Notes: Ozzie prepared to turn up heat
After difficult '07 season, Guillen fired up for spring
TUCSON, Ariz. -- As Ozzie Guillen traveled from Florida to Arizona for his fifth year at the helm of the White Sox, beginning Saturday morning when pitchers and catchers report to the Kino Sports Complex, Guillen happened to peruse a national publication harshly assessing his managerial abilities.
"I already got fired before Spring Training even started," said Guillen with a laugh during an impromptu chat with a handful of media members Friday afternoon.
Guillen was referring to a column stating how the gregarious White Sox leader might have one year left in charge, following last year's 72-90 debacle and with pundits' expectations not much higher for 2008. In actuality, Guillen is working under a contract extension taking him through 2012 and has the full support of both team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Ken Williams.
But if Guillen is to eventually go down as the White Sox manager, as the Frank Sinatra classic goes, Guillen will do it his way. After taking responsibility for last year's fourth-place finish in the American League Central because he was "too laid back," Guillen plans to return to his unique and outspoken form from the first day of action in Tucson.
"I'm getting back to being Ozzie," Guillen said. "I'm going to have fun and smile with the players, but if I have to scream at someone, I'm going to do it. I don't [care] if I'm going to be on every TV and people hate me for that. I get paid to win."
That laid-back approach from Guillen stemmed from confidence or a comfort level built by his team during the 2005 World Series title run and a 90-win effort in 2006. To avoid last year's problems, though, Guillen will try to get his team regular-season ready from the start of Spring Training.
The goal is not to win the Cactus League title, by Guillen's candid admission. Instead, he plans to implement a program spoken about during the Winter Meetings and again at SoxFest, in which fundamentals will be stressed and where players will take part in the main spring games instead of getting their work in during "B" games on the back Minor League fields. It won't be a boot camp and players will get their requisite days off, but Guillen envisions a more entertaining and fluid spring, leading into improved fortunes during 2008. And the team is the thing, even for a manager drawing attention to see how he bounces back from his first bout with failure.
"Last year, I backed off a little bit," Guillen said. "I thought players were getting tired of 'There goes Ozzie again.' But if they get tired, good, that's the way I'm going to handle stuff.
"You want to be a good guy? Be a good guy off the field. I expect my players this year to be mean. You want to take someone under your wing? Take them to the restaurant or something. You see something you don't like, then get on [them]. Don't let me be the bad guy.
"We need players helping each other, and we have those guys here," Guillen added. "It's not an important spring for me. It's important for the team because we don't want to suffer the way we did last year."
Taking the third: When asked about his starting third baseman once again on Friday, Guillen reiterated his SoxFest support for second-year slugger Josh Fields.
"It's for one reason. I don't know exactly where Joe Crede is health-wise," Guillen said. "I don't know how far we can take him or how may innings he can play.
"Joe will have playing time in Spring Training, but I can't count on Joe when I don't know how healthy he is. When Joe shows me he's healthy, then we have a good problem."
Guillen said that he has had "zero" talks with Williams in regard to trading Crede once he has proven his back is healthy on the field. Even with Crede in the last year of his contract, he could end up at third in Guillen's estimation if his presence gives the White Sox the best chance to win.
Crede received medical clearance to report early with pitchers and catchers.
"I'm going to be honest with him and expect him to be honest with me," said Guillen of Uribe. "If he's not happy or comfortable or being here would be bad for the club, then let me know and I'll let Kenny know and he can make a decision. I would love to keep him.
"I don't expect him to come with a friendly attitude. He's not a loser, but I expect him to come to compete and do what he's doing. Don't help me, but help himself."
Climbing the charts: Jack Egbert has a different feel about his current place in the organization as he enters his first big league Spring Training. That increase in confidence just happens to coincide with the young right-hander getting closer to the White Sox as a starting rotation option.
"Compared to previous offseasons where we picked up a bunch of pitchers, we definitely got rid of a couple of guys who I was competing with," Egbert said. "Obviously, you don't like to see guys get shipped off, but it creates more opportunity for myself."
Egbert, 24, produced a 12-8 record and 3.06 ERA over 28 starts for Double-A Birmingham last year, forming a formidable one-two rotation punch with Gio Gonzalez for the Barons. Gonzalez became part of the Nick Swisher trade with the A's during the offseason, a move that somewhat surprised Egbert, but also moved him another step toward living his Major League dream if he continues to perform.
Mail time: A couple of interesting pictures caught Guillen's attention as he was going through old, forwarded mail at his desk Friday at the White Sox complex. One was a color glossy with a request for an autograph, but it was a picture of Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith instead of the White Sox manager. The envelope also was addressed to Ozzie Smith, care of the White Sox.
The second photo captured Guillen standing on the mound, talking with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, after making a pitching change.
"That picture could have been the cover shot for our media guide," said Guillen with a laugh, referring to the plethora of trips he made to the mound in 2007.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.