Crain, Rios on track for Opening Day

Crain, Rios on track for Opening Day
March 29, 2013, 11:00 pm
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By Jimmy Carlton
CSNChicago.com contributor

MILWAUKEE – Jesse Crain threw 11 pitches Friday night and that was all manager Robin Ventura needed to see.

The right-hander’s single inning of work against the Milwaukee Brewers was good enough and all but assures Crain of being on the White Sox 25-man roster.

Crain threw seven of his 11 pitches for strikes, struck out one and gave up just one hit, a slow-rolling infield single along the third base line. He quickly mitigated that blemish by inducing a double play to leave the fifth inning unscathed in the White Sox 7-2 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.

“You could see it here,” Ventura said. “He felt fine. He looked like himself, he looked normal. That was good.”

There were questions entering the weekend about whether Crain would secure the last remaining roster spot or have to start the season on the disabled list, after missing much of spring training with a strained adductor (hip). He made two appearances earlier in the week and had mixed results.

[More: Axelrod's focus helped earn rotation spot]

Before the game, Ventura said Crain’s velocity was fine but he wanted to see the reliever go after hitters.

Crain started the inning aggressively. He got ahead quickly on the first two batters, allowing the dribbling grounder to Brewers first baseman Alex Gonzalez and then striking out center fielder Carlos Gomez swinging. And the first pitch he threw to the third batter, shortstop Jean Segura, was slapped to third for an easy double play.

It was a validating performance for Crain, who’d insisted throughout the week that he felt good and didn’t need to go on the DL for two weeks with the injury that had limited him to just three Cactus League games.

“If (Crain’s) good tomorrow,” Ventura said Wednesday, “then he’s good to go.”

Rios ready to go

Right fielder Alex Rios missed the final five spring training games because of lower back stiffness. Given that he’d only appeared in seven games with the White Sox after playing with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, there was concern over whether or not he’d be ready for Opening Day.

Like Crain, Rios allayed those concerns with a strong outing against the Brewers. He was 1-for-2 with a double, a pair of walks and two runs scored. The out he made in his first at-bat was a drive to deep center field that was caught on the warning track.

[Related: Rios on WBC: "It was a great experience"]

Rios said he hadn’t swung a bat at all while he was off, mostly because of the soreness, but after the game felt good in his return.

“I had to run a lot tonight, I had to score a couple of times,” he said. “That double assured that I’m good to go. My goal was to see as many pitches as I could, try and recognize them early and work from there.”

Ventura was also encouraged by the performance.

“Rios played enough innings that you feel comfortable that he’s fine,” Ventura said. “He had some aggressive swings and running the bases. I’d say he’s good to go unless he wakes up tomorrow and can’t do anything.”

Notes

-- Left-hander Hector Santiago started the game against the Brewers and threw three perfect innings. He struck out five before being lifted for Matt Lindstrom. Santiago is slated to be in the bullpen when the regular season begins on Monday.

-- Adam Dunn shook off a dismal spring and had himself a day at the plate Wednesday. The big designated hitter went 3-for-3 with a double, driving in a pair of runs and scoring once. He also drew a walk. The offensive outburst raised his batting average from .204 to .246.

-- Catcher Bryan Anderson continued to swing the bat well, connecting on a home run to deep center field in the ninth inning.

-- Closer Addison Reed pitched a perfect ninth inning, recording two strikeouts.

-- Ventura said before Friday’s game that the players were “cool” with playing the pair of exhibition tune-ups in Milwaukee’s roofed Miller Park. “It’s nice that it’s not that far and we can come up here and play inside,” he said.

-- Chicago entered the game Wednesday with 31 players on its roster, including 15 pitchers and nine infielders. MLB rules mandate that all active rosters must be trimmed to 25 by March 31.

-- For Saturday afternoon’s game, the last before Opening Day, right-hander Gavin Floyd will get the start against Brewers lefty Chris Narveson.