3/25/2013 8:42 P.M. ET
Lefty Veal doesn't shy away from 'specialist' label
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The job title of left-handed specialist was hung on Donnie Veal during the 2012 season probably because he throws left-handed.
He threw only 13 innings over 24 stellar appearances and left-handers managed just three hits in 32 at-bats against him. The 28-year-old doesn't mind the title, even if the hurler who held right-handed hitters to a .154 average (2-for-13) understands he can do more.
"Everyone wants to do a little more. But that's the role so that's what I'm going to do," Veal said. "Honestly, as long as I'm on the team, lefty specialist or whatever, I don't really care."
Veal, who threw two innings in a Minor League game Saturday, certainly will break camp with the White Sox, even if he won't allow himself to believe that fact until manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper or general manager Rick Hahn tell him. His Spring Training goal was to get the breaking ball back to where it was at the end of last year and really keep everything where it was at the end of last season because "it worked really well."
That effectiveness included his one-man mound wrecking crew of Detroit's Prince Fielder, who finished 0-for-5 with one strikeout against Veal in head-to-head matchups. To think the left-handed-hitting power source, who batted .313 overall with 30 homers and 108 RBIs, not to mention drawing 85 walks against 84 strikeouts, can't hit lefties would be wrong.
Fielder featured a .289 average against lefties with six homers and 46 RBIs. He was 3-for-3 last year against John Danks, with a double and two RBIs, 2-for-3 against Hector Santiago, and the White Sox still shake with frustration over Fielder's three-run bomb launched against Leyson Septimo in the seventh inning of an 8-6 Tigers victory on Sept. 12 in Chicago.
Chris Sale held Fielder to one hit in nine at-bats and Fielder was 0-for-2 against Matt Thornton, so White Sox lefties have figured out a way to retire the All-Star. But it's still easy to understand why Veal doesn't want to tempt fate where his streak against Fielder is concerned.
When asked about that particular success, Veal smiles, points out that it went well for him last year and plans on it going well again this year and adds just a bit more.
"He's a really good hitter and I'm not taking anything away from him," Veal said. "He's dangerous and that's why I try to stay away from him."
Rios scratched from Monday's lineup with back issue
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Alex Rios missed a third straight day of Cactus League action Monday, getting scratched from the lineup before the Angels 11-5 victory because of continued lower back stiffness. The White Sox right fielder first felt something while lifting weights on Saturday, and he left the Camelback Ranch complex Monday morning to get it checked out by an MRI.
But Rios is not worried about the issue hampering his start to the 2013 regular season.
"No, I don't think so. It's a thing that's going to take a few days," Rios said. "It will be fine. I've had this before in my career. It's just a normal [stiffness]."
Manager Robin Ventura wasn't worried about Rios' injury when addressing it postgame Sunday, mentioning that he would like to get him in a couple of games before leaving camp. With only three games left before the close of Cactus League play, that goal may not be possible.
"He's telling me not to worry but I think we're getting close enough that everything becomes a concern now," Ventura said. "We're treating it pretty aggressively and making sure he can get out there Wednesday just so he has a few games before we start."
Rios did get plenty of work taking part in the World Baseball Classic for three weeks as part of Team Puerto Rico, who lost to the Dominican Republic in the competition's championship.
"I'll probably need to do a little maintenance now and then, but I feel I've got a lot of work done during spring," said Rios, who had his best season as a pro in 2012, hitting .304 with 25 homers, 91 RBIs, 37 doubles and 23 stolen bases. "I've had this before and I know the feeling, so I don't think there's anything we have to worry about."
Crain positive after return to game action
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Looking solely at the results from Jesse Crain's ninth inning of work Monday against the Angels at Camelback Ranch, it would be easy to think the right-hander wasn't overly satisfied with his performance.
Crain allowed three earned runs (four total) on three hits over two-thirds of an inning during the Angels' 11-5 victory. But being that it was Crain's first Cactus League appearance since Feb. 25 and his sore right adductor muscle came through the 25-pitch outing without a hitch, it was actually a positive.
"No matter what anybody says, you never want to go out there and give up hits," Crain said. "The most important thing today was feeling good and I threw, [manager Robin Ventura] came out after 25 pitches and I felt fine.
"My leg felt good. There still might be times mentally where I kind of baby it a little bit, but from now on I shouldn't have to do that because I feel good."
After throwing that one inning against the Giants one month ago, Crain has been sidelined by that slight adductor strain. It was just five days ago when Crain looked as if he was headed to the disabled list to start the season, but a strong Saturday outing in a Minor League game gave him hope.
Now trips to the mound on Wednesday to conclude Cactus League play and then during exhibition action this weekend in Milwaukee will serve as the deciding factors for Crain. Ventura said postgame Monday that the White Sox won't decide on Crain's status until this weekend and will bring extra players, such as relievers Brian Omogrosso and Ramon Troncoso, just in case Crain doesn't make the opening cut.
"If it goes like today as in health-wise, then I'm not worried about a thing," Crain said. "It's all going to come pitch-wise and crispness. I think my velocity was decent and I even feel like I had a little more in the tank the next couple of times out."
"Wednesday's going to be a big one for Jesse," said Ventura. "Bouncing back after throwing today, to see how he feels and how he's throwing, will be a better idea of how he's going to do. It's just one of those he got work. I don't think velocity-wise he was letting go, but he says he feels good."
Against the Angels, Crain walked Efren Navarro on five pitches and after a diving stop by first baseman Josh Bell on Hank Conger's grounder gave him one out, Luis Rodriguez's double on a 3-2 pitch scored Navarro. Trent Oeltjen tripled, before Kole Calhoun became Crain's only strikeout.
A chance exists that Crain could feel good over his next two appearances and still not break camp with the team if the White Sox don't deem him ready. Crain isn't giving much thought to that scenario.
"I hope if I feel good everything else will come along with it," Crain said. "I feel like when I'm healthy, then I don't have to think about my leg and then everything else comes with the territory."
Sale proud of alma mater FGCU's uprising
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Chris Sale first talked about the Florida Gulf Coast University's men's basketball team qualifying for the NCAA Tournament as the Atlantic Sun tournament champs, he sounded the following warning about the decided underdog.
"I definitely tell everyone to keep a close eye on them for sure," a smiling Sale told MLB.com.
His prediction proved prophetic, as FGCU upset Georgetown and San Diego St. to reach the Sweet 16. Next up is Florida.
"We have something to root for. You have something to be proud of, especially because the school is so new and so young," Sale said. "We've done some amazing things. That program has gone in the right direction since Day 1. It's fun to watch."
Third to first
• Minor Leaguers Drew Garcia, Stefan Gartrell, Marcus Semien, Brandon Short, Kevan Smith, Keenyn Walker and Matt Zaleski will join the White Sox in Milwaukee for the two weekend exhibition games.
• Ramon Troncoso's 12 appearances are tops among Cactus League pitchers.
• With six losses and a tie in their last eight games, the White Sox are closing Cactus League play on a flat note.
"It doesn't count but you'd like to see it a little bit different," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It needs to pick up before we start, definitely."