Lillibridge eager for starting role

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Lillibridge eager for starting role

As it stands, Brent Lillibridge isn't in line for a full-time starting role in 2012. The only way that'll happen is if someone gets hurt, or someone has significant struggles coming out of the gate.

Fortunately for Lillibridge, if that someone plays any position but pitcher or catcher, he's ready to jump in. After all, there's a reason why he has to carry around more mitts than anyone during spring training.

"I'll bring the three gloves around -- I don't think I'll need the first base one too much, hopefully Paulie will be healthy this year -- but I just gotta keep working at it," Lillibridge said. "It's a lot more work carrying a bunch of gloves around, but I have to be ready for anything."

Such is the life a super-utilityman. Lillibridge mostly served as a reserve outfielder last season, making a pair of spectacular plays in New York and robbing a would-be go-ahead homer from Coco Crisp during the summer. He's a natural middle infielder, though he didn't play shortstop at all and only saw 19 innings at second base in 2011. In fact, the infield position Lillibridge saw the most time at was first base, as he logged 129 innings there after Paul Konerko was hit in the knee by an Andrew Miller fastball in late July.

"I would assume, given the numbers, I'd get a lot more infield work now that Omar Vizquel's not with us," Lillibridge said. "It's kind of hard to back up him when he's one of the best infielders of all time."

With more opportunities for playing time opening up, Lillibridge should have a greater opportunity to repeat his 2011 season. In 216 trips to the plate, Lillibridge smacked 13 home runs -- a career high for any professional level. While he still struck quite a bit, his .340 on-base percentage mitigated those concerns. And 18 of his 48 hits went for extra-bases.

A long offseason -- made even longer by Lillibridge suffering a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch Sept. 8 -- has its psychological pitfalls, though, following a breakout performance.

"More of it's the mental side of it, understanding the approach and stuff," said Lillibridge. "You don't try to do exactly the same thing, because when you don't change a thing, you end up doing stupid stuff."

If Lillibridge can sustain his success of 2011, he very well may play himself into a starting role, either in center field or at second base if Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham start slowly.

Even if those players don't falter, though, Lillibridge wants to make it a difficult decision for Robin Ventura to leave him on the bench.

"You always want to move up. I want a chance to start and some point. The team, it is what it is, we have a great team," Lillibridge said. "But I'm going to make it hard. I'm not going to settle for a role just being a bench guy, I'm hoping to get an opportunity.

"I'm always looking for more at-bats, more innings -- I'm not greedy, my goal is to get better and get a chance to be a starter at some point in my career."

Rick Renteria's morning meetings a hit with White Sox players

Rick Renteria's morning meetings a hit with White Sox players

MESA, Ariz. -- Zack Collins talked about fishing to a roomful of teammates in Monday's morning meeting in what has become a staple of many spring training clubhouses.

The White Sox catching prospect and several others young players addressed a room full of players, coaches and staff to discuss what they believe to be the best fishing lures and reels. The presentation is part of a series of team-building exercises newly incorporated by manager Rick Renteria that has ties to methods long used by Los Angeles Angels skipper Mike Scioscia that have been passed down over the years.

The goal is simple: bring together a room full of unfamiliar players through a series of off-beat productions to break up the monotony of the daily meetings.

"They're good," third baseman Todd Frazier said. "They're upbeat. It's bringing the team closer together. Just some fun stuff going on and Rick knows what he's doing. There's a method to his madness. You're getting all these young guys to step out of their comfort zone and it makes for a fun morning.

"It makes for a good morning right before we go out and stretch and get after it. Kind of breaks everything down and makes everything better."

Renteria is the latest manager to employ the technique in a tree with branches attached to Scioscia. Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black has featured sessions ranging from basketball skills contests to fly fishing competitions from the outset of his tenure as manager of the San Diego Padres in 2007. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a member of Scioscia's staff from 2000-05, started his own variation in Tampa Bay that now includes magic shows and petting zoos, among others.

Renteria worked with Black in San Diego for six seasons and has added his own wrinkle.

This spring's adaptations from White Sox camp have included Collins' fishing lesson, acting from pitcher Lucas Giolito (whose family includes Hollywood actors and directors) and a WWE impersonation by reliever Tommy Kahnle, who walked into the clubhouse dressed as The Ultimate Warrior.

"They are getting to connect in different ways," Renteria said. "But that's what anybody does. You just try to help your club bond, get to know each other as quickly as possible and then they go out there and play.

"The more comfortable you feel within the environment and with your working, obviously when you go out into the field, it makes it a little easier. A lot of the things we talk about in there are just relaxing, staying focused, playing the game and having fun, preparing, knowing that their preparation is going to be useful in their ability to go out and do their job on any given day. They have been a lot of fun."

They've also been helpful for the younger players and a clubhouse full of new faces. Of the 61 players in White Sox camp, 27 weren't in camp last spring, including seven of the club's eight top prospects. Giolito said the uncomfortable nature of performing for teammates makes it easier for players to communicate with each other afterward.

"One of the best things about it is it puts you out of your comfort zone," Giolito said. "You're making new friends, you're working with new guys and you're doing something that you're not really comfortable doing, which our presentation was acting, trying to be funny, obnoxious. Other guys might have to do research projects. They might have to interview other players about their life. It kind of gets everyone closer and involved. Coming out of your comfort zone is huge because it opens you up to new experiences and kind of makes you a better person in a way, not just a better player."

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

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Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI.