Ballantini: Castro leads least essential player list

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Ballantini: Castro leads least essential player list

Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
12:12 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO As the coals in the hot stove are just beginning to get stoked up, its time to rank the current Chicago White Sox, in order of importance for 2011 and beyond. Its not intended to be a strict list of merely the best players, or best values, on the White Sox. Rather, it takes into account team depth, the free agent market, or answering the question of which player would hurt the most not being on the team?

This is meant as a precursor to longer, individual profiles that will appear on CSNChicago.com between now and the end of the year. Thus the list could take different shape over the coming weeks, due to current players being cut loose or new ones acquired.

The first part of this 30-player list tracks the least essential players on the White Sox, leading off with the only player in the bottom third actually deserving of increased playing time in 2011:

21. Ramon Castro, C

Playing in just 37 games in 2010, Castro posted the second-best value of his career, at 4.5 million. The White Sox will welcome back A.J. Pierzynski at the right number (read: a cut in salary) and will otherwise explore the free-agent market. But no matter who the new Chisox starter is, Castro should see his starts double; he certainly earned more playing time with his performance last season.
22. Tony Pena, RP
Pena is a favorite piata for White Sox critics, but his mop-up, emergency-starter role does little for stats and overall value. As it is, it was a bit of a miracle he squeezed a million in value from an up-and-down 2010. With few ready pitching options in the minors, Pena is almost certain to be offered arbitration and duplicate his 2010 role in 2011.
23. Freddy Garcia, SP

Where else can you place an otherwise useful starter who has no rotation slot remaining in Chicago? Garcia is almost certain to bolt elsewhere, as nearly every other major league team is aching for the fifth-starter innings Garcia can eat, while the rotation-rich Chisox can offer no guarantees.
24. Jared Mitchell, OF

Its a lot to call a player whos seen not a sniff of the majors the 24th-most important player on the roster, but after a terrible ankle injury that may end up costing Mitchell at least some of the breakout speed he showed at LSU, how Mitchell rebounds in the minors in 2011 is crucial to Chicagos outfield plans going forward. Expect Mitchell to be Juan Pierres shadow throughout spring training.

25. Omar Vizquel, IF

Yep, an infielder turning 44 early next season still qualifies as this important on the White Sox. Look no farther than the turnaround the team undertook once Vizquel subbed for an injured Teahen at third base, a turnaround that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (perhaps wildly) credits to Vizquel. However, it will be hard to again expect the offensive season Vizquel gave the Chisox in 2010, and if they need him to provide a similar boost in 2011, it spells big trouble.

26. Mark Teahen, OF-IF

Dis 2010s re-signing of Mark Kotsay all you like, but the blind extension of Teahen was Williams biggest mistake of the last offseason. Teahen is not among Chicagos top position players any longer, and barring a breakout performance at the plate next spring, Teahen is destined for a superutility (and salary albatross) role in 2011.

27. Tyler Flowers, C

That the White Sox would like nothing more than to pay Pierzynski and Castro around 5 million total to assume catching duties in 2011 says all it needs to about Flowers and his progress in the minors. In fact, the immediate pickup of Castros team option indicates that Flowers will be patrolling AAA yards until next September.
28. Brent Lillibridge, IF-OF

Lillibridge will fill the same superutility role that Teahen projects to in 2011, albeit at a drastically cheaper price. The truth is, both roster spots could be taken by up-and-coming minor leaguers. In fact, a healthy Teahen and re-signed Vizquel likely turns Lillibridge into a Charlotte Knight.

29. Gregory Infante, RP

With the bullpen perhaps losing Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz and Chris Sale in 2011, Infante looms more and more important. The right-hander wasnt bad in his first five major-league games last September, but would do better with extra seasoning at Charlotte. Barring a Sergio Santos-style breakout in Arizona, the role Infante is expected to fill in 2011 will go a long way toward estimating Chicagos overall prospects.
30. Eduardo Escobar, SS

One great AFL season does not make a prospect. But given that Escobar has lit up a fall season that earns more than its fair share of attention from major-league eyes, Escobar becomes an important trade chip this winter. Perhaps the inclusion of the shortstop in a Carlos Quentin-Colby Rasmus deal with St. Louis gets that trade done.

