Chicago White Sox: Questions That Need Answering in Spring Training
Another season of Major League Baseball is upon us and the Chicago White Sox, like every team, have some explaining to do.
Well, not quite yet, but one would hope by the end of spring training the correct answers will be obvious.
Although, some times even the obvious answers go unnoticed. See Mark Kotsay.
In 2011, the White Sox have most spots worked out by now, which is always a plus. The less manager Ozzie Guillen has to experiment with, the better.
There are no questions like what is Kenny Williams' obsession with getting former All-Stars 10 years too late or who will be worse at DH or who the hell is Sergio Santos like last season.
On the south side, things seem to have mostly fallen in place, but that doesn't mean there aren't decisions to be made.
Who's on Third?
With A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez being locks for the infield, the one questionable spot is at the hot corner.
Mark Teahen was brought in last year to fill the job opening, and the only thing he proved was that teams should stop paying him for his supposed potential.
This leaves a gap at the third base position.
The sexy answer would be to trade for Texas Rangers third baseman Michael Young, who apparently wants out. The reality answer would be the Sox don't have much to offer for Young, so it would seem the position is rookie Brent Morel's to lose.
Although Morel batted just .231 with an OBP of .271 in his first 65 major-league at-bats, which included 17 strikeouts, last season, the guy can throw some leather. With a lineup featuring Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez, the White Sox shouldn't have problems putting runs on the board, so Morel will be asked to focus on his glove.
Your usual suspects to take the third base position would be the aformentioned Teahen and Dayan Viciedo. Teahen will make the team because he can play third, second and outfield and because the Sox are paying him $4.75 million.
Viciedo is not a guy you want sitting on the bench, so not sure if he'll make the Opening Day roster. He's a guy you want for your future, so having him get at-bats and work on his plate awareness in the minors is better than sitting for random play, although the Sox are paying him $1.25 million. So, perhaps, you will see him on the bench, subbing in at first, DH and third base.
With Omar Vizquel and Teahen certainly making the roster, Viciedo could be starting the season in the minors.
Unless Teahen learns to play third base or make his bat worth his awful glove or Viciedo learns to take a walk, the position will most likely go to Morel.
Whether Morel lasts there until the end of the season is a whole other question.
What's for Sale?
Jake Peavy's status for the upcoming season affects far more than just a few starts for the White Sox.
If Peavy is out for awhile, Chris Sale could move from the closer position to the starting rotation. If this is the case, what happens when Peavy returns?
Do the White Sox go to a six-man rotation or move Sale back to the bullpen? If Sale moves back to the bullpen, does he automatically get the closer role, which will shuffle the bullpen? How will moving back and forth affect Sale?
Bullpen pitchers are a strange breed. Once they've grown accustom to an inning, moving them around can completely tear them apart. See the White Sox bullpen from last season after Bobby Jenks got hurt. Jim Thome's home run off Matt Thornton still hasn't landed.
Thornton, Jesse Crain and Sergio Santos are seventh and eighth-inning guys, so moving them around, only to then move them back, could throw them off. It will most likely take a long Peavy absence for Sale to move in the starting rotation and take him off the David Price/Adam Wainwright plan.
Peavy wants to be back by Opening Day, but he will most likely miss a month. He is coming off an injury from which no pitcher has returned, which means it would be a gift if he misses just a month and guys like Tony Pena or Lucas Harrell only have to make a few spot starts.
You have Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson as your first four pitchers, so a couple spot starts won't kill you.
If Peavy is back by Opening Day, then all of this is erroneous.
What kind of pitcher Peavy will come back as is a whole other question.
Who Is the Closer?
It all depends on Jake Peavy.
If he is back by Opening Day or will only miss a few starts, Chris Sale is most likely the closer.
If he is going to be gone for awhile, Matt Thornton becomes your closer with Sale moving to the rotation.
I doubt Jesse Crain or Sergio Santos are real candidates for the closer position, so it will either go to Thornton or Sale based on the decision of what to do with Peavy's spot in the rotation.
What kind of closer Sale will be for an entire season is...you guessed it...a whole other question.
What's the Mileage on Milledge?
Juan Pierre is in left field, Alex Rios is in center field and Carlos Quentin is in right field. That we know.
What we don't know is who will be giving them the occassional rest/subbing in for Quentin for defensive purposes.
All signs point to Lastings Milledge, although he could crazy himself out of the spot, due to him being...well, crazy.
Alejandro de Aza and Jordan Danks will be competing with Milledge for the backup outfielder spot. Twenty-six-year-old de Aza would make more sense because Danks is not a guy you want sitting on the bench, not getting at-bats.
You bring up Danks only if he will see consistent at-bats.
Whether Milledge does something crazy is a whole nother quest....who are we kidding, we all know Milledge will do something crazy.