In order to help compensate for Podsednik's loss and add another productive bat to the outfield mix, Erstad will be joining the White Sox on a one-year deal with an option for the 2008 season as confirmed to MLB.com by two sources close to the situation. The deal is pending a physical later in the week, but if all goes as planned, Erstad should be part of the team by Friday's opening day of SoxFest.
The 11-year-veteran, who has played his entire career for the Angels, could challenge Anderson for a starting spot in center but also could fill the void at the leadoff slot if Podsednik's complete return from surgery extends into the regular season. Rookie outfielders Jerry Owens, Ryan Sweeney and even Josh Fields, who would continue the possible conversion from third base to left field, also could figure into the equation, while Tadahito Iguchi and Pablo Ozuna could be worked in at the top of the order.
White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker recently pointed out how the abbreviated offseason after the 2005 World Series championship left Podsednik with a shorter time period to fully recover from sports hernia surgery. That combination of problems left a player who not only relies on his legs for success but constantly pushes himself for nothing short of perfection at less than full strength for much of the season.
"We didn't realize how much that short winter [before the 2006 season] hurt him," added Walker of Podsednik, who also battled through hamstring and shoulder issues last season, although he did lead the team with 40 stolen bases. "You never appreciate the wear and tear on his body, and how he really needs the winter to get his body back in shape."
"It wasn't a talent thing for Podsednik. He just doubted his own ability for a while," Anderson added. "I know he's going to get that confidence back."
Without Erstad's presence, in the case of a longer recovery period for Podsednik, the White Sox would have been forced to go with two somewhat untested outfielders alongside Jermaine Dye on a team with serious hopes for the postseason. Erstad hit .221 over 95 at-bats last season, with his 2006 campaign cut down to 40 games because of a right ankle injury.
Offseason surgery in October left Erstad ready to assume everyday responsibilities in center field once again. Erstad, who exemplifies the straightforward, grinder style of play coveted by the White Sox, produced his best numbers in 2000 with a .355 average, 25 home runs, 100 RBIs and 240 hits batting leadoff, and was a key contributor to the Angels' 2002 World Series title run with 25 hits in 71 postseason at-bats.
Tuesday's signing leaves the White Sox roster all but set in regard to position players. The final two battles to be waged in Spring Training center on filling out the rotation at fifth starter, with Gavin Floyd holding the upper hand, and figuring out the sixth reliever on an 11-man staff. With the South Siders poised to go with two left-handers, hard-throwing Nick Masset looks to be the early front-runner to finish off the bullpen.