White Sox

Sox spring surprises have international flavor

Sox spring surprises have international flavor

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Posted 6:17 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Coming into camp, everyone knew there would be few open roster spots for the Chicago White Sox this Cactus League season. The steady climb toward a healthy opener by Jake Peavy alone evaporates one open spot.

So by any count, there are two spots open. One comes in the bullpen, as pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen lobby every year against more pragmatic GM Ken Williams for a 12th pitcher on the roster even breaking camp, when off-days create a bit more rest for everyone. The second resides on the bench, where Omar Vizquel, Mark Teahen, and Ramon Castro provide a bit of flexibility, allowing the team to potentially select the best player for 25th man, rather than the best roster fit.

Guillen hasnt been shy in admitting he hasnt seen many standouts among his bubble players, but two names keep coming to his mind when asked to assess players in camp, even this early on: Dayan Viciedo and Shane Lindsay.

The Tank is rolling

Viciedo fractures thumb

When the reports came earlier this year that the acquisition of Adam Dunn would push Cuban bonus baby Viciedo to the outfield, Guillen cracked a joke about giving the heavy youngster a golf cart to get out to right field every inning.

Unfortunately, Viciedo wasnt able to get out of the way of a Dave Bush pitch in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers on Thursday and he will miss 3-4 weeks with a fractured right thumb.

While hes effectively out of the running for a roster spot when the team breaks camp, it doesnt diminish what the Tank did to put himself in position for one.

In Viciedos first moments on the field, heading out to the field on March 1 vs. the Milwaukee Brewers, he held up the game by lollygagging his way out to right. But on the first play of the game, Rickie Weeks hit a screaming meemie over Viciedos head. Viciedo merely chased it down with a nice, over-the-shoulder catch.

Thats natural, Viciedo said. Natural instinct.

Indeed, if there was a single player who has opened Guillens eyes this spring, it was the 22-year-old. And finally arriving at a set position might be the biggest factor as to why.

Much is being said of the game of musical chairs the Tank has played since signing with Chicago in 2008.

Guillen admits, When we got this guy, he was an outfielder in Cuba, thats what he told me. For some reason, we put him at third base. I said, Well, thats what we got a third baseman. Hopefully this year we finally have got him in one position. Hes played only a couple years in baseball, and we moved him from third base to first base, first base to third base -- thats not easy. Hes handled it very well.

Viciedo wasnt frustrated at all about being shuttled from position to position.

Im relaxed about it. Its a positive for me; it shows me how important I am to the team, Viciedo said. Most of all, I want to help us win.

The right fielder admits its been an adjustment moving to the outfield -- but not as much as youd think.

I feel comfortable, he said. Now that Ive got more practice out there, Im able to feel comfortable out there so I feel good. The hardest thing is keeping up with the pitchers and what they are going to pitch in order to know and make adjustments during the game. You pretty much have to keep moving, just to play out scenarios of where the ball might land.

When you play third base, every pitch you have to be on-point because something might be coming toward you. You have to be attentive. When you are in the outfield, you might get a fly ball every once in a while. You might have a dribble coming out there. You are not as intense in your concentration as much as you would be at third.

Guillen has said that the positive reports coming from the teams outfield coaches, including Harold Baines, Daryl Boston and Devon White have opened his eyes to the possibility of the Tank roaming in right at U.S. Cellular Field.

Hes playing RF very well, better than what we thought, Guillen said. I got good feedback on him playing in the outfield. I was pretty excited about what I heard. Hes going to have a lot of big league time.

Viciedo is quick to praise the White Sox coaching staff for his fast success in the outfield, including two assists (a punchout at third base vs. the Brewers, and a bullet thrown home to nail a Colorado Rocky at the plate this past Tuesday).

Theyve been helping me out quite a bit, Viciedo said. I work out with them a lot. Ive been learning. All of this practicing is what is really helping me out.

Viciedo has also benefited from the tutelage of one of Cubas greatest outfielders, Victor Mesa (a superstar on the island and in international competition from 1978-95), who was one of the young players managers and mentors.

