Ballantini: Animated Ozzie livening up Sox camp

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Ballantini: Animated Ozzie livening up Sox camp

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 11:10 a.m. Updated 2:24 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has already constructed a new mantra for 2011 spring training, predictably involving curse words but along the lines of needing some drama to liven up camp. Thursday brought more of the same for Ozzie, fighting boredom but as always, finding joy in life.

On the lush, green fields of Camelback Ranch, Adam Dunn was routinely singled out for his glovework during fielding drills, in somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion (although to be fair, Dunn played first base as his primary position for the first time in 2010 and compiled a -3.1 ultimate zone ratingnot great, but better than Paul Konerkos worst-in-baseball -13.4). After the drills, Guillen joked: The Big Donkey Dunn is gonna have a sore arm and a sore back tomorrow. By way of encouragement and introduction, Konerko explained to Dunn that he played both catcher and third base (where I was fine, as long as they hit it right at me) before settling in as a first baseman. Later, the Captain was chatting with pitching coach Don Cooper over his status as a league leader in assists (he finished tied for fourth a season ago, with 83).

As players hit the fields this morning, Guillen let them know the pressure was on, with owner Jerry Reinsdorf in attendance. He also was quick to give Roger Bossards ground crew trouble for their aggressiveness in dragging the field, claiming their attentiveness to detail was due exclusively to the big boss being around.

Mark Teahen made a number of nifty plays and strong throws from third, an indication that some of the injury-induced yips of 2010 might be a thing of the past.

Alexei Ramirez, on the other hand, was a loose as ever at shortstop, responding to Guillens chatterings by more than once encouraging Guillen to come out to short to field with him. Guillen: Oh no, you dont want to start that fight with me.

For Openers

Guillen made it more certain than ever that Mark Buehrle would be the White Soxs Opening Day starter, basically intimating the non-news that if all goes according to plan (no injuries, outrageous struggles, or dissention from GM Ken Williams or Cooper), the lefthander would start his team-record ninth opener. The lefthander would bring a career 3-1 record and 3.39 ERA into Opening Day 2011.

Early Impressions

Jordan Danks opened some eyes in his live BP session, at one point prompting A.J. Pierzynski to ask him whether he had visualized a long drive into the gap. After his session, it was Danks and veteran Omar Vizquel on a side field practicing bunting off of a batting machine.

On the mound, it was Miguel Socolovich getting some plaudits and attention. The 24-year-old has played five minor-league seasons but only distinguished himself in 2010, going 7-6 with a 3.33 ERA at AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte. Socolovich had quite a battle with Alex Rios, at one point sawing off Rios bat and causing Rios to angrily chuck the splintered bat to the backstop. Guillen called Cooper over to look at the 61, 175-pound righthander, and shouted out a compliment to the non-roster invitee once he finished his 40-pitch session.

Peavy A-OK

Jake Peavy had a quick chat with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen before workouts on Thursday, pronouncing himself just as fit as he did to the media yesterday. Peavy was in high spirits in reassuring his skipper, who has indicated that if theres one worry with his righty fireballer, its whether he will be forthright about how hes feeling. Yesterday, Peavy seemed to indicate he was cognizant of that worry, telling reporters that in a sense, he had learned his lesson.

It really doesnt mean a whole lot to me, Peavy said of breaking camp in the rotation. I just want to be healthy. I want to be healthy for the majority of the season. If Im healthy this whole season and throw 200 innings with the guys, its certainly something I want to do. But if I dont, I dont see myself being that far behind. I just want to make sure when I get back theres not any kind of setbacks.

If for no other reason, Peavy is tired of having to explain how he came to the White Sox in 2009 injured, rushed back, then pitched through discomfort in 2010, leading to his dramatic, detached latissimus dorsi muscle injury.

Today, prospective fourth outfielder Lastings Milledge laughed when asked about his trial by fire with the White Soxfacing Peavy in his first live BP of spring training: Injuring Peavy on a comebacker isnt going to get me on the roster.

Lefthander Will Ohman, who is proving to be one of the more entertaining players on the roster, questioning Peavy about wearing his socks high (Peavys retort: I go up and down with the old-timey look I have no sense of fashion.).

Loony Lefty

Ohman also related his (failed) offer to Guillen (a Rolex) to get his skipper to give him the No. 13 jersey: If Omar Vizquel couldnt get it from him, I didnt stand much of a chance, did I?

Danks You Very Much

John Danks laughingly admitted he was roughed up in his first live BP throws on Wednesday, particularly by slugger Tyler Flowers, who hit at least one moon shot off the lefthander: That one went a long waybut its hard to hold guys down when hitters know whats coming. Danks admitted that it was some competitive spirit that found him then sawing off Flowers bat with a cutter.

