Guillen continues to mull Thome as DH
Manager holds hope for resolution before heading home
CHICAGO -- As a sold-out SoxFest wound down to a close at the Palmer House Hilton, an influx of reporters and television cameras showed up for Sunday morning's final Town Hall Meeting in the Red Lacquer Room.
On Saturday afternoon, Guillen had said how he wanted to have a decision finalized regarding the possible addition of Jim Thome by the time he left for Miami on Sunday evening. On Sunday, in response to the first fan's question, Guillen said that he moved his flight from 4 p.m. Sunday to Monday afternoon.
The Thome debate continues on for at least another day.
"It's a funny thing. I'm doing this for the respect of Jim Thome and the fans and for what Jim Thome has done for the game," said Guillen, speaking to the media after the 45-minute question-and-answer session, which also included first-base coach Harold Baines, third-base coach Jeff Cox and the television broadcast team of Ken "Hawk" Harrelson and Steve Stone. "I still think about it. I wish I could make that decision before I leave but I haven't talked to Jim yet to express what I feel and what I need from him.
"Maybe what I have is not convenient for him. But I'm leaving tomorrow. I want to get that out of my mind and go to Venezuela and enjoy my life and not leave you guys hanging here. I don't want Thome to be waiting for my decision or my phone call."
If adding Thome simply existed as a decision on its own, based on the designated hitter's still solid level of productivity and his high character, then Thome would have been back with the White Sox long ago. As Guillen expressed once again on Sunday, though, there are greater ramifications to be considered.
For starters, the White Sox 40-man-roster sits at 40, meaning a player would have to be moved off in order to make room for the future Hall of Famer. That call isn't as significant as deciding where the 25-man roster spot comes from.
Omar Vizquel would stand as the lone utility infielder if the White Sox stayed with 12 pitchers, a highly improbable scenario. And Guillen played the respect card on Sunday as another reason why the return of Thome would mean 11 pitchers.
"I put this on the table, too," Guillen said. "Let's say we are down 11-0 in the sixth inning and I want to give a guy a day off. Well, I'm not putting Vizquel in there.
"They did it to me and I'm not going to do that to anyone else. It's [disrespectful] to put a Hall of Famer there, so we need someone else to cover that role. It's the same for Andruw Jones. I might get him some at-bats, but I'm not going to put him in the outfield in that situation. I have more class."
Guillen admitted the Thome vs. DH-by-committee discussions have been going on behind the scenes for the past three weeks, pointing out that the organization basically is split on which direction to go. One point where Guillen won't change, though, is avoiding a full-time DH even if Thome comes back.
"As long as I'm here, and I don't care who it is, nobody will be a full-time DH," Guillen said. "If I want one guy out there, I want [Thome]. I already talked to [GM Kenny Williams] about that."
That full-time DH description from Guillen really centers on versatility, meaning the player at the position can do more than serve as designated hitter. Take the example of Minnesota's Jason Kubel, who right now would see most of his at-bats as the Twins' DH, but also could play the outfield if needed.
Even if Thome agrees to take this split role, which apparently is the present job market for him in other interested places such as Tampa Bay and Minnesota, Guillen and the White Sox still could choose to go without the popular player. The decision will be made as a group, Guillen pointed out, even if he's the one who ultimately has to make the call. But Guillen is the one who has to feel comfortable with the roster and the respective roles to be filled.
"We'll talk to Jimmy, and if he says yes, he accepts the role, then we will make our decision," Guillen said. "I don't want a DH just to be a DH. I want a guy to help me in different ways, and I want to hear all the opinions to make the right decision."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.