Chicago White Sox

Beckhams trip to Florida: Better than a fried Oreo

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Beckhams trip to Florida: Better than a fried Oreo

Thursday, January 13, 2011
5:15 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Gordon Beckhams relaxed drawl, spilling out like molasses as he waited for his flight out of Miami on Thursday afternoon, flew in the face of a staunch determination to wipe out his disappointing 2010 campaign and reclaim a postseason berth for his White Sox.

Last year there was a lot put on my plate, and when I didnt immediately meet expectations I went into panic mode, the Chicago second sacker said of his atrocious start in 2010, which was scarred by his second position change in as many seasons field and first-half splits of .216.277.304 and a .581 OPS. That cant happen, and that wont happen again. I got frustrated, and mentally tired.

Beckham battled back and had an outstanding second half, putting up OPS marks of .950 in July and .931 in August before a beanball smashed his right hand in the seventh inning of an Aug. 31 game at the Cleveland Indians. The sophomore tried to battle through the injury but could mount only a paltry .497 OPS and seven total bases in the next two weeks before stepping to the plate for that last time on September 15.

I was in the worst mental state of my baseball life, Beckham reflected. It was good to come out on top.

The official beginning to the 2011 season might come next weekend as the ballclub hosts its annual packed fan hootenanny at SoxFest, but the now-traditional, still-unofficial start of proceedings came this week, in Miami, under the watchful eye of White Sox bench coach and future MLB manager Joey Cora. Several White Sox players committed to these voluntary, tune-up workouts that come a full month before pitchers and catchers begin to trickle into Arizona for spring training.

To hear Beckham tell it, Camp Cora was a resounding success on all counts, beginning with the bounce-back of the hand that had so plagued him at seasons end.

In December, Beckham said, he underwent a particularly painful batting practice session, which was later determined to be the breaking up of scar tissue in his hand. The very next day he hit the cages with no ill effects, and survived the three days of Camp Cora drills in perfect health.

I didnt deal with hand pain at all this whole week, the prototype Chisox grinder said.

On Monday through Wednesday, White Sox players gathered with Cora for infield drills and worked in the cages with White Sox batting coach Greg Walker.

I wanted to get some reps in with the infielders, get on the field and hit, Beckham said. It was a good time. It was good to start moving around and get ready for the season.

Of course, the Pale Hose being the Pale Hose, there has been no lack of off-field drama this offseason, culminating at the end of the year with Bobby Jenkss departure to the Boston Red Sox and the Fredo Corleone of the Chisox, Oney Guillen, exposing via the wildly inappropriate forum of Twitter apparent confidential, personal problems the closer had while in Chicago. Imaginably, it was a subject that did pop up during the South Beach boot camp.

Me and Joey talked a little bit about keeping confidences in the locker room, Beckham said. Everybody is on the same page. We want to play. We dont want outside drama to fill our locker room this year. Joey says hes talked a lot to White Sox manager and Oneys father Ozzie Guillen on that kind of stuff.

We want it to be on us. If were playing bad, its not because of some outside issues. Oneygate is over with and done.

While Beckham was brimming confidence as the dawn of the season nears (everyone on the team is going to share the load we have the pieces in place), the infielder almost didnt make it down to Camp Cora this week due to the surprise snowfalls that dusted the south: I would have been snowed in keeping my original flight on Monday, but I switched my flight to get there in advance. Me and snow, that doesnt work.
Short Stops

Defense was the real emphasis of Camp Cora, with Beckham, corner infielder Dayan Viciedo and third baseman Brent Morel getting in tons of infield reps per White Sox team footage released on Tuesday, in which Cora said that we want to get them in shape and work on backhands and some of the fundamentals of the game were striving to be one of the best infields in the league and we have the potential to do that. Beckham brimmed with similar confidence heading into his second season as a second sacker: I feel very comfortable at second; Joey was very happy with me at second last year. As an infield, were going to make some plays this year and can pick the ball. Its pretty obvious, we can play some defense.

Among many impressive-looking teammates, double-play partner Alexei Ramirez made the biggest impression on Beckham: Alexei looks bigger. Hes gained a little muscle.

