GLENDALE, Ariz. — The quote came from a veteran pitcher who looked around the clubhouse assessing his team.
“There’s a lot of talent for sure. I’ll tell you that much. It’s going to be an exciting year.”
This sort of confidence wasn’t coming from the Houston Astros clubhouse, or the Cleveland Indians or the New York Yankees.
Nope, this was Miguel Gonzalez describing the rebuilding White Sox.
“We’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Gonzalez said. “We’re going to switch things around.”
Did you hear that, Las Vegas sports books? Most of them have the White Sox winning about 68 games in 2018.
If you believe what Gonzalez is throwing out there, consider placing your bets now.
It’s only the second year of the rebuild. Judging by past teardowns in the majors, there should be plenty of losing ahead. But this White Sox team is out to shed that rebuild label very soon — like this upcoming season.
“We want to win, and we want to start shifting this rebuilding state,” Matt Davidson said. “We don’t want to always be stuck here.”
Playing his first full season in the majors in 2017, Davidson got off to a solid start, batting .245 with 18 home runs and 42 RBIs in the first half. However, his stats and confidence plummeted in the second half when he slashed .185/.226/.364 with only eight home runs and 59 strikeouts compared to six walks.
He says he doesn’t need to be reminded about his struggles last season. He admits it only takes a quick search of his name on the internet to find the evidence. He and many of his teammates have reported early to camp to prove they’re better than what people might think — and that might even include the coaches.
“We want to make it hard on them,” Davidson said. “We want them to sit in those meetings and wonder what to do. We want to all be good.”
Reliever Nate Jones has almost become a forgotten man with the White Sox. Tommy John surgery, back surgery and elbow surgery since 2014 will do that. But he’s already in camp, feeling 100 percent, and when asked if he’ll be ready for Opening Day he said, “Absolutely.”
As the elder statesman with the White Sox in terms of seniority — he’s been with the team since 2012 — Jones’ first year with the club was also Robin Ventura’s first as manager.
He says there’s a big contrast between now and then.
“It’s a different vibe for sure,” Jones said. “Ricky (Renteria) is creating that from the top. He wants us to realize what it takes to be a playoff contender year in and year out, and it starts now. It started last year in his first year getting us all together and bonding. Everyone has talked about how tight-knit a group this is. It truly is. It’s something we bought into, and we know what we need to do to win.”
The White Sox are hoping the winning comes sooner rather than later.