Will the White Sox give Bobby Jenks a chance to make a comeback with the team?
-- Frank, Rock Island
When I spoke to Jenks one week before SoxFest, he made it clear that a return to baseball sits a ways off -- as in six months or probably more following a third back surgery. Jenks wants to pitch again (he hasn't appeared in the big leagues since 2011), but he wants to make the full-out effort when he's completely healthy.
Pitching coach Don Cooper mentioned at SoxFest that when he thinks of closers, he thinks of Jenks. So I would not be surprised to see the White Sox study his comeback, as they know how good he can be when on his game. But Jenks' first priority is getting back to full strength.
Are the White Sox going to go for Ubaldo Jimenez since they lost out on Masahiro Tanaka? I think it would be really neat to see Jimenez in a White Sox uniform.
-- Nathan, Cincinnati, Ohio
Tanaka was a special case, as general manager Rick Hahn mentioned. He perfectly fit the long-term reshaping process as part of the young core and could help the White Sox immediately as well. But that substantial offer was earmarked for the Japanese right-hander.
I wouldn't be surprised if the White Sox added another starter. But it won't be a long-term deal for a pitcher in his 30s, and it won't be a free agent who costs them a Draft pick, even with their No. 3 overall selection being protected. So, no on Jimenez.
I think a big question for this year is the bench. Obviously, Paul Konerko and a backup catcher have already claimed two spots, and with the White Sox having a lot more depth this year and more competition in Spring Training, who in your opinion takes the last bench spots?
-- Tony, Downers Grove
This becomes a tricky question, as manager Robin Ventura and Hahn pointed out at SoxFest that the roster could look different by the end of Spring Training than it does in early February. As of now, the bench consists of whoever is not starting out of Adam Dunn and Konerko at designated hitter, whoever is not starting out of Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie at third base, whoever is not starting out of Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo at left field and whoever is the backup catcher. You can see just in this mix alone where trades are possible, and I expect at least one to be moved from the mix.
I love Ventura as a manager, but last year, it seemed like he lost all enthusiasm after about a third of the season. After that, the whole team lost its spirit. I'm not saying it's his fault, but which comes first: loss of team morale or losses in general?
-- Mary Kate, Chicago
We were joking at SoxFest that maybe Ventura's best way to shed this low-key critique is to go off on the first player who makes a 2014 mistake or even hit him with a clothesline and just stand over him like a wrestler in the WWE. The bottom line is that Ventura was the same manager in '13 as the one who earned rave reviews and finished third in the American League Manager of the Year voting in '12.
Just because you don't see him get tough with a player, it doesn't make him any less effective and doesn't mean a stern point isn't being made in private. Simply put, last year's team was bad, and when you don't hit and you play defense as poorly as that team did, the group looks listless.
So, I would say losses lead to a loss in morale, not the other way around. But there's no denying last year was a tough one for everyone involved, and that failure sapped a little energy from the clubhouse.
Do you think that hitting coach Todd Steverson will be able to help Dunn?
-- Stan, Elmhurst, Ill.
Dunn has been playing baseball in the big leagues for 13 years with 7,817 plate appearances and 440 homers, so I don't think a change in hitting coach is going to change what already works for Dunn. In fact, Dunn basically follows Steverson's philosophy in being aggressive with pitches you can handle, but nothing good comes from expanding the strike zone.
From the little I've talked to hitters about Steverson, and it's mainly younger ones who have worked with him, they seem to have responded well to the new voice.
What are the chances the White Sox will move Viciedo to his regular position at third base and get a really good outfielder like Nelson Cruz? Also, what are the chances the White Sox trade Dunn and use Konerko as the everyday DH and put the newly acquired Jose Abreu at first base?
-- Raymond, Chicago
If Viciedo moves to third base, it will be for another team with Matt Davidson now the White Sox future at that position. Cruz is not on their radar, Abreu is the team's starting first baseman and Konerko already has gone on record that he wouldn't have come back as an everyday player at this point. That's not to say he will strictly be a bench player or platoon. I expect weeks where there will be three or even four Konerko starts.
Do you think the White Sox will decide to have four regular bench players and be one short in the bullpen? Or will they just play short off the bench?
-- Karl, Sheldon
I've heard the White Sox talk about breaking camp with 13 pitchers in the past, meaning eight relievers, but not 11 pitchers with six relievers. It's especially true with Erik Johnson in his first full year as a big league starter and Felipe Paulino coming off of injuries, not to mention rookies such as Daniel Webb and Jake Petricka in the bullpen. They will have to be creative off the bench, assuming the roster stays as it is currently.