12/05/12 10:00 PM ET
White Sox know to keep focus on themselves
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
"If Detroit wins 130 games, we are going to be in big-time trouble. It will be a very tough division to win," said White Sox reliever Matt Thornton with a laugh. "We are always going out to win our division, but with the new Wild Card addition, it's about making the playoffs.
"Winning the division is our No. 1 priority, but getting there is getting there. So, go out and win as many games as possible. If you start concerning yourselves with Detroit, Boston, New York and Kansas City, it distracts from the ultimate goal of winning games. Just focus on what we have and what we are doing."
Hahn emphasizes need for diversity on offense
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rick Hahn would not address Wednesday's news of a three-year, $12-million deal agreed upon between the White Sox and infielder Jeff Keppinger until the deal was finalized.
The White Sox general manager did speak to the qualities sought by the team in a new third baseman, a position that was next on their list of priorities after agreeing to a two-year, $29-million extension with right-handed pitcher Jake Peavy in late October.
Offensive diversity sits at the top of that particular list, especially for a team that manager Robin Ventura mentioned Tuesday needed to get better at bringing in runners from third with less than two outs and situational hitting overall.
"A number of things and I'm not sure any one player would address all those things," said Hahn of the third base search. "But one of the themes we've hit on this offseason is trying to diversify the offense a little bit, have some players that can put the ball in play a little more, get on base at a little higher clip perhaps, as well as the defense being important.
"It's always something we're cognizant of, but especially in a situation where we may have at least three left-handed starters, you're going to want to be pretty strong on the left side of your infield defensively, at least on the days that those guys start. Those were and are some of the items we have on our check list when we started looking at third base acquisitions."
Adding Tyler Flowers into the mix at catcher will increase the power potential for a lineup that hit 211 homers last season. It also will increase its strikeout rate.
Keppinger fanned just 31 times over 418 plate appearances for the Rays in 2012. He also has the infield versatility that became a priority for the White Sox.
"That is absolutely a priority," Hahn said. "We want to give Robin more opportunities to play matchups with his lineups both offensively as well as defensively and more ability to put guys in a position to succeed based on who is starting that day for us or for them. So certainly position versatility never hurts especially when a guy is capable of playing quality defense at multiple positions."
White Sox plan to explore utility infielder options
NASHVILLE -- If the 2013 season started this week, then Minor Leaguers Carlos Sanchez or Tyler Saladino stand as the prime utility infield candidates under White Sox control. Of course, the season does not start in early December, giving general manager Rick Hahn time to work on solidifying this area among others.
"We've been talking to both Major League free agents and Minor League free agents," Hahn said. "But that's an area that needs to be addressed."
Hahn seemed hesitant to take the 20-year-old Sanchez to the Majors as a starter, let alone a reserve, after just 158 at-bats above the Double-A level. It's a discussion to be re-evaluated in Glendale, but Hahn still believes that the best thing for Sanchez's development is to get more at-bats at Triple-A.
Brent Morel stands on the fringe of the utility mix, with 17 games at shortstop for Charlotte in 2010 marking the only games of his professional career away from third. But Hahn wants Morel to focus on continued back health above all else, with the 2012 Opening Day starter at third recently telling MLB.com that his back feels healthy for the first time since before last Spring Training.
"I don't want to put too much on Brent Morel right now, other than getting healthy and doing what he has to do to get his problems behind him," Hahn said. "If he is 100 percent healthy come Glendale and doing all the drills, and in Spring Training games without restrictions and feeling good, we will absolutely see just like any other infielders with versatility if he could potentially help us in addition to third base."
Third to first
• Hahn picked the brains of Ventura and assistant general manager Buddy Bell, both accomplished Major League third basemen, when looking for the next player to fill that spot for the White Sox.
"There are a lot of Gold Glove third baseman floating around this room," a smiling Hahn said.