White Sox

Start the bus: Sox Royally rolled, 8-2

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Start the bus: Sox Royally rolled, 8-2

Sunday, March 6, 2011
Posted: 4:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. Well, at least Matt Thornton started this Chisox Sunday morning off right by signing a contract extension.

From there, the day slipped away from there for the Chicago White Sox, who were dealt a pasting by nobodys World Series favorites, the Kansas City Royals, 8-2 at Camelback Ranch.

It was awesome news, manger Ozzie Guillen said of the extension, adding with a laugh, I hope it makes us forget how we played.

Mark Buehrle was hammered by a K.C. attack that touched him for nine hits and five earned runs in three innings, digging an early 5-1 hole his teamheld to eight hits on the day by the likes of primary pitchers Luke Hochevar and Mike Montgomerycould not climb out of.

Buehrle got his work in, Guillen chortled derisively. He pitched his inning.

The veteran lefty offered no alibis.

I have a couple of these games during spring, a couple during the season, Buehrle said. Its one of those things where you give up a lot of hits, but location-wise, I felt good. I might have missed a couple of spotsjust a couple balls found holes with guys on base, and they hit a couple of them hard.

It was just one of those games I was glad to get out of down here.

Reliever Tony Pena was cut almost as deeply as Buehrle in two relief innings, surrendering six hits (including a home run) and two earned runs.

All in all, White Sox pitchers surrendered 17 hits to last years 95-game losers.

One bright spot for the White Sox included two hits from Adam Dunn, including his first RBI as a member of the team. Catcher Tyler Flowers continued ripping up Cactus League pitching, going 2-for-2 and raising his average to .500 on the spring. Brent Lillibridge continued his up-and-down spring with a nice hustle play, scoring from third on a wild pitch the Royals fell asleep on. On the mound, Will Ohman tossed his third straight perfect inning of relief.

Perhaps the best news of the day was that the blowout merely completed the first week of play for the White Sox, who now stand at 1-6. Buehrle had the proper perspective on the dayor at least the best one you could take from such a doleful drubbing.

Well, I dont know how many times the regulars have played as a group, Buehrle said by way of explaining todays monkeyshines. There are a couple of times weve been out there for four or five innings, and then Ozzie brings other guys inIm not worried about it; once the team starts getting cut down and we have our main guys in there, we will start playing better.

The bus is running

Guillen stayed true to his word and patient against his nature in staying cool despite being on the wrong end through a second straight laugher.

I am not going to say anything until Tuesday, he said. That's when I expect them to pick it up a notch. That's when we try to get the team together.

I dont see anybody stepping up into last bullpen or bench spots. Thats not too bright. Were going to give guys a chance to make the team. At the end of the day, they will make the team for you or they will cut their own throats.

On the other hand, Guillen mentioned reliever Shane Lindsay (0.00 ERA so far this spring) as a dark horse candidate to fill the last bullpen spot: The kid Lindsay, he threw the ball pretty well.

Closing time

No decisions have been made through Week One of Cactus League play with regard to the biggest open position on the roster, White Sox closer.

Pitching coach Don Cooper repeated the popular company line that if you pitch in the sixth, youre closing the sixth. Same with the seventh, eighth and ninth. You media get wrapped up sometimes in whos our 2-starter, 3-starter, 4-starterwhoever is out there that day is our No. 1 starter. Every games important. Whos pitching in playoff game 1, 2, 3, thats when numbers become important.

Whoever we put in we feel were getting the job done in that inning.

Meanwhile, Guillen also was noncommittal on specifically naming a closer, although he again made it clear that hed optimally like just one pitcher filling the closers role.

We have to sit down and talk as a staff, he said. Sometimes the eighth inning is more important than the ninth. We have to look at it that way. Right now, its still openI dont think we should just hand the job to anybody to have a closer for closers sake, but it helps everyone to see what kind of role theyre going to get.

But the decision, we should make it and move on with it. Thornton or Sale or whoever its going to be, make sure everybody knows what kind of roles theyre going to have.

Endless spring
Weve got twenty-something games left, Guillen said in context of determining his 2011 closer. It feels like weve got 100 games left.

Rainy days
Both young White Sox bullpen fireballers, Chris Sale and Sergio Santos, praised Thornton at length, as both a mentor and hard-worker. But both hurlers also made note of how the towering lefthander had overcome adversity in his career. Thornton, a former first-rounder, was a virtual discard of the Seattle Mariners in 2006, having compiled a career mark of 1-6 with a 4.82 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in the Pacific Northwest.

He wanted to get better, and he did get better, Sale said of Thorntons career resurgence in Chicago. Thats the bottom line. You come in day-in and day-out and give it everything youve got. Its easy to come in here and work hard when youre doing well, but when youre not doing well, its another thing to come in here and keep working hard and staying positive. Thats one thing I really want to take from him: Regardless of whether its a great day, bad day, horrible day, you still need to come in here and work as hard as you can, do the things you need to get done.

Hes our go-to guy in more ways than one, Santos said. I can go to him under adversity and ask him how he went through certain things. Now that I know hes going to be here a few more years, I can bounce stuff off him and know that hes open to helping.

