For all of you White Sox faithful out there, rejoice! The wait is over, and spring training is almost underway.
I can't wait to get back to writing game reviews and previews for the Sox, but there is a little more work to be done before the season begins.
For the White Sox, it's finding out who is going to play where, who will be starting, who will be sitting, and who the pitching staff will be. For us writers out there, it's making our predictions on all of the above.
Will Jose Contreras return in time for the '09 season? Who will be starting at second base, center field, and possibly third base for that matter?
Will there be another blow up doll fiasco?
Though we can all hope for more fun, good times and games from the White Sox organization this year, the goal is the same, and the World Series is at the end of the road. Lets take a preview of who the White Sox will be riding down that stretch.
1. Mark Buehrle. We all know what Mark brings to the table. The workhorse southpaw can play the game day in and day out on short or long rest, and is defensively as skillful as any pitcher in the game. Look for him to head the rotation.
Projected record: 18-5
2. Gavin Floyd. Gavin turned into a game-winning pitcher last year. He had plenty of notches in the win column, despite that he didn't always throw his best game. He can still improve, and it could be a huge year for him if he does.
Projected record: 17-7
3. John Danks. Still one of my favorite pitchers, Danks avoided the sophomore slump last year, and instead broke onto the scene as one of the better pitchers in the American League. Look for continued improvement, and a rise to the top in 2009.
Projected record: 20-4
4. Bartolo Colon. This one is going to be one of the bigger mysteries for the White Sox rotation, and could make or break the team with his win total. Recent surgery points to injury cautions, but his first stint with the White Sox didn't go too badly.
Projected record: 12-13
5. Clayton Richard/Lance Broadway/Jeff Marquez. No one is quite sure just yet who is going to take over this spot. Clayton Richard had an up and down year in his first year of work.
Lance Broadway shined against the Royals, but really no one else. Jeff Marquez remains yet to be seen in a White Sox uniform. Look for whoever wins this job to be a filler, and to be replaced by Contreras when he becomes healthy again.
Projected record: 6-9 (For the first half), 5-3 (For Contreras).
First Base: Paul Konerko. Paulie definitely didn't have his best season last year, but he heated up at the end, when it really mattered, and his veteran presence was one thing that helped to carry the team into the playoffs. Look for him to rebound in 2009.
Second Base: Chris Getz/Brent Lillibridge. I know that Chris Getz is the popular choice to win the job, but I'm not ruling Brent out just yet. Look for this battle to be an exciting one that lasts until the first game of the regular season.
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez. It's almost sad to see Alexei leaving second base, with the highlight reel season that he put on last year, but if shortstop really is his home position, this season could be one for the record books for the Cuban Missile.
Third Base: Josh Fields/Dayan Viciedo. Josh Fields is considered to be the front runner here, big time, but look at what Alexei Ramirez did with his chance last year. I'm hoping and looking for Dayan to break out in the same way, and win that third base job. You should too.
Right Field: Jermaine Dye. Despite all of the trade rumors, Jermaine is still a member of the White Sox, and he brings a big bat back to the club. It'd be nice to see more speed in the outfield, but his power numbers make him too valuable to lose.
Center Field: Jerry Owens/Brian Anderson/Dewayne Wise. Though my personal pick for the job right now is Jerry Owens, this position could easily go to any of the three. This could be the best battle of all of spring training, so keep an eye on it.
Left Field: Carlos Quentin. Carlos won the job fair and square last year, and with a nearly full year of experience behind him in the organization, he looks only to improve his numbers this season. I can't wait to see him back in action.
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski. A.J. is definitely going to be the starter for at least another year or two, and he has earned himself the spot. His numbers were fantastic early on last year, and he didn't fizzle as the year went on. Definitely a solid player.
Designated Hitter: Jim Thome. Big Jim is back in the starting spot as the DH once again, but look for any number of players to give him a break every now and again as the year goes on. Look for big numbers out of Jim, as well, if he can stay healthy.
Closer: Bobby Jenks. Barrel-chested Bobby looks to have another successful year as the White Sox closer. He avoided arbitration, and will hopefully avoid any blown saves as he goes through another year closing out games.
Projected saves: 41
Set Up Man: Scott Linebrink. Though he was often a consistent and stable pitcher, Linebrink had moments in his season last year where he got really shaky. Hopefully, in his second year with the White Sox, his shaky nature will have declined, and he'll be a sight for sore eyes late in the game.
Middle Reliever: D.J. Carrasco. D.J. jumped onto the scene last year, appearing when the White Sox desperately needed someone to eat up innings.
Carrasco did just that, sometimes going as long as five innings of a game, giving up as few as one or no runs in his appearances. He could get even better this year, and figures to.
The rest: Matt Thornton, Octavio Dotel, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richards.
Overall Record: 92-70, First in the American League Central.
The White Sox were a surprise winner of the AL Central in 2008, and because people don't believe that youth will get the job done in Chicago, they'll be a surprise winner if they take the division in 2009.
However, we've seen what the kids can do for the White Sox, and we know what can be done with strong, youthful players when you mix them in with Ozzie Guillen's grinder mentality.
I still hope and believe that the White Sox will finish in first place and win the division in 2009, based on the same recipe that got them into the playoffs and the World Series in 2005: Speed, great defense, and amazing pitching.
Here's to another year of White Sox baseball!