White Sox

Sox Drawer: Johnny (Damon) Quest

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Sox Drawer: Johnny (Damon) Quest

Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010
12:13pmBy Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.comIf you believe the headlines spreading across the internet on Thursday, youd probably assume that the White Sox were on the verge of signing a certain two-time World Series champ.

Or you might conclude that he was going to diss the Sox, and maybe even his wife (whod reportedly rather spend the summer in Chicago), and head to Motown to play for the Tigers.

And lets not forget about the Atlanta Braves who have reportedly offered Damon a one-year deal, one similar to the White Sox, and had Braves slugger Chipper Jones, like A.J. Pierzynski, do his very best recruiting pitch, trying to persuade Damon to come over to the NL.

Whos right? Whos wrong? Who knows?

But when asked about the reports that the Sox were on the verge of signing Damon, a White Sox front office source said on Thursday, We are currently not interested in adding to the misinformation out there and classified the Damon negotiations as private.

What has become public is Damons round of golf with Pierzynski on Monday at a charity golf tournament in Florida. Hawk Harrelson was also there. Because of wrist problems, Hawk didnt play, but rode along for nine holes. Speaking with the Sox broadcaster by phone on Thursday, Harrelson said he made his own sales pitch to Damon.

I told Johnny that were going to win the division whether hes with Detroit or not. And when I left after nine holes, I looked at him and said, Ill see you at Camelback Ranch (the White Sox spring training facility). He smiled back and said, I hear what youre saying.

But despite he and Pierzynskis recruiting mission, Harrelson said he left the golf course that day believing that Detroit was the favorite to land Damon.

And now?

Since Ive had some time to think about it, I would say that right now its 50-50 or that the Sox might be a little bit ahead.

Considering the Sox tense relationship with Damons agent Scott Boras, its a surprise that the negotiations have gotten this far. But Harrelson looks at it a different way.

It just so happens that this particular player that (Boras) has in Johnny Damon is a guy the White Sox would like to have. They need a left-handed bat regardless of who his agent it. As far as their relationship, I dont think its changed. Harrelson then laughed, I dont think its the best relationship.

What Hawk likes the most about Damon is like A.J., hes a winner. Hes an asset, and brings a lot of positives to the clubhouse, to the airplane, to the playing field and certainly in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. Thats when your real stars shine and Johnny has been a great 7th, 8th, and 9th inning player.

If the Sox are willing to pursue Damon, and use him as a DHback-up outfielder, one could argue that the Sox could just bring back Jermaine Dye and use him in that role.

Harrelson is surprised that Dye is still a free agent, and agrees with what Frank Thomas told CSN last week, that Dye will retire if he does not a receive a fair offer.

If he doesnt get the money he feels he deserves, it wouldnt surprise me to see Jermaine retire at all, Harrelson said. I think thats the kind of person he is. Hes a stand-up guy a lot of integrity. If he feels he cant get the money he thinks he should be getting, then hell hang them up.

The lack of interest in Dye isnt so much a reflection on Jermaine as a player. Hawk says its all about money, or lack thereof.

Things have changed. The culture of the game has changed since the economy took a downturn. Its almost like a virus that goes through, and everybody has caught it. And now it looks like a lot of guys who thought theyd get a lot money to sign for a respectable contract are finding out thats not the case. I think last year was the first time in eight or nine years that clubs have lost money. Theres definitely a different philosophy now in terms of signing older players.

Damon is two months older than Dye. But as Harrelson put it, Its a good thing Johnny can play baseball, because he cant play golf.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Left, right, center: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are dreaming of being the White Sox championship outfield of the future

Left, right, center: Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo are dreaming of being the White Sox championship outfield of the future

GLENDALE, Ariz. — All that was missing was a dinner bell.

From all over the White Sox spring training complex at Camelback Ranch they came, lined up in front of the third-base dugout and all around the cage to see a trio of future White Sox take batting practice.

This is all it was, batting practice. But everyone wanted to get a glimpse of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo swinging the bat. And those three outfield prospects delivered, putting on quite a show and displaying exactly what gets people so darn excited about the White Sox rebuild.

How to sum it up if you weren’t there? Just be happy you weren’t parked behind the left-field fence.

Jimenez and Robert are two of the biggest stars of the White Sox rebuilding effort, with Adolfo flying a bit more under the radar, but all three have big dreams of delivering on the mission general manager Rick Hahn and his front office have undertaken over the past year and change: to turn the South Siders into perennial championship contenders. The offensive capabilities of all three guys have fans and the team alike giddy for the time they hit the big leagues.

And those three guys can’t wait for that day, either.

“Actually, just a few minutes ago when we were taking BP, we were talking about it,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “Micker and Luis said, ‘Can you imagine if we had the opportunity one day to play together in the majors: right, left and center field? The three of us together and having the opportunity to bring a championship to this team?’ I think that’s a dream for us, and we’re trying to work hard for that.”

“We were just talking about how cool it would be to one day all three of us be part of the same outfield,” Adolfo told NBC Sports Chicago. “We were talking about hitting behind each other in the order and just envisioning ourselves winning championships and stuff like that. It’s awesome. I really envision myself in the outfield next to Eloy and Luis Robert.”

How those three would eventually line up in the outfield at Guaranteed Rate Field remains to be seen. Adolfo’s highly touted arm would make him an attractive option in right field. Robert’s speed and range makes him the logical fit in center field. Jimenez will play whichever position allows his big bat to stay in the lineup every day.

Here in Arizona, the focus isn’t necessarily on some far off future but on the present. As intriguing as all three guys are and as anticipated their mere batting practice sessions seem to be, they all potentially have a long way to go to crack the big league roster. Jimenez is the furthest along, but even he has only 73 plate appearances above the Class A level. Adolfo spent his first full season above rookie ball last year. Robert has yet to play a minor league game in the United States.

The group could very well make its way through the minor leagues together, which would obviously be beneficial come the time when the three arrive on the South Side.

“We were talking about (playing in the big leagues), but also we were talking about just to have the first stage of the three of us together in the minor leagues first and then go to the majors all three of us together,” Robert said. “To have the opportunity to play there should be pretty special for us. We were dreaming about that.”

For months now, and likely for months moving forward, the question has been and will be: when?

Whether it’s Jimenez or top pitching prospect Michael Kopech or any other of the large number of prospects who have become household names, fans and observers are dying to see the stars of this rebuilding project hit the major leagues. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez made their respective jumps last season. Hahn, who has said repeatedly this offseason that the front office needs to practice patience as much as the fan base, has also mentioned that a good developmental season for these guys might involve no big league appearances at all.

And it’s worth remembering that could be the case considering the lack of experience at the upper levels of the minor leagues for all three of these guys.

“In my mind, I don’t try to set a date for when I'm going to be in the majors,” Jimenez said. “That is something I can’t control. I always talk with my dad and we share opinions, and he says, ‘You know what? Just control the things that you can control. Work hard and do the things that you need to do to get better.’ And that’s my key. That’s probably why I stay patient.”

But staying patient is sometimes easier said than done. The big crowd watching Jimenez, Robert and Adolfo send baseballs into a to-this-point-in-camp rare cloudless Arizona sky proved that.

Dreaming of the future has now become the official pastime of the South Side. And that applies to fans and players all the same.

“I’m very, very excited,” Jimenez said, “because I know from the time we have here, that when the moment comes, when we can all be in the majors, the ones that can finally reach that level, we’re going to be good, we’re going to be terrific. I know that.”

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.