NEW YORK -- If the White Sox push toward youth wasn’t evident before, it certainly is now.
With eight rookies already on the roster, the club purchased the contracts of four more first-year players on Tuesday.
The team’s pseudo movement -- one that already includes Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, Andre Rienzo, Jake Petricka and Josh Phegley -- got a boost when manager Robin Ventura announced that Erik Johnson, the organization’s top pitching prospect, would make his major league debut Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
Given their poor position in the standings, the White Sox will evaluate as many young players as possible this month. Also added on Tuesday were infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Miguel Gonzalez and reliever Daniel Webb.
“We're looking forward to continuing to see what our young guys bring to the table,” general manager Rick Hahn said in an email. “The process started a few weeks back with guys like Avi, Rienzo, Leury Garcia, and Petricka, who have been able to take advantage of the opportunities being presented to them. With Erik, Marcus and Daniel now here, even more of our guys should have the chance to show that they are ready to be part of our plans heading into the offseason.”
Just what Hahn has planned for the offseason remains to be seen.
He has already shown he’s willing to break up the roster when he traded Jake Peavy and Alex Rios -- both of whom are under contract for 2014 -- in order to acquire young talent in Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia.
With Paul Konerko’s future uncertain -- he’s a free agent or could retire -- and Adam Dunn headed into the final season of his deal Hahn could go several directions this offseason.
At this point the only players almost certain to start next season with the White Sox are Chris Sale, John Danks and Avisail Garcia.
Therefore the experimentation is underway.
Ventura has tried Leury Garcia at second base and shortstop and Semien might see action at both and third base.
Avisail Garcia has started in center field and right field.
Petricka has pitched in mop-up duty and could see more high-leverage spots as could Webb, 23, who had a 1.87 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings this season. Charlie Leesman has pitched in long relief and could be a spot-starter.
“That’s where we’re at right now,” Ventura said. “You want to get them into as many situations as you can. You’re looking into the future for what they might be doing and what you might need to fill.”
Semien is used to the see-what-works concept.
A sixth-rounder in 2011, he mostly played shortstop in 2012. This season, Semien -- who has a .284 average, 110 runs, 19 homers, 24 steals, 98 walks and 90 strikeouts -- has been tested at other positions in order to expedite his arrival in the majors.
“That was good,” Semien said. “Now I feel comfortable at all of them. … I’m going to be excited whenever I do go in there. Nerves are going to be flowing obviously. But once I get in there, just try to relax and do what I’ve been doing the whole year.”
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The White Sox would be pleased if Johnson can replicate his performance in the minors this season.
The right-hander, a second-round pick in 2011, is 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 24 starts. He has 131 strikeouts in 142 innings and could figure into the team’s 2014 rotation plans.
But before he thinks about next season, Johnson is focused on Wednesday.
“If you ever wanted to start somewhere in your major league debut, this would be it,” Johnson said. “I won’t know the feeling until I get out there, so I’m just looking forward to it. … (Making the rotation in 2014) would be a great opportunity, but you just have to take it start to start and make sure you’re preparing each day before you go out there.”