Cooper on his ever-changing pitching staff

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Cooper on his ever-changing pitching staff

With Sergio Santos traded to the Blue Jays, you might be wondering who will be the White Sox closer in 2012.

Addison Reed? Matt Thornton? Jesse Crain? Other??

Hearing the comments made by pitching coach Don Cooper to Comcast SportsNet, its looking like were not going to know until the end of spring training.

May the suspense begin.

Its going to be wide open, Cooper said of the closer situation Tuesday on Chicago Baseball Hot Stove. Its too early. We dont know. Weve got to sit down and talk about it. In spring training, well see how it shapes up. Im a big believer in this: that theyll show you.

And not just for the closer role.

With Chris Sale moving to the rotation, Jason Frasor traded back to Toronto, and the possibility that the White Sox still might trade Thornton and the 11 million he is owed for the next two seasons, the bullpen is in line for one serious makeover.

If youre a Sox minor league pitcher ready to take the next step or a free agent reliever looking for a job, Glendale might be the best place to be come spring training.

Were going to have openings on the pitching staff. There might be three, possibly four openings for somebody to make our team, Cooper said. You know whats going to happen? Competition is going to happen at spring training. Were going to watch it, and theyre going to stand up and show us who needs to be on the team, who needs to get on the plane to leave and start the opening series in Texas, and its exciting.

But the bullpen is not the only big shake-up for Cooper. For the first time since he became pitching coach in 2002, he wont be able to rely on his 200-inning machine, Mark Buehrle. The two actually started working together after the Sox drafted Buehrle in 1998 when Cooper was the teams minor league pitching coordinator.

Will he feel a void? You bet.

I havent felt the loss right yet, Cooper said. I think Ill personally feel it in spring training and during the season. Its more of him just not being there. As a pitching coach, you have relationships with everybody, and this is my longest relationship with anybody. So when that guy is not there, theres going to be a void. I havent felt it yet, but Im sure I will during the season.

Especially if the rotation struggles.

Its our job to replace that and to find a person or persons that will fill that void, Cooper said. The starting rotation has to pick up those 200 innings, and hopefully quality innings. I talked to Buehrle and Im happy for him.

Losing Buehrle will be painful. If the Sox had also lost John Danks, the pain would have been excruciating.

Danks is going to be with us for the next handful of years," Cooper said. "Im excited about that for him. Were looking for him to be a leader, and how do you lead? By going out there and giving us a shot to win that game.

For the White Sox to contend in 2012I think you know the rest: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Jake Peavy need to have bounce-back years.

Peavy showed flashes of his old self last season, and now that hes a year-and-a-half removed from the experimental surgery in which he had a latissimus dorsi muscle reattached to his right shoulder, he could be ready to take that next stepif his body lets him.

He had an up-and-down season because he had an unbelievably new surgery, an injury that nobody else had had in baseball, Cooper said. I think everything last year kind of went the way we were expecting it to go: ups and downs because of what I just mentioned, a never-been-done surgery. But now hes past that surgery. Were looking for Jake Peavy to get to giving us a chance every single time out there to win that ballgame, and last year we saw glimpses of it. He should be given a pass on the past. But now, here we go.

With the White Sox entering the season with so many unknowns, all while trying to both retool and win at the same time, theyll likely go into 2012 as heavy underdogs.

What kind of attitude will it take to change that? Cooper has an idea.

My credo right now is, Were going to roll up our sleeves and see what we can do, and give them the best that we got.

Considering how much of that was missing from last years team that had a record 127 million payroll, thats not a bad place to start.

Adam Eaton returns to White Sox lineup vs. Rays

Adam Eaton returns to White Sox lineup vs. Rays

Adam Eaton is back in the White Sox lineup in their contest against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night on CSN+.

Eaton will bat in the leadoff spot and play right field.

"It’s nice to be back in there and I’m excited," Eaton said prior to Tuesday night's game. "They played really well yesterday, so hopefully we can keep up that same intensity. As I’ve said, I’m excited to get back out there."

Manager Robin Ventura held Eaton out of the game on Monday night, saying that he still needed time to recuperate. But the White Sox outfielder is ready to go.

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Eaton left last week’s game against the Cleveland Indians after crashing into the wall while making a catch. He missed the next three games.

Eaton, who got the wind knocked out of him during the catch, took and passed concussion tests.

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields’ time with the White Sox has not gone well. But Monday night was one of the bright spots, and it came against his former team.

Shields allowed just one run in his six innings of work against the visiting Tampa Ray Bays — with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career — and earned his first win since July 26 as the White Sox opened this four-game set with a 7-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields didn’t exactly keep the Rays off the bases Monday, running into jams with multiple base runners on in four of his six innings. But he did keep them off the scoreboard, for the most part, getting some help from his defense with a couple double plays. He finished allowing just one run on seven hits with six strikeouts over his six innings.

The win was his first in two months after a brutal August — six starts with four losses and an 11.42 ERA — and a couple of rough outings in September. It was Shields’ sixth victory on the season and fourth since joining the White Sox compared to 18 losses on the season, 11 coming with the White Sox.

“I had a few chances my last few starts to get some wins, but sometimes those things happen,” Shields said. “I’m just trying to finish the season strong right now. Body feels good, arm feels good, so hopefully I can get another win on Saturday to end my season and move into next year.”

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With just one more start on his schedule in the season’s final week, Shields won’t lose a visually upsetting 20 games. Avoiding that number might not make losing 18 or 19 much easier for fans and observers to swallow, but teammates understand what Shields has gone through this season.

“I think we’ve all been through it once or maybe even twice in our career. He works his butt off, though,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He looks at film. He watches everything he’s doing. To come out with the strong outing today, even in the first inning, getting two runners on and getting out of that jam, it goes to show you his resilience. Whenever he got runners on, he looked relaxed and induced a lot of ground balls which we needed.”

Certainly Shields’ teammates picked him up Monday. The two double plays while he was in the game were just half the infield’s total on the night, two more coming in the seventh and eighth, when Tommy Kahnle and Nate Jones put the first two hitters they faced on in each frame. But the double plays helped end those threats and keep the Rays down.

The White Sox struck first with a run in the first inning, Melky Cabrera scoring on Justin Morneau’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays tied it up in the fourth with an RBI single, the White Sox punched back, Frazier doubling, stealing third base and scoring on Omar Narvaez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of that inning.

And as Shields and the relief corps danced out of jams, the White Sox added to their score. Jose Abreu singled in a run in the fifth, but it was a pair of two-run homers off the bats of Morneau and Carlos Sanchez in the seventh and eighth innings that provided the real insurance.

The win was the third straight for the White Sox, something that while positive won’t provide much solace in a season where competing for a playoff spot is a distant memory.

But, like Shields finishing his season strong, White Sox players in general can create individual momentum for each of their offseasons and into next year with good finishes to 2016.

“We want to end on a positive note,” Frazier said. “Everybody wants to meet their goals. Baseball is the most individualistic team sport there is. You have to have your individual goals just like your team goals, and our team goals are out the door right now. You don’t want to play for yourself, but at the same time play for your pitcher a little bit and help him out.”