It was a very interesting weekend for me, from a personal point of view.
My niece and nephew came home from the hospital, continuing my family's month-long celebration. My alma mater took a step in the right direction with its men's basketball program by firing its head coach and I turned another year older. But none of you came here to read about my birthday, my family life or my take on Michigan basketball (Steve Lavin as the next coach? Just an idea.)
So, let's focus on the White Sox, as they switch into high gear for the final two weeks of Spring Training, playing these games as if they counted in the standings.
With Opening Day just a few weeks away, how has U.S. Cellular Field changed for the 2007 season? -- Marny, Buffalo Grove, Ill.
Since I have not been to U.S. Cellular in quite some time, as I am currently stationed in Tucson, Ariz., for two more weeks, I'm going to let an expert speak on this particular matter.
Brooks Boyer, the White Sox vice president of marketing, told me the green seats have all been installed aside from two blue seats left to indicate the landing spots for Paul Konerko's grand slam and Scott Podsednik's walk-off blast in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. The seats down the line, from the dugouts to the corners, have been angled. Instead of sitting and looking at the outfield, the seats are looking at the pitcher's mound.
"That's going to be a benefit to individual ticket purchases and season-ticket holders," Boyer said.
The pressbox has moved from the 200 level to the 400-suite level, with a new Home Plate Club coming in and featuring similar amenities to the United Scout seats. Both suite levels also underwent a complete remodel, according to Boyer, with the size not changing but new furniture and new carpet brought in and new pictures placed in the corridors.
"It's going to look quite different," Boyer said. "The public change noticed most is the green seats, but the premium areas got nice facelifts.
"I'll put our ballpark and its experience up against anyone else's. We really believe we have something for everyone."
Of course, let's not forget the Fundamentals Deck for the kids, the fan deck, the bullpen bar ... and the list goes on.
Have a question about the White Sox?
E-mail your query to MLB.com White Sox beat reporter Scott Merkin for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
What are the chances of Aaron Rowand coming back to the White Sox? Also, will Jon Garland be in the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the rotation, given that Jose Contreras is the No. 1? I'm really hoping Garland has an awesome season, as well as Mark Buehrle. -- Chris, Orland Park, Ill.
At some point in Rowand's career, he might hit 30 home runs in a season. After he retires, maybe he'll run for political office and become a senator or governor and some day, Rowand might even discover the cure for male pattern baldness.
But I would hazard a guess that Rowand will never have an impact again like he did in Chicago, and that's a compliment to his work here and not a negative assessment of his future. Even before the trade talk surfaced, I routinely would get three or four questions per week regarding Rowand's return. It reminds me of Jim Grabowski with the Bears, as one name symbolizes a special, hard-nosed brand of competition for a specific team.
I still don't believe Rowand is coming back to Chicago any time soon -- especially if the rumors are to be believed and Matt Thornton was the Phillies' target in return. As for Garland, he's currently penciled in as the rotation's second starter. That move breaks up Garland and Javier Vazquez with Buehrle's presence.
Why doesn't Heath Phillips get any respect? Where do you think he will end up playing this year? I feel he would be able to fit in with the Sox pitching staff. -- Justin, Evansville, Ind.
Phillips earned plenty of respect during his recent stint in big-league camp, and basically put himself into play for a Major League spot if help is needed as a fifth starter or somewhere else throughout the rotation. Remember, Phillips turned in truly outstanding work starting for Team USA in its Olympic qualifier in Cuba last year. Kirk Champion was the pitching coach for the team, and he also serves as the White Sox Minor League pitching coordinator.
So, the team already knew about the abilities Phillips possesses. He will start the year as part of Triple-A Charlotte's rotation and was basically sent down early because he needed to get innings that just weren't going to be there for him with the White Sox Major League staff the remainder of Spring Training.
You haven't used any of my questions yet, but hey, you never know. Will Tadahito Iguchi bat in another spot other than No. 2? Last spring, Ozzie Guillen tried to move him and said it was a mistake. Now, I've heard they are trying that again. What gives? Kevin, Braidwood, Ill.
I don't think Guillen's lineup will be as fluid as in year's past, meaning Iguchi might hit second against a particular pitcher one day and then hit seventh against another hurler later in that same week. Batting Iguchi lower in the order allows the White Sox to take advantage of his power stroke and his speed, where an attempted stolen base won't potentially take the bat out of the hands of Jim Thome, Konerko or Jermaine Dye hitting behind him.
A healthy Darin Erstad and a healthy Podsednik give the White Sox a number of different lineup possibilities. Then again, the lineup spot doesn't seem to matter to Iguchi's overall game plan.
"I don't think my roles change, no matter where I hit," Iguchi said through translator David Yamamoto. "Batting second or seventh, it doesn't matter to me."
Congratulations on your first mailbag entry, Kevin. You should soon be receiving a signed picture of me answering your question in front of my computer. In all seriousness, I appreciate all the questions that get sent in -- even if not every one makes it in every week.
Do you think it would be a good idea for the White Sox to trade Buehrle to the Cardinals at the end of July, since it seems pretty clear that St. Louis is going to be Buehrle's team in 2008? -- Adam, Lemont, Ill.
Adam, never assume anything because ... well, you know what happens if you assume. Aside from an off-handed comment last spring regarding suiting up for the Cardinals before his playing days are done, Buehrle has never come close to guaranteeing the Cardinals were his next team. In fact, he likes the anonymity found at home during the offseason, which would be lost if he started pitching for the hometown team.
We've sort of been over this same topic many times in the mailbag. The bottom line remains that Buehrle seems ready to focus on the 2007 season and then weigh his free-agent options, factoring in his desire to stay with the only Major League team he has known as a player along with the dollars the open market has to offer. I know the Chicago media doesn't want to see Buehrle leave, as he has been one of the most forthright quotes on the team during good or bad times for the team or him personally.
Hey Scott, my favorite player is Podsednik. I love nothing more than to see him steal a base. I always get so angry because I can never see him. I always just see the batter, and the end of his steal.
I think that there should be a little picture-in-picture window whenever he is on first, called the "Scotty Box" or something, so that you can actually see it when he breaks for second. Let me know what you think of this idea. GO SOX! -- Bryan, Vernon Hills, Ill.
I've watched broadcasts where they have a split-screen with the batter and baserunner, especially during Game of the Week or playoff sort of competition. So, your idea definitely has merit.
By the way, Podsednik agrees with you as to the importance of stealing a base. Although Guillen has preached to Podsednik just to get on base and not put pressure on picking up the stolen bases, Podsednik realizes what an impact that particular skill can have on the game. Once fully healthy, he's going to be off and running.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.