White Sox

Buehrle deferring Opening Day start to Danks?

368919.jpg

Buehrle deferring Opening Day start to Danks?

Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011
Posted 11:31 a.m. Updated 12:40 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz The first day with a full squad at spring training bore a strong resemblance to the triumphant Chicago White Sox offseason: no drama, big smiles, optimism oozing from every corner of the clubhouse.

Lastings Milledge was nestled into a locker stall next to White Sox veteran Juan Pierre, where the outfield leader had already embarked on mentoring the teams fourth outfielder hopeful.

Mark Buehrle pedaled laps on a stationary bike with a smile, having fully swayed from offseason uncertainty over being traded to his potential to start his franchise-most ninth Opening Day game.

Manager Ozzie Guillen held court loudly, jostling with Tony Pena with his custom blend of loud talk and wild gesture.

Buehrles Hurling

After letting on that he has something on Paul Konerko that will serve him handily during the course of the season, when teasing can turn to blackmail, Buehrle addressed the possibility of making a ninth Opening Day start, which would extend his team record.

Ozzie hasnt mentioned it to me, no, Buehrle said. But what will I do, tell him no?

Buehrle theorized that it would be between me and John Danks as to who should be the Opening Day starter, but with a bit of smirk acknowledged that for the last couple of years, hes been better than me. The lefthander was gracious enough to admit that if consulted, hed recommend Danksie for the Opening Day assignment.

The chances of Buehrle failing to start the season opener on the hill, of course, is virtually nil. Guillen as much as confirmed that on the opening day of an eerily tranquil camp.

Right now, Buehrle is my Opening Day starter, Guillen said. I might get the rotation drawn up in the next couple of days to see. We face Cleveland, and hes always pitched good against the Indians early in the season. So I dont see why Buehrle wont start on Opening Day.

Ill save that news for when were boring and nobody is talking about the White Sox. Then Ill say Buehrle is my Opening Day starter.

Buehrle went 13-13 in 2010, with a 4.28 ERA and Buehrle went 13-13 in 2010, with a 4.28 ERA and 3.90 FIP, bringing in 15.2 million in value on the third year of his four-year, 56 million contract. His Opening Day, 6-0 shutout of the Cleveland Indians a year ago both set a team record for most Opening Day starts and saw the two-time Gold Glove winner author the most spectacular fielding play of his career, a hockey kick-save, football-hike assist on a Lou Marson slap through the box.

Buehrle has been a preposterously consistent pitcher, never falling short of 30 starts as a rotation member, winning double-figure games in 10 straight seasons, and falling short of a .500 record just once (12-13 in 2006). While many players might see a dramatic rise in their numbers in a contract year, Guillen dismisses such a notion in Buehrles case.

A lot of managers like to manage a guy in the last year of a deal because they think theyre going to get their best playing for the next contract, he said. But youre going to see the same Buehrle, no matter what. Hes not going to changehell be the same with a 10-year deal or a two-month deal.

Qs Cues

Few White Sox have been as hyper-speculated over as mercurial rightfielder Carlos Quentin, who has pledged to bring a lighter attitude tothe 2011 campaign.

Quentins intensity, which is held in awe bordering on apprehension bythe teams administrators, was in traditional seriousity in his firstmedia address of the season, with a dry admission he was absolutelythrilled at the White Soxs offseason additions.

As for what hes done to re-channel his infamous intensity for 2011,the slugger was coy: Just worked on some things to come backstrong, knock on wood, and enjoy this game a little better.

For Quentin and the White Sox, its been somewhat of a slow descentsince his near-MVP season of 2008, when a temper flare at the plateresulted in a broken wrist and being sidelined for the last month ofthe season. After slugging 36 homers and driving in 100 runs in justfive months in that shocking breakout campaign, hes averaged just 115games over the past two seasons.

Despite hitting 47 home runs over his past two seasons, Quentin understands his production has been disappointing.

Any time you go out and perform like I did in 2008, you thinktheres more out there, he said. You had the opportunity to build onthat, and you feel like you didnt, you feel a little disappointed.

