SoxFest Day 2: Big signing, reunion feel so good

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SoxFest Day 2: Big signing, reunion feel so good

Saturday, January 22, 2010
Posted: 6:30 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

SOXFEST, CHICAGO While the weather outside remained frightful, the mood inside for the second Ozzie Guillen-Ken Williams State of the Sox session at SoxFest on Saturday remained delightful.

By Saturday, the manager-GM duos self-deprecating humor act had benefitted from such positive word-of-mouth from their Friday set that the crowd of morning stragglers nearly tripled that of the night before.

The biggest addition of the offseason, Adam Dunn, was the opening topic for Saturdays session, with Guillen admitting he was shocked to hear the White Sox signed the Washington Nationals slugger.

Williams made Guillen his straight man, turning to his skipper and telling him, to laughter, I had to surprise you. Otherwise it would end up in too many blogs and twitters.

Williams chased that chiste with the White Sox company line, in just the first of a few comments subtly pitching ticket sales, remarking that we wanted to go all-in, then pray theres a way to pay for it all.

WATCH: Ozzie, Kenny joke about Dunn

Williams also shared a story Paul Konerko had told shared from a SoxFest stage Friday night, something that interestingly had helped drive him back to the White Sox, that at the end of the season he told Konerko directly that he didnt just want the captain back in the fold, but that he was aiming to bring in Dunn as well. For Konerko, who was relatively outspoken at seasons end about needing to see a commitment from the White Sox, that goal made a difference in his decision.

That was always my plan, including bringing A.J. Pierzynski back and strengthening the bullpen, Williams said.

Guillen also found room to have some fun at his new lefty sluggers expense. When moderator Ed Farmer asked, in reference to Dunns size, how many of you fans have seen Dunn up close, Ozzie chirped in, to laughter, How big, or how ugly he is?

As for some of that bullpen help, Williams revealed that last August he asked both Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper what reliever he should chase after in the offseason to bring to the White Sox: They both mentioned two guys, and in both cases, one of them was Jesse Crain.

Guillen took a second crack at a lineup in Saturdays session, and was surprisingly adamant about Gordon Beckham being his No. 2 hitter. Alex Rios, a logical candidate to move up in the order given his speed, the additional power provided by Dunn and Beckhams struggles in the first half of 2010, was discounted by Guillen because the skipper felt Rios possesses too much run-producing potential to wither on the sacrificial altar of the 2-hole.

WATCH: Guillen has new spring training approach

At one point, Guillen broke down into a rambling dissertation of Brent Morel, and how he first saw him while watching son Oney play in rookie ball and making note of the slick-fielding third baseman to Williams. After the tale was finally told, the GM zinged Guillen with a directive: Stop watching minor-league games in the spring and focus on getting us off to a good start in 2011.

While the laughs came easy, the issue of the White Sox being slow out of the box clearly vexed both men, and was very real. While Chicago was the best team in the American League after June 8, what led to their 9 game burial in the AL Central at that rallying point was of utmost concern. After Williams again repeated the suggestion made to him by a fan to put ice in Alexeis pockets to gear him up for the cold opening month of the season, when the ace shortstop routinely slumps, Guillen issued a managerial mea culpa regarding readying his team for the regular season. This year, according to Guillen, the White Sox will field their regulars for the last week of spring training; Chicagos slow starts, Guillen said, thus have been a managerial mistake.

While some fans were committed to handwringing over the loss of Andruw Jones and other depth issues, Guillen quickly put it in perspective: If a manager is worrying about his fourth outfielder, hes in trouble. Im worried about my closer and winning games. Added Williams: I guess I should be happy if people are only complaining about the 24th or 25th player. That means they like the first 23. Besides, Williams added with more honesty than remorse, were kind of tapped out with payroll.

As for that closer worry, Guillen didnt seem too put out by having to pick from Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain as the heir apparent to Bobby Jenks. Whether you come in the game in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth, at that time, youre the closer.

Guillen and Williams continued to interact in a manner unseen for at least one SoxFest, truly bonding and working some of the brotherly love that marked their early years together. That tone led to a constant stream of jokes, including Ozzies over-the-top reaction to one young fans tough question: Who sent this kid in herego get some autographs or something!

The kid did end up with an autographOzzies, at the end of the session. It remains to be seen whether such harmony will find the White Sox running up a second World Series flag in six years come October, but it sure seems like the marketing tag all-in, as it stands right now, refers as much to a group hug as it does taking a pennant.

Other highlights from the second State of the Sox seminar:

After Guillen again recalled his two least favorite games last year, July 18 (a Jenks meltdown) and August 17 (Jim Thomes game-ending blast landed in Milwaukee, according to Guillen) losses at the Minnesota Twins, Williams scolded, Stop talking about those Twins games, youre depressing me. I dont want to think about that anymore.

When a young fan asked whether White Sox legend Frank Thomas had a future as a hitting coach, Guillen shrieked, NOOOOOO! and explained that coaches dont get paid enough to satisfy Thomas, and that you need to be a very bad hitter to be a good hitting coach.

