SoxFest Day 2: Big signing, reunion feel so good

369584.jpg

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.

Rick Renteria's morning meetings a hit with White Sox players

Rick Renteria's morning meetings a hit with White Sox players

MESA, Ariz. -- Zack Collins talked about fishing to a roomful of teammates in Monday's morning meeting in what has become a staple of many spring training clubhouses.

The White Sox catching prospect and several others young players addressed a room full of players, coaches and staff to discuss what they believe to be the best fishing lures and reels. The presentation is part of a series of team-building exercises newly incorporated by manager Rick Renteria that has ties to methods long used by Los Angeles Angels skipper Mike Scioscia that have been passed down over the years.

The goal is simple: bring together a room full of unfamiliar players through a series of off-beat productions to break up the monotony of the daily meetings.

"They're good," third baseman Todd Frazier said. "They're upbeat. It's bringing the team closer together. Just some fun stuff going on and Rick knows what he's doing. There's a method to his madness. You're getting all these young guys to step out of their comfort zone and it makes for a fun morning.

"It makes for a good morning right before we go out and stretch and get after it. Kind of breaks everything down and makes everything better."

Renteria is the latest manager to employ the technique in a tree with branches attached to Scioscia. Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black has featured sessions ranging from basketball skills contests to fly fishing competitions from the outset of his tenure as manager of the San Diego Padres in 2007. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, a member of Scioscia's staff from 2000-05, started his own variation in Tampa Bay that now includes magic shows and petting zoos, among others.

Renteria worked with Black in San Diego for six seasons and has added his own wrinkle.

This spring's adaptations from White Sox camp have included Collins' fishing lesson, acting from pitcher Lucas Giolito (whose family includes Hollywood actors and directors) and a WWE impersonation by reliever Tommy Kahnle, who walked into the clubhouse dressed as The Ultimate Warrior.

"They are getting to connect in different ways," Renteria said. "But that's what anybody does. You just try to help your club bond, get to know each other as quickly as possible and then they go out there and play.

"The more comfortable you feel within the environment and with your working, obviously when you go out into the field, it makes it a little easier. A lot of the things we talk about in there are just relaxing, staying focused, playing the game and having fun, preparing, knowing that their preparation is going to be useful in their ability to go out and do their job on any given day. They have been a lot of fun."

They've also been helpful for the younger players and a clubhouse full of new faces. Of the 61 players in White Sox camp, 27 weren't in camp last spring, including seven of the club's eight top prospects. Giolito said the uncomfortable nature of performing for teammates makes it easier for players to communicate with each other afterward.

"One of the best things about it is it puts you out of your comfort zone," Giolito said. "You're making new friends, you're working with new guys and you're doing something that you're not really comfortable doing, which our presentation was acting, trying to be funny, obnoxious. Other guys might have to do research projects. They might have to interview other players about their life. It kind of gets everyone closer and involved. Coming out of your comfort zone is huge because it opens you up to new experiences and kind of makes you a better person in a way, not just a better player."

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI.