Chicago White Sox: 2014 spring training

Guerra optioned as closer choice looms

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
1:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox still aren’t saying who their closer will be, but the situation became at least a little clearer Friday when right-hander Javy Guerra was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

The White Sox had claimed Guerra off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday and, since he has some closer experience, he was lumped into the group of pitchers who might be asked to wrap up victories this season. Opening Day is Monday when the White Sox play host to the Minnesota Twins in a 3:10 p.m. CST start.

With Guerra now out of the picture, at least for the time being, the closer role appears to be down to Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb. All three missed time early in the spring and nobody has stood out as a clear-cut choice.

Jones seems likely to get the job eventually, even if he doesn’t start the season as the closer. Lindstrom saved 23 games for the Houston Astros in 2010. Webb was the longer shot on the board with just nine games of major league experience but remained an intriguing candidate.

Jones opened the spring with a gluteus muscle strain and the first appearance of his high 90-mph fastball in Cactus League action was delayed. In eight Arizona appearances he posted a 2.35 ERA while striking out eight of the 32 batters he faced. He did walk three batters in a single outing, though.

Lindstrom was delayed the longest this spring because of an oblique injury. He had one minor setback in his recovery but was able to make three Arizona appearances while posting a 3.00 ERA. He faced 10 batters and struck out two of them.

Webb missed the opening week of action after a death in his family. He returned to post a 2.57 ERA over seven outings and struck out six of the 28 batters he faced.

At the close of Cactus League play on Thursday manager Robin Ventura told reporters in Arizona that his decision on the role was “still a work in progress.”

The three candidates are vying to be the successor to former closer Addison Reed, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter. Reed won the role in 2012 but didn’t start out with it that season as Hector Santiago had been named the closer out of spring training.

By sending Guerra down, the bullpen appears set. The White Sox don't have to finalize a roster until Sunday, but they appear to be leaning toward a relief corps of Ronald Belisario, Miakel Cleto, Scott Downs, Jones, Lindstrom, Donnie Veal and Webb.

Final roster comes into focus

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
6:27
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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The latest news out of Arizona suggests the Chicago White Sox are closing in on an Opening Day roster.

Reports indicate that the club will begin the season with Gordon Beckham (oblique) and Jeff Keppinger (shoulder) on the disabled list. Marcus Semien will start the season at second base, while Leury Garcia will make the club as a utility infielder.

The White Sox’s roster now appears to be down to 26 players, with the final cut expected to be made in the bullpen. Here is how those 26 players shape up with five days remaining before the final 25 take the field for Opening Day:

Starting pitchers

Chris Sale, Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson, John Danks.

Relief pitchers

Ronald Belisario, Maikel Cleto, Scott Downs, Javy Guerra, Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, Donnie Veal, Daniel Webb.

Catchers

Tyler Flowers, Adrian Nieto.

Infielders

Adam Dunn, Jose Abreu, Leury Garcia, Conor Gillaspie, Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, Marcus Semien.

Outfielders

Alejandro De Aza, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Dayan Viciedo.

The White Sox’s final roster is due Sunday. The season begins Monday in Chicago against the Minnesota Twins in a 3:05 p.m. start at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale is scheduled to take the mound for the White Sox opposite the Twins’ Ricky Nolasco.

Ventura sets Sox's rotation order

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
3:36
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Sometimes teams roll out their five best starters in that order, while sometimes it's a matter of setting a schedule that provides better balance.

Consider the Chicago White Sox as part of the latter strategy as manager Robin Ventura set his rotation for the start of the season by not only breaking up the three left-handers, but also making sure his most dependable starters aren't pitching back-to-back.

The White Sox appear poised to go with Chris Sale in Monday's opener, followed by Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson and John Danks.

"You are breaking up the lefties but also the righties in there," Ventura told reporters in Arizona. "You feel solid with that. I think Johnny could be anywhere in there, right behind Chris. I feel good."

Pitching coach Don Cooper said early in camp that he liked the idea of separating Sale and Quintana, his most dependable starters, who both reached the 200-inning mark last season. With them separated, it has less of a chance of taxing the bullpen on consecutive days.

