October 2009

Viciedo shut down

Dayan Viciedo was shut down for the remainder of the Arizona Fall League schedule with inflammation in his throwing elbow, as announced by the White Sox on Monday.

Brent Morel will replace Viciedo as part of the Peoria Javelinas roster, joining fellow White Sox Minor Leaguers in outfielder Jordan Danks, infielder C.J Retherford and pitchers Justin Cassel, Matt Long and Jacob Rasner.

Be prepared

During the final days of the 2009 regular season, Ozzie Guillen made it abundantly clear as to how White Sox players were expected to come ready to play from the first day of Spring Training, 2010 in mid-February. Don’t use that time at Camelback Ranch to first get going.

Those same strong comments were made by general manager Ken Williams during his last chat with the media and by White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a talk with the players before batting practice on the final home weekend. Simply put, the White Sox brass was not going to tolerate another sub-par year such as the one just completed.

Apparently, a few weeks away from his team’s 79-83 finish haven’t softened Guillen’s stance on this particular topic.

“Kenny and Jerry made it clear to everyone–come ready to play in Spring Training,” said Guillen during a Tuesday conference call, in which he discussed the team, as well as Gordon Beckham’s selection as one of the 2009 Sporting News Rookies of the Year.

“We expect to win next year, like we expect to win every year,” Guillen said. “So, they better be prepared.”

Guillen’s conference call response came at the end of a question concerning Freddy Garcia. The veteran right-hander, who closed out his 2009 campaign with seven quality starts in his last eight trips to the mound, had his $1 million 2010 option picked up by the White Sox.

The starting rotation alignment has Garcia currently penciled in at No. 5, a hidden luxury when considering Garcia’s vast pitching knowledge and big-game success. But despite Garcia and Guillen basically being family members, Garcia won’t be cut any extra slack if he shows up to Glendale out of shape.

“Freddy know what he have to do, and if he’s not ready for Spring Training, then we make a move,” Guillen said. “I’m not going to babysit him. But he has to stay strong for him, not just for us. Just work hard and take care of himself. Freddy won’t have any problem.

“Everyone has that same responsibility. Jerry made it clear. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. If you are not prepared, we will find another home for you.”

Williams turns comedian for a great cause

If I were asked to provide a word or two to describe White Sox general manager Ken Williams, a few would immediately come to mind.

–Driven

–Hard-working

–Intense

–Focused

–Successful

You get the picture. He wants to win another World Series, and basically that thought consumes his every waking hour, by his own admission. Well, almost every waking hour.

But how about Ken Williams, Improv comedian or Improv actor?

Well, I would put that description right up there with the likelihood of ‘Ken Williams, lover of blogs.’

On Friday night, though, Williams will be making a brief foray into this particular world for a very good cause.

Williams is one of the celebrity guests at Friday’s ‘Night of 1,000 Noogies,’ featuring the world famous Second City, presented by the Associate Board of Gilda’s Club Chicago. The event takes place at the Park West Theater on 322 W. Armitage in Chicago, running from 7-11 p.m., and will feature original scenes and songs through improvisation that honor Chicago’s finest celebrity characters.

According to the write-up for this great event, guests will enjoy a one-of-a-kind improv comedy show, with a raffle and silent auction. Proceeds from the event benefit Gilda’s Club Chicago, a free support community for men, women, children, families and friends touched by cancer.

I’m not sure if the celebrities such as Williams, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and CBS2’s political editor Mike Flannery, to name a few, will be part of the actual skits or just the subject of them. Anyone who has interviewed Williams or watched him in action on television understands that he’s a very eloquent speaker and I can tell you Williams also has a self-deprecating sense of humor. He should be a boon to the cause.

While I won’t be in attendance, and I certainly would have been there if I was in Chicago, I would like to make my contribution. I’m a big supporter of Second City, having seen many a show, so I know one of the improv games they play is starting a skit with a suggestion of one sentence from the audience.

If Williams is part of this particular improv game, allow me to throw out a few suggested Williams’ classics for the people in attendance to use.

For your entertainment pleasure:

“You can’t spend a dollar if you only have 50 cents.”

“He needs to stay out of White Sox business.”

And one of our favorites on the White Sox beat:

“That’s not a Kenny Williams problem.”

Talk of tiebreakers

The first comment made to Ron Gardenhire during his opening interview session of the American League Division Series Wednesday at Yankee Stadium was an offer of congratulations for Minnesota’s great win over Detroit in Tuesday’s thrilling American League Central tiebreaker at the Metrodome.

At that point, the Minnesota manager sort of patted his heart and smiled, as if to humorously indicate the ticker barely survived Tuesday’s excitement. But it didn’t stop Gardenhire from talking about a game that will live on a long time in his memory.

“I was so proud of both teams last night for the way both teams never quit and kept getting after it,” Gardenhire said. “I told (Detroit manager) Jim Leyland after the game that was one of the best games I’ve ever been involved in.

“Just watching two teams butting heads and going after it and never giving up and all the ups and downs. It was just fantastic baseball.”

