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Ventura: Sale, Danks likely to be held back at start of spring

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Ventura: Sale, Danks likely to be held back at start of spring

White Sox spring training games start in exactly one month but dont count on seeing Chris Sale or John Danks in any early action.

With the beginning of World Baseball Classic action on March 2, Major League Baseball has pushed up the start of spring training to accommodate teams. The White Sox play against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 23, which is typically a week earlier than spring training games begin.

Despite the schedule, Ventura said Wednesday the White Sox early plans wont include Sale, who completed a career-high 192 innings last season, or Danks, who had shoulder surgery in August, in the name of preservation.

Were starting really early, and I really wouldnt want him to get going, and probably Sale the same thing, Ventura said in an event at the Gilda Club, a free cancer support community for men, women and children. Probably not start them off when we start playing games. Probably push them back to maybe in the middle, where we would have been anyway, just to save him a little bit.

Ventura, who will enter his second season as White Sox manager, also said his staff has considered a different middle of the order for the 2013 season. Last season, slugger Adam Dunn often manned the third spot in the order. But with only two left-handed hitters in the starting lineup -- leadoff man Alejandro De Aza is the other -- the White Sox might put space in between the two. Alex Rios, who led the 2012 White Sox with 184 hits, a .304 average and 93 runs, is considered a top candidate if Ventura elects to switch up the lineup.

When we start our first game, Dunn might be there, but again were kicking it around, Ventura said. Maybe Rios starts there. With us not having a lot of left-handed hitters right there, you might have to separate him and De Aza a little bit more than you would normally.

Ventura also said the teams plans at third base arent concrete. Free agent signee Jeff Keppinger -- who received a three-year, 12-million deal -- is expected to man the hot corner and is the teams best option for now, Ventura said. But Ventura said Keppinger might not be restricted to third base when hes in the lineup.

I dont know if hes etched in stone, but theres a strong -- right now, thats where hes at, Ventura said. Over the course of spring, it could change as far as doing something else. I would say, as of right now, I would see him there. Not stone. Stronger than parchment.

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If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

Kyle Schwarber’s proper introduction to the Cubs-Sox rivalry came in the summer of 2015 when a fan on the South Side threw a half-empty “tall boy” at him in left field. A little more than a year removed from college, Schwarber didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t finish all the beer first.  

David Ross chimed in, raising his voice loud enough so Schwarber and a group of reporters could hear him inside the visiting clubhouse: “You should have shotgunned it and then went over there and found him.

“I tell you what: I’d hate to try to wrap up Kyle Schwarber. I guarantee you that whoever threw that beer doesn’t want (any) part of Kyle Schwarber. I promise you that one.”

That was the rookie orientation before Schwarber: blasted five playoff home runs that October; suffered a devastating knee injury that almost wiped out his entire 2016 season; made a dramatic return to the World Series; and experienced newfound fame and fortune that would change his life forever.

Mess with Schwarber? That aura of invincibility is gone after his detour to Triple-A Iowa before the All-Star break. But the first-place Cubs will take Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the White Sox as another sign that he is almost back, yet another reason why the defending champs look ready to continue this second-half surge. 

“I told him that if he had a couple more push-ups in there, he would have had three homers tonight, but we’ll take a triple,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said afterward. “Schwarber’s been swinging the bat great since he’s been back.”

No doubt, the Cubs caught the sell-mode White Sox at the right time during the final days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Even in going 3-for-4 and blasting his 16th and 17th home runs – which traveled 814 feet combined at Guaranteed Rate Field – Schwarber is still only hitting .191 with 90 strikeouts in 79 games this season.     

But the Cubs have always given Schwarber the benefit of the doubt and will point to his big personality and encouraging numbers since his Triple-A reset ended on July 6, getting on base almost 37 percent of the time and hitting safely in 10 of 13 games with five homers, three doubles and that triple.

“Retrospectively, we should not have expected that much,” manager Joe Maddon admitted. “I’m guilty of that kind of a narrative or a dialogue also, because I was really eager to watch him play a full season of Major League Baseball.

“But the guy missed the whole season and did really well in a small window of time at the end of the year. So maybe my expectations exceeded what they should have been.

“I do believe he is that good. I do believe you’re going to come back and see him play at the level we anticipated. But he might have just needed more time. And we just didn’t recognize that.

“I might have been as guilty as anybody regarding the promotion of that. But I believe in him fully. I know it’s going to happen. There’s been some really good major-league hitters that have gone through the same thing.” 

At this point, the Cubs (54-47) would love to see what kind of wrecking ball Schwarber could be for a half-season. To his credit, Schwarber has been the same throughout all the ups and downs, someone who looks and sounds like a guy you would drink tall boys with.

“I just want to worry about putting the barrel on the ball,” Schwarber said. “I’m just trying to stay within myself, be short (with my swing) and it’s paying off.”