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.

'Little bit of experience' has helped White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino at plate

'Little bit of experience' has helped White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino at plate

DETROIT — The White Sox have long felt Tyler Saladino would be a player who improves with experience. Saladino wholeheartedly agrees with that assessment.

Now in his second season, Saladino looks like a more complete player. In the midst of a hot streak, the White Sox utility man is hitting .265/.302/.409 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 246 plate appearances this season.

The performance is far removed from when Saladino produced a boatload of defensive highlights in his rookie season but only a .602 OPS at the plate.

“At the beginning I didn’t know any of the (pitchers) really, didn’t know what their stuff was like, how they pitch or what I’m doing,” Saladino said with a hearty laugh. “All that stuff kind of plays into just everything. They’re all factors. I have a little more knowledge and the extra at-bats. You kind of know yourself, know what’s going on and kind of slowed things down a little bit. It’s huge.”

Saladino has played nearly every day with Brett Lawrie on the disabled list since July 22. Those consistent at-bats have resulted in one of the hottest stretches of Saladino’s career. Over the last 12 games, Saladino is hitting .326/.354/.522 with three doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in 49 plate appearances. The stretch doesn’t appear to have been propelled by a ton of luck, either; Saladino’s batting average on balls in play over the 12 games is only up a tick to .333 compared with a .310 season average.

Prior to the season, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Saladino has always improved in his second year at a level. Manager Robin Ventura has seen the difference in how Saladino competes at the plate.

“Just the quality of his at-bats have gotten better as the season has gone along and his experience has got him there,” Ventura said. “And everybody is going to see him a second time, have adjustments and do their adjustments on him. But he’s smart and cagey enough that he’s also making adjustments. He understands what guys are trying to do to him. You see him in one series and see him a couple weeks later he has a better idea what they’re trying to do to him and what he might see. And his recall is very good as far as being able to visualize what they’re trying to do to him and get the barrel to it.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Saladino said he expected the same. He said his style has always been to make corrections and improve.

“I definitely believed in it,” Saladino said. “That’s kind of how I’ve always been. I may not get it the first time, but I’m going to get it. I’m going to work at it, I’m going to figure it out the second time around or in the future from that first go at it. That’s how it has always been my whole life. If I didn’t get it in the beginning I was going to figure out how to get it done after that. That’s how a long of things go for me.

“A little bit of experience goes a long way.”

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox continue their road series with the Tigers on Tuesday night in the Motor City, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from Detroit starts at 6 p.m. Then be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (0-1, 7.88 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.63 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you're ready for the action.

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

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Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Berwyn-native and White Sox fan Isaiah Wright entered the world fighting the odds. At just 14 years old, he has undergone multiple organ transplants and more than 50 surgeries because of a rare birth defect.

Isaiah and his family have an appreciation for just how precious life can be and they were able to make the most of a recent visit to the South Side for a White Sox game, where he received VIP treatment and met his favorite players, including a private meeting with Jose Abreu.

Check out the video above.

A Go Fund Me page was also created to help support Isaiah and his family. Click here to make a donation.