With the bullpen getting off to a slow start this spring, taking that group into consideration when it came time to make a rotation was key. Ronald Belisario was late to camp with visa issues, Daniel Webb missed time after a death in the family, Mitchell Boggs was released, and Nate Jones (strained gluteus muscle) and Matt Lindstrom (oblique) dealt with nagging injuries.

While Quintana has struggled much of the spring and Danks is still just 18 months removed from shoulder surgery, it was Paulino and Johnson who provided the most questions. Paulino hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2012 because of elbow and shoulder surgeries and Johnson only has five games of big-league experience.

"I think yesterday with Erik the way he went out there (Monday), he feels stronger about that," Ventura said. "Just watching him perform yesterday, I feel good about them."

Despite some of the rotation uncertainties, the White Sox aren't expected to carry a long man in the bullpen, at least at the start of the season. The best candidate for that role, right-hander Dylan Axelrod, has already been re-assigned to minor-league camp.

Axelrod fit that job best because the White Sox want to keep guys like Chris Beck, Andre Rienzo, Charlie Leesman and Eric Surkamp stretched out in the minor leagues in case they are needed to fill in on the major league roster.

The White Sox believe that much of Quintana's issues this spring were related to ongoing contract negotiations. He agreed to a five-year extension Monday with two team options that could take the deal to $48.5 million and the White Sox hope that will ease his mind.

Combined with the extension Sale agreed to last spring, the team's two best starters are locked in for at least the next four seasons. This club now hopes a guy like Johnson can join the core of dependable young starters and give the team that much more certainty moving forward.

After Danks pitches, the rotation returns back to Sale. While that puts two lefties back-to-back, the control-oriented, change-of-pace style of Danks varies enough from the hard-throwing, sweeping-slider style of Sale that the expectation is that teams shouldn't be able to settle into a comfort zone.

For Sale, it will be his second consecutive Opening Day start. Danks started the 2012 opener. Before that, Mark Buehrle opened nine of the 10 previous seasons on the mound.

Sale will be matched up against the Minnesota Twins' Ricky Nolasco for Monday's 3:10 p.m. scheduled contest at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale made just two starts against the Twins last season, going 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA. Over his career he is 4-1 against Minnesota with a 2.20 ERA.

Umbrellas in forecast for Opening Day

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
2:36
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – As Opening Day gets closer, the weather forecast only seems to get worse.

Where once the extended forecast showed temperatures in the mid 50-degree range with partly cloudy skies for Monday, the latest check at weather.com showed a 40-percent chance of rain showers. Monday’s opener against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field is scheduled for a 3:10 p.m. local start.

The best day of the next 10 seems to be Sunday where temps in the low 60s are expected with partly cloudy skies. The White Sox are expected to have a workout at U.S. Cellular Field that day.

Because early-season weather is often volatile, early makeup dates are worked into the schedule. As a precaution, the White Sox have an off day Tuesday that they can use if Monday’s opener gets rained out.

Tuesday’s forecast is actually worse, though, with a rain/snow mix expected with high temperatures not even predicted to reach 40 degrees.

Projecting the Opening Day lineup

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
2:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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As big league camp grows smaller, the Chicago White Sox's Opening Day lineup is starting to come into focus.

One major question remaining: Will Gordon Beckham be ready to take the field on March 31 when the White Sox open against the Minnesota Twins?

Not to doubt Beckham's ability to overcome injury, but he is dealing with an oblique issue, which tends to be the trickiest of problems. Even after discomfort subsides, oblique injuries tend to still need a week or more of rest to avoid a setback.

If Beckham starts the season on the DL, his time could be backdated so that he doesn't even have to be out a full week. But somebody will have to start the first few games at second base, leaving the White Sox with the option of Leury Garcia, Marcus Semien and Micah Johnson.

Johnson is the only one of the three not on the 40-man roster so the decision figures to be down to Semien and Garcia. Semien was batting .317 with a .429 on-base percentage, but he has spent most of the spring on the left side of the infield. Garcia is batting .258 with a .361 OPB, but has seen more time at second and could offer a speed element at the bottom of the order at least for a few days until Beckham returns.

The top of the order is set with center fielder Adam Eaton, and even before Beckham was injured, Alexei Ramirez looked set for the No. 2 spot. The heart of the order is where the White Sox have options.

