GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Conor Gillaspie joined the White Sox early Saturday and perhaps solidified the team’s Opening Day roster.
The addition of Gillaspie, who came to the White Sox in a trade Friday from the San Francisco Giants, appears to leave few, if any, spots open on the team’s 25-man roster. Though the deal surprised Gillaspie, he’s grateful for a chance that didn’t exist in San Francisco, where World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval blocked his path to the majors.
Gillaspie is out of minor league options and was a target to be designated for assignment in March if he didn’t make San Francisco’s roster. But with the White Sox in need of another left-handed bat and a third baseman to back up Jeff Keppinger, Gillaspie now has a strong chance to make the club.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Gillaspie said. “I wouldn’t have had a job toward the end of spring training. On both sides, I’m very thankful it happened the way it did, early enough where I can meet new people and have an opportunity to make another club.”
Gillaspie’s presence likely makes it much harder for outfielder Jordan Danks and third baseman Brent Morel to break camp with the team.
Barring injury, the White Sox look to be set in the field. Tyler Flowers and Hector Gimenez are in at catcher while Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Keppinger, Rule 5 pick Angel Sanchez and Gillaspie round out the infield. The inclusion of outfielders Dewayne Wise, Alex Rios, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo leaves the roster with 13 position players. Danks and Morel both have minor league options left, which could lead to both starting the season at Triple-A Charlotte.
But White Sox manager Robin Ventura won’t make any proclamations, especially considering the team played the first of its 33 spring training games on Saturday.
On Friday, Ventura said he’s impressed with how Morel, who was limited to 35 games with a bad back last season, has looked thus far.
“Looking at Brent, the way he’s playing this year and the way he’s moving around, he’s still in the hunt,” Ventura said.
How the team’s -- likely -- 12-man pitching staff is shaped will hinge upon whether or not John Danks is ready by April 1. Danks, who had shoulder surgery in August, faced hitters again on Saturday and while the command isn’t yet where he wants it, his confidence isn’t lacking.
Danks will throw twice more before he’s scheduled to pitch his first game against the San Francisco Giants on March 4.
“I have no doubt I’ll be on the Opening Day roster,” Danks said. “It’s not my job to make the order of the rotation, but I definitely see myself being in the first five this year.”
If Danks is indeed ready, the White Sox pitching staff is almost set as well. He would join Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana in the rotation. Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, Hector Santiago and Donnie Veal would likely man the bullpen.
Were Danks’ return to be delayed, Santiago is the most likely candidate to slide into the rotation, which would open up a spot in the bullpen. Another determining factor could be how Thornton’s elbow responds. Thornton skipped several days earlier this week because of inflammation in his left elbow, though an MRI showed he has no structural damage.
But nothing will be determined for five-plus weeks. Given his new teammates, those are five-plus weeks Gillaspie is happy to have.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to make new friends and get comfortable with a new team,” Gillaspie said. “It all happened fast, but it’s part of the deal now. You have to understand this is a business, just like every job in the world. Pablo is a pretty good player, and I probably wasn’t going to be able to beat him out.”
-- Dylan Axelrod allowed one hit in three scoreless innings and struck out four against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Axelrod struck out Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning and Andre Ethier in the second.
“I’m trying to make a point that I can pitch at that level and compete,” Axelrod said.
-- Catcher Tyler Flowers had a solo home run in his second at-bat.
“I had a couple of not-good takes and didn’t really see it really well except for a couple of pitches,” Flowers said. “The result is good but there is definitely more work to be done. I have to be more consistent with where I was on that last swing versus pretty much the entire at-bat.”
-- Outfielder Alex Rios doubled in both of his at-bats and drove in a run. Second baseman Gordon Beckham also had an RBI double. Outfielder Dayan Viciedo had a two-run single.