BBQ: Time for White Sox to transition into 2012

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BBQ: Time for White Sox to transition into 2012

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 9:56 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
With just 23 games remaining and eight games back, manager Ozzie Guillen and GM Ken Williams might not want to admit it, but the Chicago White Sox are playing for second place this September, rather than challenging the first-place Detroit Tigers.

But as never is the case, theres much more to play for than just first runner-up in the AL Centralthe Pale Hose have a number of issues to resolve as they point toward a 2012 season where they hope All-In will play like more than a catch phrase.

How different will the 2012 White Sox look?

Honestly, not much. Going All-In for 2011 largely pulls 2012 along with it, as the White Sox have little salary to shedChicago is already committed to an 89 million payroll, and thats for just 11 players. Letting Mark Buehrle and Juan Pierre leave could push the payroll down a spot from this years, but truly, All-In was a two-year commitment.
But didnt owner Jerry Reinsdorf lose a ton of money this year?

The White Sox will certainly fall well short of the 2.6-2.8 million fans the Chairman felt he needed to draw to break even on the season, given 128 million payroll, the biggest in White Sox history.

But All-In wasnt just born from Williams desire to spend money or Reinsdorfs to waste itthe owners thinking is that with time not getting any shorter, its time to commit to a World Series contender more strongly than ever. So you shouldnt hear much handwringing or poormouthing from the executive suite at U.S. Cellular Field.

Who could be dealt, to improve the team, trim payroll, or both?

Theres no deal that will do both; any payroll trim will come at the cost of young talent inserted as a sweetener or in a straight dump by cutting a player, which is ulikely to happen on Reinsdorfs watch.

The closest area of expendability comes in right field, where Carlos Quentin will see a significant raise on his 5.5 million salary in his final year of arbitration. Dayan Viciedo is ready to supplant CQ in right field, but theres nothing that says the two sluggers couldnt both occupy corner spots next season.

Big-ticket items like Jake Peavy (17 million), Adam Dunn (14 million) and Alex Rios (12.5 million) are untradeable, unless the White Sox want to eat half of any of those contracts or wedge a prime prospect into the deal. And they dont have enough prime prospects for wedging.
Who has the inside track for No. 5?

One of the interesting battles shaping up in September involves Phil Humber and Zach Stewarts fight for the fifth spot in the 2012 rotation. But that presupposes a number of things.

One, the White Sox would be smart to re-up Buehrle for whatever contract length he desires. Every season of his recent four-year, 56 million deal hes given the White Sox more value than hes been paid in salary.

Two, presuming Matt Thornton returns, Chris Sale is ticketed for the starting rotation, destined to flabbergast far more batters with his changeup as a starter than a reliever.

But if it came down to Humber battling Stewart, spring training efforts pending, Humber has earned the spot. He was the most dominant starter for the White Sox in the first half of 2010, and while wholly speculative, it wasnt until the team decided he needed to be skipped in the rotation in July that trouble started brewingin his first 15 starts, Humber sported an amazing 60.5 game score, while over his last seven, hes fallen to 43.7.

Who closes?

The closers job is absolutely Sergio Santos to lose. Yes, the first-timer has had a few notable flameouts and sports an .848 (28-for-33 save percentage, lower than that of Bobby Jenkss .871 (27-for-31) in 2010. But Santos has peripherals that put even Jenks, an experienced closer, to shame, including just 8.3 percent of inherited runners scoring (13 percent for Jenks) and 1.80 average leverage (pressure) faced (1.737 for Jenks).

And even if Sale doesnt join the starting rotation, theres little evidence he should supplant Santos as the teams closer. The leftys save percentage is mere points higher (.857 in just seven chances) and his inherited runners scoring (22.6 percent) and first batter average (.122 for Santos, .292 for Sale) is far superior.
Dayan Viciedo is ready to start every day in 2012, but will he be replacing Carlos Quentinin right field or can the two sluggers occupy both corner outfield spots? (US PRESSWIRE)
If anything, Santos has faltered most when inserted in traditional closing roles, like starting the ninth. The young fella thrives on high-leverage pitching, where there is less time to think and more to simply erase the hopes of batters. Something for the Chicago brain trust to grow on for 2012.

