By Jimmy Carlton
MILWAUKEE -- All eyes in the visitor’s dugout are going to be set on Jesse Crain during Friday night’s exhibition against the Brewers.
Manager Robin Ventura said he was planning to use the 31-year-old right-hander in the first of a two-game series at Milwaukee’s Miller Park.
“Crain hopefully will be pitching tonight and then afterward we can get a read on him,” Ventura said before the game.
Crain, who suffered a groin injury March 7 in Arizona and didn’t pitch in spring training until last week, is scheduled to throw at Milwaukee, trying to win a job in the White Sox’s bullpen. Presumably, the 25th spot on the Opening Day roster is his to lose.
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It’s been a slow and cautious road back to the mound for Crain, who had a 2.44 ERA in 51 appearances last year. He passed the first couple of tests over the past week and Friday night should provide the best indication of whether he’s recovered, healthy and ready to contribute.
Ventura said Crain’s velocity has been good and the pitcher now needs to show that he’s comfortable and confident attacking hitters.
“He’s got to go out there and let it go,” Ventura said. “He’s been holding back a little bit, the way he pitches. It’s more of how he goes about it. But velocity-wise he’s fine.”
Rios will play: Outfielder Alex Rios, who battled back pain toward the end of Cactus League play, is going to play against the Brewers.
“He says he feels fine, so he’s in the cage and everything seems fine,” Ventura said. “We’re trusting him to go out there and play.”
Rios, who was gone nearly three weeks while playing for team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, is expected to get five or six innings Friday night.
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“If he can do that, I trust him,” Ventura said. “If there’s any way that he’s going to pull anything or something doesn’t feel right, we can pull the cord on him. But five or six would probably be good. He already spent a lot of time playing in the WBC, so he has played nine innings.”
Ventura added that shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was hit on the shoulder by a pitch on Wednesday, was fine and also would play.
Little bit of everything: Jeff Keppinger will start at third base for the White Sox, although he and Connor Gillaspie will likely see plenty of time across the diamond in 2013.
Gillaspie, who played first base, third base and in the outfield during spring training in his effort to make the big league roster, has emerged as a valuable and versatile left-handed hitter for the White Sox.
“Connor’s the emergency first base, third base. He’s emergency outfielder too,” Ventura said. “I don’t know if he’s pitched yet. He does a lot of things.”