White Sox reject rebuilding talk as camp nears

White Sox reject rebuilding talk as camp nears

White Sox reject rebuilding talk as camp nears
CHICAGO -- The list of White Sox players who are "long gone" is not only much longer, but has far greater impact than the list of the 2012 "new guys."

Yet, this franchise does not consider itself in a pure rebuilding mode.

When Victor Martinez went down for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, the Tigers made a very good team even better by signing Prince Fielder. Yet, Fielder's arrival hasn't produced any American League Central concession speeches coming from the South Side of Chicago.

Regardless of the terminology used to describe this squad's offseason approach, regardless of the numerous doubters who don't even see this group as worthy of a .500 showing, the White Sox as a team believe they can win and believe they can contend.

"We are excited to get going and really go out there and compete," said White Sox hurler Philip Humber, one of the true pleasant surprises of the 2011 season with his work in the starting rotation. "We are going to have our hands full with our division and some of the additions that have been made. But at the same time, I feel like our team is plenty talented to do what we want to do."

"You've heard it said, but if we have guys get back to career norms, everything will be all right," White Sox starting pitcher John Danks said. "I think we have the guys to win. We just have to go out there and do it."

If the White Sox just "do it," as Danks suggested, they will find success under the guidance of first-year manager Robin Ventura -- a first-time manager at any level of competition.

Ventura is a player's manager, much like predecessor Ozzie Guillen, but his regime figures to be more low-key with shorter pregame interview sessions. When he was hired, without any previous experience, many people assumed it was to preside over a rebuilding process.

But this White Sox team would like to win in the present while getting stronger for the future.

"I would always like to be competitive and like to be aggressive," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said. "At some point, and listen, it's very difficult, especially with the kind of financial parameters you have, it's very difficult to compete for the length of time that we've competed and not have to have a teardown at some point in time. I don't expect anyone to appreciate that hasn't sat in the chair. But it is what it is.

"So, to kind of do a little bit of both is what we've done. If we can just get some guys to play back to where their career norms are, then we can, I think we can still sustain that over the next number of years with the injection of young players we currently have now and expect to have. I'm optimistic about today and I'm optimistic about tomorrow."

Pitchers and catchers report

Feb. 23, 2012.

Full squad reports

Feb. 28, 2012.

First Spring Training game

Home vs. Dodgers, March 5 at 2:05 p.m. CT

Opening Day

Away at Rangers, April 6 at 1:05 p.m. CT

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

1. Are the White Sox rebuilding or retooling?
When closer Sergio Santos and his six years of potential control were traded to the Blue Jays, Williams talked about entering into a rebuilding mode for 2012. Williams acknowledged it wouldn't be a falling dominoes sort of rebuilding and then went out and signed Danks to a five-year, $65 million extension. If the White Sox start slowly, though, could more veterans become trade targets in June or July? On the other side, could Williams add valuable in-season pieces if the White Sox jump into contention? April and May results should dictate that answer.

2. Can we call it a comeback?
Balloting for the 2012 AL Comeback Player of the Year potentially could include four White Sox players. The team at least hopes Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Jake Peavy all have turnaround performances worthy of consideration. Dunn, whose four-year, $56 million deal was the centerpiece of the White Sox 2011 "All-In" campaign, appeared upbeat and leaner at the recently completed SoxFest.

3. Will Robin be rockin' as a first-time manager?
There's no doubt that Ventura is an infinitely knowledgeable baseball man. The only information to be discovered is how that knowledge translates into his first managerial job at any level of competition. Ventura and his coaching staff seem to be on the same page, and his players have responded in their short time together.

