White Sox report card: Cutting down

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White Sox report card: Cutting down

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Posted 7:25 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Chicago White Sox opened camp with fewer players in the mix than in past years, so the fact that 15 players have moved out of the major league clubhouse means that time is getting tight for those remaining in the fight to head to Cleveland for April Fools Day.

There are 38 players remaining, but the big questions leftquestions that manager Ozzie Guillen claims will unlikely be made until the end of the monthare which of 15 players will fit into the final bench spot and as the 12th arm in the bullpen.

Fifteen players, two slots. Those are the long odds bubble players face when the big club goes All-In.

Stats are through games of March 16.

12th Bullpen Arm

Seven pitchers remain, and Guillen has recently added intrigue to the proceedings with his backing of Gregory Infante despite the righthanders 6.00 spring ERA. Heres a guide on how to handicap the arms race as time begins to run short in camp.

The Pick: Jeff Marquez

Marquez has pitched under the radar so far, using his wild streak (two hit batters, two wild pitches in 7 13 innings) to great effectiveness (10 Ks and a 0.00 ERA). The 26-year-old can be stretched out for more than an inning, a plus given the only multi-inning reliever guaranteed a spot in the pen in Tony Pena and his 4.91 spring ERA. Finally, some recompense for the abomination that was Nick Swisher.

Runners-Up: Phil Humber, Infante, Josh Kinney

Both pitchers had .258 batting averages against, and Humber has every right to the 12th spot as Marquez. But the former bonus baby has less of a wow factor with his arm than Marquez, and we know GM Ken Williams likes a power pen. Plus, the White Sox wouldnt mind seeing him devote his time to starting, in case there are any injuries in the five-man, big-league rotation.

Infante was crisp in his September audition in 2010 and has done nothing to hurt his chances of eventually being a short man in the White Sox pen. But he could use another year of seasoning after pitching nearly all of 2010 at Double-A Birmingham.

Kinney has been sharp in four spring outings, compiling a 1.80 ERA over five innings and a .278 batting average against, just not sharp enough to merit inclusion in the bullpen out of camp.

They Gone: Jeff Gray, Brian Bruney, Shane Lindsay

Gray got off to a splashy start with 1 13 innings of scoreless baseball in the White Sox opener, but has gone downhill since. Hes at 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA and a .333 average against. Wednesdays poor outing vs. the San Francisco Giants likely sealed his fate as one of the next wave of drops, likely coming on Friday.

Lindsay has been one of the most heartwarming stories of camp, a native Australian once knocked out for a year by shoulder problems. And Lindsay has impressed, to the tune of a 0.00 ERA until getting rocked for three runs in one inning on Thursday. But hes pitched in just three games, an indication that the team is not seriously looking at him to turn a strong few Cactus League weeks into a major-league roster spot.

Bruney started strong but also has been roughed up recently. Bruney has thrown better than Gray, with a 4.50 spring ERA, a save, and a terrific .217 batting average against. But thats not going to be good enough.

4th spot on the bench

There are eight players vying for this last bench spot alongside Ramon Castro, Mark Teahen, and Omar Vizquel. Whats sad, if not unsurprising, is that some of the best performers in camp come from this group of players, fighting for their major-league lives.
The Pick: Lastings Milledge

The pick could easily be at least five of the other seven players, but Milledge brings a wow factor to the White Sox that could prove crucial in the case of a prolonged slump or injury. The onetime first-rounder has proven nearly as sound defensively as Brent Lillibridge and Alejandro De Aza and is every bit the baserunner. He also brings more pop as evidenced by his pair of home runs on Thursday to bring his Cactus league total to four.
Lastings Milledge has displayed all of his "five-tool" potential that made him the top prospect of the New York Mets farm system only a few seasons ago. (AP)
Fundamentally (bunting), he might trail the competition, but the White Sox have enough bunters on the roster. It also helps that as the fifth outfielder (given that Teahen will likely see a healthy chunk of time spelling Carlos Quentin in right), Milledge balances the bench as a right-hander, which gives him an advantage over De Aza. Perhaps the biggest advantage Milledge has over the competition is five walks against five strikeoutsall of the other aspirant outfielders are much heavier on the Ks.

The Runners-Up: Tyler Flowers, Lillibridge, De Aza

If the Cactus League was a true, open competition, Flowers would not only break camp with the White Sox, hed probably start on Opening Day. But thats not the way the major leagues work, and Flowers largely disappointing 2010 necessitated the return of both A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Castro. The 25-year-old has proven worthy with his glove and arm, and the White Sox staff is really impressed with his maturity, especially in calling a game. But Flowers calling card has always been his lumber, and with a 1.233 OPS this spring, hes been mashing beyond expectations.

For his defensive flexibility alone, Id tabbed Lillibridge as the 25th man, but the reemergence of Teahen and continued strong play of veteran Vizquel has minimized such flexibility as a pressing need. Lillibridge has an outrageous eight RBI already on the spring, but hes not going to be looked to as a run producer. A .772 OPS isnt horrible, but two walks against seven strikeouts is not what the Chicago coaching staff is looking for.

