White Sox

Sox Drawer: The dangers of being 'All-In'

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Sox Drawer: The dangers of being 'All-In'

The Detroit Tigers won the American League Central by 15 games last season. They have the reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner in Justin Verlander. Now they've added Prince Fielder for nine-years, 214 million, the largest contract in franchise history, in the hopes of getting 82-year-old owner Mike Ilitch a World Series ring.

But Detroit, before you crown your Tigers World Series Champions, or even division champions, be aware of the dangers of going "All-In" like you appear to be.

"If they're using that slogan, then I like our chances because the Red Sox had that slogan, we had that slogan and it didn't work out for either one of us," said A.J. Pierzynski in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.

A.J. knows from experience.

Last season, Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams bet heavy on free agents Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Jesse Crain with the hopes of bringing another title to Chicago. What did they get for it? 79 wins and a whole lot of heartache.

Pierzynski was also the featured star in an "All-In" commercial that seemed to run on a loop everyday from April through October.

"I'm glad it's over to say the least," Pierzynski said about the 2011 season. "Frustrating, confusing, everything. Every word you can use to describe craziness is about how it went last year. It wasn't good. It wasn't fun. It wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Things just didn't work out."

Go ahead and point the finger at Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham. Everyone else is. But really, if you look at how the whole season unfolded, with the exceptions of maybe Mark Buehrle and Konerko, every single White Sox player had a role in it: Matt Thornton unable to save games early, Juan Pierre's struggles on the basepaths and in the outfield, John Danks 0-8 start, Sergio Santos giving up 7 runs in back-to-back losses just as the Sox were making a move in June. There's plenty of blame to go around.

"It's not one person's fault. People want to look at this person to blame, that person, but it was everybody," Pierzynski said.

While the White Sox were crushing the Indians on Opening Day in Cleveland, Jim Thome says he and his Twins teammates were watching the game on television in the clubhouse.

And I remember our guys saying, It looks like Chicago is going to be tough to handle,'" Thome said. "And then as baseball goes, you just never know."

The White Sox won the first two games of the season and led the division by a half-game. They'd only be in first place one more time. Four days later. And they were tied.

Meanwhile, after a slow start themselves, the Tigers won 95 games thanks to an all-world season by Verlander, closer Jose Valverde not blowing a single save all season, and 24-year-old catcher Alex Avila suddenly hitting like Johnny Bench. Now after winning the division, and the pressure and expectations to win it all in 2012, could the Tigers find themselves in the same boat the White Sox were last year?

"One break here or there, one tough loss, you never know how people are going to react," Pierzynski said. "One guy goes down like Dunn last year with the appendectomy, and it seemed to affect him the whole year. You just never know. One little thing can affect the team for a long time. If the Tigers don't get off to the start they're supposed to get off to, maybe the pressure will rise, expectations mount, fans will get on them and they might struggle. But if you look at them on paper, they're as good as anybody."

The Tigers are good. Potentially great. The last time we said this about them was 2008 when they traded for Miguel Cabrera. What happened that season?

They finished in last place.

You just never know.

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.”