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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Hahn's moves take center stage at SoxFest

By Doug Padilla

Rich Hahn
Rick Hahn is ready to face the fans' questions for the first time as GM this weekend at SoxFest.
CHICAGO -- The new guy in charge of fielding the most pressing of fan inquiries at SoxFest this weekend at the Palmer House Hilton, promises just as much energy and enthusiasm as his predecessor.

Yet despite his good intentions, first-year general manager Rick Hahn is going to find it hard to match those sometimes unpredictable exchanges from former GM Kenny Williams.

"I've been up there the last six, seven years doing panels," Hahn said. "Obviously it's a little bit different not being the No. 2 guy or being the assistant (GM), but I look forward to it. People that come out are coming out in the dead of winter to spend their money because they love the White Sox. The least I could do is answer their questions."

Sometimes, though, those questions had a bite to them and Williams would expose his personal defense mechanism.

Take the now infamous 2004 SoxFest when a fan essentially dismissed the roster Williams had comprised to that point and asked what the club was prepared to do in the following year.

"Are you done because I'm about to fire," Williams said in a moment that has become part of SoxFest lore.

"I was sitting next to Kenny and (then manager) Jerry Manuel when that happened and it didn't cross my mind that I might have to stand up between Kenny and the fan," Hahn said with a laugh.

There was no need to intervene, of course. The sparring was only verbal, but it showed the extent Williams was willing to go to defend his moves. For Hahn, he might be questioned on the departure of A.J. Pierzynski, the left-handed bat that has yet to be acquired and a possible future beyond 2013 without Paul Konerko.

"Obviously we're a little different, but we certainly have the ability to get fired up at times and speak honestly," Hahn said about a comparison between him and Williams. "We'll see how it goes. If people feel that strongly, I look forward to hearing from them."

Despite a payroll in the area of $109 million that is expected to be in the upper third of all teams in baseball, not everybody is excited over what seemed to be a quiet winter for the White Sox. Hahn will instead point to the signing of Jake Peavy early in the offseason and the expected April return of John Danks.

There was also the addition of Jeff Keppinger to add versatility on the infield and in the lineup, and the signing of hard-throwing right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom, which could become official as soon as Wednesday.

And Hahn promises he hasn't unplugged the phones while waiting for the regular season to get here.

"We feel good about where we are primarily because of how the pitching staff has shaped up," Hahn said. "It only makes us stronger. And we feel good about the bullpen. While we feel good, we don't feel that we're done by any stretch.

"Our goal is to have the best team come Opening Day and in years past, like in 2005, we acquired (Tadahito) Iguchi after SoxFest. Matt Thornton and Damaso Marte were added after spring training. There is still time to acquire guys to make an impact. We don't look at this as a finished product."

So bring your best questions to SoxFest. Hahn might not have a pending transaction to unveil, but like Williams, he sounds prepared to extol the virtues of the roster he has been building.