Carlos Quentin, defended by the OzzieKenny tandem on an hourly basis, was given another glowing recommendation by the skipper: Ill predict it right now: Carlos is going to have a year like he did in his near-MVP 2008.

Williams was wry in assessing the chances for a multiyear deal for John Danks: We tried to do that last year and didnt get to far with it. Danks and his representatives are content to take it one year at a time. Well see.

Guillen, looking back on his career: I was so good defensively, I forgot my hitting. Williams and Guillen fought over who was the lousiest hitter, with Williams winning by pointing out that Ozzie was a good enough hitter to play 16 major league seasons, while KWs offensive prowess landed him in a role of young scout.

While both men understandably dodged a question about the biggest regrets in their careers, the GM was willing to admit that there havent been many SportsCenter guys players who went on to become stars weve dealt away but that he felt his original acquisition of Bartolo Colon in 2003 should have worked out better.

Williams, on former White Sox outfielder and still-jobless Jermaine Dye: If we werent solid across the board, Id have entertained bringing him to camp in 2011.

Guillen chided nearby marketing guru Brooks Boyer for offering just two free tickets to spring training as a SoxFest raffle prize: How about five?

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

Omar Narvaez helps father celebrate his birthday in style with first home run

Omar Narvaez helps father celebrate his birthday in style with first home run

Omar Narvaez’s teammates gave him a beer shower after he blasted the first home run of his career on Friday night.

But the rookie catcher said it wasn’t the best gift he gave or received in a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins. Narvaez’s father, Omar, was in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field and celebrating his birthday when he son blasted a 377-foot drive to right field.

“It was great, especially because it was my dad’s birthday today,” Narvaez said. “It’s a very special gift for my dad. That’s what I was thinking as I was running the bases. It’s the best thing I could do this day.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Narvaez, who hails from Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela, said his family has been in town all week to see him play. His fourth-inning homer off Twins pitcher Pat Dean put the White Sox ahead 6-0. Narvaez -- who has seven minor-league homers, including two at Triple-A Charlotte this season -- homered in his 111th plate appearance in the big leagues.

“That was awesome,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I’ve been waiting a while because I know he’s got that pop. Took him a little bit, but I was happy for him.”

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

Young White Sox players star in win over Twins

The word electric was used multiple times to describe several young White Sox players on Friday night and it wasn’t hyperbole.

Carlos Rodon tied an American League record with seven consecutive strikeouts to start a 7-3 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field and Tim Anderson was an all-around force. Anderson turned several double plays and finished a double shy of the cycle and Rodon, who was coming off the best start of his career, struck out 10 to close out a stellar second half. Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez also blasted the first home run of his big league career in the victory.

“This was some electric stuff coming out,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I would say the first seven hitters were better than (Sunday’s start). He just, it looked like his confidence and end of the year, letting it out. It was definitely the best stuff-wise of having it all -- fastball, slider, mix in a change. I think that’s just a big confidence boost for him of getting to that point where he can do that.”

Where Rodon is now compared with 2 1/ 2 months ago is vastly different. Frustrated by a 2-7 start and a sprained wrist sustained when he fell in the dugout, Rodon was about as low as he’s been in his two seasons in the majors. But the North Carolina State-product vowed to treat the second half like an entirely different season when he returned from his injury and he has done just that.

Featuring a fastball that topped 99-mph, according to brooksbaseball.net, and with his wipeout slider in tow, Rodon quickly looked in control against the Twins. He struck out the side in each of the first two innings. Only two of his first seven strikeouts came via called third strikes.

Rodon’s third-inning whiff of John Ryan Murphy moved him into a tie for the team and AL record with ex-White Sox hurler Joe Cowley, who struck out the first seven he faced in a May 28, 1986 loss at the Texas Rangers. Coupled with the three strikeouts to end Sunday’s start in Cleveland (part of 11 overall), Rodon’s 10 straight strikeouts between the two games matched the most by a major league pitcher since Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Eric Gagne did it in 2003.

“He was throwing a lot of strikes,” Narvaez said. “The slider was perfect today. He was at his best today.”

Rodon was only slowed down by a 31-pitch sixth inning as he allowed three runs (two earned). He yielded three hits, walked three and struck out 10 to improve to 7-3 with a 3.45 ERA since the All-Star break. The left-hander struck out 77 batters in 73 innings from July 31st through the end of the season.

“It’s easy to play behind him because it makes my job a lot easier when he’s striking out people,” Anderson said.

Rodon feels the same about the way Anderson has played since he arrived in the majors in June. The rookie shortstop continues to excel even though he has never played more in a season than he in 2016.  

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Anderson headed into the eighth inning with a chance to complete the cycle. Needing only a double after he tripled and homered in his first two at-bats, Anderson grounded out and finished 3-for-5.

He turned on his speed when he tripled off the glove of Byron Buxton in the first inning and scored on Melky Cabrera’s RBI double. Anderson flashed his power when he blasted his ninth home run in the third, a two-run shot that traveled 410 feet. And used his glove and arm to turn several nice plays in the field.

“He’s electric,” Rodon said. “Just watching him develop over this few months here, it’s been incredible. Making those plays in the hole and just swinging the bat great. That’s a guy our team can feed off of when he’s in the lineup.”