White Sox

Sox Drawer: Big words from Lillibridge

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Sox Drawer: Big words from Lillibridge

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brent Lillibridge might be one of the smallest players on the White Sox, but after seeing whats taken place here in the first week of spring training, hes talking big about what this team can do in 2012 and why.

Theres an excitement here that we have a chance to really kind of blow people out of the water once the season starts, Lillibridge said.

Talk is cheap in spring training, but after watching what transpired with the riches of last years 127 million payroll, Lillibridge sees a different focus this spring, and believes it starts with manager Robin Ventura and the new staff thats been put together.

I think its a perfect combination of everything, Lillibridge said about the new coaches; Mark Parent, Jeff Manto, Joe McEwing, etc. The guys are hardworking and want to win, but also want to teach and not let things go by that. At times, I think sometimes we didnt focus on the details especially at spring training. Veterans, we sometimes take spring training for granted. We need to work on some stuff. There are some things we didnt work on well last year, situational hitting, stuff like that. So were putting more of a focus on it. I think its going to be really helpful for us. Thats Robins mentality; just focus on the little things and keeping the game simple, and were going to win because of it."

Critics and experts outside of the White Sox clubhouse dont exactly share Lillibridges assessment for the upcoming season. They see a team that subtracted much more than they added this winter, and are relying on too many players who need comeback seasons.

Lillibridge sees things differently.

Losing Mark Buehrle and Q Carlos Quentin are big parts of our lineup and pitching staff, but I think we put ourselves in a good position with us young guys on top of what we have so far, Lillibridge said. We expect Adam Dunn and Alex Rios to do what they do. Well put ourselves in a great position come the All-Star break, come the end of the year to really get a chance to be in first place, and chance to fight for a playoff spot.

Instead of shining under the spotlight last season, the White Sox were blinded by it. They couldnt excel when the pressure of a winning season was at its greatest since 2006 when they tried to repeat as world champions. Now with that glare nowhere near them, the drive to win is still here, but the tension is not.

I think thats our goal for the year is just no more pressure than the game itself, and play the game, Lillibridge said. I think we all have high hopes. Its a reserved type of feel that we dont expect too much, but know that its there and if we play the game were going to be sitting pretty good at the end of the year.

You can't script this: Eloy Jimenez smacks game-winning homer in first game at Wrigley Field

You can't script this: Eloy Jimenez smacks game-winning homer in first game at Wrigley Field

Had this been the scripted outcome, it would've sounded a little too cheesy.

But in reality, it was a moment that got White Sox fandom as excited as the dude rounding the bases.

Eloy Jimenez, playing in his first game at Wrigley Field nearly two years after the Cubs traded him to the White Sox, smacked a game-winning homer off Pedro Strop in the ninth inning, breaking a 1-all tie and giving the South Siders a 3-1 victory in the first Crosstown game of the 2019 season.

Jimenez had been asked countless times about what it would be like to play in the park he long assumed would be the one where he played his big league games. And he expressed excitement, though committed to saying it would be like any other game.

It wasn't.

Jimenez had a disappointing outcome in his first at-bat of the evening, ending a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the first inning with a double play. He singled and walked in later plate appearances, but nothing was anywhere near as dramatic as his trip to the plate in the ninth. He hit Strop's pitch so hard it sounded like he broke his bat. The ball still ended up in the left-field bleachers.

One ninth-inning blast in June 2019 won't rip the rebuilding White Sox contention window open immediately, but what an image of rebuilding progress it was, with Jimenez, the middle-of-the-order centerpiece for the next decade, blasting a game-winner against the Crosstown-rival Cubs.

Jimenez's permanent smile was indeed present as he rounded the bases, made even bigger by his Tuesday night heroics. The White Sox are hoping they were the first of many.

 

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Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's that time again: Ricky's Boys vs The North Siders

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: It's that time again: Ricky's Boys vs The North Siders

Ozzie Guillén and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on a special Crosstown edition of Baseball Night in Chicago.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: