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.

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

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USA TODAY

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

The White Sox future at third base is a pretty big unknown.

Jake Burger is only a year and a half removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the double Achilles tear earlier this year has not just derailed his 2018 but thrown his entire future, and with it the White Sox future at the hot corner, into question. How will the injuries affect Burger's timeline to the majors? How will it affect his ability to play third base?

Those questions and the seeming lack of any other high-end third-base prospect in the White Sox system have made it seem rather obvious that the rebuilding White Sox third baseman of the future currently isn't a part of the organization.

The free-agent lists White Sox fans are salivating over have some pretty intriguing names on them. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who wants to play shortstop but is a two-time Gold Glove winner at third, are free agents this winter. So are less-heralded guys like Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez, who counts third baseman as one of his many job titles for the Houston Astros. Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are free agents the following offseason. Those are big names, any one of which could be a cherry on top for the White Sox as they plan to shift from rebuilding to contending.

But what if the White Sox already have their third baseman of the future? What if he's already on the major league roster?

No, sorry, this isn't about Yolmer Sanchez. It's about Yoan Moncada, to which you might react thusly: "Wait a minute. Yoan Moncada is a second baseman! Learn to count your bases, Duber!"

My rarely utilized math skills aside, Moncada switching positions has been a bit of a talking point for a little while now, and it has far more to do with what's going on in the farm system than it has to do with Moncada's 2018 season in the major leagues.

The White Sox spent their first-round draft pick on a middle infielder in June despite having two supposed long-term pieces in Moncada and Tim Anderson already playing in the big leagues. Nick Madrigal's versatility on the infield was part of the praise the White Sox heaped on him after making him the No. 4 pick in the draft, but for a guy who's been discussed as a Gold Glove type of defender at either second base or shortstop, it kind of seems like that would be the best place to put him. Now, Madrigal's not exactly knocking on the doors of the major leagues, yet to play his first full season of pro ball, but the White Sox dubbed him the "best all-around player in college baseball" this summer, leading one to believe that his development could move along quickly enough to get him to the majors by the time that much-anticipated shift from rebuilding to contending happens.

If that's the case, either Moncada or Anderson would have to move, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the White Sox end up liking Madrigal at third or elsewhere, but he's playing middle infield in the minor leagues.

Anderson moving to the outfield was a favorite suggestion of White Sox Twitter after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors in 2017. He made 20 more in 2018 (fourth most in baseball), but his defensive improvement by the end of the season was one of the biggest positives to take from the 100-loss campaign.

"That’s the thing that really jumps out the most in terms of significant progress he’s made," Rick Hahn said of Anderson's defense during his end-of-season press conference last month. "He’s managed to capitalize on the athleticism we’ve always seen from him and convert that into being a potentially, frankly Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop based on what we’ve seen over the last few months.

"This is really a testament in the end to Tim Anderson’s work ethic. He knew it was an area that he wanted to improve, whether it was because he wanted to show people wrong or because he knew he wanted to make himself a stalwart at that position and eliminate the rumors about position change. He worked extraordinarily hard both with Joe McEwing and the things he did on his own, and the kid deserves a world of credit and I think it bodes very well for him continuing on the trajectory of becoming an impact shortstop."

It doesn't sound like Hahn is describing a guy who will be moving away from his position any time soon.

Moncada racked up a good deal of errors at second base in his first full season in the majors — 21 of them, to be exact, the third most in baseball — but Hahn and Rick Renteria both said they noticed improvement from Moncada in the field. But Moncada did tell the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen during the season that he would be willing to make a position switch if the team wanted him to do it.

Hahn got a similar question during his year-end press conference. Though the general manager wasn't directly asked if Moncada would make a position switch, Hahn said Moncada could defend well at other positions on the diamond and that if such a change were desired, the team would probably make it sooner rather than later.

"It’s conceivable if we made a decision as an organization to try him elsewhere that we would do it as soon as this offseason or next spring training, you’d see it in action," Hahn said. "I do think he has made a great deal of process at second base. I also think he has the athleticism also to be an above-average defender at other positions, too. It’s a subject for further conversation, but as he sits here today, I am pleased with the progress and the pitch-to-pitch focus and the athleticism, the arm strength and foot movement and his hands at second base."

White Sox fans aren't super high on Moncada being the savior of anything, not just third base, right now after his disappointing 2018 season: a .235/.315/.400 slash line and 217 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in major league history. But that's not souring the White Sox on his potential, and it's not changing what they think he can be.

By 2020 or 2021, perhaps Moncada's evolution as a big league ballplayer puts him on a similar level as some of the free-agent names mentioned above. Perhaps he's already playing third base by then with Madrigal on the major league infield, too.

The White Sox seem to have a hole at third base, with popular opinion being that it can only be filled by a marquee free agent. Maybe it does get filled this offseason — by a guy standing about 100 feet away.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.