Spring marks time for White Sox to ante up

Spring marks time for White Sox to ante up

Spring marks time for White Sox to ante up
CHICAGO -- Going "all in" has become the catchphrase, or marketing term, associated with the White Sox as the team approaches Spring Training 2011 with the highest payroll in franchise history.

The players making up this roster and reporting to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., -- with pitchers and catchers first arriving on Feb. 17 -- know the slogan is more than just mere words.

"We joke about it as players, but the whole all-in comment, it really is true," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton, who could become the team's 2011 closer. "We are not cutting any corners. It should be a fun year."

Thornton pointed to the additions of Adam Dunn, Jesse Crain and Will Ohman as obvious important moves, while also mentioning the return of Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Omar Vizquel as crucial to the team's success. In assembling this deep talent balance, the White Sox also didn't subtract anyone from their highly valued starting rotation. "That's really the biggest thing, not having to give up starting pitching," Thornton said.

Detroit and Minnesota certainly remain in the American League Central title picture. But when the White Sox decided to go all in instead of using 2011 as a rebuilding campaign, the division clearly became a three-team race.

"I'm glad they signed the guys they did to compete for this year and not cut payroll and try for a bunch of prospects," White Sox starter Mark Buehrle said.

Pitchers and catchers report

Spring Training
Previews
Pitchers & Catchers

Spring Training links
Spring Training tickets
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Spring Training schedule

Thursday, Feb. 17

Full squad reports

Tuesday, Feb. 22

First Spring Training game

At Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, Monday, Feb. 28, 2:05 p.m. CT

Opening Day

At Indians, Friday, April 1, 2:05 p.m. CT

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

When will Jake Peavy return?
Will Peavy come back to the starting rotation by Opening Day? Will it take him another month or two of the season to get baseball-ready? Those questions are tough to answer at this point, primarily because the detached lat muscle suffered by the right-hander doesn't have a recovery timetable like Tommy John or rotator cuff surgery. Peavy is throwing off a mound and said to be ahead of schedule, but the White Sox will be extremely cautious with his recovery. They understand how valuable a healthy Peavy can be to the team.

Who is on third?
The early favorite appears to be rookie Brent Morel, who impressed the White Sox with his slick defense and ability to hit with authority to all fields during his 2010 September callup. But Mark Teahen enters Spring Training bound and determined to win back the job he held at the start of last season. Having Morel at third and using Teahen as a super-sub all over the field best serves the White Sox, but manager Ozzie Guillen said the third-base job is open entering Spring Training, and Morel certainly is assuming nothing entering Arizona.

What does closing time mean for the White Sox?
Matt Thornton seems more than ready to handle the job as the last line of pitching defense, with just one career blown save in the ninth inning. But Thornton has become All-Star valuable as a setup man, meaning the open closing job might go to hard-throwing Sergio Santos, newcomer Jesse Crain or rookie Chris Sale, unless Sale becomes the April fill-in for Peavy as part of the rotation.

2010 record

88-74, second in the American League Central

Projected batting order

1. LF Juan Pierre:
  .275 BA, .341 OBP, .316 SLG, 1 HR, 47 RBI in 2010
2. 2B Gordon Beckham:
  .252 BA, .317 OBP, .378 SLG, 9 HR, 49 RBI in 2010
3. DH Adam Dunn:
  .260 BA, .356 OBP, .536 SLG, 38 HR, 103 RBI in 2010
4. 1B Paul Konerko:
  .312 BA, .393 OBP, .584 SLG, 39 HR, 111 RBI in 2010
5. CF Alex Rios:
  .284 BA, .334 OBP, .457 SLG, 21 HR, 88 RBI in 2010
6. C A.J. Pierzynski:
  .270 BA, .300 OBP, .388 SLG, 9 HR, 56 RBI in 2010
7. RF Carlos Quentin:
  .243 BA, .342 OBP, .479 SLG, 26 HR, 87 RBI in 2010
8. SS Alexei Ramirez:
  .282 BA, .313 OBP, .431 SLG, 18 HR, 70 RBI in 2010
9. 3B Brent Morel:
  .231 BA, .271 OBP, .415 SLG, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 2010

