Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Posted 5:11 p.m. Updated 5:52 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO For his 47th birthday, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen got just what he always wanted a half-hour session with local beat writers on top of another half-hour devoted only to Spanish media.
But the Chisox jefe cant be too glum, because he got his birthday presents a couple of months early, in the form of additional provisions for 2011: Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Jesse Crain and Will Ohman.
Im very excited, Guillen said of piloting a team built for October. I was surprised at how aggressive the front office was. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf gave GM Kenny Williams the go-ahead and built a good ballclub. Theyre showing people, especially the fans, how much we want to win.
Guillen isnt merely pleased to have brought back fan favorites Konerko and Pierzynski I thought we were going to lose those guys but in the two major, multiyear additions beyond them.
We got Crain and Dunn, and they are very tough players, he said. I feel very, very good about this club. I love my team. Officially, it doesnt matter what I think about the team, but I love it.
Guillen left his managers office last October after what he admitted was, both professionally and privately, the toughest year of his life expecting a very different look to his 2011 club.
I thought we were going to go with kids, Guillen said. That way my personal thought.
As for whether postseason expectations make for a tougher job for him, Guillen brushed the notion off.
Its always on me, no matter how good we are expected to be, he said. The heat? Every day you manage you will take the heat every day, youre managing in the hot seat, no matter who youre managing or what youre managing. I like challenges, when people put it on my back. Thats exciting.
Guillen mentioned that he had just seen 2011 SoxFest attendees Konerko and Gordon Beckham at U.S. Cellular Field and that both players were very excited to get the season rolling.
WATCH: Beckham enjoys Camp Cora
My job is to try to get those players to do the best they can every day. Thats the easy part, and I dont have any problem with that. But the players are going to dictate how good or bad you are. I will make the same moves and be the same guy, so I dont feel any pressure at all. I manage this club and expect to win every year. Every year your team isnt in the playoffs, its a failure.
Ozzie's State of the Sox
As much as the 2011 White Soxs roster is already locked in, with few positional or pitching staff battles in the offing, in January theres always at least a fair bit of speculating to do over the state of the team.
Looming biggest on Guillens plate is how to replace departed closer Bobby Jenks. Without a veteran closer imported via trade or signing, the role will fall to one of Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Crain or Sergio Santos.
WATCH: Thornton wants closer job
Each choice comes with benefits and risks. Primarily, none of the live-armed hurlers has met with consistent success as a closer at the major-league level. Crain has yet to see true success as a closer in spite of pitching his way to the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins in a ninth-inning role. Santos has a closers makeup, but is just one year into his big-league pitching career after being converted from shortstop, and seems the least likely of the four to step into the role. Thornton was terrific all season long in both a setup and closer role, but in the category of aint broke dont fix, hes been perfect for a longer period and made the 2010 All-Star Game as a setup man.
That leaves Sale, who was perfect in three save opportunities in 2010 and in spite of his relative lack of experience and prior pitching career as a starter, could slide right into the role.
Whoever wins out, Guillen will be careful, but decisive, with his decision.
After mentioning in the Spanish media session that we will develop the closer position slowly but we want to have someone decided on by spring training, Guillen was even more adamant in his later session with beat reporters, indicating that its a good thing for the pitcher, knowing what his position is going to be.
Earlier in the offseason, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper indicated he would be OK with a closer by committee, but clearly thats not ideal in anyones eyes. Said Guillen: Were looking to name a closer in spring training and I hope we do.
Guillen and Williams both somewhat surprisingly threw Sale into the mix as the leading candidate to become the new White Sox closer back during Decembers Winter Meetings, and Guillen reiterated on Thursday that hes not afraid of throwing a relatively unproven closer into the role.
Matt Thornton is the guy with experience. You look at Sale and we dont know, Guillen said. We have to wait and see if Jake Peavy is ready. Pitching, Cooper knows that and Kenny has an idea. I feel comfortable either way, but having Sale in the bullpen is a plus.Ozzie Guillen doesn't want to rush Jake Peavy back into the rotation after his surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi, what does that mean for Chris Sale? (AP)
Peavys Medical Chart
Guillen claimed to know nothing at all about Jake Peavys readiness for Opening Day and insisted once again that he would not rush the potential ace back from last Julys latissimus dorsi surgery.
Ive got to assume Plan B. Im not going to rush Jake to be ready for Opening Day, Guillen said. Thats not an injury like a broken finger this injury is kind of weird. We shouldnt rush Jake to be ready for the season when we dont have to.
The early word on Peavy is that hes well ahead of schedule, with Cooper reporting to MLB.coms Scott Merkin that hes throwing off of a mound and feeling only normal soreness already.
Absent Peavy, the White Sox appear willing to break camp with Sale or Tony Pena temporarily manning the fifth starters role. Said Guillen: The fifth starter, thats the last guy you worry about because every team has the same problems finding a fifth starter.
The Hot Corner
While every indication from Williams and Guillen was that rookie Brent Morel impressed enough in his September audition to arrive in Arizona as the third-base incumbent, Guillen wouldnt proclaim that on Thursday, indicating that such a statement would be a slap in the face of last years starter, Mark Teahen.
But Guillen acknowledged it might come down to a decision of whether to go in the direction of offense or defense. If the skipper maintains as always he is s steadfast believer in defense, his plaintive comment I love the way Morel plays third base would indicate advantage, Morel.
One thing Guillen doesnt plan on doing is playing games with either player. As soon as the plan is out there, Teahen and Morel will be the first to know, then you media, then the fans, Guillen said. Im not going to keep it a secret all spring and make you guys ask the same question every day. As soon as we find out who its going to be, people will know right away.
Whos on First?
Guillen indicated that Konerko was completely spent at the end of 2010 and will need more time at DH in coming seasons. But according to Guillen, the big boy Dunn has to play first base I dont want to say twice a week or three times a week, but he will be at first base more than people think.
The inking of free-agent plum Dunn and the ascendance of Morel seemingly has left Cuban bonus baby Dayan Viciedo out of a position. But Guillen somewhat humorously indicated that a future as a corner infielder was unlikely from the start for Viciedo.
He told bench coach Joey Cora he never played third base in Cuba, but played right field, Guillen said. The only thing is that we have to bring a golf cart to get him into the outfield Im going to ask the commissioner, can we use a golf cart for Viciedo to go to the outfield? because he takes a little while to get to first base and thats just halfway there.
Guillen reported that Viciedo did in take some fly balls at last weeks Camp Cora in Miami. We have to find a way for this kid to play, he said. Right field will be one. Left field, because I dont know how long were going to have Juan Pierre. But Joey told me he was taking fly ballsthats all I know.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.