White Sox

Five burning questions as Sox open spring

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Five burning questions as Sox open spring

1. Is Robin Ventura ready to be the new voice of the White Sox?

Thus far, its hard not to like what Robin Ventura is selling. Replacing a legend is never easy and not saying Ozzie Guillen was such, but he did have the personality of an entire team -- oh yeah, and was the first manager to win a World Series in Chicago in 88 years. But theres no doubt that the team needed a change. It needed a new voice, someone other than that of the outspoken Guillen. There will never be another Ozzie, and Ventura is not pretending to replace him. This team as constructed represents one that seems more suited for the more relaxed style of Ventura and the attitude and energy he brings to Arizona. Hopefully, he can do more with less for a team with few expectations.

2. Can the rotation overcome the loss of Mark Buehrle?

Im not sure fans will feel the true impact of Buehrles loss until Opening Day, but the White Sox will immediately. Gone is a clubhouse favorite and organizational mainstay. There are few guarantees in baseball, but Buehrle is one: 200 innings, 10 wins, 30 starts. Now its time for others to step up. The Sox turn to John Danks, a mini-Buehrle in a sense, to take over the role as ace of the staff. Danks was dangled as trade bait in the offseason before the team committed to the southpaw long term. He has the makeup to be the guy and hes pitched in big games. But after Danks there are several question marks. Gavin Floyd has shown flashes at times, but hasnt delivered enough to be considered a No. 2. Jake Peavy has made just 38 starts since being acquired in a deadline deal in 2009. Chris Sale has shined out of the bullpen, but is an unknown as a starter and Philip Humber was one of the surprises of the first half a year ago, but it was also the first time in his career where he made more than one career start in a season. Their rotation could be one of the deepest in the game, however heading into Thursdays first workout, these questions have to be answered in order for that to happen.

3. Which Adam Dunn will show up?

Enough about Dunns 2011. It might be the most well-documented story of last years season on both sides of town. The question now is whether 2011 is a thing of the past, or more of whats to come. Dunn cant possibly be worse. Statistically, it was one of the worst seasons in the history of the game. If the slugger is mentally strong, he could easily win the AL Comeback Player of the Year award, something hes on the record as saying he wants to win. If Dunn can hit .230 with 30 home runs, thatd fill a major void in a lineup thats in dire need of his old numbers.

4. Who will close?

Sergio Santos filled a huge void at the back end of the bullpen after early struggles from Matt Thornton and Chris Sale as closer in 2011. Thornton and Sale went on to have great seasons in their more traditional roles and Santos recorded 30 saves in his first season as a closer. But the Sox dealt Santos to Toronto in the offseason and now theyre back to where they started. Thornton, Jesse Crain and rookie Addison Reed all figure to be in the mix, but Thornton is the likely favorite coming out of camp. What I like about Thornton this offseason is that he has voiced his preference to be the teams closer. Whoever it is, theyll need that pitcher to finish off games, especially in April. You cant win the division in April, but you can lose it, especially at the back end of the bullpen.

5. Can Dayan Viciedo make fans forget about Carlos Quentin?

Viciedo has all the tools to be a superstar for the White Sox. Hes been fantastic at Charlotte for the last two years and has shown the ability to club the ball in limited at bats in Chicago. He struggled after being called up last season and now, for the first time, is being penciled the starting lineup to replace Quentin. Quentin could have been in the AL MVP in 2008, but injuries plagued most of his time in Chicago. However, CQ had the ability to carry the team on his back for stretches, something theyre now hoping Viciedo can do.

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.