White Sox

SoxFest Day 2: Big signing, reunion feel so good

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SoxFest Day 2: Big signing, reunion feel so good

Saturday, January 22, 2010
Posted: 6:30 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

SOXFEST, CHICAGO While the weather outside remained frightful, the mood inside for the second Ozzie Guillen-Ken Williams State of the Sox session at SoxFest on Saturday remained delightful.

By Saturday, the manager-GM duos self-deprecating humor act had benefitted from such positive word-of-mouth from their Friday set that the crowd of morning stragglers nearly tripled that of the night before.

The biggest addition of the offseason, Adam Dunn, was the opening topic for Saturdays session, with Guillen admitting he was shocked to hear the White Sox signed the Washington Nationals slugger.

Williams made Guillen his straight man, turning to his skipper and telling him, to laughter, I had to surprise you. Otherwise it would end up in too many blogs and twitters.

Williams chased that chiste with the White Sox company line, in just the first of a few comments subtly pitching ticket sales, remarking that we wanted to go all-in, then pray theres a way to pay for it all.

WATCH: Ozzie, Kenny joke about Dunn

Williams also shared a story Paul Konerko had told shared from a SoxFest stage Friday night, something that interestingly had helped drive him back to the White Sox, that at the end of the season he told Konerko directly that he didnt just want the captain back in the fold, but that he was aiming to bring in Dunn as well. For Konerko, who was relatively outspoken at seasons end about needing to see a commitment from the White Sox, that goal made a difference in his decision.

That was always my plan, including bringing A.J. Pierzynski back and strengthening the bullpen, Williams said.

Guillen also found room to have some fun at his new lefty sluggers expense. When moderator Ed Farmer asked, in reference to Dunns size, how many of you fans have seen Dunn up close, Ozzie chirped in, to laughter, How big, or how ugly he is?

As for some of that bullpen help, Williams revealed that last August he asked both Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper what reliever he should chase after in the offseason to bring to the White Sox: They both mentioned two guys, and in both cases, one of them was Jesse Crain.

Guillen took a second crack at a lineup in Saturdays session, and was surprisingly adamant about Gordon Beckham being his No. 2 hitter. Alex Rios, a logical candidate to move up in the order given his speed, the additional power provided by Dunn and Beckhams struggles in the first half of 2010, was discounted by Guillen because the skipper felt Rios possesses too much run-producing potential to wither on the sacrificial altar of the 2-hole.

WATCH: Guillen has new spring training approach

At one point, Guillen broke down into a rambling dissertation of Brent Morel, and how he first saw him while watching son Oney play in rookie ball and making note of the slick-fielding third baseman to Williams. After the tale was finally told, the GM zinged Guillen with a directive: Stop watching minor-league games in the spring and focus on getting us off to a good start in 2011.

While the laughs came easy, the issue of the White Sox being slow out of the box clearly vexed both men, and was very real. While Chicago was the best team in the American League after June 8, what led to their 9 game burial in the AL Central at that rallying point was of utmost concern. After Williams again repeated the suggestion made to him by a fan to put ice in Alexeis pockets to gear him up for the cold opening month of the season, when the ace shortstop routinely slumps, Guillen issued a managerial mea culpa regarding readying his team for the regular season. This year, according to Guillen, the White Sox will field their regulars for the last week of spring training; Chicagos slow starts, Guillen said, thus have been a managerial mistake.

While some fans were committed to handwringing over the loss of Andruw Jones and other depth issues, Guillen quickly put it in perspective: If a manager is worrying about his fourth outfielder, hes in trouble. Im worried about my closer and winning games. Added Williams: I guess I should be happy if people are only complaining about the 24th or 25th player. That means they like the first 23. Besides, Williams added with more honesty than remorse, were kind of tapped out with payroll.

As for that closer worry, Guillen didnt seem too put out by having to pick from Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain as the heir apparent to Bobby Jenks. Whether you come in the game in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth, at that time, youre the closer.

