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Ballantini: Animated Ozzie livening up Sox camp

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Ballantini: Animated Ozzie livening up Sox camp

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 11:10 a.m. Updated 2:24 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has already constructed a new mantra for 2011 spring training, predictably involving curse words but along the lines of needing some drama to liven up camp. Thursday brought more of the same for Ozzie, fighting boredom but as always, finding joy in life.

On the lush, green fields of Camelback Ranch, Adam Dunn was routinely singled out for his glovework during fielding drills, in somewhat tongue-in-cheek fashion (although to be fair, Dunn played first base as his primary position for the first time in 2010 and compiled a -3.1 ultimate zone ratingnot great, but better than Paul Konerkos worst-in-baseball -13.4). After the drills, Guillen joked: The Big Donkey Dunn is gonna have a sore arm and a sore back tomorrow. By way of encouragement and introduction, Konerko explained to Dunn that he played both catcher and third base (where I was fine, as long as they hit it right at me) before settling in as a first baseman. Later, the Captain was chatting with pitching coach Don Cooper over his status as a league leader in assists (he finished tied for fourth a season ago, with 83).

As players hit the fields this morning, Guillen let them know the pressure was on, with owner Jerry Reinsdorf in attendance. He also was quick to give Roger Bossards ground crew trouble for their aggressiveness in dragging the field, claiming their attentiveness to detail was due exclusively to the big boss being around.

Mark Teahen made a number of nifty plays and strong throws from third, an indication that some of the injury-induced yips of 2010 might be a thing of the past.

Alexei Ramirez, on the other hand, was a loose as ever at shortstop, responding to Guillens chatterings by more than once encouraging Guillen to come out to short to field with him. Guillen: Oh no, you dont want to start that fight with me.

For Openers

Guillen made it more certain than ever that Mark Buehrle would be the White Soxs Opening Day starter, basically intimating the non-news that if all goes according to plan (no injuries, outrageous struggles, or dissention from GM Ken Williams or Cooper), the lefthander would start his team-record ninth opener. The lefthander would bring a career 3-1 record and 3.39 ERA into Opening Day 2011.

Early Impressions

Jordan Danks opened some eyes in his live BP session, at one point prompting A.J. Pierzynski to ask him whether he had visualized a long drive into the gap. After his session, it was Danks and veteran Omar Vizquel on a side field practicing bunting off of a batting machine.

On the mound, it was Miguel Socolovich getting some plaudits and attention. The 24-year-old has played five minor-league seasons but only distinguished himself in 2010, going 7-6 with a 3.33 ERA at AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte. Socolovich had quite a battle with Alex Rios, at one point sawing off Rios bat and causing Rios to angrily chuck the splintered bat to the backstop. Guillen called Cooper over to look at the 61, 175-pound righthander, and shouted out a compliment to the non-roster invitee once he finished his 40-pitch session.

Peavy A-OK

Jake Peavy had a quick chat with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen before workouts on Thursday, pronouncing himself just as fit as he did to the media yesterday. Peavy was in high spirits in reassuring his skipper, who has indicated that if theres one worry with his righty fireballer, its whether he will be forthright about how hes feeling. Yesterday, Peavy seemed to indicate he was cognizant of that worry, telling reporters that in a sense, he had learned his lesson.

It really doesnt mean a whole lot to me, Peavy said of breaking camp in the rotation. I just want to be healthy. I want to be healthy for the majority of the season. If Im healthy this whole season and throw 200 innings with the guys, its certainly something I want to do. But if I dont, I dont see myself being that far behind. I just want to make sure when I get back theres not any kind of setbacks.

If for no other reason, Peavy is tired of having to explain how he came to the White Sox in 2009 injured, rushed back, then pitched through discomfort in 2010, leading to his dramatic, detached latissimus dorsi muscle injury.

Today, prospective fourth outfielder Lastings Milledge laughed when asked about his trial by fire with the White Soxfacing Peavy in his first live BP of spring training: Injuring Peavy on a comebacker isnt going to get me on the roster.

Lefthander Will Ohman, who is proving to be one of the more entertaining players on the roster, questioning Peavy about wearing his socks high (Peavys retort: I go up and down with the old-timey look I have no sense of fashion.).

Loony Lefty

Ohman also related his (failed) offer to Guillen (a Rolex) to get his skipper to give him the No. 13 jersey: If Omar Vizquel couldnt get it from him, I didnt stand much of a chance, did I?

