3/23/2014 7:57 P.M. ET
Sox exploring options with Rule 5 pick Nieto
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox understand the jump needed to be made by Adrian Nieto to go from catching in the Carolina League last year to serving as Tyler Flowers' backup this year.
They also have been impressed by Nieto's Spring Training work, with general manager Rick Hahn pointing out Sunday that the switch-hitter has looked stronger hitting from the right side than expected and that the pitchers like throwing to him.
Even if Nieto beats out Hector Gimenez for that Opening Day reserve role, though, it doesn't mean he is a roster lock for the remainder of the season.
"I get it, a lot is made about what the roster looks like on Opening Day," Hahn said. "It's a big thing, and I've been going to it since I was six years old and view it as something that should be a national holiday. So I get the importance of it. But we don't get too hung up on what the roster looks like on Day 1.
"You're able to make adjustments as the season goes on. Should we decide that a certain young player fits, and then ultimately it proves that it wasn't the right call, we'll adjust. We have a nice track record here of not judging guys by what necessarily has happened in the past.
"We judge them based upon what they show us with our own eyes and their performance and skills in Chicago or Spring Training," Hahn said. "To take a kid out of the Carolina League and put him in the big leagues as a backup catcher hasn't happened a lot. I think the last one was Jesus Flores, I believe, coming out of A ball. But that doesn't mean that he can't do it."
As a Rule 5 selection, Nieto would be put on waivers if the White Sox don't keep him. If none of the other 28 teams are willing to put him on the Major League roster, then he would be offered back to the Nationals for $25,000.
"I would suspect they would likely be interested in taking him back so we haven't quite gotten to that point yet," Hahn said. "If we do, perhaps we can try to work something out with them. My guess is it won't be the easiest trade we ever made."
Beckham's Opening Day status remains uncertain
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gordon Beckham believes his strained left oblique will be ready for Opening Day on March 31.
The White Sox, in turn, don't want to push him just so he can be in that particular lineup against the Twins in front of the home faithful at U.S. Cellular Field. But the ultimate decision will be based on how the second baseman progresses over the last week of Spring Training.
Beckham has swung a weighted bat and took some hacks in the cages Sunday at Camelback Ranch. Those swings were not at full force needed for game action.
"I don't have an answer for that yet," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Beckham and a possible trip to the disabled list. "He's not really doing baseball activities. Days are getting a little short. We'll have to see how he progresses."
"It's tricky," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We have to wait and make sure he's ok, doesn't go out and hurt himself again, and then you lose him for 15 more days. Just being very careful with him."
White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom suffered a similar left oblique strain a few days before he was scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Feb. 28. Lindstrom suffered one setback along the way and didn't end up pitching in a game until this past Friday, with a follow-up inning Sunday against the Rockies.
Options do exist if Beckham starts the season on the disabled list.
With Jeff Keppinger also probably opening on the DL because of a shoulder impingement, Marcus Semien would be the starting second baseman and either Leury Garcia or Alex Liddi moves into the utility role.
"We have some options," Hahn said. "There's no need to rush Gordon back for March 31 if it doesn't physically make sense."
Johnson remains in camp, but roster chances slim
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Micah Johnson has remained in camp until the last week of Spring Training, although his chances to break camp with the team are fairly remote.
His presence shows the high value placed upon last year's Minor League stolen base leader by the White Sox, who wanted to take as long of a look as possible at the fleet-footed second baseman.
"He's had an excellent camp," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Johnson, who began the 2013 season at Class A Kannapolis. "He's shown people who weren't familiar with him what he's capable of offensively. But he's also shown all of us who are familiar with him the improvement defensively which we asked him to make. He's still a work in progress."
If Gordon Beckham starts the season on the disabled list because of his strained left oblique, one school of thought is that Johnson could be put into an everyday role. He would provide a high octane one-two punch at the top of the order or give the White Sox some speed at the bottom.
But it doesn't sound as if a Johnson promotion is likely -- at least not that soon.
"It's certainly a long shot. I think some other things would have to happen before we took Micah," Hahn said. "When he gets to Chicago, we want him to be positioned to have success for the long haul.
"That might well be quicker than we anticipated based on the progress he's already made. But for that to be 2014 Opening Day is probably a bit of a rush."
Third to first
• Jose Abreu is expected back in action for Monday's game in Peoria against the Mariners. Abreu has missed the last two games with soreness in his left ankle, but there seems to be no level of concern that the injury is serious.
• Jose Quintana faced the minimum 15 Rockies batters over five innings Sunday, allowing one hit, after not retiring any of the nine Oakland hitters he faced last Tuesday. It was a confidence builder for the southpaw.
"It never happened in my career, all nine and nobody out," Quintana said. "I need to continue my working. … And I have more confidence now."
• Both Nate Jones (five games) and Daniel Webb (three games) had their scoreless appearance streak end Sunday.