De Aza is a Guillen favorite, and he does a little bit of everything well, with wheels of fire. But again, plate discipline is a key for the little guys, and De Aza is walking just once for every five Ks.

They Gone: Donny Lucy, Dallas McPherson

Lucy is the catching equivalent of Jim Gallagher for the White Sox, an everyman who just puts his head down and does his job each day. His bat has cooled, but with Flowers raking, hes no better than fourth on the catching depth chart anyway.

McPherson was an extreme insurance policy, in case both Brent Morel and Teahen disappeared in a windstorm. The 30-year-old veteran impressed Guillen early in camp, but slowed considerably after the first week. He has an unimpressive 10 Ks in 13 gamesyoure only allowed rates like that if you can launch moon shots like Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn.
Wild Cards: Jordan Danks, Dayan Viciedo

Before breaking his thumb last week, Viciedo was perhaps the biggest surprise of camp so far, with surprisingly intuitive defense in right field and continued stop-what-youre-doing-and-watch pop at the plate (.500.478). Thankfully he is back to baseball activity and could be ready to hit the field about the time the team breaks camp. That means ifwhen Quentin is hurt this season, Viciedo has earned the first look as his medium-to-long-term replacement.

Danks even has owner Jerry Reinsdorfs attention as an up-and-comer. He had every right to have been moved out of major league camp one or two cuts earlier, and Danks isnt just hanging around because his big brother is an easygoing lefty ace named John.

Like Viciedo, Danks isnt big on patienceone walk in his first 20 at-batsbut his revamped swing also has yielded just four Ks in that time as well. Danks has pop and catches everything launched his way. Charlotte is going to have fun watching an outfield of Stefan Gartrell, Danks, and Viciedo this summer.

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

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

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Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right

That Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada have reunited is a nice story, but it won't dramatically change the mindset of the rebuilding White Sox, who earlier this week demonstrated they aren't messing around.

Abreu said in a statement issued by the White Sox on Friday that he's "very happy" about the prospect of again playing alongside Moncada, who played 12 games with the star slugger in 2012 for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series. Moncada, 21, is the centerpiece of a four-player package acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Chris Sale on Tuesday, a toolsy infielder who MLB.com has rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball.

While the concept of Abreu mentoring Moncada has plenty of merit — the first baseman's work ethic is outstanding, and he's beloved by coaches and teammates — don't think the White Sox would hesitate to trade him if someone paid the right price. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn just spent four days at the Winter Meetings discussing how a team that just traded away its best pitcher and position player remains open to listening to all offers and is prepared to do what is must to get the franchise healthy again. 

"We're extremely open-minded on ways to continue the process that we started," Hahn said earlier this week, adding that the White Sox "have to make some painful decisions."

The White Sox have grown tired of never having all the pieces — or even more than a few — to fill the holes created by injury, poor performance, etc. They want to be flush with young talent and essentially have said anything that isn't nailed down at Guaranteed Rate Field is available with the exceptions of Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon.

The team wants to cash in on the chips it possesses.

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While they don't have a ton, the few the White Sox have could help expedite a rebuild process as the Sale and Eaton trades have shown. Those deals brought back seven players, including three who played at the big league level last season (Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez). Some of those players potentially would start 2017 in the big leagues, and that possibility increases the internal value of Abreu and starting pitcher Jose Quintana, who is equally revered among teammates and coaches for his dedication and team-first mentality. 

Having those young players see firsthand what it takes to excel in the majors from veteran teammates is invaluable. Abreu, who arrived in the United States from Cuba in late 2013, addressed that point in his statement about Moncada, who signed with Boston in 2015.

"Moncada is a five-tool player," Abreu said. "He really has everything needed to succeed, and I know that with the proper guidance of veteran players and coaches with experience he can become an All-Star caliber player."

"He is going to make a huge impact in the White Sox organization, and both the fans and the team will be thankful.

"I already spoke with him to welcome him to the team. I told him that I'm going to be there for him for everything that he needs on and off the field."

In a conference call Wednesday, Moncada said he's "thrilled" to once again play with Abreu. Whether they will hasn't yet been determined.

When asked about Moncada's 2017 starting point earlier in the week, Hahn said the 21-year still needs to develop. Moncada appeared in eight big league games last season for Boston and struggled with contact, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances. But that promotion came after a meteoric rise through Boston's farm system, an aggressive path that included only 45 games played above High-A. Nothing has been announced, but it appears Moncada will receive an invite to big league camp next spring and be seated near Abreu in the clubhouse. 

Still, Hahn sounds like he intends for Moncada to spend much of 2017 refining his approach in the minors. He also has demonstrated he is willing to dig deep and make more painful moves if it betters the team in the long run, all of which means the White Sox wouldn't hesitate to trade Abreu or Quintana if they get what they want.