Danks You Very Much

John Danks laughingly admitted he was roughed up in his first live BP throws on Wednesday, particularly by slugger Tyler Flowers, who hit at least one moon shot off the lefthander: That one went a long waybut its hard to hold guys down when hitters know whats coming. Danks admitted that it was some competitive spirit that found him then sawing off Flowers bat with a cutter.

Danks spent his off-time between sets of 20 pitches behind the batting cage, watching Matt Thornton get his work in, the reflection on it today making him shudder. Matt throws so hard and right where he wants it. Hes got a scary arm.

Impatient A.J.

Around the cage, talk turned to swinging on 3-0. Pierzynski was curious whether Dunn was inclined to swing on 3-0, or got many green lights from his managers. Dunn had a few comments, and asked A.J. the same. Youve got to get to 3-0 to swing on 3-0, the rapscallion backstop said in reference to his infamous impatience. By the time I see three pitches, its 2-1 or 1-2.

Pena the Toro

Asked whether he felt strong so far this spring, prospective spot starter Tony Pena replied in the affirmative: Como toro. Like a bull.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

MLB proposing colossal changes to minor leagues, including eliminating dozens of teams

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USA TODAY

MLB proposing colossal changes to minor leagues, including eliminating dozens of teams

If Major League Baseball gets its way, there could be seismic changes coming to the minor leagues.

According to a report from Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, the league has proposed a host of sweeping changes to the minor leagues, including the elimination of 42 affiliated teams.

The proposal is merely the beginning of what are expected to be lengthy negotiations over a new version of what’s called the “Professional Baseball Agreement,” basically the contract that keeps the major and minor leagues connected and minor league teams stocked with players employed by major league clubs. The existing edition expires at the end of the 2020 season, and so a new one will need to be hashed out.

Major League Baseball is looking for control over how the minor leagues are organized, with an eye on improving facilities and clustering affiliates and leagues from a geographic standpoint to cut down on travel costs. There’s also expected to be an increase in salaries for minor league players, which has long been a talking point thanks to the increasing number of descriptions of how financially difficult life can be for those trying to reach the majors.

To accomplish those goals, Major League Baseball is proposing drastic solutions.

The one that will grab the most attention is the elimination of more than a quarter of the existing affiliated teams in the minor leagues, removing affiliated minor league teams from more than three dozen cities across the United States and getting rid of more than 1,000 jobs for minor league players. Simply, the entire short-season rookie ball (excluding squads that play at team-owned facilities in Arizona and Florida) would be eliminated, leaving only four levels of affiliated teams: Low Class A, High Class A, Double-A and Triple-A.

If you’re wondering what would happen to those 42 teams, the proposal is for them to form something called a “Dream League,” which would essentially serve the same purpose as an independent league, allowing players without jobs to keep playing and try to get a job with a major league team.

Additionally, Major League Baseball is proposing radical restructuring of existing leagues in order to cluster teams closer together. That could include changing the level of certain teams, such as making a Class A team a Triple-A team based on the quality of facilities and what makes the most geographic sense. Leagues could also gain or lose a large number of teams, with the Triple-A International League growing to 20 teams and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League shrinking to just 10 teams. One Class A league was described as being reduced to just six teams, while the rest of its current teams would be put into a brand-new league.

As for how the White Sox and their affiliates would be affected, team-specific information was not included in the report. One read of the details of this proposal could see something such as the White Sox affiliates being relocated to Midwestern cities. Another, however, could see the White Sox affiliates mostly staying how they currently are, given those teams are all geographically close to one another, with all but one located in North Carolina.

Buried in all of this is another big change, a proposed move of the draft from June to August, giving players a couple more months to show off for major league teams, and a reduction in the number of rounds from the current 40 to somewhere between 20 and 25. That, and the elimination of short-season rookie ball, would likely prevent draftees from playing minor league baseball in the same year they’re drafted.

It’s all something to keep an eye on, for sure, as many fans across the country who closely follow minor league teams in their hometowns could experience a dramatic shakeup.

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State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

Previous: Relief pitching Starting pitching | Designated hitter | Right field | Center field | Left field | Catcher | Shortstop Third base  Second base | First base

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re wrapping things up with the manager and the coaching staff.

What happened in 2019

While it’s easy to cruise through the statistical production of players and determine just how well they performed in 2019, that’s a little more difficult when it comes to manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff.

In the end, managers and coaches are evaluated on win-loss record — or at least how close they came to meeting the expectations in that department. While the White Sox are a gruesome 83 games under .500 in Renteria’s three years at the helm, that’s not really falling outside the expectations he had when he took over a rebuilding club. So it’s pretty hard to argue that because the White Sox lost 89 games in 2019, Renteria did a poor job.

