White Sox

Todd Frazier makes his introductions to White Sox fans, teammates

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Todd Frazier makes his introductions to White Sox fans, teammates

A warm welcome greeted Todd Frazier on a chilly evening in his new home. 

“Welcome to Chicago, man. Happy to have you.” 

That line came from a fan during Frazier’s autograph session Friday night at SoxFest at the Hilton Chicago, but easily could’ve come from any of the teammates he met during the annual confab.

The White Sox third baseman, acquired as the team’s offseason centerpiece from the Cincinnati Reds in December, is a prime reason for optimism even as the SoxFest tenor trended toward ornery this weekend. He’s a two-time All-Star who hit 35 home runs in 2015, but just as importantly, he brings a steady defensive presence to a team that finished with baseball's worst UZR last summer. 

“You can’t not be excited, no doubt,” ace left-hander Chris Sale said. “You got a guy who’s one of the best in the business at what he does both offensively and defensively. That’s something I think we’ve needed for a while.”

[MORE: After returning from Cuba, Jose Abreu ‘ready to give his all’ in 2016]

Frazier’s introduction to his fanbase and teammates was well-received, with center fielder Adam Eaton joking during a panel on Saturday that the third baseman and Toms River, N.J. native is “extremely east coast, I feel like I’m talking to someone from the mafia.” By all accounts, Frazier comes to Chicago with a reputation as a positive clubhouse presence, something the 2015 White Sox probably lacked to an extent. 

Though with pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch in a few weeks, Frazier said he doesn’t feel any building pressure to succeed and fit in with his new team. 

“You come up in the minor leagues, you've been doing it your whole life, trying to move up to each level,” Frazier explained. “That's how I'm taking it. I'm moving up another level. A new chapter in my life with a new team. You've got to make new friends and get acquainted with everybody. 

“I’m pretty excited just talking about it. It's so laid back and a comfortable atmosphere that I can just be myself and that's where I play my best.”

Frazier’s already made a strong first impression on White Sox fans, teammates and coaches this weekend, but what matters is how he hits and fields come April. He thinks any concerns about him making the switch to the American League from the National League are overblown, though said he’ll talk to designated hitter Adam LaRoche about handling the switch (LaRoche, of course, struggled mightily in 2015 after switching leagues — and positions). 

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If the White Sox are to improve off last season’s disappointing 76 wins, Frazier will be an important part of it. For now, his tenure with the White Sox is off to a positive start. 

“(I’m) just seeing what these guys are all about, just talking, having a couple root beers and away we went,” Frazier said. “I talked to Alex Avila a little bit, I know Dioner Navarro a lot and Chris Sale, all really, really good guys and can’t wait to get in that clubhouse and see who the jokesters are and who’s ready to play.”

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.”