Final pieces to be figured out at camp
Bench spot, final reliever remain open at start of camp
CHICAGO -- As snow falls steadily in Chicago and the temperatures hover in the 15-to-20 degree range, White Sox fans have the date of Feb. 21 circled on their calendars.
Through these changes, though, the White Sox general manager has built one of the American League's deepest and most talented pitching staffs. The style on offense also has been adjusted from a home run-dependent group to a more aggressive, athletic lot. Here's a look at how this group shapes up, as manager Ozzie Guillen, entering his seventh Spring Training in charge, gets set for the first pitch.
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Will the DH-by-committee be a success?
Guillen ultimately made the decision to bypass the return of Jim Thome or the addition of a full-time, left-handed designated hitter to use this position as a rotating talent slot. Guillen will employ Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones, Jayson Nix and Omar Vizquel as the DH, while giving a day off without giving a day off from time to time to position-player starters such as Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin.
There are plenty of doubters who believe the offense will not succeed at its optimum level with the variety of players filling this slot. But Guillen believes he can better suit his offense to different styles of pitchers by using this flexibility to maneuver the lineup.2. What players complete the White Sox roster?
All of the key spots have pretty much been set for the White Sox going into Spring Training. But there still are questions to be answered where the last position player is concerned and the final pitcher on the projected 12-man staff.
Look for Nix, who is out of options, to have the edge in the position-player battle. Nix gives Guillen a power bat off the bench, not to mention defensive versatility and a little bit of speed, although not as much quickness as Brent Lillibridge. The seventh reliever battle will be between Daniel Hudson, Sergio Santos, Freddy Dolsi and possibly even Daniel Cabrera, to name a few.3. Could there be a Spring Training addition?
Although Guillen has shown strong conviction to the DH-by-committee scenario, the White Sox won't wait long to fix a problem if one is deemed to exist, even during Spring Training. So, eyes will be fixed on Jones probably from the start of camp. The White Sox also could add another left-hander to the relief competition, giving Guillen a third southpaw to work in with Matt Thornton and Randy Williams out of the bullpen.
79-83, third place, 7 1/2 games back in the American League Central Projected batting order
1. LF Juan Pierre:
.308 BA, .365 OBP, .392 SLG, 0 HR, 31 RBI in 2009
2. 2B Gordon Beckham:
.270 BA, .347 OBP, .460 SLG, 14 HR, 63 RBI in 2009
3. RF Carlos Quentin:
.236 BA, .323 OBP, .456 SLG, 21 HR, 56 RBI in 2009
4. 1B Paul Konerko:
.277 BA, .353 OBP, .489 SLG, 28 HR, 88 RBI in 2009
5. CF Alex Rios:
.247 BA, .296 OBP, .395 SLG, 17 HR, 71 RBI in 2009
6. C A.J. Pierzynski:
.300 BA, .331 OBP, .425 SLG, 13 HR, 49 RBI in 2009
7. SS Alexei Ramirez:
.277 BA, .333 OBP, .389 SLG, 15 HR, 68 RBI in 2009
8. 3B Mark Teahen:
.271 BA, .325 OBP, .408 SLG, 12 HR, 50 RBI in 2009
9. DH Mark Kotsay:
.278 BA, .327 OBP, .390 SLG, 4 HR, 23 RBI in 2009
1. Mark Buehrle, 13-10, 3.84 ERA in 2009
2. Jake Peavy, 9-6, 3.45 ERA in 2009
3. John Danks, 13-11, 3.77 ERA in 2009
4. Gavin Floyd, 11-11, 4.06 ERA in 2009
5. Freddy Garcia, 3-4, 4.34 ERA in 2009
Closer: Bobby Jenks, 29/35 saves, 3.71 ERA in 2009
RH setup man: J.J. Putz, 5.22 ERA in 2009
LH setup man: Matt Thornton, 2.74 ERA in 2009 The new guys
RHP J.J. Putz: This acquisition of Putz might be the sleeper move from Williams during the past offseason. If healthy, and Putz expects his right elbow clearly to be ready for the start of Spring Training, he gives the White Sox a third closer, of sorts, along with Bobby Jenks and Thornton. And when Putz was healthy in Seattle, the right-hander was dominant. OF Juan Pierre: There was a time when Pierre was projected more as a nine-hitter in the American League than the leadoff man, but the White Sox are excited to have Pierre at the top of their order. The fleet-footed left-handed hitter, who was acquired from the Dodgers in a deal for pitchers John Ely and Jon