By the way, Zack Novak, who was the left-handed sharp-shooting forward for Michigan's 2011-12 co-Big 10 champion hoops team ... big White Sox supporter. The same goes for Josh Bartelstein from that title team.
Now, on to the questions.
Is Chris Sale returning to the White Sox rotation this season? And will Addison Reed be used as the closer?
-- Dawn, Schaumburg, Ill.
Sale experienced tenderness in his elbow: this much is certain. It's extremely admirable that the White Sox are looking out for Sale's best interests above their own, with the announced move to the closer spot following the tenderness, because this is a better team with Sale in the rotation. It was also an expected White Sox reaction, because there's a decided franchise track record of the player's health coming first.
But if the MRI taken on Sale's elbow Thursday returns without red flags, I believe he'll get another chance to start.
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Look for the White Sox to allow him to adjust to his new workload if the tenderness constitutes normal post-start/pitching soreness. If it becomes pain, then his starting days will be over again. The White Sox want to give themselves the best chance to win in the short term, but they also want Sale healthy for the short and long term.
As for Reed, he should have been the closer since the start of the season and he probably will be the closer now. That's no offense meant toward Hector Santiago, who worked his way from the roster bubble to the ninth inning during a stellar Spring Training, and I think he will be a solid starter someday and contribute plenty presently in the bullpen. It's certainly no offense meant to Matt Thornton or Jesse Crain, who rank as two of the game's elite setup men when healthy, and will continue to make a significant difference in the seventh and eighth innings.
It's just that Reed is the reason why the White Sox were able to trade a closer such as Sergio Santos. I understand the concept of bringing him along slowly, but he strikes me as a kid who can handle failure as well as success and possesses electric stuff. Reed will get that chance if Sale receives the all-clear sign, and presents a logical argument about physically handling the starter's role.
What is happening to this team? After a great start, we now have essentially the same record as the Cubs. What gives?
-- Rob, Chicago
First off, the Cubs' record is irrelevant unless you want to do a comparative study between teams in varied rebuilding states. They are not in the American League Central, so there's no reason to worry about them.
The White Sox have looked and played like a .500 team for the first six weeks of the season -- win four, lose four, win six of seven, lose seven of eight. They are lacking in consistent offense throughout the lineup, but on the flip side, they have the division's best pitching and they have Jake Peavy.
And here's another fact to keep in mind: they are pretty much competitive in every game. If somehow they can put together an extended run, playing all of those close games could benefit them in a tight race down the stretch. Those late-inning pressure situations won't be a surprise.
Detroit clearly is the best team in this division. The best team doesn't always win the crown or play like the best team, and the White Sox believe in themselves as contenders.
Do you see Jared Mitchell up anytime soon?
-- Harry, Chicago
Mitchell's great April start at Double-A Birmingham is a great story because it centers on perseverance and confidence. Back in late January, while some were writing off the former first-round Draft pick, Mitchell told me that he was finally 100 percent healthy and ready to show what he can do. So, he basically lost two full seasons to that 2010 Spring Training left ankle injury, and remember: Mitchell was not a full-time baseball player at LSU before joining the White Sox.
I watched his play closely in Spring Training, and his game can be explosive. He's easily the fastest player in the organization, Minors or Majors, and he should be able to strut his stuff with the White Sox in 2012. That chance probably won't come until September.
Any plans to add a bat or two to the lineup?
-- Randy, Chicago
The Robin Ventura-directed White Sox espouse a theory of focusing solely on the game at hand. Try asking Ventura a question about a weekend series before a Thursday game, and you'll probably get a smile and a "We have a game to play" and "I'll worry about that game after this one."
So, when White Sox general manager Ken Williams was asked recently in Oakland if they had the ability to add, he chose not to speculate. Brent Morel has struggled at third this year, but really, that's the only spot I could see them trying to change. And even that change is unlikely.
How much longer before the White Sox give up on Morel?
-- Scott B., St. Louis
To be honest, Morel has looked off at the plate this season almost from the start. But there's nobody really in the Minor League system to take his place, and the White Sox are a better team when Brent Lillibridge and Eduardo Escobar are coming off the bench in a utility role. Morel is so good defensively that I would rather have him out there every day even in this prolonged slump.
Obviously, if he continues below .200, a change needs to be made. I don't see where that change is coming from, and as Morel rightfully has reminded us all, it's a long season.
How bad do the White Sox have to play for Williams to get fired? They've won one playoff game in six years and missed in three straight.
-- Max, Chicago
Here's a conversation I was having with a friend the other day: If you are a devout Chicago baseball fan and were told that you could have a World Series title once every eight or nine years and a contender for most of the rest of the time, even without a championship, would you take it? Many would, but Williams is not on that list. He wants the White Sox to be perennial championship contenders.
I don't see Williams going anywhere unless he chooses to leave, and he wants to win another title. There have been criticisms concerning the poor farm system and some underachieving personnel moves, but this team has stayed right with baseball's best this season during its modified rebuild.