Notes: Ramirez showing flashes
Cuban getting more comfortable at plate, in the field
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Alexei Ramirez played a flawless game with limited opportunities at second Sunday against the Padres in Peoria, during his Cactus League debut at the position in which the White Sox envision him playing during the 2008 season.
While the defensive side of the Cuban émigré's game stands as a work in progress, his skill with the bat seems to be developing with each start.
"It seems like every day he's getting a little better," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker. "He's starting to feel comfortable, and there's obviously some athletic ability there.
"Early on in the games, it was obvious he could hit a fastball. He also has shown in the last three or four days that he can hit a breaking ball at times. He still has problems when he tries to do too much, but he's a very intriguing player to me."
Ramirez finished with one single in four at-bats against the Padres and a run scored. Walker mentioned how the coaches basically just watched Ramirez when he first arrived at Spring Training, allowing him to adjust to the pressure of the big cultural change.
But Ramirez has hit Cactus League play running, which is not a play on words for the speed intangible he brings to the competition. The question becomes consistency for Ramirez, as to whether he shows enough to earn a starting job or even a roster spot out of camp with the White Sox.
"I don't know. The next three weeks will tell," Walker said. "Can he get more consistent with the positioning of his body? Can he handle the breaking ball? How does his brain work and how does he think in the batter's box? Can he make the adjustments to hit here?
"No decisions have been made on him yet. I see signs of more polish every day, but he's raw with his mechanics. Right now, he's an aggressive young hitter with a lot of raw talent."
Defensive alignment: Ozzie Guillen disagrees with the assessment that if Ramirez can play shortstop, which he has done adeptly during Spring Training, then he should be able to naturally make the move to second base.
With that thought in mind, the White Sox manager plans to use Ramirez more regularly at second over the final 17 Cactus League games.
"Second base is a different position," Guillen told a reporter after Sunday's loss to the Padres. "From now on, we're going to put him more at second base to get him used to it and to see how we can help him to do that."
Guillen reaffirmed that Ramirez will be in the starting mix at this position, although Juan Uribe appears to be the front-runner when factoring in Danny Richar's back injury and Ramirez's defensive inexperience. Pablo Ozuna will not start at second because he is too valuable as a utility infielder.
Ozuna played shortstop on Sunday and could find action from third to first during the regular season.
"It has to be an extreme emergency to put him back in the outfield," said Guillen of Ozuna. "I just want him to concentrate on the infield."
"It's like going from a festival to the exact opposite," said Iguchi through translator David Yamamoto prior to Sunday's game, pointing to the absence of characters such as Guillen and Uribe as part of the change. "It's a very different environment."
Iguchi added how he still keeps an eye on the White Sox and believes Uribe eventually will emerge as the White Sox starting second baseman.
"I do kind of wonder what's going to happen," said Iguchi of the second base job that belonged to him at the start of the 2007 season.
Pick up the pace: Credit Don Cooper, in part, for Jose Contreras retiring the final nine batters he faced Sunday following San Diego's two-run first and Luis Rodriguez's leadoff double in the second. The White Sox pitching coach suggested Contreras work a little quicker when he lost his rhythm in the opening frame.
"After I picked up the pace, I was able to locate my spots," said Contreras through a translator. "When I got back to the mound [in the second], I found everything.
"The reason I retired the nine batters was because I was throwing all my pitches with command, in and out, my split, changeup and fastball. I mixed it up and got better command."
Contreras struck out two and walked one over four innings, yielding Kevin Kouzmanoff's two-run home run in the first.
Around the horn: Contreras, who is hitless in 19 regular-season at-bats, with 12 strikeouts, knocked out a single in the fourth Sunday. "Ball hit bat," Contreras said. ... Aaron Poreda, the White Sox top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, will start against Colorado in Monday morning's "B" game. ... Gavin Floyd has recovered from his bout with the flu and takes the mound Tuesday against Texas in Surprise.
Up next: While Jerry Owens and Carlos Quentin return to action in the morning "B" game, Mark Buehrle looks to increase his scoreless string of six spring innings during his start against Seattle at Tucson Electric Park. Buehrle is scheduled to throw four innings or 50 pitches. Bobby Jenks also returns to the mound after taking care of a minor dental problem on Saturday.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.