Jose Abreu's ability to hit to all fields mixed with his power potential would make him a solid option in the No. 3 spot, although there remains concern over his lack of experience. Not only has Abreu not played on the major league level, he hasn't taken an at-bat in the minor leagues either.

Manager Robin Ventura also has a decision to make at the designated-hitter spot. The Twins will send right-hander Ricky Nolasco to the mound in the opener so the left-handed hitting Adam Dunn seems to make sense. But this is Paul Konerko's final season and Ventura could go the nostalgic route.

On the back end of the order, if Beckham was available he would likely hit in the No. 8 spot. If Garcia or Semien have to fill in at second base, they would likely bat ninth with Tyler Flowers moving into the No. 8 spot.

The White Sox's projected Opening Day lineup (assuming Beckham doesn't play):

Adam Eaton, CF
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Jose Abreu, 1B
Adam Dunn, DH
Avisail Garcia, RF
Dayan Viciedo, LF
Conor Gillaspie, 3B
Tyler Flowers, C
Marcus Semien, 2B

Avisail Garcia would seem to be the better option at the cleanup spot, but by using Dunn there it breaks up the left-handed batters a little better. The left-handed hitting Eaton would be followed by two right-handed hitters, then the lefty Dunn and two more right-handed hitters leading to the lefty Gillaspie.

Like with the decision between Dunn and Konerko, Ventura could go with the left-handed hitting Alejandro De Aza in left field over Viciedo. The sense, though, is that Viciedo will get the first chance to establish himself in left, and if he struggles after an undetermined amount of time, then a platoon could start with De Aza.

What can be expected of the White Sox on offense this season? As far as spring goes, through Sunday's play they were in the upper half of all teams in baseball with a .276 batting average (11th) and a .422 slugging percentage (13th), but are in the latter half in on-base percentage (.325, 16th) and runs scored (117, 18th).

The regular season could tell a different story, but things are at least improved. Last season, the White Sox were 29th in runs scored (598), 19th in batting average (.249), 27th in OBP (.302) and 25th in slugging percentage (.378).

White Sox make five roster moves

March, 23, 2014
Mar 23
4:21
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
The Chicago White Sox trimmed their roster down to 33 before Sunday’s game, making five roster moves.

Outfielder Jordan Danks, third baseman Matt Davidson and pitcher Jake Petricka were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte while pitcher Dylan Axelrod was reassigned to minor league camp.

The Sox also placed pitcher Randall Boggs on waivers for the purpose of granting him an unconditional release.

The Sox’s major league camp now has 14 pitchers, three catchers, 11 infielders and five outfielders.

Phegley, Rienzo among latest moves

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
3:41
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Roster moves are getting more significant now, although still not unexpected, as catcher Josh Phegley and right-hander Andre Rienzo were among those sent packing Wednesday from major league camp.

Phegley, Rienzo and left-hander Eric Surkamp all were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, while right-handers Chris Beck and Cody Winiarski, along with infielder Andy Wilkins, were reassigned to minor league camp.

Phegley’s move comes just days after manager Robin Ventura said that Tyler Flowers would be the Opening Day catcher. Instead of using Phegley as the backup, the White Sox want him to get everyday at-bats in the minor leagues so that he can he can be ready if needed.

“I’m going to get my opportunities down the road; I know that, I believe in that,” Phegley told reporters in Arizona. “Today wasn’t a complete shock (after) I heard that Flowers was named the starter. In my heart I believe I’m a starting catcher. I need to get my at-bats and keep getting better. I’m 26 so I feel I have a long career ahead of me.”

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Quintana has more spring struggles

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
6:05
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jose QuintanaAP Photo/Paul SancyaJose Quintana faced nine batters and did not record an out before he was lifted Tuesday.

The Chicago White Sox’s second best starter, who was expected to get the No. 4 spot in the 2014 rotation, was as bad as they get Tuesday during his Cactus League outing.

Jose Quintana faced nine Oakland Athletics batters and did not record an out before he was lifted after throwing 36 pitches. He gave up seven hits and two walks and now has two starts this spring when he didn’t make it out of the first inning. On March 8, he faced only two batters when he was hit in the lower left leg by a comebacker.