I really looked up to him, Viciedo said. He was a great center fielder, so a lot of what I learned playing the outfield actually came from him. I picked up a lot of stuff from him and looked up to him.
Dayan Viciedo played outfield in Cuba, but has been shifted from third base to first base and back again with the White Sox. Manager Ozzie Guillen hopes that letting Viciedo settle in to right field will be beneficial for his development. (AP)
Guillen has also been quick to acknowledge that this is the first of Viciedos three spring trainings with the White Sox where the slugger has reported in top condition.

One thing has helped him: Hes showed up to camp in shape, Guillen said. Thats helped him develop his game because he doesnt have to worry about getting in shape and get on a scale every other day.

While I was in Miami this offseason, I worked on a diet, Viciedo said. I had a strong diet regimen. I trained in the gym really hard just to be prepared for this. I trained a lot harder. I dont want to be known as the chubby boy -- I want to be known as the strong guy.

While this might be the first story ever written about Viciedo that doesnt lead with and primarily focus on his mammoth power and vicious line drives, its a sign of how far hes risen in the organization that the conversation no longer starts and ends with him as a scale-tipping future DH.

So its not only a spring thats been marked with solid defense in right and a 1.024 OPS through his first six games thats won over team brass; its his entire approach to the game. Guillen has seen enough from the youngster to feel comfortable in letting him find his own way.

We should just let him go; do whatever you want to do, he said. We tried to fix the kid and it doesnt work. Let him swing the bat and do what hes supposed to do. Were better off that way.

We all know he can hit, says teammate and fellow Cuban Alexei Ramirez, who has served as a bit of a big brother to Viciedo. But look what hes doing now, challenging for a spot on the team and helping us in many ways. Hes a very different player than before.

Relief from Down Under

Much lesser known than Viciedo, who was in the majors at age 21, is Lindsay -- the darkhorse candidate for the bullpens final spot. Lindsay hails from Australia but has pitched in the minors for six seasons.

It took six days for Guillen even to mention his name, but if theres one hurler from the nameless masses shooting up the depth chart, its Lindsay. Counting last weeks B-game, the Australian reliever has finished up three games with three hitless, scoreless innings and five Ks.

I try not to worry about what the coaches are thinking, you know, he said. I just try to throw strikes and the rest will take care of itself. Im not worried too much. Ill do my head in if I keep thinking about that impressing people.

Lindsay isnt just rocking his surfer look and speaking in an incongruous Aussie accent as part of some sweet exchange program; hes embarked on a serious pitch to make his major-league debut with the White Sox in April. While some pitchers arrive at spring training to begin their hard work toward the season, Lindsay hasnt let up after amassing a 5.80 ERA in 33 Double- and Triple-A games for the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians in 2010.

Cooper and I worked on a slider, and also allowing me to get the ball down and repeating my delivery, basically, Lindsay said. I was working big on rhythm and tempo in the offseason, and the White Sox added to that. Weve worked on hand placement and hand position.

Guillen has been impressed with Lindsay and is unafraid to throw out his name as a possible 12th man in the pen. With four power arms in Matt Thornton, Chris Sale, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain at the back end of the pen, lefty specialist Will Ohman and multi-inning hurler Tony Pena in the mix, the need the club would have for another long reliever is mitigated.

We have so many guys right now that its very hard to point at somebody, Guillen said after Wednesdays loss to the San Francisco Giants. But Lindsay threw very hard once again.

Credit Lindsay for his focus: Hes had great success in the lower minors (3.32 ERA over 271 13 innings in all pro ball but Triple-A) but knows the biggest challenge of his career lays out in front of him over the next three weeks.

You know, there are a lot of other guys in this clubhouse who all want the job, Lindsay said. Im not trying to think about it at all. The coaches will worry about that. Ill give myself a headache thinking about who they should take. Thats not my job.

As for Lindsays actual job -- getting hitters out -- hes been all but perfect. If he can keep that up for another 10 outings or so, hes going to have some long flights to order up for family when he makes his major-league debut in Cleveland.

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

Aaron Bummer latest to join big White Sox contingent on injured list

Aaron Bummer latest to join big White Sox contingent on injured list

In the last eight days, the White Sox have put four players on the injured list.

Aaron Bummer, arguably the team's best and most important relief pitcher, became the latest to join the sizable contingent of banged-up South Siders when the team sent him to the 10-day injured list Saturday morning with a biceps strain.

