BBQ: In need of relief? White Sox 'pen says no

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BBQ: In need of relief? White Sox 'pen says no

Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010
9:06 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through the offseason, turn to the BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check. Talk this week turned to Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams supposedly looking into acquiring Tampa Rays free agent closer Rafael Soriano, so its time to toss this rumor on the barbie for a reality check:

Why would a bullpen full of power arms need a 10 million per year closer?

Funny, Foxs Ken Rosenthal who reported that the White Sox are looking into signing Soriano didnt ask himself that. On a team with closer possibilities including Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks, Sergio Santos and Chris Sale and gaping holes at catcher, first base, and designated hitter, closer is the last thing Williams is kicking the tires on.

Wait a minute, bubJenks?

OK, OK, youre right. Rosenthal reported the White Sox interest in Soriano as further evidence that Jenks would be dealt or non-tendered, but the White Sox might well have batting practice pitcher Kevin Hickey as their top closer candidate and still wouldnt be planning on welcoming back Jenks.

How did Jenkss stock fall so fast?

Its been a gradual decline for the onetime wunderkind, but yeah, the door usually does hit you in the hiney after getting shoved out in the end. Mostly, the White Sox have some real questions about their closers motivation and dedication. Jenks has conditioning issues that would be easier to ignore if not contributing to an increasing amount of time injured and on the DL in his career.

Williams was generally sunny at least sunny from KWs hardscrabble perspective about all aspects of the White Sox in his final media address of 2010, with the exception of Jenks. You read it at CSNChicago.com first, and not long after his sweet swan song of a doubleheader save at the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 5: Jenks would not pitch for the White Sox again.

But Williams loves power arms, and Soriano was arguably the best closer in the majors last season, so wouldnt he be a fit?

Sure, and with a New York Yankees budget or even with merely the money they were burning across town at Wrigley over the past few years Williams would happily swap out Jenks for Soriano. But there are three additional, and monumental, reasons why Soriano is a bad fit for the White Sox, beyond the fact that there are an abundance of power arms in the Chicago bullpen:

1. Scott Boras is Sorianos agent.

2. The White Sox would be buying high on Soriano and Williams simply does not buy high on players, budget restrictions or no.

3. Soriano will probably sign north of five years and 50 million. Thats downright loco terms for a closer with less than two years of brilliance in his back pocket and one who will turn 31 next month.

We hear all the talk about the Chisoxs limited budget, but there is wiggle room to sign somebody, right?

Yes. But as much as Williams would like to make a big splash even simply in throwing seven figures at Konerko to re-sign him for the South Siders it could turn out that any player addition wont qualify as major. For example, reasonable inkings at catcher, first, outfield and the bullpen could greatly bolster the team (say A.J. Pierzynski, Derek Lee, Andruw Jones, and J.J. Putz) despite a decided absence of sexiness.

It could turn out that like the last offseason where the big moves were a salary - aided trade for Juan Pierre and the ill-fated Mark Teahen acquisition Williams work could be under the radar.

The Minnesota Twins are the defending AL Central champs, and the Detroit Tigers are talking about chasing not one but two major bats this offseason. Dont the White Sox have to spend to keep up?

Youd think so. But the one key advantage the White Sox have strength and depth in the starting rotation is crucial. Williams is counting on that as the team looks to 2011.

So then, whos the 2011 White Sox closer?

Of the four names listed up top, Putz wont close even if he comes back. Sale is ticketed for the rotation an arm like his cant be frittered away in the pen. That leaves Santos and Thornton, and it could well be that lefty-righty combination sharing setup and closing duties, matchup by matchup.

But you know what? Im not going to just nibble at the possibilities for the 2011 White Sox. On Monday, tune in for a look at my take on the ideal 2011 White Sox roster.

BBQ Verdict on the Soriano Rumor: Propane Fumes

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

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”