His ERA ballooned from 16.50 to a whopping 30.00 and he officially has just six innings pitched this spring in four starts.

“It’s a bad day for me,” Quintana told reporters in Arizona. “That’s the first time I went through the whole lineup without making an out. I made a couple mistakes, but I will continue my preparation and be ready for the season.”

Now the left-hander has just two spring outings remaining to prepare for the start of the season. If he pitches again in five more days, his next start would be Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.

By staying on that schedule, his final outing would be March 28. He could pitch in the White Sox’s last tune-up game against their Double-A affiliate in Birmingham that day, or he could remain behind in Arizona and pitch in a minor-league game.

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Sox's system is loaded at second base

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
12:25
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Say what you want about the level of talent in the Chicago White Sox's farm system -- and many baseball analysts have taken their shots -- but second base is where the organization has no shortage of rising young players.

Guys like Micah Johnson, Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Leury Garcia all are considered viable options at second base for the future.

And with the oblique injury to Gordon Beckham, that will sideline the second baseman for a week and possibly more, there will be plenty of at-bats in upcoming Cactus League games for the next generation of middle infielders.

Johnson and Garcia add blazing speed to their overall package, Semien adds more of a power element along with the versatility to play shortstop and third base, while Sanchez was having arguably the best big league camp of anybody while batting .538 (7-for-13) before he was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

Stockpiling middle infield talent continues to be one of the bigger challenges for organizations. While shortstop talent is most desired, a lack of second-base talent can send teams scrambling for options.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have recently signed Cuban middle infielders. In October, the Dodgers added Alex Guerrero on a four-year, $28 million contract, while earlier this month the Cardinals added Aledmys Diaz on a four-year deal for around $8 million.

"It's tough to find middle infielders in the draft," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "There are only a couple every year that are true middle infielders, and you're not always going to have the chance to draft them. For us having the opportunity to sign a middle infielder (in Guerrero) with his age and his experience at the international level we thought it was worth it."

The Dodgers went as far as to double up on Cuban middle infielders, also signing shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena to a five-year deal.

The White Sox have Garcia and Semien who can play shortstop, but neither is considered to be the defensive equivalent of Alexei Ramirez. The White Sox did draft junior college shortstop Tim Anderson in the first round last year.

While Anderson remains plenty of years away, a new second baseman could be in place as soon as next season. Beckham will make $4.175 million this season and could be in the $6 million range next year, which is his last of arbitration eligibility. Beckham reaches free agency in 2016.

It isn't impossible that Beckham could be traded this season to a team in need of second base help, especially if the White Sox have come to the conclusion that will be headed in a new direction anyway next year.

If the White Sox have shown anything this past offseason it is that they aren't afraid to make trades from an area of strength. With four left-handers in the rotation, they moved one early this winter for an upgrade in center field and in the leadoff spot when lefty Hector Santiago was part of the deal that brought back Adam Eaton.

And with Nate Jones emerging as a closer for the future, the White Sox went ahead and traded closer Addison Reed for third baseman Matt Davidson.

Johnson, Semien, Sanchez and Garcia all are coming, with one of them likely to take over at second soon, and maybe one or more used in trade packages to land talent in other areas.

Axelrod chips away toward new role

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
5:15
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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If it’s a long reliever the Chicago White Sox need, Dylan Axelrod has already shown this spring that he could be the right man for the job.

The crafty right-hander, who was a non-roster invitee to spring training, fired three scoreless innings in a start against the Cleveland Indians on Friday and has given up just one run in eight innings over three Cactus League outings.

Before fading badly down the stretch last season, Axelrod was able to give the White Sox some solid innings. He made 20 starts, posting a solid 3.95 ERA over the first month in five outings. His ERA went up every month form there, though, until he posted an 11.32 ERA in four July outings.

He was essentially reduced to a mop-up relief role from there, although he did get two September starts.

Because he faded so significantly, the White Sox might be more comfortable using his skill set out of a long relief role. Axelrod is proving he is fresh again, putting together a spring that is as solid as the one he delivered last year.

One more reason the long-relief role makes sense for Axelrod is that it would allow guys such as Charlie Leesman, Andre Rienzo and Eric Surkamp to remain stretched out as starters at Triple-A Charlotte.