Dunnder Mittlin

Adam Dunn, as self-deprecating a first baseman as youll find in the majors, appreciated a cap tip on his digging out of an Omar Vizquel bunny-burning throw to first last week (and the Big Donkey picked clean another dirt-napper from Brent Lillibridge today): Thanks, man. Baby steps, right?

Itching to pitch?

John Danks spoke with pride about the extension for Thornton, one of his closest friends on the team. But as we talked, he was frequently itching his head.

Indeed, his shaved coif (in support of St. Baldricks) was beginning to grow back in. Itchy, John?

A little bit, he said, smiling. Plus, Ive got some sunburn up there now. Gonna be tough for a few more days

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

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

White Sox free agent focus: Turning to Marcell Ozuna to fill out the outfield

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals

Age: 29

2019 salary: $12,250,000

2019 stats: .241 BA, .328 OBP, .472 SLG, .800 OPS, 29 HR, 89 RBI, 80 R, 12/14 SB 

What Ozuna would bring to the White Sox

Ozuna appeared on the verge of becoming an elite star like Anthony Rendon after a breakout season in 2017 with the Marlins. Ozuna came up at 22 and had decent years early in his career. He improved upon his first few years with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .924 OPS as a 26-year-old.

Unlike Rendon, who broke through in 2017 and has sustained that for three seasons now, Ozuna's breakout year appears to be more of a flash in the pan. Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals before the 2018 season and saw a dropoff in his production.

His power and walk rate took big dips in 2018, although he bounced back in both last season. However, he hit .241, which was the lowest batting average of his career.

Ozuna had a career-high walk rate (11.3%) and had the second-best extra-base hit and home run rates of his career (he was only better in those areas in 2017). His strikeout rate (20.8%) was in line with his career average. So what went wrong? His batting average of balls in play was a career-worst .257, which suggests that maybe he's due for some form of bounce back in 2020 as far as batting average.

To simplify all that, Ozuna was good in some areas and inexplicably poor (and maybe unlucky) in others. Does that mean he will return to his big 2017 year wherever he signs? Probably not, but it does help to alleviate some of the feeling of risk for a player who has been inconsistent in his career.

Defensively, Ozuna has a Gold Glove on his resume from 2017, but the stats say he's just an average fielder. Not to mention, he's become infamous for this fielding gaffe.


What it would take to get him

He's young with a mostly positive track record offensively and if he can recreate his 2017 season offensively, he's an all-star outfielder. He won't be cheap, but he has enough question marks to come up just short of $20 million per year.

Ozuna should be able to get four or five years in the mid-to-upper teens per year, similar to fellow outfield free agent Nicholas Castellanos.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

The White Sox need a corner outfielder. He fills a position of need, adds depth, patience and power to the lineup and won't be a liability in the field.

Ozuna isn't the splashiest signing the White Sox could make, but it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

Latest rumors

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

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USA TODAY

White Sox add flamethrowing Tayron Guerrero to bullpen

The White Sox added a flamethrower to their bullpen.

Tayron Guerrero is the newest member of the White Sox relief corps, the team claiming the 28-year-old right-hander off waivers from the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Guerrero's most eye-catching attribute is his triple-digit fastball. He averaged 98.9 mph on his four-seam fastball in 2019 and threw the second most 100-mph pitches (178) of any pitcher in baseball. He posted a 10.6 K/9 in 2018.

But throwing hard and giving up runs are two different things. In 2019, Guerrero had a 6.26 ERA, a number that jumped up from the already less-than-ideal 5.43 ERA he turned in a year prior. He also had some trouble locating said fireball, walking 36 batters in 46 relief innings in 2019 for a ridiculously high 7.0 BB/9.

Still, this type of addition was signaled as perhaps the primary way the White Sox would add to their bullpen this offseason. With so many other items on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list and the back end of the bullpen being a pretty stable part of the roster, the general manager said that small signings and waiver claims would continue to be part of the strategy when it comes to making additions to the relief corps.

Hahn referenced the team's acquisitions of Evan Marshall, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, and Jimmy Cordero, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the 2019 season, as moves to emulate going forward.

"All 30 teams will tell you ... that adding more bullpen pieces is an offseason priority, and we're no exception," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference in September. "Cordero's been a nice find, as has been Marshall, but that's not going to stop us from continuing to potentially take guys off waivers like Cordero or (sign) minor league free agents like Marshall.

"It's going to go into this offseason continuing to be a place we want to add because relievers are tricky. You see it every year, guys go from the top of the list to the bottom and back."

As Hahn frequently says, you can never have too much pitching, and while this might be a low-risk move, it could end up proving fruitful, as those Cordero and Marshall moves did.

Spending on money on more proven guys has also been a part of the White Sox strategy in this department in the recent past. Hahn's front office gave Kelvin Herrera a two-year deal just last winter. But as Herrera showed during a rough first year of that contract, even guys with good track records can lead to easy second-guessing on those kinds of deals. So building up depth through less splashy means figures to be a good idea, regardless of the results.

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