2011 record
79-83, third in the American League Central

Projected batting order
1. CF Alejandro De Aza:
  .329 BA, .400 OBP, .520 SLG, 4 HR, 23 RBI in 2011
2. 2B Gordon Beckham:
  .230 BA, .296 OBP, .337 SLG, 10 HR, 44 RBI in 2011
3. 1B Paul Konerko:
  .300 BA, .388 OBP, .517 SLG, 31 HR, 105 RBI in 2011
4. DH Adam Dunn:
  .159 BA, .292 OBP, .277 SLG, 11 HR, 42 RBI in 2011
5. LF Alex Rios:
  .227 BA, .265 OBP, .348 SLG, 13 HR, 44 RBI in 2011
6. C A.J. Pierzynski:
  .287 BA, .323 OBP, .405 SLG, 8 HR, 48 RBI in 2011
7. SS Alexei Ramirez:
  .269 BA, .328 OBP, .399 SLG, 15 HR, 70 RBI in 2011
8. RF Dayan Viciedo:
  .255 BA, .327 OBP, .314 SLG, 1 HR, 6 RBI in 2011
9. 3B Brent Morel:
  .245 BA, .287 OBP, .366 SLG, 10 HR, 41 RBI in 2011

Projected rotation
1. John Danks, 8-12, 4.33 ERA in 2011
2. Gavin Floyd, 12-13, 4.37 ERA in 2011
3. Jake Peavy, 7-7, 4.92 ERA in 2011
4. Chris Sale, 2-2, 2.79 ERA in 2011
5. Philip Humber, 9-9, 3.75 ERA in 2011

Projected bullpen
Closer: Matt Thornton, 3-for-7 saves, 3.32 ERA in 2011
RH setup man: Jesse Crain, 2.62 ERA in 2011
LH setup man: Will Ohman, 4.22 ERA in 2011

The new guys
RHP Nestor Molina: The offseason deals made by the White Sox featured a number of established veterans moving on in return for young talent that can help in the future. But many on the White Sox believe Molina will contribute in 2012 and eventually emerge as a top-of-the-rotation type of starter.

1B Dan Johnson: The left-handed-hitting first baseman helped put the Rays into the playoffs with a two-out game-tying, ninth-inning homer in Game No. 162 last year. Now, as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League contract, Johnson will be competing for one of the final two position player bench spots and be expected to play the outfield as well as potentially third base.

IF Ozzie Martinez: This right-handed-hitting utility infielder came to the White Sox as part of the compensation for Guillen becoming manager of the Miami Marlins. Martinez figures to compete with Eduardo Escobar for the backup middle-infield position with Omar Vizquel gone from the team.

Ventura: He's not exactly new to the White Sox, having been a favorite son of the organization for two decades. But Ventura is new to the managerial ranks, taking over for Guillen after he was let out of the last year of his contract to pursue other opportunities.

Prospects to watch
RHP Addison Reed: Although he threw 7 1/3 big league innings during a September callup, and is a veritable 2012 bullpen lock, Reed still rates as the organization's top young player. He made the rare five-level jump in one season, including the White Sox, and moves into 2012 with a chance to claim the closer's role.

OF Jared Mitchell: This 2012 campaign is an important one for the team's top pick from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He's two years and one full season of playing removed from a torn ligament in his left ankle, and he still holds the talent and belief to become a five-tool talent.

IF Escobar: Much like Reed, Escobar had nine games and seven at-bats worth of big league experience last September with the White Sox. The switch-hitter can play both shortstop and second base and figures to battle Martinez for the utility infield spot on the Major League level.

OF Keenyn Walker: The team's top pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft started at Great Falls, but quickly made the jump to Class A Kannapolis during his first partial year in the organization. Walker reminds some of Mitchell, in that he has the raw ability but needs more polish as a pure player. He swiped 21 bases in just 54 combined games and has the look of a future White Sox leadoff man.

OF Trayce Thompson: Coming from an athletic family, including two brothers and father, Mychal, who all have or are currently playing in the NBA, Trayce has a built-in advantage with those family genes. He knocked out 24 home runs and 36 doubles while driving in 87 for Kannapolis in 2011. But he needs to cut down on his 172 strikeout total.

Molina: His pinpoint control, with 16 walks issued and 148 strikeouts recorded over 130 1/3 combined innings, coupled with great movement on his pitches made the converted infielder a prime trade target for the White Sox in the Santos deal.