At the end of 2010, both Guillen and GM Ken Williams underscored toQuentin that while they adored his intensitysingling him out as aninspirational team leader by exampleboth advised the outfielder toease up on himself. From the sound of things, Q has listened.

To succeed in the future, youve got to learn from some things youvedone and make them right, Quentin said. I would be foolish not tolearn from some negative things that have been consistently repeatedin my life.

With a burgeoning salary and legitimate questions about his durability,the White Sox brain trust has yet to seriously entertain swappingQuentin away. Williams has mentioned, with a knock on wood, he hasnttraded away many SportsCenter guysplayers he fears hell have to seeon highlight reels nightly, wearing other than a White Sox uniform.Clearly, the GM feels Quentin in one such guy. Guillen hasnt betenbashful about the esteem with which he holds Quentin, and the feelingis mutual.

I talked with Ozzie a lot last year about things Ive done, thingsto be accountable for, Quentin said. Pressure is always somethingthats been self-inflicted by myself, its something Ive worked on tolighten up and enjoy this game.

The slugger got a little short when pressed about the self-inflictedpressure problems hes dealt with in the past: Of course, the effortis there when you work on things, you just never know how theyllturn out, always knowing every day is a grind, not just physically butmentally, and keeping myself in the right place.

Quentin did smile when asked about the status of his knee, which wasbanged up in multiple instances in 2010, contributing mightily to hisroutine, ice-wrapped, Michelin Man appearance postgame. In addition tosome healing time, the rightfielder reported putting in a lot of workto stabilize his hip and a high volume of explosive lifting.

I responded very well, he said. Im excited with my weight rightnow. I feel like Im in a good place mentally, and ready to go.

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

White Sox Talk Podcast: The crazy journey of Gio Gonzalez

gio.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: The crazy journey of Gio Gonzalez

Making it to the majors is a fantastic and rare feat in itself, but White Sox pitcher Gio Gonzalez's path to the White Sox, and from the White Sox, several times over is a journey baseball fans everywhere should listen to. Chuck Garfien is joined by Gonzalez to discuss his pro career and what he sees in this young White Sox team.

(1:40) - Surprised the White Sox wanted him to comeback

(6:00) - Wanted to go a team that wanted to give him a opportunity

(10:00) - Yasmani Grandal is a different kind of person

(13:30) - Thoughts on the Sox young pitching core

(16:20) - Thoughts on the expectations for this team

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

White Sox Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Fifty homers? Eloy Jimenez aims to be a centerpiece in a newly powerful White Sox lineup

0810_eloy_jimenez.jpg
USA TODAY

Fifty homers? Eloy Jimenez aims to be a centerpiece in a newly powerful White Sox lineup

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Fifty. Fifty home runs.

That's a lot of home runs in a single season.

But Eloy Jimenez — like he does with just about everything — is greeting that number with a smile and a laugh.

"Why not?" he said, when asked Monday at Camelback Ranch if he believes he could hit 50-plus homers in a single campaign.

Jimenez does this quite often, asking his own questions of reporters who just asked him a question. Most of the time it's an opinion kind of thing. For example, earlier in the same media session, I asked him how the White Sox lineup looks after the team's many offseason additions. He turned it back on me: "What do you think?" I told him it looks significantly improved from last season. "OK, you have the answer." I guess I did.

But to his "Why not?" in the 50-homer discussion, there was no response from the assembled media. Because really, there isn't a reason why he can't hit 50 home runs in a single season.

It's becoming more of a rarity in baseball, especially since the homer-happy days of the steroid era. And it's never happened on the South Side. The team record for homers in a single season is 49, accomplished by Albert Belle in 1998. That mark was a tad overshadowed by what Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did that year.

But the point is that if Jimenez reached the 50-homer mark, it would be a new White Sox record.

Why can't he do it? Crickets.

Jimenez has the power to do such a thing, hitting 31 home runs in a rookie season that still featured plenty of growing pains. Put those behind him, and who knows how many balls he can launch to the fan deck in center field.

A lot of the focus this winter and this spring is on improving his defense, which looked nowhere near as ready for dominance as his bat did in 2019. But manager Rick Renteria constantly talks about how Jimenez and his fellow White Sox youngsters are just scratching the surface of what they'll be able to do in their careers. If that's the case, then White Sox fans better brace themselves for some spectacular feats on the South Side over the next decade. Jimenez hitting 50 homers might just be one of them.