Which kids can play?

As the White Sox continue to attempt challenging for a Central crown in 2012 with a mix of veterans and young guns, the second half of the season, and September in particular, has been telling for the White Sox.

Tyler Flowers, Alejandro De Aza, and Viciedo all appear to be ready to contribute solidly to Chicago in 2012, if not as starters, as key contributors. Of the young players with the White Sox all season, Brent Morel has leapfrogged Gordon Beckham offensively, but both are slinging leathersomething that would have overshadowed their offensive woes had players like Dunn and Rios performed to expectations in 2011.

There may not be a fountain of youth on the White Sox, but theres a trickle, and if all things are equal with the teams vets, theres a wave of complimentary players who can aid a pennant push in 2012.
Does 2012 promise hope, or horror?

As usual, it depends on your perspective. From a sheer talent standpoint, there is tons of room for optimism.

But from a shifting-on-the-fly managerial standpointand that goes for field managing and general managing alikethere is reason for despondency. Because the same solutions that could be found in 2012the De Azas, Humbers and Viciedos of the clubwere solutions available in 2011 to rescue a lost season, as well.

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

Rick Renteria's morning meetings a hit with White Sox players

Rick Renteria's morning meetings a hit with White Sox players

MESA, Ariz. -- Zack Collins talked about fishing to a roomful of teammates in Monday's morning meeting in what has become a staple of many spring training clubhouses.

The White Sox catching prospect and several others young players addressed a room full of players, coaches and staff to discuss what they believe to be the best fishing lures and reels. The presentation is part of a series of team-building exercises newly incorporated by manager Rick Renteria that has ties to methods long used by Los Angeles Angels skipper Mike Scioscia that have been passed down over the years.

The goal is simple: bring together a room full of unfamiliar players through a series of off-beat productions to break up the monotony of the daily meetings.

"They're good," third baseman Todd Frazier said. "They're upbeat. It's bringing the team closer together. Just some fun stuff going on and Rick knows what he's doing. There's a method to his madness. You're getting all these young guys to step out of their comfort zone and it makes for a fun morning.

"It makes for a good morning right before we go out and stretch and get after it. Kind of breaks everything down and makes everything better."

Renteria is the latest manager to employ the technique in a tree with branches attached to Scioscia. Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black has featured sessions ranging from basketball skills contests to fly fishing competitions from the outset of his tenure as manager of the San Diego Padres in 2007. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a member of Scioscia's staff from 2000-05, started his own variation in Tampa Bay that now includes magic shows and petting zoos, among others.

Renteria worked with Black in San Diego for six seasons and has added his own wrinkle.

This spring's adaptations from White Sox camp have included Collins' fishing lesson, acting from pitcher Lucas Giolito (whose family includes Hollywood actors and directors) and a WWE impersonation by reliever Tommy Kahnle, who walked into the clubhouse dressed as The Ultimate Warrior.

"They are getting to connect in different ways," Renteria said. "But that's what anybody does. You just try to help your club bond, get to know each other as quickly as possible and then they go out there and play.

"The more comfortable you feel within the environment and with your working, obviously when you go out into the field, it makes it a little easier. A lot of the things we talk about in there are just relaxing, staying focused, playing the game and having fun, preparing, knowing that their preparation is going to be useful in their ability to go out and do their job on any given day. They have been a lot of fun."

They've also been helpful for the younger players and a clubhouse full of new faces. Of the 61 players in White Sox camp, 27 weren't in camp last spring, including seven of the club's eight top prospects. Giolito said the uncomfortable nature of performing for teammates makes it easier for players to communicate with each other afterward.

"One of the best things about it is it puts you out of your comfort zone," Giolito said. "You're making new friends, you're working with new guys and you're doing something that you're not really comfortable doing, which our presentation was acting, trying to be funny, obnoxious. Other guys might have to do research projects. They might have to interview other players about their life. It kind of gets everyone closer and involved. Coming out of your comfort zone is huge because it opens you up to new experiences and kind of makes you a better person in a way, not just a better player."

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.”

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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.