BBQ: Sox cuts too tough? Don't make 'em

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BBQ: Sox cuts too tough? Don't make 'em

Sunday, March 27, 2011
Posted: 6:38 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through spring training, look to BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check.Far be it for me to claim responsibility for putting this bug in Chicago White Sox GM Ken Williams ear, but the scenario I recommended just two days ago apparently has come to pass after pitcher Jeffrey Marquez was placed on waivers, leaving three remaining roster spots to pitcher Phil Humber, outfielder Lastings Milledge and superutilityman Brent Lillibridge (after Jake Peavy is put on the disabled list).With the roster apparently settled, lets take a look at how all the pieces fit:

Fourteen position players what is this, a coed softball league?

Williams rarely bows to convention, and while breaking camp with 12 pitchers is the traditional mode of operation for teams, he was faced with picking from two pitchers (Humber and Marquez) who didnt seem much to care about making the big club.

On the other hand, Milledge and Lillibridge were scraping like hell to make the cut, somewhat hilariously trying to top one another, often in the space of a single game: Lillibridge leads off with a home run, Milledge throws out a runner at home, Lillibridge makes a diving catch, and so on. The GM is not known for rewarding underachievement and the feistiness of both hitters made the decision to break with just 11 pitchers rather easy.

What happened to Marquez?

Simply put, given the chance to leapfrog Humber onto the roster after the former first-rounder pitched poorly vs. the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, Marquez couldnt seal the deal. Answering mediocrity with mediocrity is no way to convince the GM of your roster worthiness.

Just a couple of days ago I called Marquez the stronger option, with a higher ceiling than Humber, and I stand by that. He bounced back from Saturdays ugly start vs. the Los Angeles Angels with several strikeouts, and his live arm is the thing GMs normally drool over. Marquez is a better fit in the White Soxs power-arm, K-coughing pen, so Im somewhat shocked that Williams was willing to waive Marquez rather than extend the audition.

So whats left of the Nick Swisher trade?

Aside from the knowledge that Swish is no longer allowed to giddily poison the White Sox clubhouse? Nada. Well, Jhonny Nunez is still around, improbably and in spite of choking away his potential as a future White Sox closer.

Anyone who believes Williams is governed by pride and driven to rationalize even his biggest mistakes needs to be reminded that by cutting Marquez, the White Sox are left essentially barren from his two Swisher deals, while Swish continues to play the pesky mascot in Gotham and Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney are starting for the Oakland As.

Is there really room for five outfielders on the roster?

Well, with Mark Teahens continued misadventures in the infield combined with Omar Vizquels continued excellence there, Lillibridge may bring greater value to the White Sox in the infield, as Teahen becomes more exclusively a corner outfielderdesignated hitter.

Make no mistake, Lillibridge presently is little more than a late-game pinch-runner a position in which he can add value to the club. Milledge has much greater potential theyre not nearly equal players, but consider the fact that Williams wanted to bring Andruw Jones back as a fourth outfielder but ran out of money, and recognize that Chicagos commitment to Milledge could well extend beyond a one-year audition.

If (when) right fielder Carlos Quentin is felled by injury, Milledge is the first choice to plug the hole, and if his spring training play is any indication, the White Sox wouldn't lose much with Milledge roaming in right.

Are there X-factors in keeping both hitters?

While its true that Lillibridge is out of options, and cutting him would result in the White Sox losing him (another club would claim him off waivers), Williams has just proven that not to be a deciding factor in his final cuts (by waiving Marquez).

One of Lillibridges strengths, in addition to his defensive flexibility, is his inner strength and character. Hes learned, through trades, injuries, and slumps, to accept a role that could be more modest than hed like. Theres little question Lillibridge would quietly contribute to a winning White Sox season, even if limited to a start every couple of weeks.

Milledge, however, presents more of a character question mark. He has said and done everything perfectly in the clubhouse this spring learning from veterans, knowing his role, even admitting to me midway through Cactus League play that it was a done deal that hed accept a minor-league assignment if offered (as a non-roster player, Milledge could cut ties with the White Sox if cut).

But the outfielder is a polar opposite of Lillibridge on the field, still the player who might high-five fans on his way back to the outfield after a big offensive inning or toss off his helmet well in advance of home plate to finish off a home run.

Such uniqueness can easily be rationalized as spirited play; but what happens if Milledge is thrown out at third on a sacrifice bunt for failing to slide, or gets a bad jump on a fly ball because hes taken a poor at-bat with him to the outfield? Both of those scenarios played out this spring, too.

The My Fair Gentleman process with Milledge is not yet complete, and bringing Lillibridge north with the club helps protect against any sort of behavioral relapse from the 25-year-old, on or off the field.

Doesnt this decision leave the White Sox short of arms?

Yawn. There are two off-days in the first two weeks of the season, with at least one other cancellation possible, as the White Sox dont play in a weather-safe city until the 16th game of the season. And isnt part of the point of bolstering the bullpen to such an outrageous extent (signing Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, pushing projected starter Chris Sale into a setup role) to let the pitchers in the pen pitch?

But, the fifth starter!

Double yawn. Even if the clouds break and sun shines brightly on every of those initial bad-weather city games, the White Sox can avoid a fifth starter at least until April 10, in spite of all the automatonic tendencies toward using the unnecessary fifth turn in the rotation directly on April 6. If Peavy isnt ready by April 10, sure, throw Humber out there to take on the Tampa Rays, and keep Tony Pena (or Sale!) warm in the garage in case of catastrophe.
Will Peavy be ready?