That's a maybe for the time being, though. What's a certainty is that Jimenez and this revamped White Sox lineup look primed for a far more powerful 2020 campaign.

In 2019, the White Sox were one of just six teams to hit fewer than 200 home runs. Their team slugging percentage of .414 was the sixth worst in baseball. This while the division-rival Minnesota Twins set a new major league record with 307 home runs, using all that might to win 101 games and the AL Central crown.

That's the prize the White Sox have their sights on this season. To win it, they'll need a power boost. Well, that's what Rick Hahn's front office tried to provide this offseason, adding Edwin Encarnacion (34 homers in 2019) as the new DH, Yasmani Grandal (28 homers) as the new No. 1 catcher, Nomar Mazara (19 homers) as the new right fielder and Luis Robert (32 homers in the minor leagues) as the new center fielder. That's four new everyday bats in a lineup that already included Jose Abreu (33 homers in 2019), Jimenez (31 homers), Yoan Moncada (25 homers) and Tim Anderson (18 homers).

While the baseball that many believe led to the kinds of inflated homer numbers that teams like Twins put up in 2019 is slated for change in 2020, many of those White Sox haven't reached the crest of their power-hitting wave. Jimenez, Moncada, Anderson, Mazara and obviously Robert are still young, still developing and could still have a lot more power production in them.

In other words, yes, this is a powerful lineup. And it's expected to get even more powerful.

"Our lineup has now been stretched out a little bit more. It's a little deeper, which is huge for us," Renteria said. "Mazara and what we believe he might be able to bring to the table, and another year of growth for the guys that are here. The power potential in terms of just having guys with solid experience, obviously power. Now you've got some protection, a little bit more. And so we'll continue to try to see how we develop that lineup composition, but certainly have many options at hand and we'll do the best we can to make it work."

No matter how you want to stack them up, Renteria is right. Last season, the White Sox had the four long-term centerpieces of their order — Anderson, Moncada, Abreu and Jimenez — and a half season of All-Star caliber production from James McCann. This season, the lineup contains productive and powerful options all the way toward the bottom. That's a big change from what fans have watched on a nightly basis during these rebuilding years and is a big part of the reason there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side.

None of the newcomers has a more powerful profile than Encarnacion. His 297 homers since 2012 are the most in the majors. He's hit at least 30 home runs in each of the last eight seasons. And despite playing in just 109 games with the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners last season, he still ranked 12th in the American League in long balls.

He's also known Jimenez since the young White Sox star was 14 years old. Who knows if Encarnacion can take much credit for Jimenez becoming a dangerous hitter in his own right, but Jimenez is happy to give Encarnacion credit for the impact he's made in his life — and the impact he thinks he'll make in the White Sox clubhouse.

"Now, to play with Edwin, in the same lineup, for me is really exciting," Jimenez said. "After I found out he was going to sign with us, I said, 'Welcome home.' And he said, 'Yeah, now I’m on a really good team and we can change the game.' So now I think we have a really good lineup, and we’re going to change the game, too.

"He gave me a lot of advice before I signed. The first advice I’ll always have with me: Don’t get crazy and don’t change because you have money. That is one of the biggest advice I’ve ever had from him. Before I got to the majors, he said, 'Don’t try to do too much and just show what you do always.' And that was the other advice he gave me.

"I appreciate him because he’s always treated me as a kid he loves. For me, it’s good to have a veteran who takes care of me.

"He’s the veteran on the team. You can see, he hits with a lot of power. And he’s a good teammate. So I’m guessing he’s going to (have the same impact he’s had) on me on the other guys, too."

The fans in the bleachers are hoping Encarnacion has an impact on them, too.

Up and down the lineup, those fans should see a lot more activity this season. Maybe that even means catching some of the 50 or more balls Jimenez could send into the seats.

"Why not?" Jimenez repeated. "Yeah, it’s a big number, but my goal is every year to have better numbers than the past year. So I think, one day, I can hit 50 plus. But let’s see."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.