Kenny gets his Dunn: White Sox sign slugger

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Kenny gets his Dunn: White Sox sign slugger

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
Updated 8:16 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

When the season ended, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams threw his boss, team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a bit of a curveball: Instead of the usual four budgetpersonnel recommendations for the next season, Williams offered just two.

As Williams extrapolated during a teleconference on Thursday, one was a young team, and the other was adding to the mix with top talent. We didnt want to be in the middle.

If youre going to be all-in, you go all-in.

As such, Thursdays signing of free agent first baseman Adam Dunn to a four-year, 56 million deal represents just the tip of the offseason, according to Williams.

News broke of the Dunn signing, setting Twitter aflame, directly in advance of Williams conference, initially scheduled to discuss the re-signing of shortstop Alexei Ramirez and non-tendering of closer Bobby Jenks.

And as much as Williams deferred comment on Dunn winding up an initial question with, Ah, since its out there, why dont we talk about that tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the ballpark the GM was in an uncommonly impish mood.

He praised writers for making it easy on him with their questions, and at one point acknowledging with a hearty laugh that not only would a Dunn type (Im not going to speak on something that hasnt happened yet.) help invigorate his fan base and drive sales, but it might be important to the general managers health and his long-term employment prospects.

Amazing what signing a fella who averages 40 homers every 162 games and answers to the name Big Donkey does to lighten an outlook. In fact Dunn has hit at least 38 homers in each of the last seven seasons during time spent with the Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds. That includes 38 home runs and 103 RBI last season with the Nationals.

Indeed, the underpinning of the day wasnt the non-tendering of Jenks but the newfound aggressiveness of a White Sox team most felt would be too busy pulling hair out trying to balance the books all offseason to ink front-line free agents.

If you take the initiative and make a statement by signing top talent, Williams said, hopefully your fan interest follows.

Williams will not stop with inking Dunn, he asserted. Next up though not in the 1-2 fashion thats been speculated is the re-signing of Paul Konerko.

Ive made no secrets that we have strong interest in bringing him back, Williams said. Theres payroll room, and it would be the ideal fit, from my perspective.

Williams added that at the end of the season he assured Konerko of his desire to bring him back, but that he wouldnt hurt his team by endlessly waiting: Its a fine line I have to walk right now where I am respectful of his process, but were also putting the best baseball team on the field.

Nonetheless, the unofficial agreement between the two men was to give Konerko a chance to shop himself at the Winter Meetings next week, so its unlikely the White Sox make another major free agent move before then.

The Dunn signing bears a close resemblance to the last time Konerko was a free agent, in the afterglow of the 2005 World Series win. Williams aggressively swapped Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome, who promptly all but begged Konerko to come to Chicago so the two sluggers could play together. Surely, Dunn will be slipped Paulies digits over the next few days.

Reportedly in too late or reacting too slow to the Detroits wooing of Victor Martinez, Williams pounced to acquire Dunn, amounting to a counterpunch and TKO of the aggressive Tigers.

The 31-year-old has a career isolated power (batting average subtracted from slugging average) of a riotous .271. Bill James projects 39 homers and an .844 OPS for Dunn in 2011, but you can bet your fanny such projections will skyrocket with the prospect of Dunn treating U.S. Cellular Field as his own personal bandbox.

And while Dunn bears distinct similarities to Thome, the Big Donkey arrives in Chicago four years younger and with a much healthier history.

Prioritizing Dunn and Konerko could well cost the White Sox A.J. Pierzynski, who is rumored to have lost patience as a lower priority and is on the verge of inking with the Toronto Blue Jays.

As much as Pierzynski is beloved on the South Side (Williams today saying, I value A.J., as another important piece to a championship and winning a division in 08. Hes an important part of our clubhouse and an important part of Chicago. I would love to have him back.), he is an expendable piece on the whole, and the savings on his 6.75 million deal can be plugged right into Dunn-Konerko.

Williams was also very soft on Jenks, speaking of his pride in the burly fireballer and complimenting his work as, of all things, a father.

The GM explained that the decision to non-tender had almost nothing to do with Jenks himself but that the White Sox couldnt afford another arbitration award of 7 million-plus (Jenks briefly set a record with his 7.5 million award last season.)

Bobby helped bring a World Series to Chicago and I will never forget that, Williams said. And I havent closed the door on bringing him back.

Still, Williams said he was perfectly comfortable with Matt Thornton as his closer for 2011 and would be willing to kick the tires on Sergio Santos or even Chris Sale in the role.

