March 2010

Williams calls for Opening Day Blackout

Ken Williams has a special request or, better yet, a challenge for White Sox fans to be carried out on April 5, and it involves their choice of clothing worn to the game against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

The White Sox general manager would like to see the return of the Blackout.

“No better time to start than Opening Day,” Williams said.

This ‘back in black’ solidarity first was shown on the South Side during the one-game American League Central home tiebreaker against the Twins on Sept. 30, 2008. The 1-0 White Sox victory, behind Jim Thome’s solo home run and John Danks’ eight scoreless innings, sent Ozzie Guillen’s crew to the playoffs against the Rays and was deemed by many in attendance to be every bit as exciting as the 2005 playoff victories.

To this day, the contest was known as the “Blackout Game.” Fans all wore black shirts and waved black towels, followed by black shirts and white towels at the Rolling Blackout first game against the Rays.

Williams would like to set the tone for what could be a special 2010 campaign with the help of the White Sox support system.

And with the forecast calling for 62 degrees and partly sunny on Monday, the weather shouldn’t preclude black from being worn.

“Opening Day is always electric and I don’t know how these things happen,” Williams said. “But if our fans really want to turn up the heat on our opponents and fire up our guys, they will rally together and pick certain dates or against certain opponents and black it out.”   

Beckham back to work

It was back to work as usual on Sunday for Gordon Beckham, who was inactive during the weekend trip to Tucson due to soreness in an abdominal muscle on the left side.

In fact, there was no rest for the slightly injured, as Beckham joked how he took 100 groundballs from bench coach Joey Cora before starting in Sunday’s split-squad game against Texas in Surprise.

“I told, him, ‘Thanks a lot for easing me back in,'” said Beckham with a laugh. “But it feels good. It’s a little tender, but I don’t really feel anything. I’m just glad it’s not an oblique.”

Beckham said he strained a muscle right above his left hip, pointing toward the area. Manager Ozzie Guillen, with the team in Surprise, didn’t expect to use Beckham for nine innings.

“I’ll see how he feels and go by ears to see exactly how he is,” Guillen said. “I talked to him this morning to make sure he’s not playing just to be a hero. He seems like he’s fine, but we’ll see how he is during the game.”

Keep an eye on Aquino

Sergio Santos still appears to be the clubhouse leader for the 12th spot on the White Sox pitching staff. Rookie Daniel Hudson has earned rave reviews from coaches and teammates alike, including staff ace Jake Peavy.

But don’t forget about Greg Aquino. The 32-year-old veteran of 145 big-league relief appearances entered camp as a non-roster invite and figured to be part of the Triple-A Charlotte bullpen sooner than later. With two more scoreless innings on Saturday in a 6-2 victory over Colorado at Hi Corbett Field, Aquino has now worked 10 1/3 scoreless innings this spring.

Only Randy Williams has pitched more without giving up a run.

“This kid, everything he does is throw zeros on the board,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of Aquino. “Aquino threw the ball good, he continued to do that. It’s going to be a tough call. We have to wait and see what the next step is going to be for us.”

Aquino figures to make the team if the White Sox take 13 pitchers, but that move is unlikely. The right-hander also was helped by a strong defensive play made behind him by Minor League first baseman Greg Paiml to prevent a run in the seventh.

“That’s why I tell you about defense,” Guillen said. “The defense, the first baseman made it in that inning and the ball (Alejandro) De Aza made in the eighth, those things count. That’s why we talk every day about defense, defense and pitching.”

Castro leaves the game

White Sox backup catcher Ramon Castro was hit by a Russ Ortiz pitch in the top of the fourth inning and exited Wednesdays game with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. The Ortiz pitch grazed the top of Castros helmet. He was replaced by Donny Lucy.

Peavy doing just fine

Reports of Jake Peavy’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Truth be told, Peavy’s demise never actually was reported. But earlier Tweeted reports today of a car accident involving Peavy where his car was totaled also weren’t quite on the money.

In fact, standing in front of his locker Tuesday with a broad smile on his face, Peavy said the accident involving his rental was so minor that he had to do a double take to realize he even was hit. Peavy was sitting at a stoplight at an intersection in Peoria, Ariz. and got bumped by a car whose driver was distracted and didn’t stop soon enough on the red.

No visible bruises or cuts for Peavy. In fact, he was going to work out after he got done talking to the media and will make his second Cactus League start on Wednesday afternoon. Give Peavy points for generosity, also. He bought dinner for the clubhouse prior to Monday’s night game against the Royals.

Rehearsing for Woodjock

I stopped by The Venue in Scottsdale for about an hour last night to check out the rehearsal for Thursday night’s Woodjock, 2010, Jake Peavy’s charity concert, presented by mycontent.com.

