13 things we've learned about the White Sox

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13 things we've learned about the White Sox

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Posted: 1:02 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
Ten times this season, Poetry in Pros will submit a Chicago White Sox report card of sorts for your approval. At 7-9, after the Tampa Bay Rays exacted some revenge on the Chisox for taking three of four from them in Chicago, the White Sox have played the first 10 of their seasonand the results have been mixed, and not in the way youd expect from an "All-In" team deflating into a sub-.500 record after a 4-6 homestand.Put another waythe Rays started out the season a franchise-worst 0-6, and just a week and change later, they are sporting an identical 7-9 record.Why a list of 13? Well, the White Sox go how Ozzie goes, so heres your bakers dozen roundup.

1. Adam Dunns brain power is just as strong as his healing power.

All plaudits are due to Dunn for his quick recovery from an appendectomy, missing only six games. But hes proven to have just as much mental strength as he does healing powerand not in a good way. See, the affable first sacker was convinced way back in spring training that traditionally he was a slow starter. In fact, that applied only last season, when he was miserable in April (.823 OPS). For his career, Dunns strongest month in an OPS sense, was Aprilhes at .971 right now, but that is influenced by his .735 in 41 plate appearances so far this season. Brain is succeeding over brawn so far this season.

2. Juan Pierre has disproved the adage that speed doesnt slump.

The fact that Pierre has been a slow starter for the Chisox is nothing new. Pierre was horrible last April, when he put up just a .454 OPS out of the gate, dropping down out of the leadoff spot. However, even as he struggled, he still stole bagsnine of 12 in April, 10 of 11 in Mayen route to a league-leading 68. This year, Pierre like many of his cohorts got off to a blistering start, but has sputtered to a .648 OPS off identical an .324 OBA and SLG, which trails even his merely adequate .657 OPS of 2010. However, hes just four of nine in stolen bases. In an April that has found Pierre losing his defensive touchwhile oft-criticized in every aspect of his game, there wasnt a ball the speedster couldnt get to in 2010losing the other value aspect of his game, baserunning, will leave the White Sox with little use for him if the trend continues.

3. The White Sox outfield is wafer-thin.

Of course, that presumes the White Sox have someone more useful to play left field. Think back just three weeks ago, when the White Sox outfield was considered enough of a strength that the team broke camp with just four (exclusive) outfielders (and with Carlos Quentins prior defensive miscues, that total should be whittled to three), and the groups collective under-performance is daunting. Pierre is not the only subpar member, as Alex Rios and his gimpy big toe has also gotten off to a slow start (a .558 OPS with two steals and just four RBI after a three-homer, nine-RBI, nine-steal, .796 OPS start last year), indicating that perhaps his bounce-back in 2010 was a mirage. Quentin has been a monster (mashing his way to a .974 OPS), but hes just one slow step on a flyball away from stumbling into five games in the trainers roomthe Michelin Man wraps on his tousled and torn body have already started to appear.

Otherwise, the White Sox are in dire straits in the outfield: Lastings Milledge, the fourth pure outfielder breaking camp with the club, was dropped to AAA Charlotte after the first series of the season, Brent Lillibridge is a light hitter and Mark Teahen a light, ahem, fielder. Down on the farm? Dayan Viciedo (recovering from a broken thumb) and Jordan Danks broke slowly from the gate, and the White Sox just sold their top power prospect, corner outfielder Stefan Gartrell, to the Atlanta Braves. Reinforcements in sight? You better be using a helluva zoom lens.

4. Alexei Ramirez has Silver Slugger on the brain.

This isnt entirely a bad thing, because Ramirez is looking less and less like an accidental or incidental Silver Slugger winner by getting out of the box with an .827 OPSin his weakest month, battling the Ides of April, no less. However, defensively hes been slipshod, fielding at just a .946 clip, with his range factor slipping downward. Expect both his explosive offense and flaccid defense to settle back more toward his career means, but Ramirez has done his share of sieving on defense, along with the rest of the White Sox, and hes not a player you figured on suffering such a slump.

5. Omar needs to be activated.

OK, Omar Vizquel is technically active, and has been all season long, at least to the tune of four games and 15 plate appearances. And Guillen has been fond of sayinghas been since SoxFest, in factthat if Vizquel is shouldering a heavy innings load, the White Sox are in trouble. Well, what level of apathy and free-fall must the White Sox reach before they are in trouble? Vizquel is near a .900 OPS out of the gate and is a strong defender throughout the infield. Brent Morel has done about as well as expected, but both offensively and defensively he needs to be spelled more often. As the White Sox have seen with players like Brian Anderson in CF in 2006, its impossible to let a modestly-talented rookie learn on the job and be all-in at the same time.

