White Sox, Ramirez agree to contract extension

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White Sox, Ramirez agree to contract extension

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
Posted 12:02 p.m. Updated 5:02 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The surprising news out of the press conference announcing Alexei Ramirezs contract extension is less that he hopes to be a lifetime Chicago White Sox, but that he may well pass the torch to a son once his time on the South Side is through.

While the slender shortstop on Thursday laughed off the idea that his 2010 Silver Slugger was just the first of many future awards for him, he noted that the silver bat will find a home in his two sons room. His oldest boy (who also goes by Alexei, pronounced Alex-ay as opposed to his fathers Ales-ay) already has hit at U.S. Cellular Field, at just five years old spraying the ball around the infield during batting practice last summer.

Perhaps that adds additional meaning to Ramirezs wishes to forever remain in Pale Hose?

I have always talked with agent Jaime Torres about being a lifetime White Sox, and Im proud of what Ive done so far for the team, Ramirez said. I hope to accomplish much more in the future. If Im lucky enough to play for the White Sox my entire career, Ill be happy to do that.

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Ramirez freely admitted that the extension was more a question of when, not if, saying he and Torres have been in constant contact with the White Sox and he decided to extend once we felt we had the best deal we could. GM Ken Williams told CSNChicago.com at the time of Adam Dunns signing last December that he hoped to at least have extension framework in place by spring training, so the relative speed of Ramirezs extension indicates that the proceedings were exceedingly cordial.

Ramirezs four-year, 32.5 million contract extension keeps him on the South Side at least through the 2015 season. The contract will pay the rising star 5 million in 2012, 7 million in 2013, 9.5 million in 2014 and 10 million in 2015. The White Sox will have an option to keep Ramirez for 2016 at a price of 10 million, or buy him out for 1 million. To finish up the final year of his original contract, Ramirez will be paid 2.75 million in 2011. It goes without saying this is the largest contract bestowed on a shortstop in White Sox history, and fuzzy math pegs only seven other shortstops in baseball history having garnered bigger deals than Ramirezs.

Ramirez originally signed with the White Sox on Jan. 22, 2008 and carries a career .283 average, 54 home runs and 215 RBI into 2011, which will be his fourth major-league season. While his rookie campaign of 2008 was a slightly better offensive season, the Cuban Missile dominated AL shortstops offensively in 2010. Ramirez proffered a .313 on-base percentage and .431 slugging percentage (first among shortstops) for a .734 OPS. He led AL shortstops with a .282 batting average, 18 home runs and 252 total bases. He finished second among campocortos with 70 RBI, third with 165 hits and tied for third with 29 doubles.

Ramirezs .282 batting average qualifies is the fourth-best in history by a White Sox shortstop and his 18 longballs were the sixth-most. He was named to the Sporting News 2010 AL All-Star Teamin Pale Hose annals, only Luke Appling (1936, 1940, 1943) and Luis Aparicio (1968, 1970) have been so honored. The three-year vet is the first White Sox player since Carlos Quentin in 2008 to win a Silver Slugger, and just the ninth player in team history overall.

READ: Different directions for Alexei, Freddy

Comfort with the White Sox threaded throughout Ramirezs media session on Thursday, a comfort that began from his very first moments with the White Sox in the form of support from a former Gold Glove shortstop, manager Ozzie Guillen.

It really comes down to when I first got to the White Sox, I felt at home, like in Cuba, Ramirez said. I felt comfortable, like it was the right place for me. Ozzie didnt know me, but Ive polished by game under him and Im appreciative of him for his faith in me.

Guillen has long promoted Ramirez as a future Gold Glove winner and was aghast to hear that it was Derek Jeter and not Ramirez winning the honor in 2010.

The main thing Ozzie has instilled in me is confidence, Ramirez said. He trusts what I can do on the field and the decisions I make. He played shortstop, and knows it takes confidence to succeed there. Hes trusted me with the position, and thats helped.

As for a Gold Glove, Ramirez laughed at the notion hell be a future winner and again mentioned how honored he was just to be under consideration.

I dont expect to win awards, he said. I just want to play better, every game, every season. Leaving Cuba, that was always my goal.

