Matt Thornton has been called upon to tackle some difficult situations during the course of his successful career.
How about tying run on third, one out in the eighth inning and a tough left-handed hitter such as the Twins' Justin Morneau at the plate, as an example. The next challenge for the hard-throwing southpaw, though, will take place off the field.
Thornton will serve as the guest conductor for next week's edition of the White Sox Inbox. One of the game's best setup men will be answering questions sent in by the fans, with his responses to run in the days leading up to SoxFest's start on Friday. The exact date will be specified on the Being Ozzie Guillen blog and through @scottmerkin Twitter.
So, submit those questions through the same form usually used within this Inbox, and they will be assembled and sent to Thornton. They don't have to just be about Thornton, but also can be directed at the White Sox as a team for 2010 and beyond.
Given his recent injury, would it make sense for Carlos Quentin to become the full-time designated hitter, leaving the last outfield spot to the likes of Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay?
-- Kevin, Westminster, Maryland
Quentin will begin the 2010 season as the White Sox right fielder. When healthy, Quentin not only provides a solid power bat and strong on-base potential but also serves as a better-than-average defensive outfielder.
This starting assignment, though, doesn't prohibit Quentin from getting occasional games as the White Sox designated hitter. Having that particular flexibility is one of the points behind Guillen's DH-by-committee idea, which hasn't exactly been met by rousing reviews from White Sox fans. Players such as Quentin and/or Paul Konerko will have the chance to have a day off, of sorts, by moving into the DH slot, without actually missing a game.
Scott, don't you think it would be far more effective to have Daniel Hudson as the fifth starter? It would continue moving his confidence in the right direction, and allow Freddy Garcia to move to the bullpen as a long reliever. That, to me, would be arguably the best rotation baseball has seen.
-- Josh, Chicago
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I'm guessing the Atlanta Braves with Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine might have a bit of an argument on the "best rotation baseball has seen" concept. As White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper pointed out recently, this rotation won't be the best in White Sox history unless it matches the 2005 championship effort.
The South Siders are taking the correct approach by not rushing Hudson, deflecting undue pressure on the young hurler. He made incredible progress in 2009, moving from Class A Kannapolis to Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte and finally to the White Sox all in the same season. Hudson produced successful results at every stop.
For a team looking to make the postseason and beyond, Garcia is the right answer at No. 5. You want a veteran who thrives on big-game pressure as opposed to a relatively untested rookie. I really believe Hudson will begin the season with Charlotte, keeping him working on regular four days' rest, with Freddy Dolsi getting the final spot in the bullpen.
By the way, Garcia is not a reliever. He has made exactly one relief appearance in 275 career big league games, which came in 2000 with Seattle.
If you had to predict the starting lineup for the 2010 White Sox, who will it be?
-- Elmer, Chicago
Let's go with the Opening Day lineup since it's hard to predict who will be around in May with general manager Ken Williams at the helm, let alone at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Cleveland stands as the White Sox opponent, meaning right-handers Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona or Justin Masterson will get the start.
So, it would be Juan Pierre in left field, Alex Rios in center field and Quentin in right field. The infield, from third to first, would be Mark Teahen, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Konerko, and I'm guessing the left-handed-hitting Kotsay at DH. Mark Buehrle and A.J. Pierzynski will make up the battery. As for a batting order, let's try Pierre, Rios, Quentin, Konerko, Teahen, Beckham, Pierzynski, Ramirez and Kotsay. Of course, write that lineup in pencil for now.
Is there still a chance Jim Thome comes back to the White Sox?
-- Marcia, Chicago
There's some sort of chance, even if it's small, especially with the strong bond between the prodigious slugger and the White Sox. The South Siders also could benefit from a big left-handed bat in the middle of the order.
As mentioned above, though, Guillen seems set on using the rotating DH for now. And it's Guillen who runs the team on a day-to-day basis, so there's no reason to force anyone who isn't part of his present plan. Thome still has some good years ahead of him, and whatever team eventually adds Thome will get 25-to-30 home run potential, great on-base potential and a tremendous clubhouse presence.
Do you think there is a chance that Joe Crede could return to the Sox? He could play third and serve as a DH.
-- Ken, Chapel Hill, N.C.
I actually mentioned this idea to Crede during Minnesota's American League Division Series against the Yankees. With a polite laugh, Crede told me that he didn't see it happening.
Of course, now it's even more of a moot point with Teahen entrenched at third, and to be honest, Crede was not on the White Sox radar at any point. It was good to see Crede so upbeat and positive about how his back felt because he really was a good person to deal with over the years. Hopefully, Crede's back feels that same way as the year progresses.
When Pierzynski is elected to the Hall of Fame after his career is completed, will he wear a White Sox or Twins hat?
-- Pete, Portland, Ore.
This question is an easy one to answer. Pierzynski clearly will go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Florida Gators helmet. I actually was surprised Pierzynski's name didn't come up as a possible replacement during Urban Meyer's brief coaching departure.
All kidding aside, you wonder if Pierzynski's accomplishments on the field will be appreciated more after he's done. This is an individual who has a singular goal of winning and, as I've mentioned before, would play every day if given the opportunity. Pierzynski falls victim, at times, to the Ozzie Guillen Syndrome, where your innate ability gets overlooked because you are an entertaining quote or speak your mind to the public.
Any chance of the First Fan throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day?
-- J., Wheeling, Ill.
Don't look for President Barack Obama to be in Chicago on Opening Day, at least not at this point. I think the White Sox are holding out for a playoff appearance, since President Obama was such good luck in 2005.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.