Tuesday, March 1, 2011
By Brett Ballantini
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The marquee matchup of Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle vs. Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke lived up to expectations -- at least as much as expectations count when both pitchers are making their Cactus League debuts.
Both hurlers had scoreless efforts, with the deciding run in the game coming on a Rickie Weeks RBI single in the top of the third, driving home Wil Nieves. White Sox long reliever hopeful Phil Humber took the loss after giving up four hits and the games sole run in two innings of work.
Brandon Boggs, logging the entire game at DH, stroked a two-run single off of White Sox reliever Chris Sale to finish the scoring in Milwaukees 3-1 win. The White Sox mustered just five hits on the day, two by veteran corner infielder Dallas McPherson.
I felt really good for early in the spring, said Buehrle, who struck out one and tossed an efficient 24 pitches in his two innings of work. Its only two innings, but physically, with location, everything was there. I say it every spring, but I hope I feel this good on Opening Day.
With so little to speak on, Buehrle then directed a mock-tirade at his offense.
I am pretty ticked off, Buehrle said, laughing. We had our big boys going. All we need was one freaking run, and we couldnt even score it. A little bit of run support, guys, lets go.
Leadoff hitter Lastings Milledge was one bright spot in an otherwise mellow Chicago offense, opening the game with a crisp single down the right-field line and later paid for that safety plus having hit two of his four home runs last season vs. Milwaukee by taking a ball off his left bicep in his next at-bat.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was excited about the play of rightfielder Dayan Viciedo, both at bat and in the field. The Tank got the game off to a great start for the White Sox with a swift running putout on a deep Weeks flyball.
That was a very tough play, Guillen said. The ball was right on the line, the first ball hes seen in spring training. That was a good read.
In the sixth, Viciedo nailed Edwin Maysonet at third base on a Craig Counsell single in the sixth.
He was great. Im very happy about what he did out there, Guillen said. The good thing about it was that he threw Maysonet out. To me, its more important where the balls going and how he throws it than getting the guy out. He threw right to the cutoff man, and it was a good thing, the guy was out. Also he had good at-bats, hit the ball pretty good in two at-bats.
Tank Working Overtime
Guillen was quick to spread credit around for Viciedos strong debut on Tuesday.
I have to give credit to Daryl Boston and Bainesy Harold Baines and Devon White, Guillen said. They have been working with Viciedo every day. One thing about Viciedo, he has matured a little bit Viciedo worked very hard with Devo White for a couple of days in Miami. To be around JP Juan Pierre helps. Pierre is a workaholic, and he continues to work.
A big factor in Viciedos growth, according to Guillen, is simple: Viciedo came ready to play this spring.
Viciedo came into camp in shape, ready to play, Guillen said. Before, the last two spring trainings, we had to fight with him. Its not easy to come to spring training and have to lose weight. All of a sudden you get tired and your bodys not acting the same way.
Im a Tumbler
As if to underscore the aggressive defensive play manager Ozzie Guillen espouses, both Lucas Harrell and Brandon Short made diving attempts in Mondays Cactus League opener. Harrells assist came on a belly flop off of the mound, and he laughed in recollection on Tuesday.
It was kind of like tackle the baseball. Harrell said with a wild smile. I thought it was going to be an easy play, but then I had to turn on the jets. Just a routine play. Afterward, I felt pretty good about myself. I take a lot of pride in fielding my position. Youre just helping yourself out by getting the outs.
Short appeared to be very proud, and a bit bashful, for having an impressive debut, walking and scoring a run in addition to his diving catch in left to rob Jerry Sands in the eighth: It felt very good to start off that way. It was a tough play, it had a little topspin on it, and he hit it pretty good.
Dunn Lets Start
At 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his first two Cactus League games, Adam Dunn is off to a customary sluggish start. But the great thing about Dunn is that, as a veteran with extremely good nature, hes chronically inoculated against overthinking a slow start.
If I stressed out about it, Id have been out of this game years ago, Dunn says. The beginning of the season is always toughwell, I say always, Im going to try this year to change that, gol-lyIm not going to set myself up and say Im going to start slow, but whispers good chance.
Guillen is likewise unworried about Dunn.
Well, he reminds me a little bit of Jim Thome, Guillen said. This guy strikes out 100-plus, walks 100-plus, thats 250 times up without putting the ball in play, and still puts up a lot of numbers. How they do it, I dont know.
Fans eyes pop out over home runs, but ask Dunn, and he could care less about the long ball.
Its not so much the homers; getting on base is No. 1 with me, Dunn says. If I can keep my on-base average .380-plus, thats my No. 1 goal of the year. Getting on base is going to equal runs. If I get on 40 percent of the time, were going to score some runs.
Thats exactly the way Guillen says it, although the manager has penned a quiet wish for 50 homers from Dunn this season.
I dont expect anything different from Adam, Guillen said. Monday he scored one run. You get on base, youre going to give the team a chance to win. Thats why Im putting him at the top of the order, to give him more at bats and get him on base.
Dunn admits that last year, the Washington Nationals anemic offense forced him to change up his strategy. Tired of being stranded at second base, the slugger turned on his aggressivenessand wasnt much pleased with the results.
Last year was the first year I tried to swing a lot, and everything was about the same except my on-base, Dunn said. I feel like I wasnt on base last year. We needed to score runs in Washington. I dont know whats going to happen this year, but Im just going to let it freaking rip.
And dont fall prey to lowered expectations per Dunn, and the traditionally sluggish Chisox early attack.
I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I know I have struggled early in the past, so I dont panic and say holy expletive, Im hitting .150 in April. It sucks, but that only means theres some damage coming in May, June, July, and August. Its hard to be patient when everybodys panicking, but it just takes five good months, so you can have a bad one.
And if Dunn gets off to a hot start in April?
If I start out on fire, Ill freak, said the genial slugger. I dont know whatll happen--.400, here I come.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.