Let's take a look at this week's interesting batch of questions.
How many innings do you think Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will pitch this year? Will they be shut down?
-- Rob, Chicago
I don't envision either talented young hurler being completely shut down unless the White Sox have clinched a playoff spot or somehow fallen out of contention. The three extended rest periods already given to Sale and the recent eight days between starts for Quintana are designed to keep them fresh into September and what the White Sox hope will be meaningful October baseball.
Sale spoke before the All-Star break about avoiding a set innings total, because he might get to that mark and still be ready to pitch or he might feel problems before he gets to that total. The White Sox understand these pitchers not only are their present, but also represent a major part of their future rotation, so they are doing everything they can to take care of them.
Do you think White Sox fans are being overly nervous or appropriately cautious about the team's playoff chances?
-- Joseph, Oak Park, Ill.
Probably a little bit of both.
But in the 11 years I've covered the team, I've never seen White Sox fans' emotions run so high and low over every single game or even every single inning. Maybe it's because White Sox fans didn't expect their team to be as solid as it has been in 2012, and a division championship this year will have greater meaning.
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You can be critical and nervous, but you have to enjoy the action on the field. The White Sox are a playoff-caliber team, but they will not go through the final 52 games without some valleys to go with the peaks. So be ready, but be encouraged.
Is there any chance of getting a Geoff Blum type who can play multiple positions and has some power to come off the bench?
-- Mike, Los Angeles
Mike Fontenot seemed to me like a good option for the White Sox when he was designated for assignment by the Phillies, but the primary responsibility for that utility infielder is to be able to play shortstop. Rey Olmedo can play the position.
Then again, with nothing against Olmedo, I would be surprised if the White Sox don't look to add a veteran infielder through a waiver-wire deal over the next few weeks.
What are the chances the White Sox re-sign Francisco Liriano? And what salary do you think he could command?
-- Vince, Atlanta
The White Sox have Sale and Quintana under control for 2013, and they hope to have a healthy John Danks back in the fold for Spring Training. There's also a group that includes Philip Humber, Hector Santiago, Dylan Axelrod, Simon Castro and Charlie Leesman, who could contribute to the back end of the rotation.
Next year's contractual decisions will have a base in how the 2012 team finishes. But the White Sox know the importance of having a top-notch pitching staff in winning championships -- that theory drove them to acquire Liriano in the first place. They will pursue at least one veteran hurler to fill out the starting five.
Has the possibility of Tyler Flowers taking over A.J. Pierzynski's spot led to the veteran catcher's stellar year? What are the chances of re-signing Pierzynski for two years?
-- Chris, Chicago
Pierzynski is driven by his personal desire to succeed and help the team win an American League Central title. He is having a breakout year, power-wise, but remember, this is a career .284 hitter with 128 homers entering the season. So it's not like he went from afterthought to All-Star overnight. I would argue Pierzynski or Alex Rios has been the team's 2012 Most Valuable Player, with Sale and Paul Konerko also in that picture.
Again, I couldn't put a guess on his return. Pierzynski would like to continue playing for the White Sox; he has made that point clear numerous times. But he also wants a fair deal for him and his family.
I love how the team has played of late, but what do you see happening this offseason regarding the 2013 payroll? Is it even possible to keep all the players? And if not, what do you see happening in your crystal ball?
-- Brian, Chicago
It's really impossible to guess who is staying and who is going at this point, but even if the White Sox exercise the buyouts on Jake Peavy, Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers, it doesn't mean any or all of them are automatically gone. I don't necessarily see a scenario where every free agent returns, but the White Sox have done a great job of rebuilding/reloading while staying in contention, and they don't want to veer off that path.
Is there any concern about Myers reaching 45 appearances and his $10 million option vesting for next season? Besides Brent Morel and Dewayne Wise, who can we expect to make a September callup? Would Santiago be a long reliever now that the White Sox stretched him out?
-- Brian, West Bloomfield, Mich.
This team is in it to win it, any way possible. If that means Myers finishes game -- although he has done a phenomenal job in the eighth and Addison Reed has adeptly handled the ninth -- then the vesting option won't matter.
As for callups, look for a third catcher, Donnie Veal as a lefty out of the bullpen, Morel, Wise, Dan Johnson and Santiago. Others could join that list. Santiago can work in long relief, but he also is positioned as a spot starter, if needed, in September.