Projected rotation

1. Mark Buehrle, 13-13, 4.28 ERA in 2010
2. Gavin Floyd, 10-13, 4.08 ERA in 2010
3. John Danks, 15-11, 3.72 ERA in 2010
4. Edwin Jackson, 10-12, 4.47 ERA in 2010
5. Jake Peavy, 7-6, 4.63 ERA in 2010
6. Chris Sale, 2-1, 1.93 ERA in 2010

Projected bullpen

Closer: Matt Thornton, 8/10 saves, 2.67 ERA in 2010
RH setup man: Sergio Santos, 2.96 ERA in 2010
LH setup man: Chris Sale, 1.93 ERA in 2010

The new guys

DH Adam Dunn: There's no doubt the power-packed left-handed slugger will hit home runs at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. The only questions are how many will Dunn hit and how far will they travel? The White Sox wanted the slugger last year but couldn't pull of a Trade Deadline deal with the Nationals. With Dunn ready and waiting to primarily hold down the designated-hitter role and Konerko also back with the White Sox, the team has one of the more potent middle of the orders in the American League.

RHP Jesse Crain: Adding the right-handed reliever immediately becomes a subtraction for the division-rival Twins, with Crain not giving up a run to the White Sox over 10 appearances in 2010. Crain also was the target of Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper when general manager Ken Williams asked about potential free-agent interest to upgrade the 2011 bullpen.

LHP Will Ohman: The southpaw's return to Chicago, along with Sale's full-time bullpen inclusion, means the White Sox will have two left-handers available at almost all times in the late innings. Ohman might not do much closing, but potentially facing Joe Mauer with the bases loaded, two outs and the game on the line in the sixth could be as important as getting the game's final three outs.

RHP Phil Humber: A waiver claim doesn't usually become a note of public attention, unless his name is Bobby Jenks, Alex Rios or Manny Ramirez. But with Sale and Tony Pena presently stationed in the bullpen, the right-hander could emerge as the fifth starter in place of Peavy until the staff ace makes a healthy return.

Prospects to watch

3B Brent Morel: Slick defense shown by Morel during a September callup makes him the unofficial leader to claim the open third-base slot moving into Spring Training, especially with the premium put on defense by Guillen. But Morel also has proven he can hit to all fields with some authority, earning him the label of a raw Joe Crede.

LHP Chris Sale: It's hard to classify Sale as a prospect when he already made an impact with the team just two months after he was taken 13th overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The soon-to-be 22-year-old has the ability and presence where he could be the White Sox closer in 2011 and a rotation staple in 2012.

OF Jordan Danks: Extremely little debate exists concerning Danks' Major League-ready ability as a defensive player. In fact, the younger brother of John Danks might be the top defensive outfielder the White Sox have at any level. But the White Sox value his long-term potential too much to use him as a late-inning defensive replacement/bench player in 2011, so look for Jordan to start the year with Triple-A Charlotte.

RHP Anthony Carter: Something clicked for the right-hander when he moved to closer with Double-A Birmingham in 2010 and became a Southern League All-Star. His velocity even climbed working one inning instead of six or seven as a starter. Carter will be competing for the final spot in the 2011 White Sox bullpen.

C Josh Phegley: The 2010 season was a tough one for Phegley, who battled through an illness known as Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, which causes an abnormally low platelet count. Phegley still managed to make a strong impression with his hard-nosed play behind the plate, and offseason surgery to remove his spleen seems to have stabilized his platelet issue. Phegley could be the catcher in waiting for the White Sox.

C Tyler Flowers: A knock on Flowers when he arrived from Atlanta was his defensive ability behind the plate and his inexperience in calling a game. Flowers worked hard to improve that specific discipline, but his output with the bat dipped last year. Flowers still remains in the White Sox catching picture, but with Pierzynski back for two years and Phegley emerging, it has become more of a waiting game.

OF Jared Mitchell: There was hope of Mitchell being ready for the Majors by 2012, but a season-costing injury suffered in Tempe, Ariz., during Spring Training 2010 probably put the team's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft another year behind. The White Sox and Mitchell have no doubt he'll regain his five-tool form, despite the torn tendon suffered on the inside of his left ankle last March.