Beckham was thrilled to have team captain Paul Konerko return to the fold, acknowledging that, without Paul last year, I might never have gotten out of the funk I was in He handles the leadership duties nobody else wants to handle.

The former high school quarterback and Atlanta native is rooting for a Falcons-Bears NFC title game, even if he has to miss the game due to SoxFest: Id like the game to be close; maybe the Falcons win it right at the end. Like most people, I just want to see good games in the playoffs.

There was no word on any ill effects from Beckhams excursion into the haute cuisine of South Beach on Wednesday night, when the second baseman tweeted, Went to Prime 112 tonight with Greg Walker and Brent Morel. Food was awesome. All I got to say is, fried Oreos. OH MY GOD. UNBELIEVABLE.

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

White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk rips Lackey, Swarzak traded, Coop misses Q

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk rips Lackey, Swarzak traded, Coop misses Q

After a wild day at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Chuck Garfien and Dan Hayes discuss John Lackey hitting four White Sox batters and also play Hawk Harrelson's epic on-air rant directed at the Cubs pitcher.

"Jeff the Sox Fan" appears on the podcast and suggests what he thinks Jose Abreu should have done to Lackey when he was hit for a second time.

While they taped the podcast, Anthony Swarzak was traded to the Brewers. What kind of return did the White Sox get? Garfien also interviews White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper about losing Quintana to the Cubs, why he can't watch Quintana and Chris Sale pitch in different uniform, when some minor leaguers like Reynaldo Lopez will be called up and more.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

How White Sox aggressive deadline strategy paid off in Anthony Swarzak trade

How White Sox aggressive deadline strategy paid off in Anthony Swarzak trade

The White Sox jumped out ahead of a crowded reliever market once again and traded Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.

The White Sox acquired 25-year-old outfielder Ryan Cordell from the Brewers in exchange for the veteran reliever, a baseball source confirmed. The No. 17 prospect in the Brewers farm system, Cordell was hitting .284/.349/.506 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 292 plate appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs this season.

A nonroster invitee to big league camp this spring, Swarzak was 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA, one save and 52 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings this season. He’s the third reliever the White Sox have traded since the second half began as they also dealt David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees with Todd Frazier on July 18.

TA free agent after the season, Swarzak has fared extremely well in high-leverage situations, stranding 26 of the 35 runners he had inherited. He pitched in two high-leverage spots in the team’s previous two games, earning his first career save Monday. Swarzak, whose 9.68 strikeouts per nine is a career high, also earned a hold on Sunday in Kansas City.

“I’ve been waiting for that opportunity for a long time,” Swarzak said of Monday’s save. “It’s nice that I went in there and got it done. You think about that moment for years and then it finally happens. You just are trying to take a step back and reflect on what just happened, and I’ll be able to come in tomorrow and be ready to go.”

Two American League scouts said Monday that Swarzak still had good trade value even though he’s viewed as a rental. While he wouldn’t likely net the White Sox a top-150 prospect, they could wrangle a “good” minor-leaguer in a deal. One element that could have potentially derailed the White Sox was an abundance of strong relief options in the market, perhaps as many as 20 pitchers.

[MORE: Carlos Rodon frustrated again after a weird start

After the White Sox traded Robertson and Kahnle, general manager Rick Hahn indicated they moved the pair early in anticipation of a competitive marketplace when they acquired Blake Rutherford and others from the New York Yankees. The Baltimore Orioles are a team that could have wreaked havoc on the relief market if they decide to sell -- something one AL source said they’ve gone back and forth on every day -- because they could flood it with Zach Britton and others.

The move is the third made by the White Sox in a span of two weeks, including the trade of Jose Quintana to the Cubs on July 13. The White Sox still have several veterans on the roster who could draw trade interest, including starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez.

“We are still open for business,” Hahn said last week.

Today’s Knuckleball’s Jon Heyman first reported the deal that sent Swarzak to the Brewers. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal initially reported the teams’ were discussing a trade for Swarzak.