Sunday, March 6, 2011
Posted: 4:45 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
GLENDALE, Ariz. Well, at least Matt Thornton started this Chisox Sunday morning off right by signing a contract extension.
From there, the day slipped away from there for the Chicago White Sox, who were dealt a pasting by nobodys World Series favorites, the Kansas City Royals, 8-2 at Camelback Ranch.
It was awesome news, manger Ozzie Guillen said of the extension, adding with a laugh, I hope it makes us forget how we played.
Mark Buehrle was hammered by a K.C. attack that touched him for nine hits and five earned runs in three innings, digging an early 5-1 hole his teamheld to eight hits on the day by the likes of primary pitchers Luke Hochevar and Mike Montgomerycould not climb out of.
Buehrle got his work in, Guillen chortled derisively. He pitched his inning.
The veteran lefty offered no alibis.
I have a couple of these games during spring, a couple during the season, Buehrle said. Its one of those things where you give up a lot of hits, but location-wise, I felt good. I might have missed a couple of spotsjust a couple balls found holes with guys on base, and they hit a couple of them hard.
It was just one of those games I was glad to get out of down here.
Reliever Tony Pena was cut almost as deeply as Buehrle in two relief innings, surrendering six hits (including a home run) and two earned runs.
All in all, White Sox pitchers surrendered 17 hits to last years 95-game losers.
One bright spot for the White Sox included two hits from Adam Dunn, including his first RBI as a member of the team. Catcher Tyler Flowers continued ripping up Cactus League pitching, going 2-for-2 and raising his average to .500 on the spring. Brent Lillibridge continued his up-and-down spring with a nice hustle play, scoring from third on a wild pitch the Royals fell asleep on. On the mound, Will Ohman tossed his third straight perfect inning of relief.
Perhaps the best news of the day was that the blowout merely completed the first week of play for the White Sox, who now stand at 1-6. Buehrle had the proper perspective on the dayor at least the best one you could take from such a doleful drubbing.
Well, I dont know how many times the regulars have played as a group, Buehrle said by way of explaining todays monkeyshines. There are a couple of times weve been out there for four or five innings, and then Ozzie brings other guys inIm not worried about it; once the team starts getting cut down and we have our main guys in there, we will start playing better.
The bus is running
Guillen stayed true to his word and patient against his nature in staying cool despite being on the wrong end through a second straight laugher.
I am not going to say anything until Tuesday, he said. That's when I expect them to pick it up a notch. That's when we try to get the team together.
I dont see anybody stepping up into last bullpen or bench spots. Thats not too bright. Were going to give guys a chance to make the team. At the end of the day, they will make the team for you or they will cut their own throats.
On the other hand, Guillen mentioned reliever Shane Lindsay (0.00 ERA so far this spring) as a dark horse candidate to fill the last bullpen spot: The kid Lindsay, he threw the ball pretty well.
No decisions have been made through Week One of Cactus League play with regard to the biggest open position on the roster, White Sox closer.
Pitching coach Don Cooper repeated the popular company line that if you pitch in the sixth, youre closing the sixth. Same with the seventh, eighth and ninth. You media get wrapped up sometimes in whos our 2-starter, 3-starter, 4-starterwhoever is out there that day is our No. 1 starter. Every games important. Whos pitching in playoff game 1, 2, 3, thats when numbers become important.
Whoever we put in we feel were getting the job done in that inning.
Meanwhile, Guillen also was noncommittal on specifically naming a closer, although he again made it clear that hed optimally like just one pitcher filling the closers role.
We have to sit down and talk as a staff, he said. Sometimes the eighth inning is more important than the ninth. We have to look at it that way. Right now, its still openI dont think we should just hand the job to anybody to have a closer for closers sake, but it helps everyone to see what kind of role theyre going to get.
But the decision, we should make it and move on with it. Thornton or Sale or whoever its going to be, make sure everybody knows what kind of roles theyre going to have.
Weve got twenty-something games left, Guillen said in context of determining his 2011 closer. It feels like weve got 100 games left.
Both young White Sox bullpen fireballers, Chris Sale and Sergio Santos, praised Thornton at length, as both a mentor and hard-worker. But both hurlers also made note of how the towering lefthander had overcome adversity in his career. Thornton, a former first-rounder, was a virtual discard of the Seattle Mariners in 2006, having compiled a career mark of 1-6 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in the Pacific Northwest.
He wanted to get better, and he did get better, Sale said of Thorntons career resurgence in Chicago. Thats the bottom line. You come in day-in and day-out and give it everything youve got. Its easy to come in here and work hard when youre doing well, but when youre not doing well, its another thing to come in here and keep working hard and staying positive. Thats one thing I really want to take from him: Regardless of whether its a great day, bad day, horrible day, you still need to come in here and work as hard as you can, do the things you need to get done.
Hes our go-to guy in more ways than one, Santos said. I can go to him under adversity and ask him how he went through certain things. Now that I know hes going to be here a few more years, I can bounce stuff off him and know that hes open to helping.
Adam Dunn, as self-deprecating a first baseman as youll find in the majors, appreciated a cap tip on his digging out of an Omar Vizquel bunny-burning throw to first last week (and the Big Donkey picked clean another dirt-napper from Brent Lillibridge today): Thanks, man. Baby steps, right?
Itching to pitch?
John Danks spoke with pride about the extension for Thornton, one of his closest friends on the team. But as we talked, he was frequently itching his head.
Indeed, his shaved coif (in support of St. Baldricks) was beginning to grow back in. Itchy, John?
A little bit, he said, smiling. Plus, Ive got some sunburn up there now. Gonna be tough for a few more days
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.