Ballantini: Different directions for Alexei and Freddy

377040.jpg

Ballantini: Different directions for Alexei and Freddy

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011
2:10 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through the offseason, look to BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check. Stories broke on Monday about two White Sox players, one speculative but logical (Alexei Ramirezs reported contract extension), the other elementary and borderline sad (Freddy Garcia taking another bite of the Big Apple). Lets take a look at how these latest developments affect the big picture for the White Sox:

Whats the story with Alexei?

Ramirez was already signed for 2011 after opting out of the fourth year of his original, four-year deal, which forced the White Sox to re-sign him at 2.75 million instead of the original payout of 1.1 million. His value to the White Sox being self-evident (per FanGraphs, Ramirez has provided 29.3 million in value in exchange for just 3.6 million in salary in his first three seasons, and even at a more than doubled contract in 2011 he projects to give the White Sox a surplus value of around 12 million), clearly the club would be working on an extension for their prized shortstop. GM Ken Williams told me that very thing back at the start of December, once Adam Dunn was signed, although he acknowledged it could be around spring training by the time something got done.

So this extension is a good deal for the White Sox?

By inking Ramirez to a reported four-year, 32.5 million extension with a 10 million club option in 2016, the team will give itself cost certainty at the most important fielding position on the diamond and will build around a player who will turn just 35 at the end of the 2016 season. Abacus-ing up the quick and dirty numbers, by 2016 the White Sox will have paid 48.8 million over nine seasons (5.4 million per season) to a player who has averaged almost 10 million in value for the team in his first three years. Providing Ramirez can at least reach his average major league season so far in the six to come, the White Sox will have gotten a return of around 200 on the shortstop over the breadth of his career. Many are calling the speculated extension reasonable and fairfrom this angle, it looks like an incredibly team-friendly deal, and another masterstroke from Williams.

As the potential foundation piece of the future White Sox, does Ramirez have the leadership capability to mentor a new generation of White Sox players?

Leadership and such intangibles develop over time, and to be fair, in many ways Ramirez is just getting his feet wet in American culture and within the confines of a clubhouse already rife with veteran leadership. And providing that Gordon Beckham will be his double-play partner over the course of his contract, Ramirez will always be the second course, at least to Bacon, when it comes to overall team leadership. But with a second year under his belt (including Gold Glove-quality defense in 2010, AL managers and coaches!), Ramirezs confidence is growing. The shy import will never fill Ozzie Guillens cleats when it comes to media friendliness and team leadership, but if he commits to the White Sox for what will essentially be the remainder of his career at shortstop, its an indication he is ready to grow a bit into areas hes yet to explore, like leadership, mentoring, and maybe even expanding his English vocabulary.

Have the White Sox ever committed this kind of money to a shortstop?

Is that a rhetorical question? Well, not only have the White Sox not, but few major league teams have ever invested so heavily in a shortstop. From Cots Baseball Contracts via J. Jonah Stankevitzs analysis of the deal at Sox Examiner, just seven teams have plunked more money into a shortstop than the White Sox are in Ramirez: the New York Yankees (Derek Jeter), Colorado Rockies (Troy Tulowitzki), Florida Marlins (Hanley Ramirez), Baltimore Orioles (Miguel Tejada), Los Angeles Dodgers (Rafael Furcal), San Francisco Giants (Edgar Renteria) and Boston Red Sox (Julio Lugo).

So the White Sox have just secured their Tulowitzki or Ramirez for the next six seasons?

Well, not exactly. In terms of comps, Alexei comes only as close as a surname to Hanley, unfortunately. Interestingly, Alexeis most comparable player (per Baseball-Reference) is an infielder named Charlie Neal, who played eight seasons in the majors, much of them with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1959, Neal made his first of three All-Star appearances, won his first and only Gold Glove (at second base), finished eighth in NL MVP voting, and ironically enough stung the 1959 White Sox in the World Series to the tune of two homers, six RBI and a 1.037 OPS.

Will any White Sox player ever have a cooler nickname than the Cuban Missile?

Probably not.