Manager Robin Ventura has already said the team sees the value of a long reliever. And if Felipe Paulino and Erik Johnson end up making the Opening Day rotation, Axelrod could end up getting a fair amount of work as those two settle into their roles. Paulino hasn’t pitched since 2012 because of injury, and Johnson is a rookie.

There is still no 'I' in Konerko

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
4:10
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Paul KonerkoAP Photo/Paul SancyaIt's business as usual for Paul Konerko as he enters his final season with the White Sox.
Paul Konerko has turned a selfless approach on the field into one of the more productive careers in Chicago White Sox history, yet a subset of the fan base isn’t on board with his decision to have one last hurrah in 2014.

One critique is that Konerko, 38, is past his prime and more of a liability than asset. Another refrain is that he is taking a roster spot from a younger player. The most pronounced denouncement is that his return has bogged down the roster with three plodding first base types in himself, Adam Dunn and newcomer Jose Abreu.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Paul SancyaPaul Konerko will have a more limited role this season.
Konerko considered all of those issues for more than two months when he pondered his next move following the end of the 2013 season. On one hand was retirement and all the family rewards it would bring, and on the other was one last season to experience the sense of team and be wide-eyed at the idea that he could appreciate every trip to the plate, every trip to a visiting ballpark and every tour of a road city for the last time.

If coming back for one last season on a 400 percent pay cut while probably getting 300 fewer at-bats was going to be considered selfish by some, well, then he was fine with that, especially since he consulted teammates who would be affected by his return and the club opened the door to him putting on the uniform again.

Even when an act might look selfish at face value, Konerko still goes about it in the most selfless way possible.

“I’ve played a long time, but I’ve never gone through a season where you know, ‘OK, this is the end of it,’ so how that all unfolds and how you feel at different moments, you’ll just have to wait and see,” Konerko said at the start of spring training. “I’ll try to give as honest answers and be as up front with it as I can as we go. But I can’t possibly answer how I’m going to feel in June or August. It’s tough for me. I don’t know.

“It’s the first time I’m going through this, and the last time. But I definitely have some thoughts on things as far as stuff you want to take in along the way that’s alongside the baseball stuff, but just stuff you know, ‘OK, this is the last time I’m going to do this and I need to take advantage of it.’ I have some thoughts on that kind of stuff, but nothing that’s going to get in the way of doing the job.”

In the end, it’s about the job. Of course it is. This is Paul Konerko.

Yet some still aren’t on board with a conscientious hard worker who thrives on team more than self, who remained loyal despite offers of more money on two separate contract negotiation periods, won the MVP in the 2005 American League Championship Series and had the sense at the pinnacle of his career (the final out of the ’05 World Series) to hide the ball and present it to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who cried at the thoughtfulness of the simple gift.

TEENAGE FAN CLUB


Most fans are appreciative that Konerko is returning, of course. At least that’s how it seems. Perhaps it’s simply the cheers for every Konerko at-bat at sparsely attended Cactus League games that overwhelm the groans of those who can’t see the point.

At least two major league managers are thrilled to see Konerko give it one last go-round. The Milwaukee Brewers' Ron Roenicke and the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Scioscia have probably known Konerko longer than anybody in the White Sox organization.

As a 19-year-old in 1995, Konerko played at Single-A San Bernardino of the California League a year after being drafted in the first round (13th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Roenicke was the San Bernardino manager that year and Scioscia was the club’s roving catching instructor. It was the final season Konerko would catch.

The stats from that season don’t exactly leap off the page. Konerko hit 19 home runs with 77 RBIs and had a .277 batting average with a .455 slugging percentage. But he showed he could put the ball in play, striking out 88 times in 519 plate appearances.

What has stuck with both current managers most was a single moment in that year’s California League championship series when Roenicke operated on a hunch and Konerko unflinchingly delivered.

“It was first and second and nobody out in the game they clinched (the title) and Ron just asked him, ‘Can you bunt?’” Scioscia said. “He said, ‘Sure,’ and he put down a perfect sacrifice bunt. I think that’s what Paul’s about. I think he’s always been a winner. He has a deep understanding of the game, a deep passion for the game.”