Truly, his performance as a manager can’t be determined until he’s managing a team with expectations of winning. Renteria more than anyone has been the one setting such expectations for 2020, spending much of the waning weeks of the 2019 campaign voicing his opinion that all this losing stops next season.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” Renteria said. “We’re trying to win. We talk about it, we’re going through it. I know there’s still some refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you, we’re coming in, we’re finishing this season, we’re talking about coming into next season ready to battle. Period. Exclamation point. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

Renteria and his staff did plenty in 2019 to continue developing the team’s young players into the core of the future. But the skipper's most memorable on-field moment came in September, when even after he stopped making mound visits because of shoulder surgery, he went out to the mound and had an animated conversation with Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez made a habit of following up stellar performances with ugly ones, lacking consistency in a fashion that made even the optimistic Renteria throw up his hands at times. Renteria utilized that frustration on the mound in Detroit in an attempt to get some points across to the pitcher.


When it comes to Renteria’s staff, certainly they deserve some credit for some of the breakout seasons on the roster. Hitting coach Todd Steverson did offseason work with both Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson ahead of 2019 campaigns that saw them transform into the best all-around hitter on the team and the big league batting champ, respectively. Pitching coach Don Cooper helped oversee Lucas Giolito’s transformation into an All Star. Infield coach Joe McEwing worked with Moncada, who made a smooth transition from second base to third base.

But if the coaches earn some of the credit for the things that went right, they must also be mentioned alongside the things that went wrong. Steverson coached an offense that ranked near the bottom of the game in most categories. Cooper coached a starting rotation that finished the season with a 5.30 ERA. McEwing coached Anderson, who committed a major league high 26 errors.

None of that is to say those guys are wholly responsible for those negative outcomes. Just as the players have to be the ones to turn in the good results, they’re the ones who have to turn in the poor ones, as well. Steverson, however, along with assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks, will not be back for the 2020 season.

What will happen this offseason

The White Sox have already made their coaching moves this offseason, parting ways with Steverson and Sparks and replacing Steverson with Frank Menechino, who after several seasons on the Miami Marlins staff took over as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.

Menechino impressed the White Sox with his work there, spent September with the big league club and was quickly promoted once the season was over. At Charlotte, he worked with top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, who both had fantastic seasons playing at three different minor league levels and figure to be everyday players for most of the 2020 season.

The change, in the end, seemed to be more about how the White Sox felt about what Menechino could bring to the table than a reaction to the offensive production from a team that didn’t have expectations of doing much more than it did during another rebuilding season.

General manager Rick Hahn announced that the rest of the staff will be back in 2020.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

There will be a change in the expectations game come 2020. That should be mostly because of the breakout 2019 seasons from so many young players, the pending arrival of Robert and Madrigal and the offseason additions anticipated to be made by Hahn’s front office. But if nothing else, the expectations, when it comes to Renteria, will be different because he’s already said they will be.

“I'm not going to make any bones about it, it's time to turn the page,” he said just last week, “it's time to get us to another level of performance. That goes across the board, it goes with all aspects of our game.”

And so judging him and his staff can reach another level, too, because it will no longer solely be about hard-to-define development but the cold, hard wins and losses. Plenty of fans have taken to Twitter and complained about Renteria during this losing stretch, suggesting he’s not the one to manage this team into a winning era, but those were conclusions that cannot be drawn considering the quality of the rosters he’s managed in his three years on the South Side. How can you judge a manager’s ability to contend when he doesn’t have the tools to do so?

That’s about to change, so there will finally be some actual evidence to back up either side of that argument.

It’s clear where the White Sox stand in that discussion. They’ve been praising the job Renteria has done for three years now, and they’ve expressed nothing but confidence that he’ll be the guy to get it done.

“When Ricky was put in that role, it wasn't with the idea that he was just going to be the right guy for the first stage, the stage that is coming toward an end here, or is at an end here,” Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. “Obviously, the history and teaching and communicating and holding guys accountable is very important now. But even at the time we hired him, we felt he had the ability to not only set the right winning culture but to put guys in the best position to win.

“His ability to communicate with all 25 or 26 guys on a daily basis, to know where they're at, to know what they're capable of doing and putting them in the best position, makes us fairly confident that once that roster is deep enough and strong enough that he's going to be able to maximize the win potential with that roster when the time comes.”

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