Sox Box: What's your (batting) order?

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Sox Box: What's your (batting) order?

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011
3:10 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com
All right, its been long enough, time to dig through the mail for the inaugural CSNChicago.com White Sox mailbag. Feel free to e-mail me questions for future inclusion here at bballantini@ComcastSportsNet.com or on Twitter @CSNChi_Beatnik.

The lineup is set, with just third base to be decided in spring training. Has Ozzie given any thought to how his batting order will look? Michelle, Orland Park

Guillen was asked that question many times at SoxFest, and shared a humorous story about working on six or seven different lineup cards during a recent dinner with his wife, Ibiswho thought he was ignoring herand being advised on his best batting order by a nearby diner eavesdropping on his labor.

Guillens rough lineup, as outlined in January, went something like Juan PierreGordon BeckhamAdam Dunn at the top of the order, Paul KonerkoAlex RiosCarlos Quentin in the middle and A.J. PierzynskiAlexei RamirezBrent Morel or Mark Teahen at the bottom.

Its a tricky proposition, mixing three lefties (operating on the assumption that Morel will start at third base) well into what is expected to be a loaded offense. The assumption that Beckham will flourish in the No. 2 hole is almost entirely dependent on him picking up where he left off during an incendiary second half (pre-hand injury) in 2010, by no means a given. There simply isnt an ideal No. 2 hitter on the White Sox, other than reserve infielder Omar Vizquel.

Unless Bacon asserts himself right from the start of spring training, Id bump speed and on-base percentage up in the order, rolling out something like PierreRiosQuentin up top, DunnKonerkoPierzynski in the middle and RamirezBeckhamMorel at the bottom. Yes, Rios had a grand total of zero sacrifice hits last season, but tell me you didnt want to tear your hair out every time Guillen ordered a sacrifice with Pierre on firstisnt the point of having Pierre on base that you dont have to give away an out to get him to second? Rioss run-producing potential, heralded by Guillen, is hardly different than Ramirezsand the Missile isnt in the mix to hit third or fifth. Rios in the No. 2 spot gives you a second leadoff hitter and makes the best of an awkward situation.

Want a stealth candidate for the No. 2 hole? Its Morelprobably not anytime soon, but his production in the minors indicates a player who has the tools to sport a solid stroke in the second spot.

The White Sox are filled with closer options but no one is proven, like Bobby Jenks. Whos going to close this season? Ethan, Park Ridge

Jenks was a proven closer who manned the role for five entire seasons for the White Sox, making any of the potential closer controversy looming for the team during that time moot. And for all the peripheral stats that pointed to a career-worst season for Bad Bobby in 2010, his 87 save percentage was on par with his career average, and only in 2006 was his rate better than 90. Most significantly, that 87 rate was better than any other White Sox pitchersapparent closer favorite Matt Thornton was at 80, new Arizona Diamondbacks fireman J.J. Putz was at 43 and possible closer Sergio Santos converted just one of three saves. Newcomer Jesse Crain was a closer throughout his minor-league career and has fireman tools, but has produced a poor save percentage in his major-league career to date as well. Yes, Chris Sale was four-of-four in late-season save chances, but his role (starter vs. bullpen) is sketchy at the momentyou cant expect a 21-year-old to start for a month, then take over the closer role, at least without being forced to by anything short of an utter implosion at the back end of the bullpen.

It takes a certain mentality to flourish as the anchor man of a bullpen. Thornton by all appearances has the makeup to closewhile he did blow two of 10 save chances last season, none came after June 8, and he was a perfect three-of-three in September, as the default closer while Jenks was sidelined.

While Id prefer to have Thornton continue in the setupoccasional closing role where he has flourished for years in favor of inserting Sale as the closer for 2011, such a move will still create instability as the bullpen adjusts to losing Sale to the rotation in 2012 (if not sooner). So the best bet as of Groundhog Day pegs Thornton as the 2011 closer.
Why dont the White Sox and Cubs ever play on the same day? Id love to see a Chicago baseball doubleheader. Rich, Northbrook

It doesnt happen often, but there is always at least one game a year where the White Sox and Cubs cross paths within the city limits. This season, the teams overlap for an entire weekend series in August, as the White Sox host the AL pennant-winning Texas Rangers and the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals for another routine bloodbath. On Friday, the Cubs lead off at 1:30 p.m. and the White Sox follow at 7:10. On Saturday, the Cubs play at 3:10 and the White Sox have a postgame fireworks start of 6:10. And on Sunday, the White Sox finish their series at 1:10 while the Cubs are listed as TBD, indicating a probable Sunday night baseball game.

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

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."