Notes: Sox favor carrying extra pitchers

Notes: Sox favor carrying extra pitchers

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Don Cooper always will fall on the side of White Sox pitchers if given the option between carrying an extra fielder or 11 or 12 pitchers.

But the White Sox pitching coach believes taking an unusually high total of 12 pitchers to Chicago, a possibility discussed previously by both general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, will best serve the franchise's repeat purpose in 2006.

"The strength of our team last year was the pitching staff, and keeping those guys healthy can't be understated," Cooper said after watching his pitchers throw Saturday. "What became even more of a strength for us was when we made the playoffs was our depth. We didn't even have to activate [Brandon] McCarthy.

"Carrying the 12th pitcher gives you a chance to keep things in order and keep people in the bullpen in the spots you really want to see them. Having the extra pitcher is another good way of keeping the pitching staff healthy."

Cooper pointed out that having a 12th pitcher allows the White Sox to give a frequently used reliever an extra day or two of rest. That scenario also could mean taking a starter out after six innings in certain instances and letting the bullpen protect the lead a little longer.

Twelve pitchers is a possibility because of the versatility of utility man Rob Mackowiak, who can play in both the outfield and the infield. Of course, with workhorses such as Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Javier Vazquez and Freddy Garcia in the rotation, that extra arm almost seems to be a wasted roster spot.

"I don't like it," said Buehrle with a wry smile. "I want to be out there as much as I can every five days. I don't know what they are talking about, whether it's 11 or 12 pitchers. Whatever they will do I know is right for the team."

"It gives us more maneuverability," Cooper added. "I would rather have 12."

Left is all right? Despite the desire to carry an extra man in the bullpen, Cooper said Saturday there's no guarantee one of the two remaining relief spots will be filled by a left-hander to join Neal Cotts. With eight lefties battling, though, Cooper would like to think that at least one will step up and earn a job.

"You would like to think there will be a couple of three or four who will jump up and say, 'You really have to give me a look. I'm throwing the ball well and getting guys out,'" Cooper said. "But we aren't going to pin ourselves in a corner, saying we must take a lefty.

"We are going to be taking the 11 or 12 or whatever number we are set on, the 12 best who can get people out. We won't take a lefty for the sake of having a lefty if he's not showing us anything."

Cooper envisions the second lefty as more of a situational to one inning sort of reliever, who could appear in 60 to 70 games.

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Welcome back: Guillen admitted to holding a little bit back from his first speech to the pitchers and catchers prior to Saturday's workout, saving his best baseball oratory for when the full team is together Thursday. But even after winning the World Series in 2005 and capturing 16 of their final 17 games, Guillen's message was one of improvement.

"You win the World Series the year before and all of a sudden you say, 'Hopefully, we're going to have a better team,'" Guillen said. "That sounds silly. How are you going to be better when you won the World Series?

"But I feel a lot better this year. We have six starters. Last year we didn't. We didn't have a few guys in the bullpen. Last year, we had a lot of ,'If, if, if.'

"I just told them that the World Series is over," Guillen added. "We're the 2006 Chicago White Sox, not the 2005."

After winning the championship, Guillen also pointed out that his group no longer has the luxury of flying under the radar and being underestimated. They have to keep the same edge, while every other team tries to knock them off their lofty perch.

"We have six or seven guys who weren't here last year and they are hungry too," Guillen said. "We are still hungry. That's why we build this team to stay hungry."

Back on track: By the end of the 2005 season, Dustin Hermanson had gone from a virtually automatic closer with 34 saves to a father who could barely pick up his young daughter because of severe back pain. An offseason of extensive physical therapy, focused on strengthening his back, has returned the right-hander to Tucson 10 pounds lighter and ready for future late-inning responsibilities.

"It's time to get busy for this year now," said Hermanson, who was in physical therapy three days per week, for two hours per day. "I feel good. I feel healthy."

Staying put: Offseason rumors of a trade involving Contreras shouldn't bother the tough right-hander, according to Guillen. The White Sox manager also mentioned Contreras' name has not come up in any recent conversations with Williams, despite his trade value never being higher.

"Yeah, but I don't think we need that much," Guillen said. "We need him more than we need something else."

Third to first: Garcia's arrival date still was uncertain after his car was stolen, with Guillen planning to call his friend Saturday night in Miami. Guillen wants Garcia in camp as soon as possible, with his departure to Florida coming soon to train with Team Venezuela of the World Baseball Classic. ... Jim Thome impressed Guillen with the few swings the manager witnessed Saturday, especially with his ability to hit the ball the opposite way. ... Position players such as Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik and Brian Anderson have joined Thome in reporting early to Tucson. ... Dale Torborg, the White Sox Minor League conditioning coordinator, passed out shirts to commemorate his December TNA Pay Per View Wrestling appearance with catcher A.J. Pierzynski in Florida. Torborg and Pierzynski are pictured with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan on the front of the shirt, under the word "Basebrawl."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.