How does Hoke have anything to do with the White Sox, you may ask? Well, I'm glad you all asked. Aside from a number of Michigan fans living on the South Side of Chicago finding euphoric joy when Hoke leads the Wolverines to a BCS Title in 2012, he really doesn't have a baseball connection. So, let's celebrate Hoke's hiring as we return immediately to White Sox concerns.
Are the White Sox interested in bringing back Freddy Garcia for long relief and his availability to start when someone gets hurt, or to be a starter from the get-go if Chris Sale closes and Jake Peavy is not back yet? Is Garcia interested in that? Go Blue! I actually don't follow college sports, but I want to get printed.
-- Aryeh B., Jerusalem, Israel
If we had a trending topic in this week's Inbox questions, it would be Garcia's availability. There is no Major League team who knows Garcia better than the White Sox. Let's face it -- other organizations might have cut Garcia loose last March after his disastrous Spring Training, but the White Sox never doubted Garcia would be ready when the games counted, and the veteran truly rewarded the White Sox faith.
With that knowledge in mind, the White Sox fully understand Garcia is not meant to be a long reliever at this stage of his career. Garcia is a starting pitcher, an extremely capable pitcher even though his stuff isn't as electric as it once was. Garcia simply knows how to pitch and how to win. So unless there's a chance for a regular rotation spot for Garcia, which I don't see arising, I don't see Garcia returning to the White Sox. He will get the opportunity to earn a starting job somewhere.
Why didn't Alex Rios attend SoxFest last year and why isn't he on the list so far this year?
-- Mark, Chicago
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Rios had a family commitment this year, so he will be missing SoxFest. Remember, this is the players' offseason, and while they are preparing for the upcoming regular season, they also are spending time with their families and trying to make the most of this break before the intensity ratchets up a notch.
Take Gavin Floyd, for example. He and his wife just welcomed their first child into the world, so they will not be in Chicago next weekend. Or take a look at Peavy, who might not be able to get in for SoxFest because he doesn't want to disrupt the rehab program he's currently on to come back from the detached latissimus dorsi muscle suffered last year.
"Right now, he's assessing his rehab and is still a question," said White Sox senior director of community relations Christine O'Reilly of Peavy.
Even if the White Sox don't add another player before next Friday, they have one of the best lineups I can remember in recent years for SoxFest 2011.
Assuming the White Sox keep 12 pitchers, then the final two roster spots are between Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Brett Morel, Brent Lillibridge and Alejandro De Aza. Who do you think makes it? I'm hoping De Aza. Who are the final three pitchers if Peavy is on the disabled list? What will Mark Teahen's role be?
-- Brian, Neb.
Barring something completely unexpected, such as a really poor spring, you can take Morel off that roster bubble. I expect 12 pitchers, meaning young hurlers such as Lucas Harrell, Gregory Infante and Anthony Carter will be competing for two spots if Peavy is not ready to break camp.
Factoring in the nine position player starters, including Adam Dunn at designated hitter and Morel at third, then there are four spots available. Those four will go to Omar Vizquel, Ramon Castro, Teahen and my guess is Lillibridge, who can play both infield and outfield and runs well. The team does like De Aza, and it also is very high on Jordan Danks' dominant outfield defense. Flowers will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte.
Teahen will play the part of super-sub. He'll get looks at third, first, right field and DH during the course of the season.
How do you see the lineup looking this season? Rios looked very comfortable hitting third. However, he could be the guy who splits up some of the slow baserunners. Is there any player with a little more speed that you see hitting between Paul Konerko, Dunn, and A.J. Pierzynski?
-- Ryan, Munster, Ind.
Judging by manager Ozzie Guillen's offseason comments, I would look for Konerko leading off. Just kidding.
The lineup now looks like Juan Pierre, Gordon Beckham, Dunn, Konerko, Rios, Pierzynski, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez and Morel. The middle of the lineup could change a bit, but Guillen wants to use Rios in more of a run-producing slot.
Joe Crede is healthy. Why not sign him to a one-year deal? He's an All-Star.
-- Jack, Lexington, Ky.
Interesting idea, Jack. And while Scott Boras, Crede's representative, declared at the Winter Meetings how the third baseman was healthy and ready to resume his career, you wonder if Crede would accept a Minor League deal or a low-base salary with incentives. I haven't heard much mention of him since this statement in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
My last talk with Crede was two playoffs removed, when he was with the Twins, and he talked about his back feeling great at that point. As for Crede being an All-Star, let's just say that when healthy, nobody was better than Crede defensively at third base. He also had come into his own offensively before the back problems really cranked up.
Remember, though, the White Sox really like Morel, who is very slick in his own right at third and will hit at the Major League level. Teahen also is in play at third base, as is Viciedo, to some extent.
With the addition of Will Ohman, if the White Sox were to trade one of their starters to free up room for Sale and potentially sign Rafael Soriano, who would they trade and what would be some possible destinations?
-- Steve, Harrisonburg, Va.
A form of this question seems to come up for every weekly Inbox, most likely because Soriano clearly would improve the best of bullpens. And make no mistake, with Sale in the bullpen, the White Sox relief crew is very strong.
But with Peavy's return date still uncertain, trading any established starter from the White Sox rotation weakens an area made somewhat tenuous by injury. Pitching coach Don Cooper talked as far back as early November to MLB.com about his desire to keep Sale in the bullpen and not give him a split starter/reliever responsibility. In talking to Cooper recently, that idea hasn't changed.
So I would look for the 2011 rotation to consist of Mark Buehrle, Floyd, John Danks and Edwin Jackson, with any number of options being available to temporarily replace Peavy. Although general manager Ken Williams has said he has looked at possibilities with the rotation in case the team has to "get creative," I don't see the starters changing.
Will this year's team hit 200 home runs?
-- Jay, Golf, Ill.
Look for the combination of Dunn and Konerko to hit 200 home runs between them. Maybe Dunn will do it on his own. In all seriousness, the White Sox should surpass 200 home runs after finishing with 177 in 2010. The key factor is they shouldn't lose the speed quotient leading to 160 stolen bases last year.
To win in U.S. Cellular Field consistently without the power potential just won't happen. Having that speed/power balance, though, makes the White Sox offense a viable force anywhere, even against the best of pitching.