Sox Drawer: A.J. prefers tougher Bacon

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Sox Drawer: A.J. prefers tougher Bacon

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 5:25 p.m. Updated 6:30 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - In his first two major league seasons, Gordon Beckham took a page out of the Marv Albert School of Broadcasting by saying Yesss! to everything.

Fans, media, appearances, photo shoots, ice cream socials... you name it.

So on the day he reported to spring training - almost a week before his official reporting date - Beckham had a message waiting for him from teammate A.J. Pierzynski: Just say no.

Hes got a locker next to me, so Im trying to teach him to be more mean and tell people no sometimes, said Pierzynski, an expert in the art of saying no.

In the six years Ive covered him, Pierzynski (one of my favorite White Sox players) has given me every excuse in the book to not do an interview.

I have to work out.
I have to make a phone call.
I have to do something.
I have to do nothing.

Ive heard it all.

A.J. can also be extremely accomodating and gives some of the best interviews around - I think he knows it - so its worth getting turned down from time to time. Its actually become quite entertaining. On Wednesday Pierzynski said no to a pack of TV reporters, and then came back an hour later to give some of the best sound of the day - thats A.J.

But back to Beckham.

After his scorching White Sox debut in 2009 when he batted .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games, Beckham came into last season treated like the second coming. He didnt believe the hype, nor the struggles that came next, which completely blind-sided him.

Ive got something to prove, said Beckham, standing at his locker with an additional 10 pounds of muscle added, not just to his body, but likely his brain too. I was probably more comfortable last year (at spring training), but I think thats a good thing. Last year I was probably too comfortable, lets just put it that way.

The season began with Beckham batting .235 in April, which wasnt a big deal until May came around and things only got worse. He hit just .159.

The rookie sensation was officially in a sophomore slump. There was even talk of possibly sending him down to the minor leagues. And when you add on the expectations, playing a new position, and a spotlight that was starting to burn a hole right through him, the heat was almost too much to take.

He didnt know what he was in for, Pierzynski said. Thats why you look at people who have the second year where theyre like, Oh man. Not neccessarily because their talent is gone or they tried less, I just think they just get in a situation where theyre spread too thin. Its not only his fault, its the organization, people outside, your mom, your dad, its everyone.

"I went through it and everyone went through it where you have that year and people are like... you can do this and you can do that. We need you to do this appearance, we need you to do this interview, and you want say yes to everybody.

In a way, thats what the White Sox did this off-season in regards to free agency. They shattered their piggy bank by signing lefty slugger Adam Dunn, and brought back Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, two pivotal mentors to Beckham.

To get Paul back and get A.J. back, these guys helped me come up, and helped me last year with my struggles, Beckham said. As a young guy, I didnt want to be in here with no Paul, no A.J., no Adam Dunn. We subtract those guys, you never know what this season is going to look like.

So how does Beckham look so far.... just hours into camp?

I like the way hes talking. I like the way hes acting, Pierzynski said. Hes got a different mind set this year, and thats good. I look forward to him coming out and having a great year, and as long as you guys dont annoint him the second coming of Babe Ruth, well be alright.

But can Gordon, the ultimate people person, actually say no to the people?

"I do need to learn."

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyler Saladino hit leadoff on Wednesday, finishing with a home run and a single.

Saladino's first-inning drive was one of eight combined homers hit between the White Sox and San Diego Padres, who finished in a 9-all tie at Camelback Ranch. Before the game, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said that Saladino, who finished 2-for-2, would see most of his playing time at second base.

"He's been developing and continuing to grow every single season," Renteria said. "The flexibility that he brings allows him to be in the lineup over an extended period of time. But we want to make sure we take care of him as we want to do with everybody else, kind of keep them all fresh as much as we can.

"He's developed into a pretty good major league baseball player."

Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico and Jake Peter all homered for the White Sox. Delmonico led the White Sox with five homers this spring. Abreu went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs.

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Rule 5 pitcher Dylan Covey, who appears primed to make the Opening Day roster, allowed two earned runs in his lone inning pitched. Covey then headed to the bullpen and threw additional pitches there as the White Sox continue to build up his arm strength.

Veteran Anthony Swarzak allowed a run and struck out two in two innings. Reliever Dan Jennings allowed five runs (four earned) and four hits in 1/3 innings.

First-rounder Zack Collins drew a pair of walks in his only plate appearances and scored a run.

The White Sox ended the spring with a 16-15-2 record.

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Zack Burdi headed for the minors, the White Sox 12-man pitching staff is all but set.

The Opening Day roster won't be finalized until Sunday and the White Sox hypothetically could find an attractive candidate to claim off the waiver wire over the weekend. But barring that, it looks as if veteran Anthony Swarzak and second-year reliever Michael Ynoa have made the team after Burdi said Wednesday morning that he'd start the season at Triple-A Charlotte. 

The No. 7 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com, Burdi finished the spring with a 6.75 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. Burdi finished his Cactus League on a high note with three strikeouts over an inning on Tuesday, including one of Kansas City four-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez. 

"Man, it's been crazy," Burdi said. "Coming in and being the young guy in the locker room and then just progressing and showing a little bit more (comfort) around the guys and the veterans and then just being able to pick their brains and go out every day and try to progress. You get to the innings and you are facing guys you've watched your last 10 years of your life. It has been crazy and definitely something I won't forget."

Burdi lasted the longest this spring out of the cache of highly-touted prospects the White Sox brought to big league camp. Prior to escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam Tuesday, Burdi looked like he would allow a run in a third straight game after a hot start to camp (he only allowed a run in one of his first 10 appearances). But Burdi battled back and struck out Perez on three pitches, one of two straight strikeouts to strand both runners.

Pitching coach Don Cooper has been impressed by Burdi throughout the spring. But he also wants to see the Louisville product continue to work on command in the minors.

"You can't not see his stuff," Cooper said. "Everybody gets excited when you see 99, 100, 101. But whether you throw it 101 or 83 like [Mark] Buehrle you have to throw it to the glove with command, change speeds and all that stuff. But he's a big part of our future going forward. He's one of the names."

Burdi said he plans to operate like he has already spring and not pay attention to any of the hype. Though he'd like to play in the majors, Burdi is excited to play alongside the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer in Charlotte.

"Once you get a feel for all this stuff and you feel how cool it is to be in the locker room with all these guys and play with them, of course you want to get back up here," Burdi said. "But at the same time, a lot of my really good friends are on Charlotte and I couldn't be more excited to go down there and play with them and make the most of the season down there."