OK, now that Garcia has signed with the Yankees, where does that leave the White Sox in terms of a fifth starter?

Very comfortably, thank you. Listen, were talking about six potential aces among Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, Jake Peavy and Chris Sale. As well as Garcia pitched for the White Sox in 2010, he wasnt a world-beater, just a fifth starter who benefited from good enough health to take the mound for 28 starts. That durabilityoften the bane of fifth starterswas what allowed Garcia to give the White Sox a phenomenal return (5.4 million) on what was a gamble of a million-dollar contract.

There were a multitude of reasons why Garcia could not have returned to the White Sox in 2011, from the way Williams bolstered the bullpen for 2011, early reports that Peavy could well occupy that No. 5 slot beginning on Opening Day (the club wouldnt need a fifth starter until April 9, the ninth day of the regular season) and a payroll stretched wafer-thin. The only reason to bring Garcia back, frankly, was sheer sentimentality.

Is it written anywhere that a fifth starter has to stink?

Thats a great point. While its rare these days when even three starters in a rotation are reliable, it seems silly to therefore accept that every fifth day needs to be batting practice, because pitching is so very scarce in baseball today. Think about the multitude of horrors sent out by fifth starters in recent White Sox past, and then feel your blood pressure lower as you envision Peavy andor Sale manning that post in 2011. Talk about Adam Dunn all day long, but the real reason why the White Sox have World Series potential is being six starters deep in a league that struggles to find a single ace in a haystack. On the other hand, some clownish projections have the White Sox with just a middling rotation (worse than the Tigers and Cubbies, really, Matthew Pouliot?), so who knows what lies in store for the Pale Hose.

What are Freddys prospects in Gotham?

Well, it didnt work out too well in 2009, when his tenure with the New York Mets lasted all of three months and exactly zero regular-season games. Garcia really needed the White Sox to be less set with their rotation and overall pitching, because there are few places where such a unique veteran (read: awful spring outings, languid demeanor, stubborn streak) can flourish. Garcia benefited from the immediate care and curating of pitching coach Don Cooper and the support and mentoring of Guillen. In New York, its going to be a Florida free-for-all among the Bartolo Colons, Sergio Mitres, Mark Priors of the rest of the 30-and-up softballers the Yankees have opened their spring training mounds to. Guillen said in January that any team picking up Garcia had better talk to us, meaning that when Garcia is sweating a 20.00 ERA in spring training and looks utterly lost andor disinterested, dont be so quick to judge him. Think the Yankees, who cant even decide who their go-to GM on signings is, did any sort of background check beyond a physical? Like Mick Jagger wrote in the back of a cab some three decades ago, go ahead, bite the Big Appledont mind the maggots; unfortunately, Sweaty Freddy is set up to fail in those dastardly Yankees pinstripes.

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

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — If Carlos Rodon starts on the disabled list as expected, the White Sox won't turn to any of their vaunted top prospects in the interim.

The news on Rodon has been encouraging so far as no structural damage has been discovered. Still, the White Sox won't clear Rodon until after he receives a second opinion on Monday. While the length of Rodon's absence won't be determined for several days, the White Sox are certain of one route they won't take — they don't want to disrupt the development of their young starting pitchers. Were a DL trip for Rodon necessary, the White Sox would likely select either Saturday's starter, Dylan Covey, or minor leaguer David Holmberg over their top prospects. Covey made a strong impression on Saturday afternoon with 3 2/3 scoreless innings pitched and the White Sox rallied for a 10-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.

"When you have an opportunity to stabilize action or movement for players it serves them better," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "They get a little more comfortable where they're at. They get comfortable with the staffs they're working with and the information they're gathering, being in a routine. It is a little disruptive going from team to team to team. It happens, but it's not the most conducive (to learning)."

The White Sox are all about development this season. Therefore, they have no plans to call upon Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer or Michael Kopech unless they're A) ready and B) throwing every fifth day in Chicago. Renteria's comments Saturday reiterated Rick Hahn's earlier message, saying the club doesn't want to disrupt the development path.