The AL Gold Glove was thought to be a two-man battle between Ramirez and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers, but in a surprising and disheartening move, AL managers and coaches bestowed the honor on Jeter, forever one of the weakest shortstops in the league.

The Fielding Bible Awards, which are selected by an expert panel of 10 analysts who study defense and defensive metrics for a living, felt differently. Only one player is honored across baseball per positionthus Troy Tulowitzki was the 2010 FBA shortstopbut Ramirez finished third in the polling, well ahead of any other AL candidate. A number of factors are taken into consideration by the panel, but Ramirezs AL-leading 768 chances, indicating supreme range, surely didnt hurt.

Ramirez has added muscle while retaining his flexibility this offseason to bolster his thin frame, but laughingly said he doesnt know how much, because I havent been on a scale.

White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham noticed his double-play partners increased strength right away, while the two worked out together last month in Miami at Camp Cora. Both infielders have noted their need for unorthodox communication, but both are very optimistic about their future together.

We dont speak the same language, but we get along really well, Ramirez said. I feel comfortable with him as my double-play partner, and weve been getting better all along.

A hidden key to a successful all-in 2011 season is the performances of the middle infielders; Beckham labored through an atrocious beginning to his 2010 season, while Ramirez historically has been a slow starter (sporting a career .511 OPS in MarchApril, almost 200 points worse than his mark in any other months).

The weather and cold have affected me to a point, but Ive learned to adapt to it, Ramirez said. I have some ideas on how to do even better early this season. I know what to expect now.

While doubtlessly Ramirez is not so comfortable with the cold hed like to be in Chicago digging out of this Februarys blizzard, he was seen grasping at snowflakes during SoxFest last month, reporting that it was the first time hed ever witnessed a snowfall. Ramirez admitted rather sheepishly that after playing in the cold for three seasons hed like to put all those slow start questions to rest. Still, he knows that he wasnt the only one to blame for getting out of the gate sluggishly in 2010.

This spring training we need to get working and focused on coming out of the gate a little better, he said. Were all working hard toward doing that and having a great year.

As of February and this record-breaking extension, its already been a pretty good year for Ramirez.

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

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Giovanni Soto pitched to Geovany Soto at White Sox camp on Monday morning, and the Internet loved it.

The veteran catcher and rookie pitcher, who share similar names and have been friends for two years, worked together during live batting practice. The unrelated pair, who both hail from Puerto Rico, said they’ve been confused for each other several times since reporting to camp last week. Each has also heard the other’s name being called out and thought it was for them, which has led to more confusion. But those mix-ups haven’t limited their enjoyment of the situation, either.

“It’s kind of surreal that he has the same name, last name,” Geovany Soto said. “It’s kind of weird calling him Gio and he’s calling me Geo. It’s kind of weird.

“With the physicals, doctors, the people for the drug testing, we’ve been confused in all three of those. I’m expecting that to happen. Hopefully I can get a big check on his name and cash it.”

The social media world isn’t alone in its enjoyment of the topic as both players smiled while discussing it on Monday.

Giovanni Soto said the players met two seasons ago when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians and the catcher was in his first stint with the White Sox. They grew up about 20 minutes apart from each other in Puerto Rico and now spend time together in the offseason. But what has made the scenario even more confusing is that White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito is seated only a few stalls away from Giovanni Soto in the clubhouse.

“It’s kind of weird, especially in the clubhouse and on the field because when someone says Geo, we turn around to see if it’s for him or for me,” Giovanni Soto said. “And we also have Giolito, and people call him Gio. It’s weird, but it’s funny too.”

Both Sotos could make the team’s Opening Day roster.

Geovany Soto, who signed a minor league contract in January, is the most experienced catcher in camp and is favored to win a job. Giovanni Soto, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs in November, is one of several relievers competing for a spot and could make the club if the White Sox decide to carry two left-handers in the bullpen. And while Giolito is expected to start the season at Triple-A, he could reach the majors at some point causing more pandemonium.

“There’s a lot of Geo going on with Giolito, Giovanni and then me,” Geovany Soto said. “And can get pretty hectic. But yeah, it’s fun for us.”