Danks spent his off-time between sets of 20 pitches behind the batting cage, watching Matt Thornton get his work in, the reflection on it today making him shudder. Matt throws so hard and right where he wants it. Hes got a scary arm.

Impatient A.J.

Around the cage, talk turned to swinging on 3-0. Pierzynski was curious whether Dunn was inclined to swing on 3-0, or got many green lights from his managers. Dunn had a few comments, and asked A.J. the same. Youve got to get to 3-0 to swing on 3-0, the rapscallion backstop said in reference to his infamous impatience. By the time I see three pitches, its 2-1 or 1-2.

Pena the Toro

Asked whether he felt strong so far this spring, prospective spot starter Tony Pena replied in the affirmative: Como toro. Like a bull.

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

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A torrid two months at the plate helped Jose Abreu end what he found to be an extremely trying 2016 season with numbers close to his career norms.

But even though he finished with an .820 OPS and 100 RBIs for a third straight season, Abreu admits that 2016 was a season unlike any other he'd faced.

While he didn't disclose any theories for the cause of his lengthy struggles, the White Sox first baseman said Sunday he's pleased to have finished on a positive note and thinks that rebounding from those difficulties will only make him stronger. Abreu — who hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in 695 plate appearances — is also a fan of new White Sox manager Rick Renteria and is equally impressed with the prospects the club acquired this winter.

"Yes, those were different challenges, especially in my mind," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I never in my life experienced some of the kind of struggles like I did last year. But that put me in a better position as a player, as a person too. I'm in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience."

In spite of his struggles, Abreu was still a league average player through the first four months of the season. But the 2014 All-Star hardly resembled the player who produced a 153 OPS-plus over his first two seasons. His timing was off and Abreu — hitting .269/.325/.413 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs through July 30 — wasn't driving the ball as he typically had in his first two seasons, when he smacked 66 homers.

Abreu was lost at the plate and nobody could figure out why.

But after the arrival of his son, Dariel, who visited him for the first time since he moved to the United States, Abreu took off. He hit .338/.402/.568 the rest of the season with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in 249 trips to the plate.

"Right after last season ended, I had my meeting at my house with my family, just to explain to them how the season was because they know about baseball," Abreu said. "But sometimes they can't register how the process is in a season as long as the major league season is. We talked about it. I explained to them all of the challenges, the problems I had during that season. Once we ended with that meeting, last season was in the past. We moved on and we were trying just to figure out things and how can I do better for this season."

Now in his fourth season in the majors, Abreu has a firm grasp on how the White Sox operate and likes some of the team's modifications. He likes how Renteria thoroughly communicates what he has in mind for the club. Abreu also enjoys being seen as one of the team's leaders and wouldn't mind being a mentor to prized prospect Yoan Moncada.

Now he hopes to carry over his strong finish to the start of the 2017 campaign.

"I'm working on it," Abreu said. "That's one of my goals. Everybody knows that at the beginning of last season, I wasn't performing good. It was kind of a surprise for me, too. But I'm in good shape right now and I believe I will be able to succeed."

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot.

The White Sox rookie said Sunday that he noticed the injury gradually building up before he decided to stop his workout on Friday and headed for the training room. An MRI performed Saturday on Tilson -- who is rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early -- revealed the reaction, which isn’t severe as a stress fracture. Given Tilson previously had a stress fracture in his right foot, the White Sox said he'll be sidelined from impact work for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed Herm, thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Tilson wouldn’t be surprised if his injury is related to overcompensating for his left leg, which he has worked tirelessly to rehab since he suffered the injury on Aug. 2 and then had season-ending surgery. Manager Rick Renteria described it as an “irritation” in the area where Tilson suffered a stress fracture in 2013. In the interim, the White Sox will test some of their other options in camp, including veteran Peter Bourjos and minor leaguers Adam Engel and Jacob May, among others.

“But we don’t foresee it to be a long-term issue,” Renteria said. “By being able to shut him down now, it’ll be something he’ll be able to recover from. We’ll just readjust his timetable.”

Minor as Tilson and the White Sox say it is, the outfielder admitted he’s down about having to deal with it after the progress he’d made in his rehab.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But he suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson made enough progress to be a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

“I guess you could say I’m disappointed,” Tilson said. “But it’s a very minor setback and it’s part of the process. I had a major repair, and these things come up and hopefully we can minimize them as much as we can and hopefully this is the last one. But I’m just going to deal with it and do whatever I can to move forward.”