That puts Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, with a decent opportunity to make the club out of camp. Covey commanded the strike zone on Saturday only hours after Renteria said he hoped to see the young right-hander replicate an Arizona Fall League performance that initially warmed the White Sox up to him.

Aside from a two-out walk in his final inning, Covey was sharp the whole way. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

"My last couple of outings I was definitely feeling the stress," Covey said. "I was kind of pitching a little passive, pitching to not make a mistake instead of just going right after guys. So today and yesterday I just thought I'm just going to throw every pitch with conviction and see what happens. I got a lot of weak contact today and some swings and misses, so I felt good."

Covey threw 44 pitches, 27 for strikes. He potentially could stay in Arizona on Thursday and make an additional minor league start to build arm strength, which would get him to roughly 60 pitches before the regular seasons started.

The White Sox don't officially need a fifth starter until April 9 and they're off the following day. That break could allow the White Sox to start Covey as part of a bullpen day. Covey said he recently changed his mindset after lackluster results in relief this spring. The right-hander has a 6.94 ERA this spring in 11 2/3 innings.

"Obviously my last two outings out of the pen I wasn't getting crushed, but I just wasn't commanding the ball or commanding the count as much as I would like to be," Covey said. "The mistakes get hit a little harder when you're falling behind in the count. Today I wanted to have the mindset of attacking hitters, throwing everything down in the zone and going right after them, and it worked out."

The White Sox blasted six home runs in the contest, including a majestic, go-ahead grand slam by first baseman Danny Hayes in the top of the ninth inning. Hayes is hitting .351/.400/.595 with two homers and is tied for the team lead with 13 RBIs this spring. Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico, Cody Asche, Everth Cabrera and Jacob May also homered for the White Sox. 

White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

White Sox: Carlos Rodon feels reassured after clean MRI

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While he still has a second opinion ahead and is likely to start 2017 on the disabled list, a clean MRI has Carlos Rodon feeling relieved after a bizarre Thursday.

The White Sox pitcher described Saturday the strange experience he’s had the past few days dealing with soreness in his left bicep.

In the span of 48 hours, Rodon -- who will receive a second opinion on Monday -- went from feeling good enough after a midweek bullpen session to request that his first start be moved up to likely landing on the DL. As he prepares to navigate the rehab process, Rodon is more at ease after an MRI on Friday showed no structural damage.

“(Thursday) was a weird day for me,” Rodon said. “I wasn’t very happy with it. I got that checked out, trying to figure it out.

“I feel better. It’s reassuring.”

“(Your arm is) your tool. It’s concerning. But that’s why you go get those things checked out and make sure everything is ok. That’s what we did.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Rodon, who went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings in 2016, has one more checkup before he’s all clear. He travels to Los Angeles on Monday for an appointment with Dr. Neal ElAttrache. General manager Rick Hahn said Friday that a second opinion is “protocol.”

Though he has already been reassured -- the club’s diagnosis was he had no structural issues after a physical exam and then the clean MRI -- Rodon wouldn’t mind more confirmation. The left-hander said he hadn’t experienced the kind of tightness he suddenly felt in his biceps tendon before Thursday. He could lift his arm above his head, but Rodon said his stuff wasn’t the same. After he informed them, the White Sox determined to be cautious.

“It’s pretty tight up there,” Rodon said. “I’ve never really been that tight. I couldn’t really step on some balls I wanted to throw to get that arm going. So, I had to get it checked out. It didn’t feel too good.”

The White Sox already had Rodon on a delayed schedule where he needed to hit every mark to be ready for the regular season. They did so in hopes of helping him avoid the fatigue he experienced last summer and also reaching the 200-inning mark this season. Now it appears Rodon will begin the season on the DL, according to Hahn.

Though he’d like to start the season on schedule, Rodon wants to make sure he’s physically good to go.

“Just trying to be healthy man,” Rodon said. “You don’t want to go the start of the season and be behind the best guys. You are a tick down from the best guys in the world. It’s not fun pitching when you are not feeling too good. I want to be 100 percent when I’m out there. That gives our team the best chance of winning.”