Poetry in Pros BBQ: Cutting to the Quick

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Poetry in Pros BBQ: Cutting to the Quick

Friday, March 25, 2011Posted: 5:00 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through spring training, look to BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check. Even with the Chicago White Soxs final batch of big cuts this week, competition for the final two roster spots remains heavy. Are you a Brent Lillibridge fan, or Lastings Milledge? Want to see Jeffrey Marquez man the last bullpen spot, or Phil Humber? Lets take a look at the ins and outs of roster spots 24 and 25 for the White Sox:

Will only two of these four players break camp with the White Sox?

Theres a chance that only one player is turned away, but that all depends on whether projected fifth starter Jake Peavy is healthy enough to avoid a stint on the disabled list to open the season. With the brakes applied fully to his rehab as the righthander struggles through the setback everyone anticipated would happen, the odds are that Peavy will indeed open on the DL.

So, Marquez vs. Humberwho wins?

In both a stats test and an eye test, Marquez has earned a spot on the White Sox, ahead of Humber. Whats frightening about Humber is that whenever the light has started to intensify on him, poor outings have been the result. And those numbersa 5.87 ERA in six games, two losses, two home runs allowed and five walks against 10 strikeouts. He also seems best suited to be a starter, underscoring the need for him to begin the season at AAA Charlotte as longer-term insurance for Peavy.

Marquez, on the other hand, is a wild card who brings greater flexibility to the roster, available to start or pitch in long relief. Hes rocking a new cutter, cultivated since his acquisition in the Nick Swisher deal, and is having a terrific spring: 2.70 ERA in six games, a win and just two walks against 13 strikeouts. Marquez has an electric armnot always a good thing, given three wild pitches and two hit batsmenwith greater upside than Humber.

With off-days and likely postponements in the first two weeks of the season, why is there any hubbub at all about a fifth starter?

Its very strange that given the off-day between the first and second series of the season that the White Sox would still be tabbing the first start for a No. 5 reliever as April 6, when there is no need for a fifth turn until April 10and thats with no postponements at all in the first eight games of the season. The rotation has had six weeks and five or six starts to tune up for the regular season. Making Gavin Floyd pitch a simulated game in order to stay in a groove, as he did on an off-day on March 15 (just a month into training), makes senseand by extension, giving Opening Day starter Mark Buehrle five days between starts in the first week of the season and assuming that wont throw some rhythm off seems silly.

The White Sox are loaded with startersfour electric ones, and five when Peavy is healthy. They extend six strong in the bullpen, led by power arms Matt Thornton, Chris Sale, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain and supplemented by lefty specialist Will Ohman and long reliever Tony Pena. Let the top guys pitch, rather than giving five or six innings to the 12th or 13th-best pitcher on the club, as will happen with Humber (or even Marquez) taking the bump on April 6.

Does Marquez being out of options play a role in the decision?

As much as it shouldnt, were not talking about a pitcher whos spit the bit this spring. Marquez has been electric. Saturdays start could actually cement his position as the No. 12 arm on the White Sox, ahead of Humberbut even if Marquez struggles, hes got more weapons in his arsenal. Need proof? Hes tied with wunderkind Chris Sale, behind Thornton, for the second-best KBB this spring at 6.5.

Theres speculation that as the only viable piece left from the disastrous Swisher trade, GM Ken Williams wants to see Marquez succeed. But thats short-sighted and silly, and not how Williams operates. If Humber is the clear choice, transaction history will play no role in who gets cuts. Likely losing Marquez, who is out of options, if hes demoted? That will most definitely be a factor, especially in a pitching-thin system as the White Soxs.
As for the final bench spot, Lillibridge is out of luck, right?
It appears so. Lillibridge has a lot of factors in his favor while fighting for the final bench spot, including his history with the team, flexibility in the field (the Washington native basically excels everywhere but pitcher and catcher), even leadership. But his spring numbers havent been too goodjust a .591 OPS, two walks against nine Ks and one stolen base.

Milledge has the job?

Yeah, and deservedly so. The 25-year-old came to camp not even on the team roster and basically tore up the Cactus League, hitting at a 1.015 OPS clip, four homers, 10 RBI (fourth on the team) and three steals against one CS. Most significant for Milledge, at a time when the White Sox are whiffing with impunity and in direct contrast to his free-swinging past ways, hes had a team-best 10 walks against 10 strikeouts.

Isnt Milledge a head case, an eruption with Ozzie waiting to happen?

Youve seen flashes of impudence from Milledge, some slow jumps on fly balls, his odd habit of chucking equipment and snatching off his helmet in good times and bad. But with a clubhouse as tight as Chicagos, surely Guillen and Williams are confident that Milledge will adapt. Hes proven a ready pupil, learning early from Paul Konerko, Juan Pierre and others.

And hes a Kenny guy, right?

