3/31/2014 4:42 P.M. ET
Lindstrom opens season with first shot at closing
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- White Sox Nation's long wait to find out the team's 2014 closer came to an end prior to Monday's Opening Day contest, with manager Robin Ventura naming veteran Matt Lindstrom as the team's first ninth-inning option.
Lindstrom, 34, didn't make his '14 Cactus League debut until March 21 because of a strained left oblique. But the right-hander, who has 45 career saves, is healthy and ready to go as the season begins.
"Right now, he's throwing a good slider," said Ventura. "It's giving a guy a full inning. There are certain guys that like to have that. I think Matty is one who likes a full inning to work."
Nate Jones and rookie Daniel Webb were other candidates for the closing spot, but Ventura likes the way the bullpen aligns with Lindstrom in the ninth. The team doesn't have a long reliever, per se, although Ventura identified Webb when asked Monday.
"I'll go as long as they need me to," Webb said. "I'm comfortable pitching anywhere from one to three innings. It doesn't matter to me, as long as I'm pitching."
Using Lindstrom early in this higher-profile role could increase his trade value as the season progresses, if the White Sox choose to follow that path in their reshaping. General manager Rick Hahn said Monday that component was not part of the decision.
"Upstairs, we can worry about guys' trade value or how they fit going forward," Hahn said. "We really tend not to have those types of conversations.
"It certainly makes sense that Lindy gets the initial shot at doing it, and that's great. Hopefully, he seizes the job and there's no looking back."
Lindstrom allowed a one-out double in the ninth inning on Monday, but completed a scoreless frame to close out the club's 5-3 win.
De Aza, Viciedo to share playing time in left field
CHICAGO -- With Alejandro De Aza hitting seventh and right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the mound for the Twins, what looks to be a White Sox platoon with right-handed-hitting Dayan Viciedo officially took shape on Opening Day.
But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn cautioned that playing time in left field will be more merit based than only decided by a righty or lefty on the mound.
"[Manager] Robin [Ventura] is going to fill out the lineup card with options that give him the best chance to win on a given day," Hahn told MLB.com concerning the De Aza/Viciedo split. "Conceivably it breaks down into a straight left-right platoon, but I don't think it's going to be just that simplistic.
"Sometimes the defense is going to factor into it. Sometimes the player's individual history against a pitcher is going to factor into it, as well as physical or clubhouse issues that the world is not privy to could impact who is in the lineup on a given day."
"Again, it's about having talented options for him to choose from," Hahn said. "Not necessarily sticking to set roles."
Viciedo, 25, starts his third full big league season with the White Sox, and he has shown flashes of dominance over the first two. The powerful native of Cuba also has shown maddening inconsistency at the plate in that same timeframe.
Hahn isn't worried about losing a young, talented player such as Viciedo, who still could be part of the growing core where a soon-to-be 30-year-old De Aza might not eventually reside. He's also cognizant that Viciedo remains a work in progress and realizes that the more big league time he has probably translates into better on-field results.
"At the same time, he's going to have to earn those opportunities and show that he's responding to some of the things [hitting coach] Todd [Steverson] is trying to implement from an offensive standpoint in order to get further opportunities," Hahn said. "Dayan had a very good spring. I think De Aza had a great spring.
"Even looking beyond the performance, knowing some of the conversations that took place between Todd and the players, I think Viciedo really gets where we want him now and what we are expecting from him in terms of his approach as an offensive player. He's responded well to that. It's a matter of him executing it in games."
De Aza starred in the club's Opening Day victory over the Twins with two home runs and three RBIs.
Beckham may begin rehab assignment this week
CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham wanted to be in Chicago for Opening Day, but his strained left oblique sent him to the disabled list instead.
The White Sox second baseman has played in a couple of Minor League games back at extended spring camp in Arizona. He could go on an actual Minor League rehab assignment this week or this weekend and could be back soon, according to general manager Rick Hahn. But the White Sox won't rush him.
"Obliques aren't something to be trifled with," said Hahn of Beckham, who is eligible to return on Satrurday. "Until he's 100 percent ready to go without restriction, we're not going to bring him back."
Steverson focused on approach of White Sox hitters
CHICAGO -- The 2013 White Sox offense stood as the American League's worst, scoring just 598 runs.
But under hitting coach Todd Steverson, with the new regime starting Monday against the Twins on Opening Day, the White Sox hope the approach will be different.
"Overall, it has been a good progression to this point," Steverson said. "Once everybody gets a hold of being able to be confident and go up there and stick to their plan, that will in my opinion kind of roll into us being able to see pitches, go deeper into counts.
"Take our fair share of walks. Barrel up some balls that are out over the plate that we want to hit and become an offense that is dangerous. Controlling the count a little earlier in the at-bat, where you get your pitch and don't put your pitch in play. Go deeper into the pitcher's pitch count."
Steverson noticed during Spring Training that there were a few instances of hitters swinging at borderline 3-2 pitches where they could have taken walks. As shown from his previous comments, though, it's not all about strictly working the count. If the best pitch is the first pitch, then go after it.
It's a greater focus on approach than mechanics with Steverson, according to White Sox captain Paul Konerko.
"He knows the swing and the mechanics and that stuff if it needs to go there, but I think he focuses more on what you are looking for, what you swung at," said Konerko. "A lot of times if you dissect those things, you don't even get to, 'My swing is messed up' or 'We need to fix this.' When you fix those things and have a clear picture of what you are doing there, you take good swings a lot of times.
"If you are swinging at bad pitches and putting yourself in a hole 1-2 or 0-2, even with a great swing, you are not going to hit in this league. That's where the focus is a lot of times: definitely with runners in scoring position. Heightening that thought about what you are looking for and being real selective on your approach has been something in Spring Training.
"Inevitably during the season, every guy probably has a little tinkering and a little bit of mechanical stuff going on here and there that you have to monitor. He's got that too in his pocket," Konerko said. "You can't ask a question he's not answering right away. He doesn't have to go look it up. He's really together on his thoughts."
Third to first
• It's usually tough to judge a Major League Baseball team's chance for success until at least two months into a given season. That judgment might take longer for a team filled with youthful players of the future and present such as the White Sox.
"Guys will struggle. I don't know which one of the new guys will stutter at some point, but inevitably it will happen," Hahn said. "As we all know, Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand had to go back to the Minors before they became established big leaguers.
"Development is not linear. Sometimes there are fits and starts and sometimes guys pick up right where they left off in the Minors or in a foreign league. But we do feel we're getting to a point in the organization where we had some depth, which provides us with some insulation should we need to make changes. For now, we're going to roll with some of these young guys and see how quickly they can fulfill that potential."
• Some people believe the first workout of Spring Training marks the start of the next baseball season. White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who hit fifth in Monday's lineup against the Twins, looks more to Opening Day as the start of new beginnings for a team that lost 99 games in '13.
"If we don't like what happened last year, we have a chance to do something about it," Dunn said. "It's kind of the buildup. You got six weeks to build up for one game. We have an off-day Tuesday. So, you know, I think the excitement level and everything just brings out the best in you."
•The White Sox Opening Day lineup had five starters who made their first Opening Day start: Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Conor Gillaspie and Marcus Semien. The last time five or more White Sox made their first start in a season opener was 1944.