Sales position this season appears entirely dependent on Jake Peavys readiness without Peavy, Sale is the teams fifth starter, and with a healthy Peavy, Sale is the No. 2 lefty in the bullpen.

And finally, while its been assumed that Carlos Quentins role on the White Sox will shrink with the acquisition of a new primary DH and CQs defensive ability being best suited for that position, Williams was having none of it. Quentin is decidedly not on the trading block.

Carlos Quentin is playing right field for us, and Ozzie Guillen will decide where he hits in the lineup, said the GM as he turned deadpan.

Fridays presumed press conference will give the giddy side of Ken Williams another chance to surface. If the player next to him being introduced as the newest member of the White Sox is indeed Dunn, you can bet that the hardliner will turn to grins and giggles once more.

White Sox VP Kenny Williams: Hahn, Ventura handled Sale situation in 'excellent fashion'

White Sox VP Kenny Williams: Hahn, Ventura handled Sale situation in 'excellent fashion'

Kenny Williams doesn’t want the fallout from Chris Sale’s latest incident to drag out any longer.

The White Sox executive vice president said Tuesday he’d like to move on and thought going into detail on Sale’s comments about Robin Ventura or any other aspect of the incident that led to the pitcher’s suspension would be counterproductive.

Sale is in the third day of a five-game suspension imposed by the club for insubordination and destruction of team property after he destroyed the throwback jerseys they were set to wear on Saturday and was sent home early. On Monday, Sale told MLB.com that Ventura needed to stand up for his players when they objected to the 1976 unis.

“The one thing I can say is the way that Rick and Robin I think handled the situation, it was a difficult situation, certainly a unique situation, but one in which I think they handled in an excellent fashion,” said Williams, who was at an out-of-town event Saturday.

Sale defended his decision to destroy the uniforms, an act the Associated Press reported cost him $12,700 in fines as well as the suspension. Some players objected to last year’s throwback uniforms and the team altered them to make them more comfortable.

But Sale made it clear in spring training and again on Friday he didn’t wear them. He said wearing the throwbacks could hinder performance and thought it was a promotional stunt where the club put business in front of winning. Sale also disagreed with how Ventura, who sent him home early and scratched him from making a start, handled the situation.

[RELATED: Suspended Chris Sale will start Thursday against Cubs]

Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don't feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix -- it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that's when I lost it.”

Ventura didn’t directly address Sale’s comments on Tuesday in an effort to move on from the incident. Asked if he believed he and Sale can co-exist, Ventura said yes. He also said he didn’t think he would have handled the situation any different.

Sale previously ripped Williams endlessly in a 14-minute media session in March after Adam LaRoche abruptly retired over a dispute with management about how often his son Drake could be around the team. The White Sox declined to suspend Sale at that point, but didn’t hesitate to do so on Sunday. Hahn said Sale’s actions warranted the punishment.

Williams was asked if the organization would try to keep Sale on a tighter leash in the future. But rather than launch into a diatribe of his own, Williams suggested its better for all parties if they work through the scenario internally than have it play out in the media.

“You know me and I’m never one to shy away from a direct question,” Williams said. “But I’m more interested in moving on. Any further comment beyond what I said is counterproductive to all of that. At one point in my career, you probably would have gotten me to comment in a very different way.”

White Sox LHP Carlos Rodon ‘back on track’ after rehab start Monday

White Sox LHP Carlos Rodon ‘back on track’ after rehab start Monday

Carlos Rodon threw 58 pitches in a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte on Monday and is optimistic he’ll return to the White Sox starting rotation soon. 

The 23-year-old left-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list July 9 (retroactive to July 6) with a sprained left wrist, a bizarre injury he suffered when he slipped coming out of the White Sox dugout at U.S. Cellular Field before a game July 8 against the Atlanta Braves. He threw 3 2/3 innings yesterday in Louisville against the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits with two walks, three strikeouts and one home run.

More important than the results to Rodon, though, was how he felt in his first game in nearly three weeks. 

“I felt good,” Rodon said. “Back on track.”

The plan for Rodon is to throw again with the White Sox before returning to the team’s rotation, though. Manager Robin Ventura didn’t set a timetable but said the 2014 No. 3 overall pick is “headed in the right direction.”

[MORE: Suspended Chris Sale will start Thursday against Cubs]

The N.C. State product hit the disabled list earlier this month with a 4.50 ERA, 4.42 FIP and 91 strikeouts, 32 walks and 15 home runs over 92 innings. Once he returns, he’ll hope to hit the reset button on what’s been an up-and-down second year in the major leagues. 