Guillen and Williams continued to interact in a manner unseen for at least one SoxFest, truly bonding and working some of the brotherly love that marked their early years together. That tone led to a constant stream of jokes, including Ozzies over-the-top reaction to one young fans tough question: Who sent this kid in herego get some autographs or something!

The kid did end up with an autographOzzies, at the end of the session. It remains to be seen whether such harmony will find the White Sox running up a second World Series flag in six years come October, but it sure seems like the marketing tag all-in, as it stands right now, refers as much to a group hug as it does taking a pennant.

Other highlights from the second State of the Sox seminar:

After Guillen again recalled his two least favorite games last year, July 18 (a Jenks meltdown) and August 17 (Jim Thomes game-ending blast landed in Milwaukee, according to Guillen) losses at the Minnesota Twins, Williams scolded, Stop talking about those Twins games, youre depressing me. I dont want to think about that anymore.

When a young fan asked whether White Sox legend Frank Thomas had a future as a hitting coach, Guillen shrieked, NOOOOOO! and explained that coaches dont get paid enough to satisfy Thomas, and that you need to be a very bad hitter to be a good hitting coach.

Carlos Quentin, defended by the OzzieKenny tandem on an hourly basis, was given another glowing recommendation by the skipper: Ill predict it right now: Carlos is going to have a year like he did in his near-MVP 2008.

Williams was wry in assessing the chances for a multiyear deal for John Danks: We tried to do that last year and didnt get to far with it. Danks and his representatives are content to take it one year at a time. Well see.

Guillen, looking back on his career: I was so good defensively, I forgot my hitting. Williams and Guillen fought over who was the lousiest hitter, with Williams winning by pointing out that Ozzie was a good enough hitter to play 16 major league seasons, while KWs offensive prowess landed him in a role of young scout.

While both men understandably dodged a question about the biggest regrets in their careers, the GM was willing to admit that there havent been many SportsCenter guys players who went on to become stars weve dealt away but that he felt his original acquisition of Bartolo Colon in 2003 should have worked out better.

Williams, on former White Sox outfielder and still-jobless Jermaine Dye: If we werent solid across the board, Id have entertained bringing him to camp in 2011.

Guillen chided nearby marketing guru Brooks Boyer for offering just two free tickets to spring training as a SoxFest raffle prize: How about five?

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

Avisail Garcia's extended time on DL adding new wrinkle to discussion over his place in White Sox long-term future

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia's extended time on DL adding new wrinkle to discussion over his place in White Sox long-term future

After a career year in 2017 and his first All-Star appearance, maybe Avisail Garcia has done enough to keep himself in the White Sox long-term plans.

But there was plenty of mystery over whether Garcia, who finally broke out after four mostly middling seasons on the South Side, could do it again this season. That question doesn’t have an answer right now, even nearly two months into the 2018 campaign, as Garcia begins his fifth week on the disabled list. His hamstring strain is serious enough that the White Sox announced over the weekend that he likely won’t be back in action until late June.

“No one likes to be injured, especially position players (who are used to) playing every day,” Garcia said Tuesday. “I don’t like to watch the game. I mean, I like it, but I like it when I’m playing. So it is what it is. I’m just watching, learning more because we’re learning every single day.

“It felt like it was going to be two weeks, but it’s taking longer. No one likes that, you know? No people like injuries. It is what it is, and I won’t try to take it too hard, just work hard and put everything together to come back to the field.”

This season figured to be an important one for Garcia, who is under team control through the 2019 season, slated to hit the free-agent market ahead of the 2020 campaign, the year many are looking at as the one where the White Sox ongoing rebuilding process will yield to contention. Will Garcia be around for that contention?

His 2018 production was supposed to go a long way toward answering that question. Perhaps a strong season could’ve earned him a new contract and locked him into place as the team’s future right fielder. Perhaps a fast start could’ve made him a potential midseason trade candidate and fetched a prospect or two that would’ve helped advance the rebuild.

Instead, Garcia started slow, as he’ll readily admit. His numbers aren’t at all good through his first 18 games of the season. He owns a .233/.250/.315 slash line, nowhere close to the .330/.380/.506 line he posted last year, when he was statistically one of the American League’s best hitters.

