Garfien: Where there's a will, there's a Williams

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Garfien: Where there's a will, there's a Williams

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010
11:51 AM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

As Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, J.J. Hardy and Michael Cuddyer were doing their home run trots on Tuesday night, tilting the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard like a pinball machine that had seen way too many quarters, I thought of Kenny Williams and the anger that was likely detonating inside his brain, the uber-competitive White Sox general manager forced to watch helplessly as his team was knocked out of first place in the Central Division for the first time since July 11.

Thats what the Minnesota Twins do. They dont just beat you. They evict you from your home, dance in your front yard and do it with a smile on their face.

Quite simply: the Twins cannot be trusted.

Except for getting scorching hot in the second half of the season, which they are doing again. Since the break: 18-7. Oh, and winning games in the Central Division. Theyre 30-16, compared to the Sox who are 20-22.

Considering those two facts alone, its a shock that the Sox are only a game out of first.

Maybe thats why Williams was able to find his happy place before Tuesdays thrashing, appearing as a guest on Chicago Tribune Live. He was calm, relaxed, even jovial as he was peppered with all sorts of questions from host David Kaplan and Trib columnist David Haugh.

Williams acknowledged that the four-game series in Baltimore was a bad weekend, but wasnt that concerned about his team because if they have shown me one thing, its their ability to bounce back and their ability to focus when they need to focus.

That didnt happen Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday.

In his first two starts with the White Sox, Edwin Jackson has clearly changed his focus, not to mention his mechanics. Hes given up just two earned runs in 13 innings, recording 13 strikeouts and just two walks.

Whats the reason for his rejuvenation?

No. 1, Edwin is excited to here," Williams said. "Were pitching in games that matter. You tend to amp it up a little bit and you come with it a little bit more. Also, he and Don Cooper have been working on a couple of little things that get him focused on the target. And it also helps that the hitters dont know whats coming. Now they dont know whats coming because hes not tipping his pitches.

Interesting.

Williams is still searching for another power bat. That likely means claiming a player off waivers. Its a tricky process that often has more to do with luck than anything else. Having Alex Rios fall into your lap like last year is a rarity, and Williams gave us an inside-look at whats going on behind the scenes.

The waiver process is such that most teams put all of their players through, so hitters and pitchers are popping up all the time, Williams said. The problem is, do they get to the first-place teams or does someone else put a claim on them and block them? So more often than not, players are going to be blocked.

"But every now and then, a guy with a salary that a team is more interested in getting rid of versus getting a player back will slip through and the other teams are afraid to grab that player. Thats how we got Alex Rios last year. But we were so confident in his abilities that we wanted that to happen where we didnt have to give up a player to get him.

One player that Williams went after right before the trade deadline is the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez. The Sox GM recently said that he wont acquire a player who could potentially disrupt the chemistry of the team. Considering Mannys controversial me-first past, he brings with him a scientific formula that could be utterly explosive (both good and bad).

But if Ramirez recovers from his calf injury, and Williams is still looking for a dangerous bat for his lineup, the possibility of Manny coming to the South Side cannot be overlooked.

Why? Well, if you read between the lines, heres what Williams said when asked about giving players second chances.

Who amongst us hasnt made mistakes, hasnt said something, particularly when youre younger, or done something that agitated people or got on peoples nerves, or just said the wrong thing," he said. "All you can do is pick yourself up and strive to be a better person. We give people that opportunity because we see the fallacies in ourselves.

Sound like someone you know?

After giving up six runs in 2 13 innings, maybe this isnt the best time to be writing about re-signing Freddy Garcia, but other than the occasional hiccup, the 35-year-old pitcher has been a rock in the back-end of the Sox rotation.

However, Garcia expressed concern on Sunday that a numbers game might cost him a spot on the starting staff next season.

Now theyve got Jackson, another pitcher with a lot of money, Garcia said. So they want to get Peavy back next year, who knows? They got Danks, Buehrle and Floyd. I dont know what the situation is for me.

Tuesday, Williams addressed it and opened the door for Garcia to return.

Garcia has to be a factor in our offseason discussions. Ultimately, hes a free agent and how that factors in with what we have coming back and what we want to do in terms of moving some pieces around that has to come into play. But you have to talk about him because he just goes out and wins.

Williams prefers his wins one way, and not the kind that end with a dramatic walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.

I like blowouts," he said. "Whether in an individual game or for the season. I dont like excitement. Hell no. I want the blowout every time. I dont need a close exciting game. For what?

I dont know ... better TV ratings?

Maybe the Sox can help their GM relax by torching Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday, but we all know better.

The Twins cannot be trusted.

Put it on a T-shirt. Slap it on a bumper sticker. Hopefully the Sox wont be sitting behind them for long, choking on their fumes.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Giovanni Soto pitched to Geovany Soto at White Sox camp on Monday morning, and the Internet loved it.

The veteran catcher and rookie pitcher, who share similar names and have been friends for two years, worked together during live batting practice. The unrelated pair, who both hail from Puerto Rico, said they’ve been confused for each other several times since reporting to camp last week. Each has also heard the other’s name being called out and thought it was for them, which has led to more confusion. But those mix-ups haven’t limited their enjoyment of the situation, either.

“It’s kind of surreal that he has the same name, last name,” Geovany Soto said. “It’s kind of weird calling him Gio and he’s calling me Geo. It’s kind of weird.

“With the physicals, doctors, the people for the drug testing, we’ve been confused in all three of those. I’m expecting that to happen. Hopefully I can get a big check on his name and cash it.”

The social media world isn’t alone in its enjoyment of the topic as both players smiled while discussing it on Monday.

Giovanni Soto said the players met two seasons ago when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians and the catcher was in his first stint with the White Sox. They grew up about 20 minutes apart from each other in Puerto Rico and now spend time together in the offseason. But what has made the scenario even more confusing is that White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito is seated only a few stalls away from Giovanni Soto in the clubhouse.

“It’s kind of weird, especially in the clubhouse and on the field because when someone says Geo, we turn around to see if it’s for him or for me,” Giovanni Soto said. “And we also have Giolito, and people call him Gio. It’s weird, but it’s funny too.”

Both Sotos could make the team’s Opening Day roster.

Geovany Soto, who signed a minor league contract in January, is the most experienced catcher in camp and is favored to win a job. Giovanni Soto, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs in November, is one of several relievers competing for a spot and could make the club if the White Sox decide to carry two left-handers in the bullpen. And while Giolito is expected to start the season at Triple-A, he could reach the majors at some point causing more pandemonium.

“There’s a lot of Geo going on with Giolito, Giovanni and then me,” Geovany Soto said. “And can get pretty hectic. But yeah, it’s fun for us.”