2012 Spring Training: Indians and White Sox Outlook

Doug UpstoneContributor IMarch 28, 2012

Ubaldo Jimenez's velocity from two years ago has not returned.
Ubaldo Jimenez's velocity from two years ago has not returned.Leon Halip/Getty Images

With more empty seats than I had ever seen at a spring-training game, the Chicago White Sox clobbered Cleveland 7-1 on an 85-degree day in Glendale, Ariz. Though the official attendance might have been 4,504, two-thirds of those fans must have had on a different color of suntan lotion, since they blended right into the goldish-yellow seats.

While a report on the Indians gushed about Ubaldo Jimenez hitting the radar run at 91 to 94 mph, that still is a far cry from throwing in the upper 90s heat just two years ago for Colorado. Jimenez did show good command early, throwing six first-pitch strikes the first time through the Chicago batting order.

However, he seemed to lose his rhythm the second time through, and was knocked around for seven hits and three runs (two earned).

The difference was obvious. Jimenez only threw three first-pitch strikes to the same nine batters the second time around.

Indians Notes: After Jimenez, Rick VandenHurk and Robinson Tejeda did not provide much relief, each giving up a home run in an inning of work.

It is hard to get real excited about Cleveland. Michael Brantley does not have great peripherals for walks and strikeouts, and despite having good speed, is not an especially fluid outfielder.

It will be intriguing to see if shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera can come anywhere close to his 25 dingers from a year ago.

The one player who stands out for the Tribe is Shin-Soo Choo, both at the plate and in the field. If Cleveland is going to make it to .500 this season, Chin needs the 650-plus at-bats.

In theory, the schedule sets up for a decent start for Cleveland. But the Indians have too many players who should be in the prime of their career, but are just marginal talents.

White Sox Notes: Zach Stewart likely secured his spot on Chicago’s pitching staff, permitting three hits and a run over 5-1/3 innings. Though Stewart is a sinker-slider hurler, he does surrender a larger number of fly balls than one might expect, which at least suggests he’s not getting the late downward movement on his pitches, allowing hitters to elevate his tosses. Last season he allowed nine home runs in only 50-2/3 innings.

Paul Konerko has his swing in a good groove, turning on one Jimenez pitch for a double down the right-field line and going with the pitch for a two-bagger to right.

It’s hard to image that any player could have almost 500 at-bats and hit .159. But that is what Adam Dunn did in 2011.

Dunn played first base and had one base hit in four at-bats, and his body language said he was like the Dove soap guys, more comfortable in his own skin this year. I’m not sure if he’s still a 35-plus home-run guy, but Dunn will get his share and hit .220 or better.

Two players who stood out were third baseman Brent Morel and center fielder Alejandro De Aza. Morel is known for being an above-average third-sacker and having good plate coverage. Last September, he started to be more patient at the plate. On Tuesday, that process continued, as he had two hits, including a home run beyond the left-field fence.

De Aza is not a younger prospect, turning 28 in early April. He may just be a late bloomer, but he shows incredible range in center and a well above-average and accurate throwing arm. He plays the game with enthusiasm, something that was not abundant on the Sox roster a year ago.

The South-Siders are definitely in flux, with older players like Konerko and A.J Pierzynski and a number of players in their late 20s or early 30s who never have made a big impact at other stops. “Good guys might wear black” (thanks Hawk), but Chicago’s projected win total of 75 sure seems on target.