RHP Simon Castro: At the recently completed SoxFest, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper described Castro as standing "seven feet tall." In reality, Castro actually checks in at 6-foot-5, arriving to the organization as part of the Carlos Quentin trade. Castro once was one of the top Padres prospects, and the White Sox hope to get him back to that level after a rough 2011.

On the rebound
DH Dunn: It would be difficult for the power-packed designated hitter to have a worse season than 2011, reaching a near-Major League record low with his .159 average. But Dunn returns for the second year in his four-year deal with the same positive attitude maintained during the 2011 debacle and a desire to move forward and return to his normal level of run-producing excellence.

OF Rios: Purely based on Rios' one year on, one year off statistically over the last four years, he's due for a strong bounce-back effort in 2012. Those who are quick to criticize Rios' .227 performance and rough defensive effort in 2011 forget that Rios came up nine home runs short in 2010 of becoming the franchise's first 30-30 player. A move to left field might help Rios, who is a hard worker and a veteran with a great deal of pride in his effort.

2B Beckham: If defense was the only focus of 2011, then Beckham had a four-star season. Unfortunately for the talented second baseman, Beckham's work with the bat didn't match his work with the glove. Beckham enters 2012 with a more aggressive attitude and seems to have figured out a few things mechanics-wise with his swing.

RHP Peavy: One injury after another has plagued Peavy since arriving to the White Sox via trade in 2009. But almost 19 months removed from surgery to reattach his lat muscle, Peavy believes 30 starts and 200 innings stand as attainable goals for 2012. This upcoming campaign marks the last in a three-year, $52 million deal for the righty.

LHP Thornton: The 3.32 ERA over 62 games and 63 strikeouts over 59 2/3 innings doesn't exactly put the hard-throwing southpaw on the comeback trail. But Thornton might have another chance to close in 2012, after losing the 2011 job following four blown saves in April. In fairness to Thornton, he didn't exactly have consistent support behind him during that rough start.

Long gone
LHP Mark Buehrle: Arguably the most consistent pitcher in White Sox history, and one of the greatest franchise influences, the left-hander moved to the Marlins during this past offseason via a four-year, $58 million free-agent deal. Buehrle told MLB.com at the end of the 2011 season that a National League move appealed to him, and he found no shortage of offers for his services. Buehrle's departure leaves a leadership void and a rotation hole left by a pitcher with 11 straight seasons of double-digit victories, at least 30 starts and at least 200 innings thrown.

RHP Santos: The White Sox felt as if they were making a move from a bullpen position of strength and liked what they got in return in Molina. Santos takes over as the Blue Jays' closer, while the job goes open on the South Side of Chicago.

OF Quentin: Behind Konerko, Quentin was the most consistent offensive force on the 2011 team. But with Quentin just one year removed from free agency and Viciedo on his way to the Majors, a trade was destined to happen. Quentin moves on to San Diego, while the White Sox received young pitching in return.

OF Juan Pierre: De Aza looks as if he will take over as the White Sox leadoff man, at least against right-handed pitchers, with the hard-working Pierre signing on with Philadelphia via a Minor League deal. Pierre topped the 2011 White Sox with 178 hits and 27 stolen bases, while also finishing fourth in RBIs.

IF Vizquel: The ageless wonder put off retirement for another year, as the soon-to-be 45-year-old joined the Blue Jays. Vizquel was a 2010 savior as a replacement third baseman, but settled more into a utility role last year.

C Ramon Castro: The backup catcher role will be filled by Tyler Flowers in 2012 and could feature more at-bats for Flowers than the regular second backstop. Castro exited via free agency after playing just 23 games due to a broken right hand suffered while catching against the Twins on July 9.

RHP Jason Frasor: Some surprise arose when the White Sox picked up Frasor's $3.75 million option for 2012, despite looking to cut payroll. But the local product who struggled during his short return home didn't make it through the offseason, getting traded back to the Blue Jays, who dealt him to the White Sox last July 27.

Guillen: An eight-year run filled with entertainment, excitement, controversy and a great deal of success came to a close when the White Sox let Guillen out of the final year of his contract to pursue other opportunities. Guillen will lead the Marlins into their new stadium.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.