(PMB) Finally, we know the Sox invited President Barack Obama to throw out the first ball on Opening Day. The Sox AAA affiliate, the Charlotte Knights have also sent out the same invitation to our nation’s 44th Chief Executive. You and I both have our seats for Opening Day, what are the odds change-we-can-believe in occurs on the pitchers’ mound April 6th? Will the world’s most powerful man stop by?

(SM)  So long as there is not a scheduling conflict with a pressing issue of national security, my gut tells me that the nation’s first fan will be there to throw out the first pitch.

President Bush did it during his first term for the Rangers.  He also threw out the first pitch at the Nationals’ new park last season.  I’ll never forget how he did an inning of color commentary for ESPN Baseball tonight after the pitch and when Joe Morgan said “we won’t keep you any longer, we know you are a busy man,”

Bush replied, “I don’t have nothing else to do right now. I can stay for another inning.”
Of course they accommodated him.

I look forward to it as it might provide an inspirational stimulus for the Sox.

(PMB) Exactly. He had important brush to clear and mountain-biking to do back in Texas.

Spring Training Sox Exchange

By Paul M. Banks and Soxman

(PMB) Last weekend included St. Valentine’s Day, a time of year that more women than men look forward to quite frankly. But once it’s over, Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training, which is to most guys what chocolate, jewelry and flowers are to women.  Speaking of love, I consulted Soxman, the person who loves the White Sox more than any other individual on this Earth about what occurred in the offices on 35th and Shields this winter. You might recognize Soxman from, well pretty much anywhere local media may roam. We began this exchange by discussing the biggest move of the offseason, the Javier Vazquez trade:

(SM) After his miserable play-off performance, almost every Sox fan would agree that Javy wore out his welcome on the Southside, The trade was crucial in rebuilding our anemic farm system as it yielded two of the top 20 prospects overall in the Braves system.

2B/SS Brent Lillibridge is the player to watch in 2009.  He’s expected to battle Chris Getz and Jason Nix for the starting job at second base.  Kenny Williams believes he’s capable of stealing 40 bases if he gets 500 Abs.

Tyler Flowers could develop into the Sox next big slugger and 3B prospect Jon Gilmore has drawn comparisons to Scott Rolen.

(PMB) The Southside Dark Knight also opined on the signings of the so-called “Cuban Babe Ruth” Dayan Viciciedo and Bartolo Colon.

(SM) Sox fans should not expect Viciedo to immediately perform like Alexei as he’s only 19. There’s a ton to be excited about however.  He slugged over .500 in two of the past three seasons in Cuba and was an All-Star in Cuba’s top league at age 16.   Colon is exactly the type of pitcher I expected Williams to sign.  The once awesome, now aging pitcher plagued by injuries trying to revive his career…at an ultra cheap price.  In limited action with the Red Sox last season, he looked very good.

(PMB) In the case of Bobby Abreu and Jermaine Dye, we spent weeks listening about trade deals and prospective signings only to see no moves made. It kind of felt being stood up on a date. So what does the love interest of female Sox fans everywhere think of the non-deals- the trades that didn’t happen.

(SM) I was surprised the Sox did not go after Orlando Hudson as he still has not signed with a team, Soxman saidI think that the deals Kenny was interested in just didn’t materialize. With the economy it is pretty much a buyers market right now. I think Kenny will see how the 2-3 position battles pan out and if any bargains fall his way, he’ll pounce.

(PMB) Last week Baseball Prospectus predicted the Chicago White Sox to win just 74 games and finish dead last in the AL Central. Although the formulae and prognostications of these sabermetrician geeks sounds bleak, we must remember that almost no one predicted the Sox to win the AL Central last season. In the World Series year of 2005, most people predicted the pale hose to finish third! Also, lots of people forecasted the Sox to win the division in ’06 and ’07, yet they controlled the division for just 36 combined days in those two seasons. In summation, it’s all wide open

One guy with White Sox knowledge second place to no one is Soxman who sprang into action with his take on the Sox spring prospectus.

(SM) There are a ton of question marks going into 2009 that should make for an exciting spring. I can’t remember a time where there were so many position battles.

CF will be fun to watch, where Jerry Owens is expected to battle Brian Anderson.  The early favorite to win the job is Owens as we also expect him to assume lead-off duties.  However, Getz and Lillibridge could also factor in as Ozzie claims that speed alone does not entitle Owens to bat atop the lineup.

3B is Josh Fields to lose, but if he does, Wilson Betemit could slip right in.  The Cuban Babe Ruth, Dayan Viciedo may need some minor league seasoning before being considered a serious threat to assume full-time 3B duties.

There is also a back-up catcher position open and 1-2 spots in the bullpen.

If that’s not enough, it will be interesting to see how Alexei Ramirez handles fulltime SS duties, how healthy Bartolo Colon is, and how well Scott Linebrink’s shoulder has healed.

Soxman sees the White Sox lineup shaking up this way:

The everyday line-up will truly reveal itself during the final days of spring training, I’m really hoping that Ozzie does not decide to hit Thome, Konerko, and AJ back-to-back.”

This is the projected line-up as of today:

Owens- CF
Ramirez- SS
Quentin- LF
Thome- DH
Dye- RF
Konerko- 1B
AJ-C
Fields- 3B
Getz/Lillibridge- 2B

(PMB) With the Cuban Missile Alexi Ramirez moving over to shortstop, second base will be see a wide-open and heated competition for playing time.

(SM) It’ll be a wide-open between battle Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, and Brent Lillibridge.  All three players combined have 61 games of MLB experience and just 143 Abs.  While none of the candidates are proven, this is one of two open positions where the Sox should get a speed boost.  While Getz has the early edge, this is truly anyone’s job to win.

(PMB) Another issue on all the minds of Sox Nation is the battle for the fifth starter. Although Jose Contreras is now supposed to be way ahead of schedule, the Sox will still need major innings from one of the prospects such as Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard or the man with the most alternative lifestyle sounding name in White Sox history, Lance Broadway.

(SM) After his heroic performance in September, Clayton Richard is the early favorite to win the 5th spot but will likely be challenged by Aaron Poreda and Jeff Marquez.  Broadway will likely battle the losers of the rotation competition for the long relief spot in the bullpen.  Poreda likely has the most long-term upside, but is likely to start the season in AAA.

Editor’s note: a version of this story ran on NBC 5’s webpage, that you can read here and here.