Inbox: Shaking out the 'pen

Inbox: Shaking out the 'pen

Let me send a true expression of gratitude to White Sox reliever Matt Thornton, who did an exceptional job as the guest conductor in last week's special SoxFest Inbox.

He shared his vast baseball knowledge, dealing with his career and the White Sox, not to mention answering my University of Michigan football question ... I mean, he answered that question from Scott from Chicago -- just a coincidence.

Before we take a look at this week's questions, I would like to throw one out there myself to the readers.

Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections have the White Sox finishing the 2010 season tied for second place with Detroit, at 79-83, behind Minnesota in the American League Central. Those projections have Tampa Bay winning the AL East and producing Major League Baseball's best record, Boston winning the AL Wild Card, Oakland winning the AL West, the Angels finishing last with a 76-86 record and the defending World Series champion Yankees missing the playoffs.

Certainly, these are some interesting predictions. In regard to the White Sox projection, do you agree or disagree and why? Let me know and we will put some replies on the Being Ozzie Guillen blog.

How many pitchers will Ozzie Guillen have on his 25-man roster and will Randy Williams be our second lefty in the 'pen or are we looking at other options outside the organization?
-- Tony, Chicago

As Guillen joked at SoxFest, he would take 13 pitchers if that number was possible, but 13 pitchers would put quite a crimp in his bench flexibility. So, look for 12 to break camp with the team, and I still pick Freddy Dolsi for that last relief spot, with Daniel Hudson returning to Triple-A Charlotte at the outset to start every fifth day.

Williams looks to be the left-handed specialist, unless non-roster invite Erick Threets can knock him out. General manager Ken Williams said at SoxFest that the southpaw pitched well in 2009 when used properly, and Guillen even admitted that Randy Williams' struggles primarily came from when he was used in the wrong situations.

Check out these statistics: 21 of Williams' 25 outings were scoreless and 17 were less than one inning pitched. Most importantly, left-handers hit .162 (6-for-27) against Williams, and first batters faced hit .136 (3-for-22). When your job is to get one batter out, this first batter faced statistic looms large.

I really believe the ability to carry 12 pitchers played into Guillen's decision to not bring back Jim Thome. Granted, it might have been a small factor with the White Sox stellar rotation and back end of the bullpen providing confidence, but Guillen likes to match up late in the game and seems to feel comfortable with that extra arm to use.

Have a question about the White Sox?
Scott MerkinE-mail your query to MLB.com White Sox beat reporter Scott Merkin for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Question:

What is the latest on Cuban defector Yuniesky Maya? The last I'd heard about him was around Christmas time, and the White Sox and Mets were said to be the front-runners to land him. After watching a little bit of footage of him pitching, I think he'd be a good fit as a long reliever out of the bullpen.
-- Dan, Aurora, Ill.

I was told at SoxFest that the White Sox scouted Maya and watched him throw, but they dropped out of the Maya picture after signing J.J. Putz. The money wanted wasn't commensurate with where the White Sox thought Maya would be pegged as a fourth- or fifth-starter type.

With the trade to obtain Mark Teahen and his signing to an extension, when do you think that we may see Dayan Viciedo? Will he stay at third or will we have to find a new position for him to play? Thanks.
-- Ian, Flint, Mich.

Viciedo probably needs another year in the Minors, although both Alexei Ramirez and Minor League director Buddy Bell have raved about how good Viciedo looks. Ramirez works out with Viciedo in Florida during the offseason, so the White Sox shortstop should know.

There's no question Viciedo is going to be a special player with the bat. He'll almost certainly end up at first base or possibly designated hitter, with Viciedo set to play some first base this year. With all the talk and frequent complaints about the need for a primary White Sox designated hitter, maybe Viciedo will become the 2010 internal option version of Bobby Jenks from 2005.

Any chance Ken Williams goes after Johnny Damon?
-- Moises, Chicago

This idea was broached to the White Sox leader at SoxFest. And here's Williams' response.

"Who is his agent?" Williams asked.

The answer would be Scott Boras. Sure, Damon would form a nice 1-2 punch with Juan Pierre at the top of the order, but moreso than his specific representation, I would think money would be an issue since the White Sox seem set right now at around the $100 million salary mark. Guillen also stated that Thome was the only left-handed bat to which he had interest.

I just want to know why Hank Blalock's name has not come up this offseason? He's a lefty and can play third or first.
-- Shawn, Lake Station, Ind.

Check the Damon answer above, specifically Blalock's particular representation and Guillen's DH-by-committee plan. From what I've been told, Blalock might gravitate more toward a DH/first base slot right now, and the White Sox have Mark Kotsay to capably fill that role.

Where do Tyler Flowers, Jordan Danks, and Jared Mitchell fit into the White Sox future as everyday players.
-- Joshua, Streamwood, Ill.

Danks could make an appearance this year, depending on how his offense comes around, because his defense already is of Major League quality. Mitchell is at least one year away, probably two, which is the time when Pierre's contract will be up going into 2012. The White Sox intend to have Pierre work with Mitchell this spring.

Both of those outfielders will be in the everyday mix by 2012. I'm not sure what the immediate future holds for Flowers. I still believe the White Sox will bring back A.J. Pierzynski for another couple of years after the 2010 campaign, meaning it might be 2013 before Flowers takes over on a regular basis. But I've been told Flowers has been developing nicely behind the plate and certainly has put a great deal of effort and time into learning about the White Sox staff.

Why don't you answer the tough questions like: What is your favorite food at the ballpark?
-- Nick, Justice, Ill.

When I do get to eat during the game at U.S. Cellular, you can't go wrong with a slice of Connie's cheese pizza or the cheddar burger I buy on the third level. I used to love the chicken salad sandwich they had two years ago on that same third level, sort of a healthy dining alternative. But sadly they didn't offer the sandwich in 2009.

I noticed that the White Sox signed Daniel Cabrera to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training. What are the chances that he FINALLY figures it out and makes the Opening Day roster? He had huge potential a few years ago, yet wildness killed him. He still has a good arm, so do you give him a chance of making the club?
-- Dylan, Shiloh, Ohio

Cabrera's velocity reportedly is a little bit down as he pitches for Licey in the Dominican Winter League, where the big right-hander has a 0-2 record with a 4.03 ERA in seven starts. Cabrera also has issued 19 walks over 22 1/3 innings for Licey, so that particular issue has not disappeared.

The White Sox certainly are interested to see what they have in Cabrera. I would say he's in play for that seventh and final relief spot, certainly moreso than a pitcher such as Jeff Marquez, who is on the 40-man roster.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.