Ballantini: Taking in Cactus League with Ozzie

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Ballantini: Taking in Cactus League with Ozzie

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 10:26 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. In case you havent been getting the gist of my spring training writing so far, the Cactus League is pretty much a paradise for baseball fans.

After all, where else can you find yourself watching major league players in an atmosphere not unlike a local high school game.

Thats just where I found myself on Thursday, watching the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers face off in a game that brought me back to my own days spitting sunflower seeds and itching to see action at third, short, catcher, outfield, wherever. Only my stroll down memory lane was accompanied by manager Ozzie Guillen, who in all likelihood would be any baseball fans choice for Person Theyd Most Want to Watch a Game With.

For all his animation, and the fact that Ozzie could talk to a batboy for an hour and turn it into ace reality TV, the truth is that the White Sox manager truly cares about and attends to the game. Its the flamboyance that gets the play, but Ozzie is a true caretaker of the game.

Not to say there werent moments of jest. Guillen was immediately impressed by the bat and arm of rightfielder Kyle Russell. His impression came in the form of chiding Russell for wearing a helmet with Little League-style double ear flaps: Hey, No. 14, youve got a big-league number, tell Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to give you a major league helmet! (Then, under his breath, that kid is impressive I like that kid.)

Natch, Guillen had words for the umpiring crew the second a pitch call went against him: Hey, were filming you! And Ozzie couldnt help but laugh at the fact that while the Dodgers had several interns spread around the field, using high-tech equipment to track every pitch of the game, the White Sox had just one photographer, using such a veteran camera that the manager was unsure whether the camera model was still in production. (The discrepancy was so hilarious, even recalcitrant first-base coach Harold Baines got into the fray.)

Later, when a Dodgers extra busted hard right at us on a foul popup, crashing into the fence to no avail, Guillen was quick to compliment him: Good hustle, kid. Tommy Lasorda will love you! And even when Dallas McPherson was thrown out at home plate, Ozzie wasnt worried about the play, but the fact that no one moved the bat out of McPhersons way, paving the way to injury.

And yeah, theres was a lot we talked about that was meant to stay outside the lines, but let me trickle one thing for you to look for. Ozzie has a plan for the Cleveland Indians after the National Anthem on Opening Day, something that could earn him cheers but, knowing how much the Wahoos fans detest the Chisox jefe, will get boos galore. Today, Ozzie wasnt sure if hed go through with it, but if he does, it will be an all-time classic.

Just like the manager himself.

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

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After he pulled the ball more than ever in 2016, Todd Frazier has worked to hit it the opposite way more often this spring. Even if he struggled.

But as the Opening Day nears, Frazier doesn’t want to cheat himself. Though he struggled last season, Frazier hit a career-high 40 homers. That kind of success means Frazier will continue to pull a pitch if it’s where he likes it. That approach led to a double and Frazier’s first home run of the spring in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Both balls were hit to left field.

“I’ve been working on a lot of things and sometimes when you work on something the results aren’t going to be there,” Frazier said. “But I still stay true to myself. And once we start getting going here, pretty close, close as can be -- it’s time to have those things in the back of your mind. But at the same time, you have to hit it where the pitch is and put in play. I was working on a lot of things. I was still trying to go right field, couldn’t get it out there. And now you go to what you know best and just react.”

According to fangraphs.com, Frazier hit 22.8 percent of all balls he put in play to right field last year, which is actually above his career mark of 22.5 percent. But en route to slashing .225/.302/.464, Frazier saw a second consecutive dramatic drop in the number of balls he hit to center. Of the balls Frazier put in play, only 28.5 percent went up the middle, down from 37.7 percent in 2014 when he produced a career-best wRC+ of 122.

To correct that trend, Frazier has worked to give himself a better chance to hit outside pitches the opposite way. Now that his focus is back on hitting to all fields, Frazier thought it was a good sign to homer with a week left before the season starts.

“It feels good,” Frazier said. “It’s showing I’m in the right place. It was a changeup and I’ve been out in front on a lot of those. I’ve got about 10 or 12 more at-bats before the season starts and it’s go time. Get back in the rhythm of things. Whatever you worked on, keep that there. If it’s outside now I have that weapon too as well. I’m right where I need to be.”