Link, also will take over in left field defensively but will be counted on more to ignite the White Sox attack. OF/DH Andruw Jones: Jones is said to be in phenomenal physical condition and has told Guillen how he wants to serve as the everyday designated hitter. Jones will get that opportunity only if his play warrants, but figure on the right-handed hitter to start the season facing left-handed pitchers in the DH spot. 3B Mark Teahen: The left-handed-hitting third baseman already has endeared himself to White Sox fans through his @ESPY_Teahen Twitter account, written from his dog's perspective. But the White Sox are more focused on Teahen developing on the field, with the ability to blend in as one of the guys counted on instead of being the guy as he was in Kansas City. Playing primarily at third base also should help Teahen's overall cause. INF Omar Vizquel: One of the greatest defensive shortstops in the history of the game made history by getting permission from Venezuelan countryman and Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio to wear his unretired jersey No. 11 in tribute. Of greater importance is the defense and baserunning skill the 42-year-old provides off the bench, not to mention his ability to mentor the double-play combination of shorstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham. RHP Sergio Santos: If this name sounds somewhat familiar, it's because Santos was a non-roster invite to White Sox Spring Training last year as an infielder. He has come a long way in a short time as a pitcher, with a fastball that touched 98 mph during the Arizona Fall League. Santos is out of options and the White Sox might not want to take a chance in keeping a reliever based on pure potential and not polish, making Santos one of the more interesting calls of the spring. RHP Freddy Dolsi: Claimed off waivers from Detroit, the right-hander will compete for the seventh and final bullpen spot. Prospects to watch
1B/3B Dayan Viciedo: Ramirez has worked out regularly with Viciedo in Florida during the offseason and raves about the big man's potential. Viciedo still remains one year away from the Majors and will see more time this season at first base, ultimately the defensive position where the slugger probably will land. RHP Daniel Hudson: It's hard to really call Hudson a prospect, considering the right-hander made his way from Class A Kannapolis to Chicago in the course of one season. Hudson has a chance to earn the seventh reliever spot as the long man, but the White Sox could choose to have him work every fifth day for Triple-A Charlotte as the sixth starter in waiting. OF Jared Mitchell: This talented leadoff hitter will work alongside Pierre as a non-roster invite during Spring Training, in preparation for Mitchell to assume this top-of-the-order role in a couple of years. The 21-year-old top pick for the White Sox in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft will start 2010 for Double-A Birmingham, and could be the fastest player in the White Sox system. OF Jordan Danks: The younger brother of starting pitcher John Danks already is ready for the big leagues, defensively. He also showed great offensive possibilities during the Arizona Fall League. With surprising quickness and developing power, Danks could be the next man in for the White Sox if there are any injury problems in the outfield. C Tyler Flowers: There was a time when Flowers was being considered as a backup to starter A.J. Pierzynski for 2010, but the White Sox brought back veteran Ramon Castro and will give Flowers the opportunity to work on his defense and game-calling behind the plate on a daily basis. Flowers could hit at the Major League level presently. On the rebound
