White Sox

Ozzie wishes Jenks good luck, wants new ring

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Ozzie wishes Jenks good luck, wants new ring

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Posted 5:11 p.m. Updated 5:52 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO For his 47th birthday, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen got just what he always wanted a half-hour session with local beat writers on top of another half-hour devoted only to Spanish media.

But the Chisox jefe cant be too glum, because he got his birthday presents a couple of months early, in the form of additional provisions for 2011: Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Jesse Crain and Will Ohman.

Im very excited, Guillen said of piloting a team built for October. I was surprised at how aggressive the front office was. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf gave GM Kenny Williams the go-ahead and built a good ballclub. Theyre showing people, especially the fans, how much we want to win.

Guillen isnt merely pleased to have brought back fan favorites Konerko and Pierzynski I thought we were going to lose those guys but in the two major, multiyear additions beyond them.

We got Crain and Dunn, and they are very tough players, he said. I feel very, very good about this club. I love my team. Officially, it doesnt matter what I think about the team, but I love it.

Guillen left his managers office last October after what he admitted was, both professionally and privately, the toughest year of his life expecting a very different look to his 2011 club.

I thought we were going to go with kids, Guillen said. That way my personal thought.

As for whether postseason expectations make for a tougher job for him, Guillen brushed the notion off.

Its always on me, no matter how good we are expected to be, he said. The heat? Every day you manage you will take the heat every day, youre managing in the hot seat, no matter who youre managing or what youre managing. I like challenges, when people put it on my back. Thats exciting.

Guillen mentioned that he had just seen 2011 SoxFest attendees Konerko and Gordon Beckham at U.S. Cellular Field and that both players were very excited to get the season rolling.

WATCH: Beckham enjoys Camp Cora

My job is to try to get those players to do the best they can every day. Thats the easy part, and I dont have any problem with that. But the players are going to dictate how good or bad you are. I will make the same moves and be the same guy, so I dont feel any pressure at all. I manage this club and expect to win every year. Every year your team isnt in the playoffs, its a failure.

Ozzie's State of the Sox

As much as the 2011 White Soxs roster is already locked in, with few positional or pitching staff battles in the offing, in January theres always at least a fair bit of speculating to do over the state of the team.

Closer

Looming biggest on Guillens plate is how to replace departed closer Bobby Jenks. Without a veteran closer imported via trade or signing, the role will fall to one of Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Crain or Sergio Santos.

WATCH: Thornton wants closer job

Each choice comes with benefits and risks. Primarily, none of the live-armed hurlers has met with consistent success as a closer at the major-league level. Crain has yet to see true success as a closer in spite of pitching his way to the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins in a ninth-inning role. Santos has a closers makeup, but is just one year into his big-league pitching career after being converted from shortstop, and seems the least likely of the four to step into the role. Thornton was terrific all season long in both a setup and closer role, but in the category of aint broke dont fix, hes been perfect for a longer period and made the 2010 All-Star Game as a setup man.

That leaves Sale, who was perfect in three save opportunities in 2010 and in spite of his relative lack of experience and prior pitching career as a starter, could slide right into the role.

Whoever wins out, Guillen will be careful, but decisive, with his decision.

After mentioning in the Spanish media session that we will develop the closer position slowly but we want to have someone decided on by spring training, Guillen was even more adamant in his later session with beat reporters, indicating that its a good thing for the pitcher, knowing what his position is going to be.

Earlier in the offseason, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper indicated he would be OK with a closer by committee, but clearly thats not ideal in anyones eyes. Said Guillen: Were looking to name a closer in spring training and I hope we do.

Guillen and Williams both somewhat surprisingly threw Sale into the mix as the leading candidate to become the new White Sox closer back during Decembers Winter Meetings, and Guillen reiterated on Thursday that hes not afraid of throwing a relatively unproven closer into the role.

Matt Thornton is the guy with experience. You look at Sale and we dont know, Guillen said. We have to wait and see if Jake Peavy is ready. Pitching, Cooper knows that and Kenny has an idea. I feel comfortable either way, but having Sale in the bullpen is a plus.Ozzie Guillen doesn't want to rush Jake Peavy back into the rotation after his surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi, what does that mean for Chris Sale? (AP)

Peavys Medical Chart

Guillen claimed to know nothing at all about Jake Peavys readiness for Opening Day and insisted once again that he would not rush the potential ace back from last Julys latissimus dorsi surgery.

Ive got to assume Plan B. Im not going to rush Jake to be ready for Opening Day, Guillen said. Thats not an injury like a broken finger this injury is kind of weird. We shouldnt rush Jake to be ready for the season when we dont have to.

The early word on Peavy is that hes well ahead of schedule, with Cooper reporting to MLB.coms Scott Merkin that hes throwing off of a mound and feeling only normal soreness already.

Absent Peavy, the White Sox appear willing to break camp with Sale or Tony Pena temporarily manning the fifth starters role. Said Guillen: The fifth starter, thats the last guy you worry about because every team has the same problems finding a fifth starter.

The Hot Corner

While every indication from Williams and Guillen was that rookie Brent Morel impressed enough in his September audition to arrive in Arizona as the third-base incumbent, Guillen wouldnt proclaim that on Thursday, indicating that such a statement would be a slap in the face of last years starter, Mark Teahen.

But Guillen acknowledged it might come down to a decision of whether to go in the direction of offense or defense. If the skipper maintains as always he is s steadfast believer in defense, his plaintive comment I love the way Morel plays third base would indicate advantage, Morel.

One thing Guillen doesnt plan on doing is playing games with either player. As soon as the plan is out there, Teahen and Morel will be the first to know, then you media, then the fans, Guillen said. Im not going to keep it a secret all spring and make you guys ask the same question every day. As soon as we find out who its going to be, people will know right away.

Whos on First?

Guillen indicated that Konerko was completely spent at the end of 2010 and will need more time at DH in coming seasons. But according to Guillen, the big boy Dunn has to play first base I dont want to say twice a week or three times a week, but he will be at first base more than people think.

Wither Tank?

The inking of free-agent plum Dunn and the ascendance of Morel seemingly has left Cuban bonus baby Dayan Viciedo out of a position. But Guillen somewhat humorously indicated that a future as a corner infielder was unlikely from the start for Viciedo.

He told bench coach Joey Cora he never played third base in Cuba, but played right field, Guillen said. The only thing is that we have to bring a golf cart to get him into the outfield Im going to ask the commissioner, can we use a golf cart for Viciedo to go to the outfield? because he takes a little while to get to first base and thats just halfway there.

Guillen reported that Viciedo did in take some fly balls at last weeks Camp Cora in Miami. We have to find a way for this kid to play, he said. Right field will be one. Left field, because I dont know how long were going to have Juan Pierre. But Joey told me he was taking fly ballsthats all I know.

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

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.