Konerko still has a vivid recollection of the moment too, although his isn’t as much about having that deep understanding as much as it was having a respect for authority.

“I was 19 years old,” he said. “At that point, I don’t even know how professional baseball works or anything about it. I’m just learning it. A coach asks you to bunt, a manager asks you to bunt, you bunt. I never thought anything about, ‘Oh geez, I hit some home runs this year, this isn’t right.’ I never thought along those lines.

“I’m not sure if I was even swinging the bat well at the time. That could have played into it. But I also know I never really bunted, either, so it was kind of a bold call. Luckily the guy threw a fastball right down the middle and it was about the easiest pitch you can bunt, and I got it down.”

Roenicke remembers Konerko’s approach well from that one season together, and the longevity of the White Sox’s captain doesn’t surprise him.

“He has a really good head,” Roenicke said. “He can help your younger players and how you should think and approach the things at the plate. And he gets how to hit. He can drive the ball out of any part of the ballpark, which helps, but he understands what a hitter needs to do to be successful at this level and how you make adjustments.”

Both men saw it firsthand in 2005 with Roenicke as the Angels’ bench coach sitting right next to Scioscia in the dugout. While the White Sox’s starting pitching got the most acclaim that series for delivering four consecutive complete games against the Angels, Konerko was the offensive star, delivering a home run in Games 3 and 4 and finishing the series with seven RBIs.

“It’s what guys do when the games are on the line,” Roenicke said. “I know at the end of the season you can look at the numbers and see a guy has 25 homers, 90 RBIs, but how much did they have an impact on your team? When you need him, what does he do? There are some guys that put up great numbers and they really don’t make a big difference on winning or losing. Konerko made a big difference. When the game was on the line and you needed a hit, he gave you a great at-bat. Those are the guys you want on your team.”

THE LITTLE THINGS


Despite some physical limitations, Konerko has delivered with the best of them. His slow foot speed is obvious and his range on defense isn’t exactly up there with the best first basemen in the game. His catching career actually ended before he turned 20 because he wasn’t flexible enough in his hips to get into a proper crouch.

Offensively, though, he hardly seemed limited. His 427 home runs are second in franchise history to Frank Thomas' 448. He is also second to Thomas in RBIs with 1,361, third in doubles with 398 and third in hits with 2,249, behind Nellie Fox (2,470) and Luke Appling (2,749).

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhPaul Konerko's 427 home runs and 1,361 RBIs are second in franchise history to Frank Thomas.
Konerko insists that the success is in the details. That old adage of watching the pennies and letting the dollars fall into place was how Konerko approached his baseball career.

“There aren’t too many times during a season that lend itself to have a chance to show [selfless play],” Konerko said. “There are a lot of things I can’t do. When you’re a guy who can run or steal bases or play shortstop and do all those things, there are many moments throughout the season when you can do the little things more to help and be noticed with those things.

“For a guy like me it usually comes down to a guy on second, nobody out trying to get that guy over. If there is a guy on second and you’re on defense, you try to dive and stop a ball from going into the outfield. Everybody up here can play, everybody up here has talent, but unless you’re going to be some superstar and will hit 50 home runs and drive in 120 runs every year, it’s those little things that will build your value as a player and make teams want to keep you or make teams want you.”

A slow-footed player who got the most out of his ability also describes Scioscia. And the two could have been united in Southern California had Konerko accepted more money and moved to the Angels following the 2005 season.

“Naturally, we would have loved to have signed Paul, but in that process we even gained more respect for him because he made the decisions for the right reasons,” Scioscia said. “He wasn’t out chasing the most money. He wasn’t out looking for the most notoriety. In the end he stayed in Chicago because of loyalty, because of a comfort level and thinking that he had the opportunity to repeat and win a championship there. I think that’s what Paul is about.”

He’s back now and ready to wear the uniform one last time, at peace with that decision and not willing to apologize to those who think this is an improper fit. His conscientious approach to each at-bat and keen awareness of his limitations give him the ideal mindset for coming off the bench in the late innings or grabbing a start after a week of pinch-hitting duties.

As a compromise for delaying his family-man status or one final year, he will bring his wife and three kids on more road trips than ever before. And it typical Konerko fashion, he says those family trips will still take a backseat to his team requirements.

