Five burning questions as Sox open spring

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Five burning questions as Sox open spring

1. Is Robin Ventura ready to be the new voice of the White Sox?

Thus far, its hard not to like what Robin Ventura is selling. Replacing a legend is never easy and not saying Ozzie Guillen was such, but he did have the personality of an entire team -- oh yeah, and was the first manager to win a World Series in Chicago in 88 years. But theres no doubt that the team needed a change. It needed a new voice, someone other than that of the outspoken Guillen. There will never be another Ozzie, and Ventura is not pretending to replace him. This team as constructed represents one that seems more suited for the more relaxed style of Ventura and the attitude and energy he brings to Arizona. Hopefully, he can do more with less for a team with few expectations.

2. Can the rotation overcome the loss of Mark Buehrle?

Im not sure fans will feel the true impact of Buehrles loss until Opening Day, but the White Sox will immediately. Gone is a clubhouse favorite and organizational mainstay. There are few guarantees in baseball, but Buehrle is one: 200 innings, 10 wins, 30 starts. Now its time for others to step up. The Sox turn to John Danks, a mini-Buehrle in a sense, to take over the role as ace of the staff. Danks was dangled as trade bait in the offseason before the team committed to the southpaw long term. He has the makeup to be the guy and hes pitched in big games. But after Danks there are several question marks. Gavin Floyd has shown flashes at times, but hasnt delivered enough to be considered a No. 2. Jake Peavy has made just 38 starts since being acquired in a deadline deal in 2009. Chris Sale has shined out of the bullpen, but is an unknown as a starter and Philip Humber was one of the surprises of the first half a year ago, but it was also the first time in his career where he made more than one career start in a season. Their rotation could be one of the deepest in the game, however heading into Thursdays first workout, these questions have to be answered in order for that to happen.

3. Which Adam Dunn will show up?

Enough about Dunns 2011. It might be the most well-documented story of last years season on both sides of town. The question now is whether 2011 is a thing of the past, or more of whats to come. Dunn cant possibly be worse. Statistically, it was one of the worst seasons in the history of the game. If the slugger is mentally strong, he could easily win the AL Comeback Player of the Year award, something hes on the record as saying he wants to win. If Dunn can hit .230 with 30 home runs, thatd fill a major void in a lineup thats in dire need of his old numbers.

4. Who will close?

Sergio Santos filled a huge void at the back end of the bullpen after early struggles from Matt Thornton and Chris Sale as closer in 2011. Thornton and Sale went on to have great seasons in their more traditional roles and Santos recorded 30 saves in his first season as a closer. But the Sox dealt Santos to Toronto in the offseason and now theyre back to where they started. Thornton, Jesse Crain and rookie Addison Reed all figure to be in the mix, but Thornton is the likely favorite coming out of camp. What I like about Thornton this offseason is that he has voiced his preference to be the teams closer. Whoever it is, theyll need that pitcher to finish off games, especially in April. You cant win the division in April, but you can lose it, especially at the back end of the bullpen.

5. Can Dayan Viciedo make fans forget about Carlos Quentin?

Viciedo has all the tools to be a superstar for the White Sox. Hes been fantastic at Charlotte for the last two years and has shown the ability to club the ball in limited at bats in Chicago. He struggled after being called up last season and now, for the first time, is being penciled the starting lineup to replace Quentin. Quentin could have been in the AL MVP in 2008, but injuries plagued most of his time in Chicago. However, CQ had the ability to carry the team on his back for stretches, something theyre now hoping Viciedo can do.

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."