Rodon said his goal was to throw 60 pitches on Monday, so he was only two pitches off from that mark. And when he returned to U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday, he remained encouraged with his recovery process. 

“Everything responded well,” Rodon said. “Just looking forward to this next start here.”

White Sox bullpen taking pride in slogging through heavy, high-stress workload

White Sox bullpen taking pride in slogging through heavy, high-stress workload

It might be figuratively held together with chicken wire and duct tape at this point, and it hasn’t been entirely effective recently. But the White Sox bullpen can’t be criticized for a lack of effort. 

Over the last four days, White Sox relievers have had to throw 19 1/3 innings. To recap: Starter Jacob Turner only lasted 3 1/3 innings Friday against the Detroit Tigers, then Chris Sale was scratched from his start Saturday after blowing up over the team’s uniforms and earning a five-game suspension. The White Sox bullpen shouldered Johnny Wholestaff duties and threw eight innings on Saturday — right-hander Matt Albers started and pitched two of those innings despite throwing an inning in the team’s last two games — in lieu of the team’s All-Star ace. 

David Robertson, who pitched a third of an inning in relief Saturday, pitched twice on Sunday (he allowed three solo home runs to the Tigers to blow the save in his second game). Nate Jones appeared in the first three games of the Tigers series, too, totaling 2 1/3 innings. 

On Monday, both Jones and Robertson were given a much-needed rest day. So Zach Duke, Albers and Dan Jennings were called upon by manager Robin Ventura to cover seven outs against the powerful Cubs lineup. Albers blew the save, but Jennings’ strikeout of Jason Heyward with the go-ahead run on second set up Tyler Saladino’s walk-off single to net the White Sox a 5-4 win. 

“We’ve picked up a lot of innings lately,” Robertson said. “Everybody’s just giving it everything they got right now. It’s obviously, we would’ve loved to have nothing but zeros go up, but that’s not the way baseball works. We’re facing a lot of good lineups. And we’ve just hung tough and tried to at least give us a chance to win. Thankfully, we’ve been very fortunate to walk off these last three games.” 

It’s not just the volume of innings that’s taxing the bullpen, though. With three consecutive walk-off wins — the first time the White Sox have done that since Aug. 4-6, 1962 — have come plenty of high-stress pitches. Over the last week, the White Sox bullpen has the highest average leverage index in baseball, and that’s with this group shouldering the generally low-leverage early innings of Saturday’s game in place of Sale. 

“The more we work, the more proud we are of what we do,” Jennings said. 

Still, this group could probably use a breather. Without an off day until Aug. 1, though, the only way to get one is to be ruled out for a game, as Robertson and Jones were on Monday. 

“Hopefully we can rotate, I know there’s some other guys that I know might need a day so maybe hopefully Nate and Robertson are really fresh tomorrow and we can build off that,” Jennings said. “(Or) maybe we can get that eight, nine, 10-run win where we can kind of sit back and relax a little bit, hopefully.”

Manager Robin Ventura said he went with seniority in choosing who to cover Jones and Robertson’s innings Monday, which helps explain why he didn’t use 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer against the Cubs. Fulmer’s recent control issues — he only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes in blowing a lead against the Tigers on Friday — could’ve played a factor, too. 

“You’re trusting the guys who have been here,” Ventura said. “You’ve got some new faces that are out there, it would’ve been asking a lot to bring them in and put them in that.”

White Sox relievers have squandered leads in each of the team’s last four games, though: Fulmer on Friday, Jones on Saturday, Robertson on Sunday and Albers/Jennings on Monday. In addition to a short outing from Turner and no outing from Sale, the White Sox are missing right-handers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam from a group that looked to be fairly deep earlier in the season. 

The White Sox relief corps could certainly use a day off or at the least, as Jennings said, a blowout win where some of those young arms — Fulmer, Michael Ynoa and Tommy Kahnle — could polish off some low-pressure innings. But those easy wins have been few and far between this season: The White Sox only have three wins by more than three runs since May 14. 

So if that trend continues, this group is going to have to continue to cover plenty of high-stress innings without a break, at least for the next week. 

“Obviously the bullpen the last few days had to pick up the team, and we take pride in that,” Albers said. “Especially Nate and D-Rob were down today, shoot, they’ve been pitching every day too. Everybody else started to try to pick them up. That’s what we’re here for.”