INF Eduardo Escobar: The first big league Spring Training for the versatile middle infielder will give him a chance to work with Vizquel, one of the game's best all-time shortstops. Escobar looks to be ready to help the White Sox in a utility role, but with the starting infield being relatively young, it might be tough for him to crack the lineup in the near future.

INF/OF Dayan Viciedo: Here's one certainty concerning Viciedo: the ball jumps off his bat upon contact, and the man can hit. It's all about finding a defensive position for Viciedo, who took fly balls during the offseason Camp Cora workouts in Florida, giving him greater versatility in a utility role.

On the rebound

OF/INF Mark Teahen: The 2010 campaign became a trying one for Teahen right from the outset, when he suffered elbow soreness during Spring Training. Teahen also fractured the middle finger on his throwing hand during a game at Tampa Bay on the last day of May, and by his own admission, had a subpar year defensively. A stronger and healthy Teahen is ready to battle with Morel for the starting third-base job, but Teahen will serve a valuable role as a super-sub at the very least.

C A.J. Pierzynski: Pierzynski can't truly be considered on the rebound after posting a .364 average from Aug. 12 through the end of the season. But the veteran catcher talked about how his impending free-agent status weighed on his mind at the start of last season, so look for Pierzynski to have a big year on the heels of his new two-year deal.

2B Gordon Beckham: If Major League Baseball would have started the season in December, the upbeat second baseman sounded as if he was ready to take the field. That example shows how excited Beckham is to put last year's miserable start behind him, featuring a .199 average as late as June. Beckham's bruised right hand, suffered when he was hit by a Frank Hermann pitch on Aug. 30, has healed and he's focused on building off of a .310 average produced after June 23.

RHP Jake Peavy: The healthy and effective return of Peavy, who had season-ending surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his posterior right shoulder, will play a strong role in separating the White Sox from a division contender and a World Series contender. Peavy has the drive to put him with the team on Opening Day in Cleveland, completing the comeback from the July 14 surgery, but the White Sox will err on the side of caution to ensure Peavy also is baseball ready.

Manager Ozzie Guillen: The charismatic White Sox leader labeled 2010 as the worst season of his life but seems relaxed and ready for a rejuvenated 2011 campaign. With his 2012 option already picked up by the team, the focus falls totally on baseball, which is where Guillen and the White Sox organization want it.

Long gone

RHP Bobby Jenks: Exiting as the second most prolific closer in White Sox history, with 173 career saves, Jenks has taken his talent to Boston as a premier setup man. Jenks didn't want to leave Chicago, but knew his return was unlikely when the White Sox non-tendered the arbitration-eligible hurler.

RHP J.J. Putz: All Putz did during his lone year with the White Sox was set a franchise record with 27 consecutive scoreless appearances. The Arizona resident and White Sox setup man will serve as the D-backs' closer in 2011.

RHP Scott Linebrink: After an All-Star caliber first half with the White Sox in 2008, the right-handed veteran never really regained that elite form over the next 2 1/2 seasons. He was traded to the Braves after making 159 appearances for the White Sox over the past three seasons.

OF Andruw Jones: Jones proved plenty of life still exists in his bat through 19 home runs and 48 RBIs in 2010, but more importantly, the Gold Glove winner showed he still was a highly capable outfielder defensively. The White Sox had interest in bringing him back, but Jones ended up with the Yankees.

DH/1B Mark Kotsay: It's a true cliché, but if it wasn't for bad luck, Kotsay would not have found any hitting luck at all last year as the team's primary left-handed-hitting designated hitter. Unfortunately for Kotsay, a number of hard-hit outs translated into a .239 average with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. The consummate clubhouse professional and leader appears headed to Milwaukee.

RHP Freddy Garcia: Interest existed in keeping the ultra-competitor, whose stuff isn't quite the same as it was in his prime. But the White Sox didn't have much left to spend with a maxed-out payroll and couldn't promise Garcia starts after April. The veteran ended up with the Yankees on a Minor League deal.

DH Manny Ramirez: When Ramirez's name was brought up at SoxFest, Williams humorously apologized to the White Sox fan base. But Williams didn't have to apologize for a bold move to win the AL Central through this Ramirez waiver claim, which just didn't pan out through Ramirez's one home run and two RBIs in 24 games. He has since moved on to Tampa.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen and follow him on twitter at @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.