“Slow start, slow start,” he said. “I was feeling better a couple games before I got the injury. I was seeing the ball better, but baseball is like that. Sometimes you start good, sometimes you start slow, so it is what it is. We’ve gotta make adjustments as a team and try to get better every single day.

“But you know, that happens, I’ve just got to come back now and make adjustments and help my team win.”

A starting spot in the White Sox outfield of the future is anything but assured for any player these days. In addition to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert owning some of the highest prospect rankings in the game, guys like Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford and Luis Alexander Basabe have put up some impressive minor league numbers so far this season.

With all those youngsters doing what they’re doing, is there a place for Garcia? Or even if he were to produce well over the next two seasons, would the White Sox want to spend money to bring back a veteran when they have so many high-ceiling, low-cost players waiting in the wings?

It’s hard to answer those questions right now. Not only is it still early enough for Garcia’s fortune at the plate to change dramatically between now and the offseason, but his injury status throws a new wrinkle in the mix. Maybe it ends up making the White Sox decision easier than it would have been had Garcia’s performance been the lone factor here.

But for Garcia, 2018 remains about showing that he can replicate what he did a year ago. If he can’t — for whatever reason — maybe the keys to the outfield of the future get completely placed in the hands of those current minor leaguers. Until he returns from this injury, though, it's all a waiting game.

Welington Castillo on board with the reasoning behind his Monday benching and the identity Rick Renteria is trying to establish

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AP

Welington Castillo on board with the reasoning behind his Monday benching and the identity Rick Renteria is trying to establish

And that’s why you always run hard to first base.

Rick Renteria didn’t use a one-armed man to teach his team a lesson Monday night, but he used a relatively extreme measure, benching one of his few veteran players to send a message that lack of hustle won’t be tolerated on this rebuilding White Sox team.

In fact, it won’t be tolerated anywhere in this rebuilding White Sox organization.

That’s the hope, at least.

Welington Castillo stood at home plate while his popup fell into the first baseman’s glove during the sixth inning of Monday night’s loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles, and because of it he didn’t go back out with his teammates for the seventh inning. It was the latest in-game benching by Renteria for a similar offense. Avisail Garcia was sat down during spring training, and Leury Garcia at the end of the team’s previous homestand.

This kind of reoccurring strategy might seem a tad strange, a manager enforcing hustle regulations to pro players during a season in which his team entered play Tuesday with baseball’s worst record. But part of rebuilding and development is establishing a cultural identity, and Castillo seemed on board with Renteria’s strategy, as well as the end goal of these punishments.

“That’s something that he always says, that’s something that he’s not going to let pass,” Castillo said Tuesday. “He always says you’ve got to run the bases hard no matter what. And for some reason, I was just frustrated, I wanted to get the job done. I saw the ball was going to be fair, and for some reason I did not run. I think that the decision that he made was the right decision. That’s not me, and I’m not going to do it again.”

Castillo was brought in this past offseason to provide some veteran experience to what is otherwise a very young squad of South Siders. Coming off career years both offensively and defensively, Castillo seemed to be an addition that would benefit this club in the short and long term. He could be here all the way through the 2020 season, when the White Sox could see their talented minor leaguers arrive and open the organization’s contention window.

And therein lies the importance of what Renteria did Monday. Castillo would figure to be veteran enough to be past such punishments. But if he buys in to Renteria’s style and passes it along to the young guys when they come up, then Renteria will have achieved what he wanted: for this to be the standard of the present and the future.

“The same rule that is for the young guys is for the veteran guys, too,” Castillo said. “We are a team, we are a family. One thing is for me, and the same thing has to be for everybody because we are a family, we are a team. Sometimes that’s good that that happens, and we’ve just got to learn from that.”

“We’re trying to eliminate habits if they’re there. Accidents you understand, but we’re trying to continue to create the identity of the White Sox organization as to how we’re going to go about doing things,” Renteria said. “They accept it, they understand it, and when we take an action I think for the most part they are accountable to what goes on.”