White Sox

Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

697786.png

Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

GLENDALE, Ariz. Dont expect to hear Robin Ventura barking to the media about the (bleeping) rats at Wrigley Field.

I dont think hell be kicking facemasks or anything either, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said.

Ozzie Guillen did that to Geovany Sotos catching gear last summer on the South Side, after arguing a call at home plate and getting thrown out of the game. There almost always seems to be fireworks whenever the Cubs play the White Sox.

That night, Carlos Zambrano walked into the interview room at U.S. Cellular Field and asked reporters if they had seen the one where Rocky fought in Russia. Zambrano decided that Rocky Balboa said it best: Its not too late for people to change.

Less than two months later, Zambrano cleared out his locker during the middle of a game at Turner Field and headed to the team hotel in downtown Atlanta. He told team personnel that he was thinking about retirement and sent text messages saying that he felt like he was stealing money.

As soon as Guillen jumped to become the Miami Marlins manager, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Zambrano would take his talents to South Beach, creating a dream team for the media.

As much as Guillen appeared to need a new challenge, and Zambrano couldnt walk back into the Cubs clubhouse, it still leaves a void. Its hard to imagine the Cubs-Sox rivalry will have the same juice.

I was an Ozzie fan growing up my whole life, said Samardzija, whos from Indiana. I enjoyed watching Ozzie play. I like how he manages. Yeah, it will definitely be a little different. Obviously, I think the rivalry will still be where its always been, but he always seemed to be a big part of it.

In front of 10,327 fans the announced crowd at least the Cubs beat the White Sox 5-1 on Friday at Camelback Ranch. The pivot point came in the third inning, when Randy Wells inherited a bases-loaded jam from Travis Wood.

Auditioning for a spot in the rotation, Wells threw Paul Konerko a sinker that induced an inning-ending double play, preserving a two-run lead.

Its quieter, Wells said of the difference without Guillen around. The Cubs-Sox rivalry is going to be as good as it always is. Its just one of those games you dont want to lose to your crosstown rival. I dont think spring trainings got quite the hype, but were definitely gearing up for those guys.

Cubs infielder Adrian Cardenas played at Monsignor Pace High School just before Guillens youngest son Ozney did and knows the family. When Cardenas would go home and work out in Miami, Guillen would watch batting practice and talk to the 16-year-old kids who dream of the big leagues.

The Ozzie you see in high definition on TV every night, Cardenas said, is the exact same Ozzie youll find on a high school baseball field in February.

Hes just real all the time, and you either like it or you dont, Cardenas said. Thats it. You have to learn to accept it or have a problem with it. But one things for sure is he loves the game.

Ventura will project calm in the roughly 400 times he will have to meet the press this season. New Cubs manager Dale Sveum who briefly played with Ventura on the South Side in 1992 looks past the coaching inexperience and sees a natural leader.

Hes got an incredible personality, but you wouldnt know it. Hes quick and very sarcastic, Sveum said. Hes definitely the right guy for the job. (Hes) capable of just stepping right in and doing things. He knows the game as well as anybody (and) hes the kind of guy who people will follow.

Ventura wont be filming Pepsi commercials with say, Matt Garza, in Venezuela, the way Guillen and Zambrano once did.

And Cubs officials were furious when they found out Zambrano went to dinner with Guillen hours after jumping Derrek Lee in the dugout and being sent home from U.S. Cellular Field (and eventually into anger-management therapy).

When Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, the president publicly allowed for the possibility of Zambrano earning his way back onto the team. But in polling players privately, the response was overwhelming: Big Z had to go.

Zambrano isnt necessarily a bad guy. Hes deeply committed to his faith and his family and can show a terrific sense of humor. His emotions, Kerry Wood once observed, are a double-edged sword that can lead him pitch at an extremely high level or completely lose control.

Guillen pushed for this trade, predicting that Zambrano can still be a 15-game winner. Their friendship plus the roughly 15 million the Cubs kicked in closed the deal.

His baseball talent is still there, utility man Jeff Baker said. If Ozzie can get him going, who knows what can happen?

The Cubs and White Sox have enjoyed distraction-free camps, but their rivalry wont be the same. The Marlins become a Showtime reality series with Ozzie and Big Z.

If its going to work anywhere, Samardzija said, it should work there.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

mickeradolfo.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

0223-rick-renteria-rick-hahn.jpg
AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”