RF Carlos Quentin: After battling through plantar fasciitis in his left foot and soreness in his right knee during the 2009 season, Quentin seemed happy and healthy during his appearance at SoxFest. The White Sox value Quentin's power potential but also want him to show the selectivity at the plate that led to a .394 on-base percentage in his breakout 2008 campaign. Quentin had a wire removed from his surgically repaired right wrist early on in the offseason, which should help his stroke. CF Alex Rios: It was not a good year overall for Rios in 2009, but it was a truly disastrous stretch with the White Sox for the center fielder. Rios hit .199 in 41 games after being claimed off waivers from Toronto, but the White Sox are confident starting the year as part of the team will help Rios find consistency and return to his career .281 form. Rios' glovework in center also should be a plus for the team's improved defense. RHP Gavin Floyd: The right-hander finished with an 11-11 record and a 4.06 ERA but missed the final two weeks of the season due to a sore left hip. Floyd told MLB.com back in late October that his hip had no extended problem, and he felt good and already was focused on the 2010 campaign. RHP Bobby Jenks: As Thornton pointed out, the only reason Jenks' 3.79 ERA and 29 saves in 2009 were viewed as a bit of a dip is because of the lofty bar set previously by the White Sox closer. Jenks looks to be in the best shape of his professional career and should have a little better insulation in the back end of the bullpen provided by Putz and Thornton. Long gone
RF Jermaine Dye: The middle-of-the-order presence was as well-respected as pretty much anyone within the White Sox organization during his five years on the South Side. But Dye struggled with a .179 average in the second half of the 2009 season, and the White Sox chose to use their $950,000 buyout instead of picking up his $12 million option for 2010. Dye remains a free agent in search of a new job. OF Scott Podsednik: He started the 2009 season on his couch at home in Texas, preparing to start a speed-training school. By the end of the campaign, Podsednik was as consistent an offensive force as the White Sox had in their lineup. A difference in contract demands caused the White Sox and the talented leadoff man to move in different directions, with the White Sox trading for Pierre and Podsednik joining the Royals. DH Jim Thome: The powerful and well-respected left-handed hitter was the one consideration given by the White Sox manager for changing his DH-by-committee thought process. Guillen didn't believe he would be able to find enough at-bats for Thome, who actually played the last month of the 2009 season in the National League after a trade to the Dodgers. So, the future Hall of Famer, sitting 36 home runs from 600, signed with the top division rival from Minnesota. RHP Octavio Dotel: This hard-throwing right-hander will be missed as much for his humorous clubhouse presence as he will for his late-inning strikeouts. Dotel signed as a free agent with the Pirates, apparently having a chance to become the team's new closer. RHP D.J. Carrasco: Guillen termed the middle reliever/spot starter as the most valuable pitcher on his staff at one point last season. But the deep 2010 starting rotation and the addition of Putz made expendable the 2009 AL leader in innings pitched by a reliever, with Carrasco joining the Pirates and hoping for a chance to start. 2B Chris Getz As a rookie, Getz proved to be the most adept stolen-base threat with a successful clip on 25 of 27 attempts. But the White Sox felt Beckham profiled better from an offensive standpoint at second base and needed to include the talented Getz in order to pry loose Teahen from the Royals. 3B/1B Josh Fields: The affable young power hitter always will be remembered as the man who launched a grand slam during Mark Buehrle's perfect game and caught the last out at first base before the on-field celebration. Whether it was his defense at third or his strikeouts, Fields never seemed to find a groove after his strong fill-in effort for an injured Joe Crede in 2007. He should get a more regular chance to play as the DH in Kansas City, moving there as part of the Teahen trade. OF Dewayne Wise: Speaking of perfect-game efforts, Wise's historic spectacular catch on Gabe Kapler's ninth-inning leadoff home run bid against Buehrle probably will earn Wise a chance to return as an invited guest to SoxFest for years to come. The left-handed hitter, who started the 2009 season as the team's leadoff man and center fielder, joined the Phillies via a Minor League deal, rather than accepting an outright assignment to Charlotte. INF Wilson Betemit: Ok, Betemit was pretty much gone from the White Sox midway through the 2009 season. But the man who Guillen once joked committed errors while he was serving as the team's DH has since joined the Royals on a Minor League contract.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.