White Sox

One thing is certain: 2012 Sox will be different

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One thing is certain: 2012 Sox will be different

By Jim Owczarski
CSNChicago.com

Robin Ventura probably didnt set out to change the minds of Chicago White Sox fans during the three-day SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton this weekend, but judging by the buzz in and around the various ball rooms and salons from Friday to Sunday, the new manager has affected some.

Though he did seem worn down as did Adam Dunn - by continuous questions about the failings of 2011, Ventura was mainly upbeat and funny, disarming fans with a quick wit and ability to get laughs at the expense of his coaches and general manager.

Is he laid back? Maybe. Compared to his former teammate and predecessor Ozzie Guillen? For sure.

As Ventura said Sunday in his final seminar of the weekend, hes different. And this team will be different, despite many familiar faces. Fans began to buy in, for the most part, even if they werent quite pushing up the expectation level to that of past seasons following the 2005 World Series championship.

Im excited, second baseman Gordon Beckham said. If they dont want to be excited, thats fine. Im excited and I know the rest of the guys are excited to get going. Were excited to have Robin here and a couple new coaches. Theres a lot to look forward for this year and for us. It really is.

General manager Kenny Williams was coolly received at the very start of the convention but left his last public appearance with cheers and thanks for 2005. Though he did say during the weekend that the Sox are tapped out financially, he afforded that the modified rebuilding process he oversaw this offseason may open some doors later.

We did a little bit of (re-tooling) to protect our future and we did some things to protect our present, Williams said. Hopefully its enough to remain competitive and hopefully if we have need in the middle of the season at some point maybe we can go and address it then.

But, Dunn felt like Sox fans will see a couple of important players this year that they didnt see in 2011.

We made two pretty good moves, I think, this offseason," he said. "That was hopefully getting me and Alex Rios back. Thats the way Im looking at it. We pretty much have the same team. We lost a couple of key players. We have guys capable of stepping in and filling that role and do a little better. Thats what were expecting.

One of outside elements putting a damper on fans initially was the news leading into SoxFest that defending American League Central champion Detroit Tigers signed All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder. But, as was his M.O. over the weekend, Ventura wanted to keep the focus on his team.

Were worrying about what we do, he said. The (players) know the Tigers won last year and now you add Prince, they know its out there. It doesnt guarantee anything. They know first-hand what can happen when youre the one thats supposed to be 20 games better than somebody else and all of a sudden youre not. Theyve lived it and theyve seen it. They know it can turn around also.

A turnaround is what many are hoping for, players and fans alike.

That started this weekend, but begins in earnest when pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 22 and with spring games beginning March 5.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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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?

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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.”