Honorable (?) Mentions:

Manny Ramirez, DH: Plenty of smiles, ever-lengthening dreads, but no pop or clutch at-bats left.
Scott Linebrink, RP: Just riding the storm out

Lucas Harrell, P: First startwin last summer may have been his peak.
Alejandro De Aza, OF: A better Dewayne Wise?
Mark Kotsay, 1B-OF: Once star-level WAR has dwindled to negatives in three of last four seasons.
Erick Threets, RP: Will miss 2011; would have been a major lefty contributor.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu hopes to be ready for White Sox next game after leaving with injury

Jose Abreu said he hopes to be ready to go when the White Sox start their series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The White Sox first baseman took an awkward-looking fall on the infield grass while trying to field a grounder in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, leaving the game with what the team announced as a mild right hip flexor strain. Abreu was labeled as day-to-day.

Manager Rick Renteria didn’t have any sort of update after the game — though he said he didn't think it was serious — but in his comments to reporters, Abreu said he felt fine after receiving treatment and will be ready to go for Friday’s series opener in Detroit.

“I feel good right now,” Abreu said. “I got treatment and I feel good. The day off tomorrow is going to help and I hope to be ready for the first game in Detroit.”

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Both Renteria and Abreu said the first baseman had no desire to exit Wednesday’s game but that Renteria was being appropriately cautious.

“He did not want to come out,” Renteria said. “He was pretty adamant but I think all of us, you don't take any chances. I think it was just the right thing to do at that time.”

“When you are on the field, you didn’t want to leave the field. It doesn’t matter what’s the reason or what’s happening,” Abreu said. “But he’s the boss and he made that decision and you have to accept it.”

Abreu went 2-for-2 with a two-out RBI double in the first inning Wednesday before he left. He has had two hits in each of his last four games and is 8-for-15 during the White Sox current four-game winning streak.

The White Sox are off Thursday. The team said Abreu will be reevaluated then after arriving in Detroit.

With White Sox hitters' support, Jose Quintana picks up first win of 2017

With White Sox hitters' support, Jose Quintana picks up first win of 2017

Four runs isn’t exactly an eye-popping total. But for Jose Quintana and his luck, it can seem like a gigantic number.

The White Sox starting pitcher is famously left wanting for run support nearly every time he takes the mound. So after the visiting Kansas City Royals erased a two-run White Sox advantage by the middle of the sixth inning Wednesday, it looked like Quintana might be heading for another bad-luck no decision — or worse.

But Avisail Garcia, he of the resurgent 2017 campaign, came to Quintana’s aid, belting a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put the White Sox back in front. It put Quintana in position for his first win of the season, which he officially earned when things went final a few innings later.

“He hit the ball at the right time. It was a good time,” Quintana said after the 5-2 victory on the South Side. “He told me, ‘That’s for you.’”

Quintana’s own 2017 season hasn’t gotten off to the kind of start you’d expect from the 2016 All Star. He took a loss in each of his first four outings and didn’t pitch like his normal self, entering Wednesday’s game with a 6.17 ERA.

But Wednesday saw Quintana return to form. He struck out 10 batters, a season high and the eighth such effort he’s had in his career. He surrendered just a pair of runs, only one of which was earned.

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Third baseman Todd Frazier said he saw something a little different in Quintana on Wednesday.

“I saw it in his face. He had some look about him,” Frazier said. “It was weird. He was getting mad at me because I didn’t get the ball back to him in time. I love that stuff. I’ll definitely make sure I get it to him quicker. He had a mentality about him, you know, put fear in some hitters eyes.”

Quintana, who kept saying that he “needed” this kind of performance in this game, confirmed it was an accurate assessment.

“Yeah, it was a mission,” Quintana said. “Everybody was doing their job. I needed this outing, so I felt really good on the mound. It was extra motivation to win my first one.

“I needed that outing, I needed that win. I never started like that (with four losses), so I’m really proud of the first win for me. The first of many, so I can’t wait to keep doing my job.”

While the pitcher was different this time around, so too was his offense. The White Sox are locked in some kind of offensive surge right now, combining for 33 runs during a four-game winning streak.

In Quintana’s first four starts, the team mustered just four total runs, shut out in two of those games. While certainly everyone would like the offensive production to continue, it was performances like Wednesday’s that remind you that even when the team isn’t scoring for him — and that’s been often — he still has All-Star stuff.

“As a teammate, you always enjoy when one of your pitchers is having that kind of performance that Quintana had today,” Leury Garcia said. “You’re always trying to help him, you’re always trying to do your best to help your teammates to win games. And for us, the defense was good just to stay there and watch him do his stuff. That was good.”