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Mailbag: Status of relief pitching?

Mailbag: Status of relief pitching?

For those who are interested, I like the Red Sox in six games over the Rockies. Colorado enters as a team on the greatest roll in recent memory, but Boston has pretty much been the best team from start to finish and has too much pitching. Of course, around mid-September, I picked the Cubs and the Angels in the World Series, so my selections aren't exactly ironclad. Let's move on to the White Sox inquiries of the week.

What do you think will happen with Nick Masset, Gavin Floyd, Andrew Sisco and David Aardsma next season? I don't think we can just let them go for nothing.
-- Joseph, Chicago

Let's address Floyd first. He'll be part of the team next year, either working in the back end of the rotation or in long relief. Basically, if Jon Garland or Jose Contreras get traded, then John Danks and Floyd have the inside track to the final rotation spots. Otherwise, Danks will compete with Floyd once again for the fifth starter's job. Floyd impressed the White Sox during his final month's starts, although it would be nice to see him do the same with something more on the line than personal pride.

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As for Sisco and Aardsma, they don't seem to fit into the team's plans at this point. Sisco primarily worked as a starter for Triple-A Charlotte after his final reassignment, and I don't see him earning a spot in that same capacity with the White Sox. I also don't look at either Sisco or Aardsma as being in any bullpen scenario after last year's struggles, meaning they could be part of an offseason trade package.

Masset becomes a little trickier situation. I still think the White Sox have high hopes for him, even though the right-hander was not part of the September callups. He seems best suited for the starting rotation, with the White Sox mentioning how Masset had trouble bouncing back strong from appearance to appearance, making relief work very tough.

When I spoke with Masset in September, he talked about not getting consistent enough work with the White Sox in 2007 and then not performing consistently when he got the chances. It's a similar story told by Brandon McCarthy in 2006, when he served as a long reliever on a staff that has starters who frequently work deep into games. But Masset remains upbeat, and the White Sox certainly have not given up.

"We saw him pitch against the Cubs in a spot start, and Nick showed his ability and that he can compete at the Major League level," said White Sox farm director Alan Regier of Masset. "We have to turn that into a consistent everyday effort, and that's our job in player development.

"He's really multi-dimensional," Regier added.

I know there are several top players available the White Sox could pursue to fill center field, but is there any possibility to set up a trade for the Devil Rays' Carl Crawford to strengthen the outfield and lead off?
-- Randy, Bradley, Ill.

The White Sox have held past interest in the supremely talented Crawford and there have been past overtures made by the team for his service.

During the last offseason, I remember having a discussion with another Chicago sports writer as to how Crawford would be a more valuable pickup than Alex Rodriguez for the White Sox. It's funny how Rodriguez, far and away the best player in the game, seems to annually serve as the center of trade discussions. But for the kind of game manager Ozzie Guillen wants to play, Crawford's skills serve as ideal.

I had the chance to talk to a few people familiar with the Devil Rays' situation while covering the Yankees-Indians series, and they don't expect Crawford to be dealt. Rocco Baldelli could be another story, but his overall health remains a question.

Fans who follow the whole organization are upset as to why Jason Bourgeois was not brought up during September, while Andy Gonzalez remained on the Major League roster. Bourgeois is a better player in every way (speed, contact, defense, position eligibility).
-- Mark, Aurora, Ill.

I appreciate the passion fans like you have for the organization. While Bourgeois had a tremendous overall season for Double-A Birmingham and Charlotte, I don't think his presence was going to make a huge difference for the White Sox late last season. He was not on the 40-man roster and probably wouldn't have received much playing time if called up in September.

The versatile soon-to-be 26-year-old currently is a Minor League free agent. I expect the White Sox to make an attempt to keep him in the fold and maybe even give him a non-roster shot during Spring Training.

On the Hot Stove front, why not a chat about acquiring Mariano Rivera? He would really look good in the other color pinstripes, and with Bobby Jenks being locked up by the White Sox for the next couple years, he could be a great setup guy like the Brian Fuentes-Manny Corpas tandem in Colorado.
-- Dan, Oak Lawn, Ill.

Have a question about the White Sox?
Scott MerkinE-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.
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Pursuing Rivera through free agency would be a great idea, except it's not realistic to believe Rivera has finished his days as a closer, not after 30 saves recorded in 2007. With Jenks gradually becoming one of the true elite closers in the game, the White Sox certainly aren't going to move him to a setup role. So Rivera doesn't seem to be a fit.

Pitching coach Don Cooper has talked about his desire to add a couple of veteran arms in relief. Rivera meets that requirement and then some, but don't look for him to join the White Sox.

What do you think about Contreras and Juan Uribe to Florida for Hanley Ramirez and others?
-- Paul, Las Vegas

If I were the White Sox, I would make that trade yesterday. That assessment is with no offense meant to Contreras or Uribe, but Ramirez has become one of the truly great overall players in the game. Of course, the White Sox first have to decide if they are going to pick up Uribe's option for 2008, meaning they would retain his control, but that's basically a moot point. I would think the Marlins are more likely to trade Dontrelle Willis or Miguel Cabrera, as opposed to Ramirez.

What is Jenks' contract situation?
-- Trent, Frisco, Texas

Jenks doesn't even become eligible for arbitration until 2009 and wouldn't become a free agent until 2012. But the White Sox have done a great job of locking up key players in their organization before that time officially comes.

As for Jenks' perspective, I talked to him about his contract situation near the end of the season, and he took an extremely professional approach. Jenks told me that he has enough to focus on in regard to closing out games, and will leave the off-field money dealings to the team and his agent.

Do you think that the White Sox will have backup catcher Toby Hall in 2008?
-- Bobby, Chicago

Hall remains under contract for 2008 in the second year of a $3.65 million deal, and the White Sox actually have a $2.25 million option on Hall for 2009. As Hall described it near the end of 2007, his first year with the White Sox was not a good one for the back of his baseball card: .207 average in 116 at-bats, no home runs and three RBIs.

But simply coming back from the shoulder injury he suffered during the final week of Spring Training stood out as the true success story for Hall. There's an interesting free-agent list of backup catchers, including Doug Mirabelli, Javier Valentin, Mike Lieberthal and Rod Barajas, to name a few, if the White Sox decided to go in a different direction.

Remember, though, Hall carries a .262 career average and also knows the White Sox staff. When healthy, he should be the solid right-handed-hitting backup the White Sox desired when they signed him.

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

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