Poetry in Pros: White Sox Indispensables

428946.jpg

Poetry in Pros: White Sox Indispensables

Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Last November, CSNChicago.com counted down the top 30 Chicago White Sox, taking into account each players value to the team in 2011 and beyond.

With an offseason to add and subtract players and a nearly-completed spring training in the books, heres an update to that list, this time focusing only on how crucial each player is to White Sox success in 2011. (In other words, how lost are the White Sox without them?)

The Indispensables

1. Gordon Beckham, 2b
Beckham topping the list seems nutty at first blush. But the third-year man is being put in a position of great responsibility, be it as the best fielding second baseman on the club, the crucial No. 2 hitter on a team full of non-No. 2s, and his status as an up-and-coming hitter (a hot second half of 2010 and an .896 OPS this spring) who could well surpass Alexei Ramirezs offensive output in 2011.

2. Paul Konerko, 1b
Indeed, there is little reason to believe that Konerko can duplicate his 2010 campaign this season. And unlike a year ago, PK has a legitimate backup in Adam Dunn behind him. But in the ideal lineup, Dunn is busy designated hittingwhich leaves Mark Teahen at first base. Konerko may be a subpar fielder, but the step down both offensively and defensively to Teahen makes Konerko indispensable at the first sack.

3. Alexei Ramirez, ss
There may be no player more crucial to White Sox success than Ramirez. But in terms of being irreplaceable, Omar Vizquel has proven that at least for short stretches, he can still throw some leather at short, and swing the bat as well.

4. Alex Rios, cf
Rios anchors the White Sox outfield as a fielder who eats acreage and can throw the pill as well. Sans Rios, the White Sox are faced with moving Juan Pierres weaker arm to center, or spot-starting Brent Lillibridge or Lastings Milledge. All of those options are a significant step down, especially defensively, where the corner outfielders feed off of Rios range.

5. Adam Dunn, dh-1b
Teahen is also the primary backup at DH. Which is the only place you really want him to be the primary backup.

6. Juan Pierre, lf
The baseball world isnt so kind to Pierre, highlighting how many outs he makes per season and chiding his laughably soft arm in left. So why is he indispensable to the Chisox? Hes the only legitimate leadoff hitter (Milledge? Vizquel?), he gets to everything in left and then some, steals bags to set in motion manager Ozzie Guillens speed offense oh, and he plays in nearly every inning of every game. Hes so taken for granted, even a Pierre champion like me has probably ranked him too low on this list.

7. Matt Thornton, closer
Yes, Thornton is the closest thing the White Sox have to a proven closer, and hes been aces almost since the day he first fastened on a White Sox cap. But the truth is, no one knows if he can handle the closer roleand if he doesnt, the White Sox have options. Sergio Santos is a closer-in-training, rookie Chris Sale sports a live arm, and Jesse Crain closed all through his tour of the minors. Thornton is the most crucial arm on the White Sox this season; indispensable as a closer, no.

8. Jake Peavy, starter
Yeah, its the guy on the shelf hogging all the attention again. But a healthy Peavy has the potential to anchor a very strong White Sox rotationa fact borne out by his performance as the teams best starter three or four times through the rotation until his shoulder tendinitis flared up. Without Peavy, the White Sox are forced to grab a begging bowl and long wistfully for the days when Freddy Garcia suited up for them.

9. Sergio Santos, reliever
Santos is no longer the sweet The Club story from a year ago, but a viable live arm with closer potential. Any notion that the third-year pitcher was due for a setback (as fellow young gun Sale was shackled) can be dismissed, as Santos was Chicagos strongest pitcher all spring (nine games, 0.00 ERA, .097 batting average against, .194 on-base percentage against, 10 strikeouts in 9 23 innings). Despite never being seriously looked to as Chicagos closer, Santos earned the right to be the first option behind Thornton to finish games.

10. Edwin Jackson, starter
Wait a minute, Jackson and not John Danks, or another rotation member, is the most indispensable healthy starter? Last year, Jackson was the White Soxs best starter in the second half and brings a consistency and electricity that fellow righty Gavin Floyd does less often. Danks is the White Soxs most valuable starter, but Jackson spreading his entire 2011 campaign out like his second half of 2010 is the difference between a playoff berth and sitting at home watching the Minnesota Twins get swept out of October once again.

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 open series with Royals tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox open series with Royals tonight on CSN

The White Sox open a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Jason Vargas (3-0, 0.44 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (2-0, 2.84 ERA)

Buy tickets to tonight's game

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

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

White Sox snap skid by forcing, capitalizing on Indians' mistakes

White Sox snap skid by forcing, capitalizing on Indians' mistakes

The White Sox haven't had many opportunities to capitalize on mistakes from their opponents lately because they haven't been in a position to force them. 

But in their 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox put the pressure on the defending American League champions and reaped the results. 

Two plays stand out, both of which came in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a well-placed sacrifice bunt between the pitcher's mound and first base line. Indians first baseman Carlos Santana charged in and turned to underhand a toss to second baseman Michael Martinez, who was covering first. 

But the speedy May was hustling down the line, which forced Martinez to awkwardly stretch for the ball. He dropped it, allowing May to reach. 

"Anytime you you have players that are forcing defenses to complete plays you can put them in an awkward position," manager Rick Renteria said. "I don't know that that led to that in particular but he busted his rear end down the line."

That error paid off for the White Sox three batters later — after Tim Anderson and Tyler Saladino struck out — when Melky Cabrera singled to left. Narvaez was aggressively waved home by third base coach Nick Capra (a common practice with two out) but looked to be easily out at the plate on Brandon Guyer's throw. Again, though, forcing the issue paid off: Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez dropped Guyer's throw, allowing Narvaez to score. 

"That's kind of what we've been stressing in spring, play with your hair on fire," Anderson said. "That's definitely something that we've been working on and that's something we can control, that energy level and the way we hustle."

The White Sox were sparked by a three-run first inning, which ended a stretch of 23 consecutive innings without scoring a run. Anderson began with a double off Indians starter Danny Salazar and, after Saladino singled, scored on Cabrera's sacrifice fly. 

Jose Abreu followed with a line drive to right, which fell in front of outfielder Abraham Almonte and skipped past him for a two-base error, allowing Saladino to score. Leury Garcia later delivered a two-out single to score Abreu. 

"Everybody knows how good this Cleveland pitchers are, especially the first two games with (Carlos) Carrasco and (Corey) Kluber," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Our offense was silent. But today we had more life against Salazar. We know him and we did our job."

The White Sox cruised behind that three-run first inning and a solid start from left-hander Derek Holland, who allowed one run over six innings. Holland's only mistake was a third inning hanging curveball to Francisco Lindor, who launched it for a solo home run. But he came back two innings later and struck out Lindor with the bases loaded on another curveball, ending Cleveland's best scoring threat of the game. 

"Just because something happens you got to turn the page and not worry about those kind of things, and get ready for the next one," Holland said. "He may have got me that first time but I got him the second time. So those are the kind of things, you never let something take you away from your game."