Bummer departed Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians with biceps soreness after noticing something was amiss when he threw a pitch in the seventh inning. That pitch was immediately preceded by a throwing error, Bummer spiking a throw to first base into the ground and putting two men on base with two outs. Bummer got a visit from the trainer and left shortly thereafter.

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The 26-year-old lefty emerged as a key cog in the White Sox bullpen with an excellent 2019 campaign, posting a 2.13 ERA in 67.2 innings of work. He's off to a similarly terrific start this season, with a 1.23 ERA in 7.1 innings.

The White Sox added Bummer to the group of young players they've locked up with long-term contracts in the last few seasons, and after getting that deal in spring training, he's under team control through the 2026 season.

Without him, manager Rick Renteria will have to turn to other options for high-leverage situations. Closer Alex Colomé, as well as Evan Marshall and Jimmy Cordero, have been strong in continuing their late-inning roles from a season ago. Rookie Codi Heuer and veteran Ross Detwiler have also been mighty impressive as part of a generally strong White Sox relief corps so far this season, and both could see more action in higher leverage spots.

Bummer's injury adds to a lengthy list for the White Sox. The team has 40 percent of its Opening Day starting rotation on the injured list along with its starting middle infield and top relief arm.

The injury updates from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week were relatively positive, and none of the current injuries — aside from that of young pitcher Jimmy Lambert — seem to be of the long-term variety. However, in a season such as this one, which is already more than 23 percent over and done with, even missing the minimum 10 days of an injured-list stay is akin to missing a month during a normal campaign.

RELATED: White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

Per Hahn, injured starting pitchers Carlos Rodón and Reynaldo López, both on the IL with shoulder soreness, could be back in the next few weeks. Shortstop Tim Anderson, put on the injured list last weekend with a groin strain, is expected back when his 10 days are up in the coming days. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, whose Tuesday-night shoulder separation looked like it could have been something significantly worse, could be back in action in just a couple weeks. And designated hitter Edwin Encarnación, who also left Tuesday night's game early, missed an IL trip altogether, even though he remains out of the lineup for a fourth straight day with SC joint inflammation.

And now Bummer. It's a long list of maladies for these White Sox, worrisome in any scenario but perhaps more costly in a short season in which numerous players talked about staying healthy as a hopeful competitive advantage. But the White Sox are certainly not the only major league team bitten by the injury bug through the first couple weeks of this most unusual season, the months-long layoff and a brief ramp-up period before Opening Day figuring to have something to do with that.

The White Sox, expectedly, will continue to soldier on with pro sports teams' favorite mentality: next man up. The team called on a pair of arms from its alternate training site in Schaumburg, bringing local favorite and 2016 first-round draft pick Zack Burdi to the major leagues, along with Drew Anderson. The bullpen churn also saw the White Sox designate Brady Lail for assignment Saturday morning.


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White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

White Sox in the thick of it as AL Central race with Indians, Twins heats up

This AL Central race is going to be fun.

It looked like the Minnesota Twins might have blitzed right past the White Sox in the season’s first weekend, issuing a 14-2 clubbing on their way out of Chicago in the decisive third game of that series. The White Sox went on to Northeast Ohio and dropped the first two of that three-game set against the Cleveland Indians, and a 1-4 start threw some chilly Great Lakes water on the preseason thought of the South Siders running with the class of the division in this season’s 60-game sprint to October.

But the White Sox turned their 1-4 start around with a six-game win streak. And after a 2-0 nail-biter of a win over the Indians on Friday night that reshuffled the standings, the Pale Hose have now won their last five games against division foes, including a pair against these Clevelanders.

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The intensity’s been there all week. After a sweep of the Kansas City Royals, the first three of the White Sox four games against the Milwaukee Brewers had a distinct playoff-style feel to them, well pitched, closely decided contests that struck as the most intense games the White Sox have played in years.

Be it the compressed nature of this season’s schedule or the fact that these White Sox are finally equipped to compete for a division title, this is unlike anything that’s graced the South Side in some time.

“We're treating every game like a must-win,” White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease said Friday night. “These games definitely don't have the same feeling as Game 15 of a 162-game season. We're coming to the ballpark to win every day."

When it comes to the Twins, atop the Central standings with 10 wins — one of only two major league squads to hit double digits to this point, even with back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Royals — it seems the White Sox will have to win a few more home run derbies the likes of which we saw in that opening weekend.

