12/14/09 1:40 PM EST
Nix not focused on Sox roster math
Utility man preparing to be part of team's 25-man squad
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Manager Ozzie Guillen seems inclined to keep 12 pitchers on his staff to open the 2010 season. Add that number to the seven position players already set, along with Omar Vizquel, Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones and a backup catcher on the bench, and this roster total comes to 23.
Now, let's move on to the advanced theory class. If the White Sox add a leadoff hitter to the outfield and a designated hitter to the lineup, such as Scott Podsednik and Hideki Matsui as purely hypothetical examples, then where do these offseason moves leave Jayson Nix with the roster apparently set at 25?
It's a question thought about by Nix, even after Vizquel and Jones were signed. But he didn't dwell long on the potential predicament.
"Of course that goes through your mind, because I don't know where that will leave me," said Nix, who made a quick trip from Dallas to Chicago this past weekend, including his participation at the White Sox Annual Boys & Girls Club Holiday Party. "It's a waste of time thinking about it.
"I really have no control or say as to what goes on. My job is to get ready for this season and do what I can to improve."
Nix's situation becomes a bit trickier for a couple of reasons. The 27-year-old is out of options and would have to clear waivers for the South Siders to keep him if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, and even if there is a spot open for the 25th man, Nix does not stand as a veritable lock to fill that void.
Brent Lillibridge, added during the 2008 offseason through the Javier Vazquez trade with Atlanta, also would be in the mix. Both players can play the infield and the outfield, although Lillibridge has a bit more outfield experience, and both have speed, although Lillibridge certainly is a little faster. Guillen mentioned at the Winter Meetings that he will need a pinch-runner late in games, so speed could be a deciding factor.
Guillen and general manager Ken Williams stressed recently how these young reserves should not count themselves out. Williams specifically addressed Nix's situation when asked Thursday if he would have a talk with Nix before the holiday party.
"Jayson has a role on this team," Williams said. "So, I absolutely will."
"Don't count yourself out, because you never know what's going to happen," Guillen said. "Come out and fight for a spot, and play the way you should."
After signing with the White Sox on Oct. 24, 2008, Nix was in the Spring Training mix with Lillibridge, Chris Getz and eventually rookie Gordon Beckham for the starting second-base job. A strained right quadriceps cost him a viable opportunity for the position, placing Nix on the disabled list.
But Nix made an impact once he arrived at the Major League level. He finished third among American League rookies with 12 home runs, fifth in RBIs at 32 and sixth in slugging percentage at .408. He made 52 appearances at second, 15 at shortstop, 12 at third, four in right field and three in left field, so versatility became Nix's middle name on the diamond.
"Last year was new for me, playing those different positions," Nix said. "I've never done that before in my career. I think there is a big value for that sort of role. You can put that guy anywhere and rely and count on him to come through."
Here's the skills issue for Nix, at least, in Guillen's mind. He fanned 64 times over 255 at-bats and hit just .224. The average didn't bother the White Sox manager as much as the strikeouts, a team-wide, swing-and-a-miss headache which seemingly wore on Guillen as the 2009 campaign progressed.
This better-contact point of improvement was made abundantly clear by Guillen where Nix was concerned. Nix, a coachable young man who seems open to constructive criticism, appreciated his boss' direct approach.
"We are all men here, and we all know there are adjustments to be made," Nix said. "I don't disagree with [Guillen] and don't mind it at all. I did some things here and there that were good, and I helped the team here and there. Overall, I need to do a lot better."
That improvement for Nix involves making better contact and using the whole field in his approach at the plate. It's a plan Nix already has talked about with hitting coach Greg Walker and assistant hitting coach Mike Gellinger.
It's a plan Nix hopes to employ during Spring Training and use to maintain his roster spot for an organization and city where he really wants to play. He also hopes to learn from his childhood idol, Vizquel, to help solve for X in this roster equation.
"When I was a kid, I remember going to watch Vizquel when he played the Rangers, watching him work in the middle of the field," said Nix. "He's a special player. He's got a lot of knowledge.
"Getting in the best shape I can, getting my mind and skills right, that's my focus to start the season right. With me not playing every day, when I do play, I need to give the team every chance when I go up there to get hits and put the ball in play."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.