3/17/2014 7:55 P.M. ET
Grounds crew racing to ready battered field
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's been a brutal winter in Chicago and U.S. Cellular Field apparently has the scars to show it.
Head groundkeeper Roger Bossard showed pictures of the the field to members of the media on Monday and said he would have to take drastic measures in order to have it ready for Opening Day on March 31.
"I've been in this for over 45 years and I have seen a lot of snow and certainly that is not hard to handle," Bossard said, according to ESPNChicago.com. "This weekend I had my whole crew in and they took off 400 tons [of snow]. "My problem is the permafrost. I have actually never run into 30 inches of permafrost."
Manager Robin Ventura, speaking to reporters after the team's Cactus League game in Phoenix on Monday, said he was aware of the issue.
"I haven't talked to [Bossard] since he left, but I would imagine that he's pretty nervous, knowing him," Ventura said. "He didn't sound too optimistic about it when he left, but there's nothing we can do. I remember it being cold and snowy and all that other stuff, but I don't think it has been quite like this. This is new for him, too."
According to reports, the left-field grass in Chicago is brown from wind burn, the right-field corner is buried beneath six inches of ice, the warning track is muddy, a dugout is filled with snow and the infield is being thawed with an industrial heater.
Bossard said the permafrost won't go away before March 31 without sustained temperatures of above 50 degrees, so he will force hot air onto the field under the tarp covering and through the field drainage system.
The team plans to hold a workout there the day before Opening Day, so his deadline is actually March 30.
"Our backs are against the wall a little bit, but I have a good crew," Bossard said. "I'm doing everything I can here and I'm really comfortable that we will not only be able to open on Opening Day, but to have the workout the day before."
Shoulder rehab complete, Flowers to start at catcher
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Catcher Tyler Flowers said it was "great to hear" that he's expected to be named the White Sox starting catcher two weeks in advance of Opening Day, admitting that his offseason regimen to return from shoulder surgery often left him wondering if he'd even be ready to take on the role.
Manager Robin Ventura said Sunday that "unless something drastically changes," the starting job belongs to Flowers, who has spent his entire five-year career with the White Sox.
"I'm glad they recognize I'm healthy and I've been working hard to get to this point," Flowers said Monday. "It was kind of questionable in my mind for a little bit during the offseason, 'Can I be ready for the season?' Not to be a starter or anything but can I be ready just to play, I guess I'm proud of myself in that respect, but it's still a long road."
Flowers has appeared in 11 games for the White Sox this spring, batting .231 with a home run and three RBIs. The former 33rd round pick in the 2005 Draft played in 84 games for the White Sox last year, batting .195 before September surgery.
Flowers said there have been days in camp when the shoulder still hurts "a little bit," but says it hasn't affected his throw or velocity from behind the plate. He's spoken to other players who have had the surgery, and he understands that's to be expected.
Backup options are likely Hector Gimenez, Adrian Nieto and Josh Phegley. Flowers said "definitely not," when asked if he expected to be the starter coming into camp.
"When you go out there, any player that's a starter for Opening Day, each day you continue to earn that spot," Flowers said. "It's not guaranteed you're going to start the next day or the next week. In my mind, it's a good start to get the opportunity opening day, but you've got to earn it each and every day. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm glad I'm feeling healthy and I'm ready to go."
Semien making strong case for roster spot
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Utility infielder Marcus Semien is making a strong case for a spot on the White Sox Opening Day roster, and he's doing it everywhere.
The 23-year-old former sixth-round Draft pick out of University of California-Berkeley has excelled at the plate and in the field this spring, appearing in 15 Cactus League games and amassing a .348 batting average. He's played second base, third base and shortstop.
"It's good confidence against some of the pitchers I've been facing," Semien said. "I just want to keep working hard and show them I can do some things to help the team win."
Semien hopes to remain a mainstay as things heat up in Spring Training and games -- and lineups -- begin to more closely resemble the regular season. That can prove to be a more telling litmus test for the team's No. 8 overall prospect in 2013, according to MLB.com.
"It's a good feeling when you get a start during these last couple weeks, because that means you're going to get 3-4 at-bats most of the time, and you want to take advantage of that," Semien said. "If you're coming off the bench, just treat it like any other big-league game and be prepared for when you get in."
Semien says he works during batting practice to take ground balls at each position every day, and he's willing to play everywhere. He made his way into 21 Major League games in his debut season last year, batting .261 with two homers, four doubles, seven RBIs and two stolen bases.
At the time, he'd played just 304 Minor League games, covering parts of three seasons in the White Sox farm system, and tallied 1,375 plate appearances.
In his time spent between Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham last year, he hit .284 with 32 doubles, 19 home runs and 66 RBIs.
Using cut fastball, Paulino has best outing
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Felipe Paulino added a cut fastball to his repertoire and tested it out on Monday afternoon against the Brewers. If early indications mean anything, it'll likely be a part of his future outings, as well.
The right-hander turned in his best outing of the spring, holding Milwaukee scoreless over five innings while scattering two hits and three walks.
"Just to put something on the ball is great," Paulino said. "In the end, I feel great with how everything is coming together right now."
Paulino's numbers have been progressively better over his four Cactus League starts, and his ERA has dropped in that time from 21.60 to 13.50 to 9.72 to 6.08 on Monday. He also struck out four Monday.
"He looked good," manager Robin Ventura said. "When you're throwing that many strikes, he was just letting the defense work for him. It was a feel pitch for him, so he threw fairly well. He was getting ahead. You feel like you can throw strikes and throw that hard, it's a little bit easier on you."
Paulino's arsenal now includes a two-seam fastball, curveball, slider and the cutter, which he worked on with pitching coach Don Cooper and threw it eight times Monday.
"He gives me that confidence, Cooper gives it to me, to let me throw it in the game," Paulino said. "I'm glad with how it's coming. But it's a long season. I want to see how it responds every time. It's something I can add when something is not working I can add it to myself."
One of the few balls the Brewers hit hard off Paulino was Jean Segura's one-out triple in the third inning. But Paulino turned around and got Ryan Braun to pop out to second and struck out cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez to end the inning and strand Segura.
"I have to give a tip to the guy Segura, he hit it well," Paulino said. "That's baseball, that's the Major Leagues, he made a good swing. Good stuff after that, I made a good pitch to Ramirez. That's the Major Leagues, try to compete. I feel strong with that and I'm a competitive guy, when I get in a spot like I that I do the best I can to put up a zero."
• Former two-sport star Bo Jackson was in camp on Monday morning in Glendale to serve as a special instructor. Jackson, a former Heisman trophy winner at Auburn and a Raiders running back, played in the Majors with the Royals, Angels and White Sox.
Jackson played for Chicago in the 1991 and '93 seasons, hitting .231 with 19 home runs. He is expected to be in town all week after being named a White Sox community ambassador in January.
• The White Sox will host seven members of Glendale's Luke Air Force Base for batting practice and Wednesday's game. Illinois natives and White Sox fans Ryan Perry (Sauk Village, Ill.) and Chris Powell (South Holland, Ill.) are among the seven. The five others are Anthony Drew (Phoenix), Sean Walls (Huber Heights, Ohio), Peter Lacasse (Detroit), Leonard Hodges (Houston) and Robert Davis (Defiance, Ohio).