He threw off the mound Sunday for the first time in a week. Though his 30 tosses were far from game conditions, all signs are pointing to Peavys shoulder tendinitis as a natural offshoot of the aggressive rehab the pitcher has pursued since surgery last July.

The notion that he will stay behind for extended spring training and throw four rehab starts before stepping on a major league mound this season veers a bit on the conservative side.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that Peavy renders Humber irrelevant by striding to the bump for the first required fifth starter outing, on April 10 (and with just a single postponement to be made up later in the summer, the initial need for a fifth starter pushes back to April 20 at the Rays).

So, still digging this 2011 White Sox team?

Yep.
Not budging from a 93-win prediction and a division title?

Nope.

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

Carlos Rodon, White Sox shut down Mariners in series finale

Carlos Rodon, White Sox shut down Mariners in series finale

Carlos Rodon continued his best stretch of the season on Sunday afternoon.

The White Sox pitcher earned his fifth consecutive quality start in the team's 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field.

Rodon had another impressive day, finishing the game with six innings pitched while allowing one run on five hits and one walk. He also struck out six.

In his last five starts, Rodon is 3-0 and has allowed only six runs (five earned) while tacking on 26 strikeouts. He lowered his season ERA to 3.91.

"Carlos is really evolving. As he goes along he just seems to be getting better, there's more confidence there," manager Robin Ventura said. "He's learning a lot about himself as well, going through these. He gets extended somewhat, he's in there for a while, he's seeing these guys the third time around, which is good for him.

"He has the stuff to be able to do that and continue to do that, really. The future's really bright for him."

Though four runs were scored, it was mostly a quiet night for the White Sox offense, which finished the game with five hits. The team had two hits in the first seven innings and the remaining three came in the eighth.

The White Sox opened the scoring in the fourth inning with a single by Justin Morneau, which scored two.

Adam Eaton left the game in the fifth inning with a bruised right forearm after the White Sox outfielder was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. X-rays were negative and he remains day-to-day. J.B. Shuck replaced him in center field.

"He got hit in the forearm and he couldn't hold on to the bat," Ventura said. "As of right now, he's just day to day."

The Mariners got on the board in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by Robinson Cano, his 30th of the year, to cut the lead in half.

On his 100th pitch of the day, Rodon was removed in the seventh after allowing back-to-back singles to lead off the inning.

"As a competitor, I want to be in that situation," Rodon said. "I didn’t want to come out. But when you’ve got a manager who has done it for awhile, he knows the game of baseball, he knows what he’s doing, obviously it worked out there. You put your trust in him and leave it to your teammates, let them do it.

"You’re up 2-1, you want a quick inning, you want another hold in that seventh. Didn’t really want to dip into the pen that early. I’ve been trying to stay in the game longer. Just a little frustrated. I want to be competitive, I still want to be out there. But hats off to my teammates once again for digging me out."

The White Sox bullpen shut down the Mariners the rest of the way in the final three innings. Chris Beck, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones combined for two scoreless innings.

In the eighth, Melky Cabrera legged out an RBI triple for the White Sox to pull ahead, 3-1. An RBI single from Jose Abreu, who was hit by a pitch twice, made it 4-1.

David Robertson closed out the ninth and earned his 33rd save of the season, which ranks third in the American League.

The White Sox are 63-66 on the season and have won six of their last eight. As it stands, the White Sox are 7.5 games out of a wild card spot and 10.5 behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians.

The White Sox picked the perfect time to heat up if there's any shot of them playing October baseball, with 27 of their last 33 games being against division opponents. 

"Anything’s possible," Morneau said. "It’ll take a lot but we do it one day at a time one game at a time. If we kind of prepare the way we need to prepare and go out there and do everything we can to win that day. If you look at the big picture it seems pretty overwhelming, but if you go out there and just try and do what you can everyday I think we’re still alive.

"We kind of control our own destiny."

White Sox: Adam Eaton is day-to-day with bruised right forearm

White Sox: Adam Eaton is day-to-day with bruised right forearm

Adam Eaton left Sunday's White Sox-Seattle Mariners series finale early with a bruised right forearm.

The White Sox outfielder was hit by a pitch to lead off the fourth inning in his second time at the plate. X-rays were negative.

"He got hit in the forearm and he couldn't hold on to the bat," manager Robin Ventura said after the game. "As of right now, he's just day to day."

Eaton remained in the game to field in the top of the fifth, but was replaced by J.B. Shuck for his next at-bat in the bottom of the inning.

White Sox Top Prospects: Jameson Fisher faring well with transition to outfield

White Sox Top Prospects: Jameson Fisher faring well with transition to outfield

Jameson Fisher entered the 2016 MLB Draft with experience at only catcher and first base.

When the White Sox drafted him in the fourth round (116th overall), little did he know he wasn’t going to start off his professional career at either of those positions.

The White Sox transitioned the Southeastern Louisiana product to outfielder. Fisher has a .953 field percentage in 35 games played at left field in the Advanced Rookie Class.

The 22-year-old credits outfield instructor Aaron Rowand and Great Falls hitting coach Willie Harris for helping him with the switch.

Fisher is batting .335/.425/.466 with three homers and 21 RBI this season with the Great Falls Voyagers. His .335 average ranks second on the team and his 12 stolen bases ranks third.

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This season at Southeastern Louisiana, Fisher had the best batting average (.449) and on-base percentage (.577) in college baseball.

Fisher played catcher in 2014 but transitioned to first base following a shoulder injury, which cause him to miss the entire 2015 season.

The White Sox signed Fisher for $485,000 on June 16.