But runs have been somewhat scarce for the White Sox after they scored a combined 20 runs and banged out a total of 35 hits in winning the final two games of that series last weekend in Kansas City. They’ve scored just eight times in their last four games combined. There’s more than one way to win a game, of course, and as injuries continue to make the White Sox dugout look like the Tune Squad bench late in that game against the Monstars, the South Siders have figured out a few others besides blowing up the scoreboard.

Friday night’s playoff feel brought the Indians’ sensational pitching staff to Guaranteed Rate Field, and Aaron Civale was just about as good as he was against the White Sox last week in Cleveland. He didn’t pile up the strikeouts this time, but he still pitched seven innings of one-run ball, the lone run he gave up coming home on a first-inning double-play grounder.

Cease, somewhat miraculously, countered with five shutout innings of his own despite putting nearly the entire city of Cleveland on base. He walked five guys, including issuing four leadoff walks, hit another and allowed a couple of hits. Thankfully for Cease and the White Sox, though, he also came up with multiple clutch, inning-ending double-play balls, and the defense was excellent behind him and a trio of relievers, the first two of which had as much trouble keeping the bases clear as Cease did.

You want playoff-style drama? Scatter the bases with potential runs every inning and watch the pitchers dance their way out of one jam after another.

RELATED: White Sox confident Eloy Jiménez will improve defense after outfield miscue

That’s not going to fly on a regular basis, obviously, but it sure made for some heart-pounding baseball, which is — as anyone who was pulling double duty with playoff hockey Friday night knows — fun.

“I can't expect those kinds of results if I'm going to have that many base runners all the time,” Cease said. “Fortunately, we were able to get out of here with a 'W,' but it's not something that's going to be sustainable. So I have to do a better job of getting ahead and not doing that.”

The onslaught of high-caliber Cleveland pitching continues the rest of the weekend, and who knows if the White Sox will be able to solve it as they barely did Friday. Zach Plesac, who stymied the White Sox with 11 strikeouts in eight shutout innings last week, is up Saturday. Then it’s a heck of a pitching matchup Sunday, with Lucas Giolito facing off against current AL Cy Young front-runner Shane Bieber, who’s struck out 35 hitters in his first three starts of the season.

That game ought to be another dandy, and with a frequently showcased rivalry between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals waved off this weekend, the White Sox will step into the nationally televised spotlight Sunday night, the perfect spot for such a pitching matchup and a division race that’s heating up like this one is. The White Sox swapped spots with the Indians on Friday, into second place and two games back of the Twins. The Indians are just two and a half games behind the division leaders.

“Both of those teams are very good clubs,” White Sox outfielder Adam Engel said of the Twins and Indians. “Two totally different makeups, they win games differently. We have a pretty balanced attack ourselves. It’s fun playing good baseball against good teams.

“The Indians, it seems like every time they come to town or we go to Cleveland, we are facing some pretty good arms. Makes it fun. You just have to stay disciplined, stay really focused in your work. It always feels like you’re going to be part of a good baseball game.

“Those are two tough teams, and hopefully we can keep playing them well.”

RELATED: Rick Renteria: Tim Anderson, not Luis Robert, will be White Sox leadoff man

Obviously, everything’s felt different this season. There are no fans in the stands, COVID-19 is constantly threatening the completion of the campaign, and a brief ramp up to Opening Day has made for a high number of injuries across the league.

But there’s a different feeling on the South Side, too, for much more positive reasons. This team has been talking about its high expectations for months, and they’ve got a roster that looks capable of living up to them. While an expanded playoff field gives the White Sox a pretty good chance of reaching the postseason, they’ve still got their eyes on the biggest prizes, and the first one of those is the Central crown.

They’ve played just 14 games. But it sure feels like a pennant race.

“I don’t remember ever really watching scoreboards so closely as a team through the first couple of weeks in the season,” Engel said. “We come in off the field and we want to see what’s going on around the league, or we’re announcing what scores are postgame for different teams. You control what you can control, and you want to win as many games as you can. But we’re all keeping our eyes on the scoreboard, and I’m sure it’s like that league-wide.

“Everybody kind of feels like they’re in it right now, and 60 games, this is going to be a heck of a season. I’m excited that we’re playing good baseball right now. Hopefully we can keep it going.”


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