01/07/10 5:40 PM EST
Inbox: Who should top the rotation?
MLB.com's Merkin answers your White Sox questions
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
The White Sox first pitch in Glendale sits a little less than six weeks away, not counting this week's voluntary minicamp, and bragging rights fell on the line between John Danks and Jake Peavy. Danks is an ardent Texas supporter, while Peavy has the same backing for Alabama.
"I'll get on him if Texas wins, to the point where I might become an annoyance," said Danks with a laugh. "If Alabama wins, I'll probably lose his number."
And for those who read the MLB.com White Sox Fantasy Football story around Christmas-time, Team Beckham defeated Team Pierzynski for the championship. Now, let's move on to this week's round of questions.
Who should be the White Sox Opening Day starting pitcher: Peavy or Mark Buehrle? I would rather it be Buehrle because of all he has done for us in his career (perfect game and no-hitter), but are there any ideas who the Sox are leaning toward?
-- Rich, Chicago
Acquiring Peavy was designed to add a true ace at the top of the White Sox rotation, and Buehrle himself characterized the move as such. That designation for Peavy certainly doesn't take away from the amazing accomplishments of Buehrle, who enters the 2010 season sitting 38 games over .500 for his illustrious career.
In deciding the original layout of the rotation, manager Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper will take a number of factors into consideration. They will look at the opponents over the first few weeks, which features home games against Cleveland and Minnesota and road games in Toronto and Cleveland, and they probably won't put left-handers Buehrle and Danks back-to-back in the rotation.
Neither Buehrle nor Peavy are the type of pitcher to make a big deal over who gets that first start or campaign for the nod, but it would serve as an important milestone for Buehrle. With an Opening Day start on April 5 at home against Cleveland, assuming there isn't 10 inches of snow still on the ground in Chicago, the lefty will break Billy Pierce's franchise record for most Opening Day starts at eight.
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With that deciding factor in mind, I look for a starting rotation of Buehrle, Peavy, Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia. It's a solid unit, regardless of the way you stack it at the top.
What's the status of hurlers Jeff Marquez and Carlos Torres for 2010?
-- Dean, Goshen, Ind.
I was told Marquez had cleanup surgery for bone chips in his right elbow, and he is back to throwing. Marquez will report to Spring Training early but will have to prove himself all over again and has quite a climb to get back into big league consideration. Remember, Marquez was a key piece in the Nick Swisher trade with the Yankees and a frontrunner to start at the back end of the 2009 rotation when the health of Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon was unknown. Marquez didn't break camp with the team and finished with a 9.85 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Charlotte before he was shut down.
Torres stands behind Daniel Hudson on the starters' depth chart, but he actually has a better shot to fill the last spot on the pitching staff as a long reliever. The White Sox will take Hudson to Spring Training as a starter and might prefer to have him pitch every fifth day for the Knights instead of pitching sporadically in the Majors as a long reliever.
I noticed Carlos Quentin's lack of mobility near the end of the season during his slower-than-usual home run trots. Will the offseason get his foot pain behind him, or is a reduced-speed CQ what we should expect from now on?
-- Matthew, Woodridge, Ill.
Hitting coach Greg Walker went to California a few months ago to work with Quentin on some hitting specifics -- which I wrote about back at the Winter Meetings -- and he returned with rave reviews for the White Sox right fielder. General manager Ken Williams also spoke highly of Quentin's physical recovery from the rupture of the plantar fascia in his left foot that was an issue for most of the 2009 season.
I'm not sure if Quentin is going to challenge Juan Pierre in a series of sprints, but he will be a healthier performer overall. Having the pin removed from his right wrist, which was fractured in Sept. 2008, should also help at the plate. Look for Quentin to bounce back with numbers more commensurate to his breakout campaign two seasons ago.
Has Williams really improved the White Sox for 2010? Are they good enough to win it all and not just the American League Central?
-- Laura, Addison, Ill.
Williams started improving the White Sox for 2010 midway through the 2009 season when he acquired Peavy, because as I've said before, this team will go as far as it's pitching takes it. Of course, a more consistent offense is important, but the depth of the pitching staff is what will lead the way.
There's no question the White Sox, entering the season as co-favorites with the Twins, are good enough to win the division. Are the South Siders as loaded as the Red Sox, Yankees or maybe now even the Mariners? On paper, they don't look quite even right now. But Williams isn't done putting this team together, whether it means adding another necessary piece in March or in June.
And once you get into a short playoff series, when you have the starting pitching featured by the White Sox, anything is possible. Aside from assembling one of the AL's top pitching staffs, Williams also found a leadoff hitter in Pierre and improved the bench without giving up any of his top prospects. So, yes, Williams had a plan, followed said plan and improved the team.
It's understandable how South Siders fans want Williams to go out and get a big hitter to fill the full-time designated hitter void. Having a pure DH, though, who can't play another spot, is not what Guillen wants at this time, and Williams won't spend now just to say he covered a void when he might be able to make a more important move later. See Williams' plan to not add another starter last spring, which allowed the team to get Peavy in July, as a prime example.
I always thought Robin Ventura would be an excellent coaching addition to this team in some capacity. Has there been any interest by Ventura or the White Sox in regard to this opportunity?
-- Joe, Addison
Guillen and the White Sox would love to have Ventura working in some capacity within the organization. But Ventura is a devoted family man, and while he has spent time with the White Sox during Spring Training or on the West Coast or even playing in last year's Field of Greens charity golf tournament in Chicago, he's not ready to make the time commitment as a full-time coach at any level. He certainly possesses the baseball acumen to share with current players -- Major Leaguers or Minor Leaguers.
Will the White Sox go after left-hander Jarrod Washburn?
-- Rob, Aston, Pa.
Washburn's name came up frequently a few years ago in regard to the White Sox, but the southpaw's style was not deemed a good fit for U.S. Cellular Field. As mentioned above, the White Sox are set with their pitching at this moment, although Washburn could end up in the AL Central with the Twins from what I've been hearing.