6. The rotation is in desperate need of a Peavy.

Whether it embarrasses the rest of the starters or not, the best pitcher the White Sox have had this seasonextending back to the Cactus Leaguehas been Jake Peavy. His low ERA and apparent readiness for a first White Sox start later next week is just what a floundering White Sox team needs.

Broader picture, Peavys setback on Mondayleaving his supposed second-to-last rehab start after throwing 15 pitchescould have devastating implications for a rotation thats barely scraping by in his absence.

7. There is no ace.

Last week, the rotation put together a nice run of exquisite starts, and overall they havent been as horrid out of the gate as in 2010, when their under-performance did much to scuttle the clubs chances at a playoff berth. But no Chicago starter has stitched together consecutive outstanding strong starts in the early going, and on a team that had every reason to boast of five possible aces heading into the season, thats just not good enough.

8. Rebirth of Cool Ken Williams wont last long.

Williams down-lowed the fray as his Chisox started hot, as he has of late when his Pale Hose have sagged. His most telling comments on the team: Let em play, and stay out of the way. If the White Sox continue their on-again, off-again play under the weight of a club-record payroll, calm Ken will leave the building and the firestarter will return.

9. Fast starts can end fast.

The White Sox got to six wins this season some two weeks faster than in 2010, which was thought to be a telling sign that "All-In" had taken root. Well, the White Sox have lost six of seven since then, which hasnt only sagged the club in the standings, but threatens to water down attendance for a team that desperately needs a swell of 2.6 million fannies to reach break-even.

10. Matty Ice has melted.

It goes without saying that the closer role has been a bit much for Matt Thornton to take on, blowing all four of his save opportunities this season and letting in 10 runs (four earned) in that span. But theres no doubt that Thornton has been the White Soxs best reliever for two years running, without needing to be the closer to do so. Guillenalready edgy about moving Thornton out of his comfort zone (matchup lefties, eighth-inning entry, throwing an inning-plus)needs to restore the fireman to his prior role and give credence to the mantra that the entire Chicago bullpen parrots, that every short reliever is a closer at the juncture they enter the game.

11. The closer? ItsSergio!

if only for the first month. Sergio Santos has been a pitcher in the majors for just a season and change, but he has never allowed a run in Aprila span of 15 games and 17 13 innings. The young righthander has been steady for sure, but its important to remember that hes faced pressure as a player before. Sure, it was as a superstar shortstop entering professional ball for the first time, but thats pressure nonetheless. All things being equal, give the lions share of save opps to Sergio for a stretch and see what happens.

12. Ozzies expectations are highest of anyone.

The club jefe often gets written off as more jokester than strategist, or an apologistteammate rather than an administrator. And while Guillen is as playful as anyone and boasts a bark worse than his bite when it comes to throwing players under the bus, hes already bristled this season, as the bullpen implosion gained traction. You would have expected Guillen to protect rookie Chris Sale after the 22-year-old was completely ineffective leading to Thorntons last blown save, on April 13 vs. the Oakland As. But the manager didnt hesitate to point out that Salepresumed to be inactive for the game after throwing a career-high 34 pitches the previous game some 16 hours earliertold pitching coach Don Cooper he could go. Shame on the staff for trusting bluster from the mouth of babes, sure, but Guillen was the one who made the calland surprisingly, evaded blame after the fact. Guillen clearly is feeling the pressure of the weighty payroll, thus is less tolerant of slips and stumbles than hes been in the recent past.

13. Everything right is wrong again.

The best news of the flaccid start and this negative report is that the presumed main competition for the White Sox in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins, are faltering equally or worse than Chicago. Minnesota is in early free fall at 6-10 and stands without a closer (fragile Joe Nathan), 20 million catcher (Joe Mauer, sidelined with a knee, or the flu, or some mystical combination of the two), or ace Japanese import (Tsuyoshi Nishioka, whose leg was broken from merry prankster Nick Swisher) while also under fire from a fan base who feels the club did little or nothing to bolster the club in the offseason. Detroit has had no such injury miseries, they simply havent played very well (8-9)justifying their bolstered payroll as little or less than the White Sox have so far.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."