Spring training storylines: Last Sox bench spot

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Spring training storylines: Last Sox bench spot

Assuming nothing wild like an eight-man bullpen comes to fruition, the White Sox will have four bench players in 2012. Three of those spots are locked up, with Brent Lillibridge, Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Flowers filling roles.

That leaves one open spot. Enter three players: Dan Johnson, Eduardo Escobar and Ozzie Martinez. Most likely, one of them will win a spot on the White Sox opening day roster. Here are the cases for and against each of them:

Dan Johnson, 1BDH (career line: .235.334.405)

Here's a guy who would've fit perfectly on the White Sox last August when Paul Konerko was hobbled by a bad knee, but as long as Konerko is healthy, Johnson doesn't have much of a place with the White Sox. He's better-served starting the year off in Triple-A and waiting in the wings in case Adam Dunn struggles out of the gate. Of course, a strong spring could make it tough for the Sox to leave him off the 25-man roster.

A note about Johnson, though: His career splits are actually pretty even between facing righties and lefties. He's not a world-beater against each, but his OBP against lefties is actually higher (.337) than against righties (.332).

Eduardo Escobar, 2BSS3B (career minor-league line: .270.315.351)

The 23-year-old doesn't have a high offensive ceiling and he's not a particularly good base-stealer (75 steals in 118 attempts in the minors), but he's a slick fielder who could be a fit on the roster if the White Sox aren't able to trust Brent Lillibridge at shortstop. That he can play third base is a plus, although his defense there almost certainly isn't better than that of Brent Morel. Escobar probably would only play there if the incumbent third baseman needs a day off.

Ozzie Martinez, 2BSS3B (career minor-league line: .261.331.352)

There really isn't much between Martinez and Escobar. Martinez showed better plate discipline in Triple-A than Escobar, but his results were pretty much in line with that of Escobar. Martinez is a more efficient baserunner (60 steals in 88 attempts), although Escobar probably is the better fielder.

It probably will be tough to name a favorite between these two -- both are more likely to make the roster than Johnson -- given how even they are. The decision should come down to factors we won't necessarily see in game action.

Dark horse: Tyler Kuhn, IFOF (career minor-league line: .314.368.428)

Kuhn had a fantastic 2011 with Double-A Birmingham (.341.401.464), although high-average, BABIP-fueled seasons like that rarely carry over to future season and higher levels of the minor leagues. He hasn't graded out well defensively and is somewhat of a player without a position. A few good weeks in Arizona will probably warrant a long look, but ultimately, he needs to prove himself against Triple-A pitching before being considered for the majors.

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

Last-place White Sox ready to trade, but only if the right offer arises

That the White Sox lost their fourth consecutive game doesn’t change the big picture plans of the franchise, which probably — but not definitely — will involve making at least one trade before the end of July.

Before the White Sox lost, 6-5, to the New York Yankees Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field, general manager Rick Hahn met with the media and delivered the same message he’s had since trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in December. The White Sox are open for business, and would like to make a number of moves to further bolster their farm system, but won’t make a trade if they don’t receive what they view to be a fair return.

“Would I be surprised (if we didn’t make a trade)? No, because I try not to be surprised by the dynamics of this market,” Hahn said. “Would I be mildly disappointed? Sure. We are here to try to improve this club.

“We feel we have certain first and desirable players that would help other clubs and may fit better on their competitive windows then they do on ours right now. And we intend to be active each day in trying to further accomplish what we set out to do a year ago at this time.

“But do we have to do it? No. That would be using an artificial spot on the calendar to force decision-making. That would be the last thing we need to do. We need to take a long term view of what we are trying to accomplish.”

Hahn didn’t name names, but Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, David Robertson could be short-term fixes for contending clubs. Jose Quintana, who will start Tuesday against the Yankees, remains the team’s most valuable trade chip despite a 4.69 ERA that sits over run higher than his career average.

Frazier homered Monday and entered the game hitting .262/.351/.524 since Memorial Day. Cabrera similarly has found success after a slow start, slashing a healthy .324/.375/.482 in his previous 34 games before picking up two hits in four at-bats Monday. And Robertson, who’s been linked to the relief-starved Washington Nationals for months, has 41 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings with 11 saves.

“We want to be able to do as much as we can in our power to get this team to where it needs to be,” Hahn said. “Yes, there’s an element of competitiveness involved in that. There’s an element of patience involved in that. But at the end of the day, we have to — we get paid to be prudent in our decision making. We have to make the right decision.”

In the meantime, the White Sox looked the part of a rebuilding team with the worst record in the American League on Monday. Starter David Holmberg struggled, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings — but only two of those runs were earned thanks to errors by Holmberg, Frazier and Matt Davidson.

As the Yankees took advantage of those miscues with three runs in both the fourth and sixth innings, Jordan Montgomery retired nine consecutive White Sox batters and went on to cruise with eight strikeouts over seven innings. The White Sox – as they’ve done quite a bit this year – still showed fight late, battling back in the ninth inning.

Tim Anderson ripped a three-run home run in the ninth inning off Yankees left-hander Chasen Shreve to bring the White Sox within two. Joe Girardi quickly turned to Aroldis Chapman, who allowed a run when Jose Abreu doubled home Melky Cabrera. But the tying run was stranded on second when Avisail Garcia grounded out and Frazier flew out to end the game.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Top pick Jake Burger can't wait to someday take a bite out of Chicago; When will Sox trades begin?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Top pick Jake Burger can't wait to someday take a bite out of Chicago; When will Sox trades begin?

After taking batting practice for the first time with the White Sox, number-one pick Jake Burger sat down with Chuck Garfien to talk about getting drafted by his favorite team, what it was like getting a phone call from Paul Konerko, why he wants to be a leader like Jonathan Toews, playing on Team USA with Seth Beer and more.  

Then CSN's Dan Hayes joins Garfien to discuss the return of Carlos Rodon, when the White Sox might start making trades, and Rick Renteria's short temper with umpires.   

Listen here to ketchup with top prospect Jake Burger: