White Sox

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.

White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

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USA TODAY

White Sox pitchers Hamilton & Burr get a shoutout from Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda has landed in Chicago and he made sure to give some his favorite teams, places and people in the city a shout out on Twitter.

Roughly five minutes passed before the playwright and actor of Hamilton fame quickly remembered to give a quick greeting to the White Sox and two specific members of the team.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Alexander Hamilton in "Hamilton: An American Musical" made sure to give a specific shout out to White Sox relief pitchers Ryan Burr and Ian Hamilton. The musical Hamilton of course discusses the infamous duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

White Sox pitchers Burr and Hamilton have been inextricably linked due to their last names, ever since  they first became teammates with the White Sox Class-A team in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2017. And they took their bond one step further in 2019, recreating the Burr-Hamilton duel in front of the entire Whie Sox team

Miranda is currently in Chicago for the opening and ribbon cutting of "Hamilton: The Exhibition". The exhibit will open on Friday, April 26.

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Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Charlie O’Brien

Back in the day, Major League catchers used to wear a backwards helmet with a separate mask strapped to it.

The beginning of the end of those masks was September 13, 1996 in Toronto, when Charlie O’Brien introduced the hockey goalie-style catcher’s mask.

Remember that guy?

Charlie O’Brien was born May 1, 1960 in Tulsa, OK.  He was originally drafted in 1978 out of Bishop Kelley (Tulsa) High School by the Rangers in the 14th round, then again out of Wichita State in the 21st round in 1981 by the Mariners (that same year his college teammate Joe Carter was taken in the 1st round by the Cubs). Finally, O’Brien signed after being selected by the A’s in the 5th round in 1982, following a dynamic .359/.399/.659 season with 25 HR and 116 RBI in 87 games.  

O’Brien worked his way through the minors, reaching Triple-A Tacoma in 1984 and earning a 16-game trial with the Oakland A’s in June 1985. He caught the final inning of a 10-1 loss on June 2 in his MLB debut in Baltimore, and eventually collected his first MLB hit – a double off the Tigers’ Frank Tanana – on August 22, his first career start. With a couple of young catchers in Mickey Tettleton & Terry Steinbach blocking his path to the Majors, O’Brien was shipped from Oakland to Milwaukee in March 1986. He played well over the next two years in El Paso and Denver in the Brewers system, and he received another 10-game stint in the Majors in May 1987. O’Brien started 1988 back in Denver, but in June he was called up to the big club for good.

He served as backup catcher from Milwaukee to Queens (he was traded to the Mets in August 1990) to Atlanta (where he won a World Series in 1995) and Toronto, developing a reputation as a solid catcher. For his career, he threw out 37% of attempted base stealers, which is comfortably above the league average of 31%. He caught 13 pitchers who won Cy Young awards at some point, including a string of four in a row – Greg Maddux (1994-95), Pat Hentgen (1996) and Roger Clemens (1997).

Then there was that day in 1996 where he revolutionized catching, introducing the modern style of catcher’s mask. He got the idea for the mask while watching hockey, likely thinking about all the foul tips he took off the mask, wondering how to find a safer alternative. He worked with a few manufacturers and Major League Baseball to make the dream a reality.

In December 1997, O’Brien arrived in Chicago as a free agent signing by the White Sox. He collected three hits in the 1998 season opener, becoming the first White Sox catcher with three hits on opening day since Brian Downing in 1977. He only appeared in 57 games with the White Sox before a July 30 trade to the Angels, but he was with the Sox long enough to provide an important Chicago historical footnote. On June 6, 1998, O’Brien became the first White Sox player to hit a regular season home run at Wrigley Field. It came in the 6th inning off Kevin Tapani, and the two-run blast scored Magglio Ordoñez and gave the White Sox a 5-4 lead which they couldn’t hang onto, as they went on to lose 7-6.

In total, O’Brien played 800 games spread out over 15 seasons for eight teams. He hit .221 with 56 home runs in his career (and an additional homer in the 1995 NLCS), but his calling card was his solid defense, as well as being an innovator. His final MLB game was June 21, 2000 for the Expos in Montreal.

After his playing career, O’Brien (who wore No. 22 for most of his career) went on to own the Catch 22 Ranch in Northeastern Oklahoma, where he raises cattle and deer. Charlie and his ranch has been featured on the Pursuit Channel’s TV show “Deer Thugs.” An avid outdoorsman and hunter, he went on to form a company Charlie O’ Products, which sells hunting products. He also wrote a book The Cy Young Catcher along with co-author Doug Wedge, which chronicles his days in the Major Leagues.