Chicago White Sox: 10 of the Best Guys off the Bench over the Past 20 Years
The Chicago White Sox are about to enter the newest era in their long franchise history as spring training has arrived.
New manager Robin Ventura is no doubt eager to have all his players arrive in Glendale, Arizona so that they can stop talking about it and get to work.
And according to most, they have plenty of work to do.
As always, there will be positional battles as well as battles to earn a spot on the pitching staff as new faces try to break into the big leagues and veterans try to stay there.
For the White Sox, as is the case for many teams, the majority of their lineup is set. However, that doesn't mean that someone can't steal a spot by having an outstanding spring.
At the very least, having a breakout spring can earn a player a spot on the roster in a backup role and from there it is up to them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Here are 10 guys over the past two decades who not only earned a spot on the White Sox roster, but always seemed to rise to the occasion when given the chance to play.
Craig Grebeck ('90-'95)
Craig Grebeck was known as the "Little Hurt" during his playing days with the Sox, and for good reason.
He was about 5'8" and 160 pounds, but he could do some damage at the plate.
In six years with White Sox, Grebeck played in 414 games hitting .255 with 12 home runs and 110 RBI.
His best season came in 1991 when he hit .281 with six home runs and 31 RBI playing third base, shortstop and second base.
He was a tough out at the plate and a solid fielder at all positions.
Warren Newson ('91-'95)
Known as "The Deacon" during his playing days, Warren Newson created a niche for himself off the White Sox's bench in the early '90s.
Newson was short in stature but built like a tank, and he had a knack for coming up with big base hits when the Sox needed them late in the game.
In 1991, Newson hit .356 with RISP and .435 with RISP and two outs—that's getting it done.
Overall in five seasons with the White Sox, Newson hit .257 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI in 495 at-bats.
Norberto Martin ('93-'97)
"Paco" Martin was one of the more clutch hitters off the bench for the White Sox over the past 20 years, and he seemed to be a fan favorite.
In five seasons with the White Sox, Martin hit .299 with six home runs and 76 RBI in 658 at-bats.
In 1996, he hit .321 with RISP and .385 with RISP and two outs. In 1997, he hit .379 with RISP and .394 with RISP and two outs—in other words, you didn't want him at the plate with the game on the line if you were an opposing pitcher.
Martin played third base, shortstop and second base, and he did a good job defensively, but it was his clutch hitting that kept him on the White Sox's bench for five seasons.
Jeff Abbott ('97-'00)
When Jeff Abbott arrived on the scene in 1997, he looked like he would be in the White Sox's outfield for a long time.
While it didn't actually turn out that way, Abbott did still provide a punch off the bench for four seasons on the south side.
In his four seasons, Abbott hit .264 with 18 home runs and 78 RBI in 554 at-bats.
A decent outfielder with some pop in his bat, Abbott was rare in that he threw left-handed but batted right-handed.
His best season came in 1998, when he hit .279 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI in 244 at-bats.
Herbert Perry ('00-'01)
Herbert Perry only spent two seasons on the south side, but he was fairly productive in his short stint.
Perry was nicknamed "the milkman," and though he started the majority of games at third base in his first season with the White Sox in 2000, he was still known primarily as a utility man throughout his career.
In that first season with the Sox, Perry hit .308 with 12 home runs and 61 RBI in 420 at-bats and quickly became a fan favorite.
Perry saw decreased playing time in his second season with the Sox, but he still put up decent numbers off the bench.
By the next season, Perry was gone in order to make room for the eventual arrival of a guy named Crede.
Tony Graffanino ('00-'03)
Graffanino may be remembered by many Sox fans as the guy who let Juan Uribe's slow ground ball go through his legs in Game 2 of the 2005 ALDS.
That error led to Tadahito Iguchi's three-run home run and a 5-4 White Sox victory, but a few years prior to that, Graffanino was wearing a White Sox uniform and was a pretty solid player off the bench.
In four years in Chicago, Graffanino hit .271 with 17 home runs and 85 RBI in 772 at-bats, but what was most impressive is that he played almost everywhere the Sox needed him to.
The only thing he didn't do in a White Sox uniform was pitch and catch.
It's too bad the ground ball from Uribe happened to him because he will more likely be remembered for that instead of his steady play off the bench as a member of the White Sox.
Ross Gload ('04-'06)
Ross Gload was a member of the 2005 White Sox team that won it all, but most fans may not even remember that.
He appeared in only 28 games that season with 42 at-bats and didn't do much.
However, it was the season before and the season after where he did most of his damage in a White Sox uniform.
In those two seasons, Gload hit .321 and .327, respectively, while hitting a combined 10 home runs and driving in 62 runs off the bench.
Gload gave you solid production from the left side of the plate and had a decent glove in the field.
Pablo Ozuna ('05-'08)
Pablo Ozuna was a versatile player off the bench during the White Sox's championship season of 2005.
He played every infield position as well as some outfield over his four years in Chicago, but his real contribution was with his bat.
In his four years with the Sox, he hit .290 with two home runs and 37 RBI in 534 at-bats.
He was also pretty good in big situations, as he hit .286 with RISP and .321 with RISP and two outs in 2005. He was even better in 2006, hitting .424 with RISP and .286 with RISP and two outs.
Ozuna epitomized the role of a utility player who could get the job done when called upon.
Rob Mackowiak ('06-'07)
Mackowiak was a Chicago guy who came home to play for his hometown White Sox in 2006.
He spent two years in a Sox uniform and hit .285 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 492 at-bats.
He could play all outfield positions and spent some time at third and first base during his time with the Sox.
Mackowiak was a solid all-around player who was a starter for much of his career before coming to the Sox, but he found a role for himself off the bench in Chicago.
He would only play one more year in the big leagues after leaving the Sox after the 2007 season.
Brent Lillibridge ('09-Present)
Lillibridge had a stellar year off the bench for the White Sox in 2011, and that's why he's on this list.
In his first two seasons with the Sox, he hit only .158 and .224, respectively, with two home runs and 19 RBI in 193 at-bats. But last season, Lillibridge broke out and launched 13 home runs with 29 RBI while hitting .258 in only 186 at-bats.
He also stole 10 bases in 16 attempts and committed only two errors all season while playing every outfield position, plus some second and first base.
Because of his strong 2011 season, Lillibridge and the White Sox are expecting a lot out of him this year. He may play a larger role on the team depending on what happens with the guys in the outfield or with Gordon Beckham at second base.
If he can pick up where he left off last year, he may find himself in the lineup more often than not.
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