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.