Gardenhire and the Twins are no stranger to this sort of win-or-go home type of contest. In a game that was every bit as exciting as last night’s memorable affair, Minnesota came up short to the White Sox in a 1-0 final that gave the South Siders the 2008 AL Central title. That contest featured great pitching by John Danks and Nick Blackburn, Jim Thome’s mammoth home run for the game’s only run and a pinpoint throw by center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. and an even better catch and tag by A.Z. Pierzynski to nail Michael Cuddyer at the plate

There was one problem with that contest in Gardenhire’s mind. Well, two if you factor in the final. The home field was decided by a coin flip, which went the way of the White Sox, although Minnesota had the better 2008 head-to-head record.

“Last year, I didn’t really particularly like it because of a coin toss,” Gardenhire said. “I thought that really (stunk). This year, you went on head-to-head and we got the ballgame at home which kind of helped us out.

“I don’t recommend everybody playing 163 games every year. It would be a lot easier to go the different route and do what the Yankees did or some of the other guys. Just play 162 and then you’re in the playoffs. But, you know what, it’s character — I mean it’s kind of mind-boggling. It shows a lot of character.”

Minnesota shortstop Orlando Cabrera agreed. Cabrera has played on the winning team in each of the last two AL Central tiebreakers and gives the Twins’ victory a slight edge.

“By far, that was the most emotional and intense game I’ve ever seen or played in,” Cabrera said. “And I’ve played in and watched a lot of games since I was a kid in Colombia.

“It was unbelievable. I never expected the Detroit Tigers to play that kind of game, especially the way they have been playing for the last eight games. I was really impressed with them. We put on a good show.”

Cooper expects step up in 2010 from Jenks

Pitching coach Don Cooper tempers his look to the future with the fact that the White Sox still have two games remaining to play to complete the 2009 campaign.

But Cooper already has started putting together thoughts about individual improvements to benefit the whole staff in 2010, and one of those targets is closer Bobby Jenks.

“Bobby needs to pick up next year with a better season than he had this year,” said Cooper, when asked to assess the White Sox staff prior to Friday’s series opener in Detroit. “Bobby has run into a few things this year.”

Jenks battled through problems with kidney stones this season that were basically out of his control. He also was shut down last week with a strained right calf. Cooper mentioned an ongoing back issue, though, that might have contributed to Jenks’ 3.71 ERA and 29 saves in 35 chances–still good numbers but not equal to his lofty previous standards.

“Bobby has had a little bit of a back issue for two years and we can’t put our finger on exactly why,” Cooper said. “It’s kind of a freak thing. And Bobby had the calf thing.

“We have to look into somehow, someway trying to avoid two of those things because I don’t know if there’s much you can do about kidney stones. We have to try to look into each individual guy and what can we do to put them in better position so we don’t lose their availability.”

The White Sox closer, who has 146 career saves in 168 opportunities, could once again be the subject of offseason trade rumors. He figures to get an increase through arbitration from his $5.6 million salary in 2009, and the White Sox have another viable closer option in Matt Thornton. But Cooper is operating under the assumption that Jenks will be back as his last line of pitching defense, looking for ways to strengthen his attack.

White Sox react to Olympic snub

I was at Midway Airport Friday morning, getting ready to board my flight for Detroit, when a woman standing in front of me, watching CNN on one of the overhanging televisions, made the following statement.

“Chicago didn’t get the Olympics,” she said, shaking her head.

To be honest, I thought the timing was a bit odd, especially since the final announcement wasn’t supposed to come until around lunch time and we were boarding at about 10:15 a.m. CT. Everyone in Chicago had thought the final call would be between the Windy City and Rio de Janeiro.

Much to my surprise, Chicago had been eliminated as a potential host for the 2016 Summer Games in the first vote, ahead of the three other finalist cities.

Those shockwaves reached as far as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who put forth that sentiment during his pregame meeting with the media on Friday at Comerica Park.

“Chin up,” said Guillen with a smile about Chicago’s valiant bid that came up short. “I was shocked because I never thought Chicago would be eliminated in the first round. I think everyone in the states was shocked.

“Don’t give up. Keep fighting for the future and hopefully one of these days we have it. But I was shocked.”

Gordon Beckham was 10 years old when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics. The White Sox rookie third baseman and Georgia native remembers attending events that included Michael Johnson winning gold in the 200 m and watching Carl Lewis win gold in the long jump at 35.

At such a young age, Beckham didn’t get the full impact of Olympic competition but said it was a fun experience. Even though he could still be with the White Sox nine years from now, his feelings were a bit mixed when asked about Chicago falling short to Rio.

“It would have been nice and interesting,” said Beckham of Chicago hosting the Olympics. “But it would have been a lot of… . That city would have been going nuts and it would have been really tough to concentrate on baseball when that was going on.

“I’m not too disappointed. It seems like everyone is sad and I’m sure the city put a lot of effort into the bid. It (stinks) they didn’t get it. But for me personally, I’m ok with it not being a complete circus.”

Although I’m obviously not in Chicago, I can only imagine the collective disappointment. Many of the local establishments in the downtown Chicago area where I live were opening early on Friday morning for the Olympic announcement and what they hoped would be the ensuing frenzied celebration.

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