Konerko doesn’t want to sail away with the stench of the 99-loss 2013 season lingering in the air. So he’s doing this one last time, on his terms -- sort of. He’s doing it the best way his conscience will allow him to.

And please, no gifts.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings; I don’t want to come off like I don’t care, but anybody that has been around me knows it’s just not something that’s really important to me as far as the moments of people recognizing you,” Konerko said. “Maybe I’ll take it in a little more than I normally would. Certainly off the field with the guys on the road and the traveling and family stuff, there’s going to be more stuff that goes on than in a normal year that I’ll do on my own.

“I’ll just have to wait and see how that all plays out. I’m definitely not asking for it. I appreciate it, but it’s certainly not necessary. There’s only a handful of guys every year that you know their situation, but I appreciate it. I’m pretty focused when I come into work every day. I always try to do things the same as it was 10 years ago.”

White Sox make three more moves

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
12:00
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago White Sox’s major league locker room shrunk by three more players Friday as moves were made in advance of the Cactus League game against the Cleveland Indians.

Right-hander Nestor Molina, left-hander Frank De Los Santos and infielder Carlos Sanchez all were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte.

The moves leave 44 players in big league camp: 21 pitchers, four catchers, 13 infielders and six catchers.

Sale has fifth best Cy Young odds

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
1:45
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Chris Sale finished sixth in the Cy Young Award voting in 2012 and fifth in 2013, and according to the betting odds this year, he isn’t projected to move any higher.

According to the betting website bovada.com, the Chicago White Sox's Opening Day starter has the fifth best odds of winning the 2014 Cy Young Award at 12-to-1, tied with the Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Moore and the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander.

The Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish is considered the odds-on favorite at 8-to-1, while the Tampa Rays’ David Price is second at 9-to-1. The Boston Red Sox's Clay Buchholz and the Tigers’ Max Scherzer are tied for third at 10-to-1.

Sale’s first two years in the White Sox rotation have been an unquestioned success. He is 28-22 in 59 career starts with the White Sox, but his success in that role is better reflected in his 3.06 ERA as a member of the rotation.

When he became a starter, the move was done to make him the left-handed mainstay in the rotation after the departure of Mark Burhele. As for Buehrle’s Cy Young odds this season, the Toronto Blue Jays lefty is listed at 75-to-1

Of the 26 position players whose odds were listed for AL MVP, none were members of the White Sox. The Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout is the favorite at 5-to-1, while the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is next at 6-to-1. The 26th player on that list is the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter at 100-to-1.

Bullpen moves to top of worry list

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
1:02
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Nate JonesAP Photo/Paul SancyaNate Jones is back on the mound after missing time with a gluteus muscle strain.


While they had questions on offense, defense, base running, third base and catcher when the spring began, yet another group now is requiring the most attention for the Chicago White Sox.

The club isn’t in a bullpen crisis, exactly, but it is clear that after a week and a half of Cactus League games, there remains a ton of work to do with the relief corps.

Mitchell Boggs is struggling, Scott Downs hasn’t looked sharp yet, Nate Jones and Daniel Webb have barely pitched and Ronald Belisario and Matt Lindstrom haven’t even taken the mound. Belisario, a late arrival because of visa issues in his native Venezuela, is scheduled to pitch in his first game Thursday.

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White Sox make eight roster moves

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
11:49
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago White Sox made eight roster moves in advance of Tuesday's Cactus League game against the San Francisco Giants, leaving 47 players remaining in major league camp.

Left-handed pitcher Charlie Leesman, who pitched in eight games with the White Sox last season (one start), was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Outfielders Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson were optioned to Double-A Birmingham.

Five players were reassigned to minor-league camp: Catcher Miguel Gonzalez, right-handers Deunte Heath and Omar Poveda, left-hander Scott Snodgress and outfielder Keenyn Walker. Those players will have their minor-league teams decided at a later time.

Of the 47 remaining players in big league camp, 23 are pitches, four are catchers, 14 are infielders and six are outfielders.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.20 198 168
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Abreu .319
HRJ. Abreu 35
RBIJ. Abreu 103
RA. Ramirez 78
OPSJ. Abreu .975
ERAC. Sale 2.20
SOC. Sale 198