Well, Williams traded for Lillibridge just a few years ago, too. But do the White Sox see greater upside from Milledgeperhaps even to the extent where he could be a long-term possibility on the team ifwhen Juan Pierre or Carlos Quentin leave? Absolutely. Milledge has flashed five tools in the desert this spring.

So, assuming Peavy is sidelined, only Lillibridge gets his bus ticket punched out of town?

Not in my book, actually. I fail to see the need for 12 pitchers breaking camp, especially given the delicate situation with Lillibridge, who most certainly will be claimed on waivers and lost to the White Sox (as Marquez would be) if hes cut. Without a pressing need for a fifth starter, Id send Humber down to begin as the No. 1 starter at Charlotte and employ Marquez as the wild-card arm out of the bullpen. That would allow the White Sox to break camp with both Lillibridge and Milledge, safeguarding the team against an early injury at almost any position, as well as buying time for Williams to broker a minor deal for Lillibridge if it remains clear hell be the odd man out when Peavy returns.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: White Sox continue series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox continue their road series with the Tigers on Tuesday night in the Motor City, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage from Detroit starts at 6 p.m. Then be sure to stick around following the final out for reaction and analysis on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (0-1, 7.88 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.63 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you're ready for the action.

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Isaiah Wright, young fan with cancer, receives VIP treatment from White Sox

Berwyn-native and White Sox fan Isaiah Wright entered the world fighting the odds. At just 14 years old, he has undergone multiple organ transplants and more than 50 surgeries because of a rare birth defect.

Isaiah and his family have an appreciation for just how precious life can be and they were able to make the most of a recent visit to the South Side for a White Sox game, where he received VIP treatment and met his favorite players, including a private meeting with Jose Abreu.

Check out the video above.

A Go Fund Me page was also created to help support Isaiah and his family. Click here to make a donation.

Tigers' late homer sends the White Sox to another tough loss

Tigers' late homer sends the White Sox to another tough loss

DETROIT — The White Sox still haven’t figured out how to beat their American League Central foes.

Short of a miracle run over their final 32 games, the White Sox can point to their failures within their division as a primary reason they’ve missed the postseason for eight straight seasons.

The middle of the White Sox order missed out on several key chances on Monday night and kept the Detroit Tigers within striking distance in a 4-3 loss in front 27,201 on Monday night at Comerica Park. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s two-run homer off Nate Jones in the eighth inning dropped the White Sox to 11-27 against the Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals this season. The White Sox dropped to 21-25 in one-run games.

“Usually when you have aspirations to get in the playoffs your No. 1 priority is always taking care of the teams in your division,” catcher Alex Avila said. “That’s the best way to go about it, and we haven’t really done that too well this year.”

Much like their postseason aspirations, the White Sox had been hanging on by a thread through seven innings on Monday.

Starter James Shields stranded seven in six innings, and the combination of Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle and Chris Beck kept the White Sox ahead 3-2 through the seventh.

Jones took over in the eighth and issued a leadoff walk to J.D. Martinez. Two batters later, Saltalamacchia ripped a 1-0 fastball out to right to put Detroit ahead for good.

Melky Cabrera’s bid for a game-tying homer in the ninth off Francisco Rodriguez was caught on the track in right-center field.

“Any time you get that reversal right there late in the game it’s always tough,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Nate has been as consistent as anybody. It’s a tough one, especially when you know he has his stuff. You tip your cap to them, really.

“Salty has gotten us a couple times late.

“That was the tough one because you grinded your way through it.”

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It was made even more difficult given the White Sox offense missed out on several key opportunities.

Tyler Saladino drove in all three White Sox runs, delivering a two-run single in the fourth inning and putting them back ahead by a run with a solo homer in the seventh.

But in the first, Jose Abreu struck out and Todd Frazier flew out with two aboard.

Abreu later grounded into a double play in the fifth after the first two men reached and Frazier grounded out. Frazier also struck out with two in scoring position to end the seventh inning after Abreu doubled Cabrera over to third.

The White Sox finished 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.

“It was a game with opportunities we didn’t cash in on,” Ventura said. “(Alex) Wilson came in and got a big double play really changed how that (fifth) inning developed. We did some good things but looking at it like this, that’s what makes it tough.”

Though he pushed the limit in nearly every inning, Shields finished a rough August on a high note. Much like he did when he posted a 1.71 ERA in six starts from June 29-July 26, Shields was most effective when he needed to make the big pitch.

Tigers hitters were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven against Shields. During the six-game stretch, opposing hitters went 0-for-28 against Shields with runners in scoring position.

He struck out six and allowed two earned runs in six innings, putting the White Sox in position for a much-needed win.

“The first couple of innings I was a little erratic, but as the game went on, I got a little more comfortable and just made some pitches when I needed to,” Shields said. “Overall, I felt good out there, and unfortunately we lost the game.”