As soon as I arrived, I noticed an interesting looking band on the stage working tirelessly on an Eric Clapton song. There was Bronson Arroyo on vocals, Brandon Medders on lead guitar and Bernie Williams on backup lead guitar. Oh, yes, I can’t forget Barry Zito on the drums.

And they basically rocked, for lack of a better word. I was told that overall rehearsal session ran about four hours.

“I think people are going to be surprised by this show,” said Peavy, who was overseeing the rehearsal at the time I was there, sort of hinting how fans might not expect these players to be accomplished musicians.

Actually, I don’t think people will be surprised. These players taking part in the concert have the same sort of passion for music as they do for baseball, and they are pretty darn good baseball players. I expect a highly entertaining show, with a raucous crowd at this venue that has a very Old West feel to it.

Focusing on the White Sox theme, aside from the obvious front man in Peavy, both Omar Vizquel and Gordon Beckham will be singing. Ben Broussard, who was in White Sox camp last year and is now a touring musician, also will be performing his music. You can bet on many White Sox players being in the audience to lend support.

Are these players as talented behind the microphone as they are on the field? Aside from Williams, the most accomplished of the group, and Broussard, probably not. From the little I witnessed last night, though, this show truly is worth checking out on Thursday. Remember, the proceeds go to Team Focus, Strikeouts for Troops, White Sox Charities and Autism Speaks, so it’s good music for a good cause, or as the show bills itself, “a big league jam fest.”

Here’s another reason to attend Thursday’s show: I will not be singing or playing a musical instrument, for those who were worried.

Beckham joins Woodjock

The lineup for Jake Peavy’s Woodjock, 2010 concert apparently has grown by one with the addition of Gordon Beckham.

Beckham did place one condition on belting a song or two during Thursday’s show at The Venue in Old Town Scottsdale, with all Woodjock proceeds benefitting the Jake Peavy Foundation.

“I said that if I do it, (Peavy) has to be on stage, too,” said Beckham with a laugh of his participation in the event, presented by mycontent.com. “He said he wants me to do it, if I want to do it. I think he wants to see me up there.

“It will be a good event. It will be a lot of fun. But he has to be up on stage with me.”

At that point of Saturday’s conversation, Beckham turned to Peavy and asked him what song the duo would be performing. Peavy already is scheduled to be joined by musically-inclined baseball friends such as Bernie Williams, Barry Zito, Bronson Arroyo, Scott Linebrink, Tim Flannery, Ben Broussard and Brandon Medders.

Whereas other players have their CDs released or their instrument of choice listed on their biography at the Woodjock website, here’s the information for Beckham.

“Gordon is an infielder for the White Sox. In 2009, Gordon won the AL Rookie of the Month in July and the Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year.’

As for Beckham’s musical background … . Well, there isn’t much.

“In eighth grade, I was in the A Capella group,” Beckham said. “That’s it. Other than that, it’s singing in the car or shower.”

Putz cautiously optimistic

J.J. Putz’s first appearance with the White Sox couldn’t have been laid out before hand much better.

The right-hander followed Mark Buehrle to the mound in Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch and faced the heart of the Dodgers lineup. Putz retired Matt Kemp on a ground ball to third baseman Jayson Nix, struck out Andre Ethier swinging, gave up a Manny Ramirez single and then struck out James Loney to end the inning.

But a cautiously optimistic Putz wasn’t about to celebrate this little bit of success, as he works his way back from elbow surgery for a bone spur that prematurely ended his 2009 season with the New York Mets.

“We got a long way to go still – just got to keep building arm strength,” Putz said. “What I was most happy with was being able to throw strikes with all my pitches. I was able to throw my split over for a strike, backdoor slider and fastball to both sides of the plate, which is the most important part.”

This first significant injury to affect Putz’s stellar career remains in the back of the reliever’s mind. So, it’s easy for Putz to get almost too concerned about normal issues popping up during Spring Training.

“I’m probably overly cautious,” Putz said. “Any time I get a little sore or something, I kind of over-exaggerate in my head what it is. That’s going to probably be the hardest part getting back from having surgery. But so far everything is working in the right direction.

“Here’s the thing – you always get sore and achy in Spring Training because you’re doing stuff you haven’t done for six months. (But) in my mind it’s more magnified because I am coming off surgery. I probably felt like this the past 10 years every time on March 5. So it’s just a matter of getting it out of my head.”

Next up for Putz is one inning Monday against his original team from Seattle.
 
“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Putz said. “We got another four weeks to go, so we can keep building.”
 

Beckham not going anywhere

During a weekend at home in early August of last season, I remember one of my esteemed colleagues asking Ozzie Guillen about rumors of the White Sox reportedly putting in a waiver claim for Toronto outfielder Alex Rios.

“Who?” Guillen responded, knowing full well who Rios was, but seeming to be somewhat surprised by this bit of personnel news involving his team.

Two days later, Rios joined the White Sox in Seattle.

There’s no question Guillen runs the White Sox. He makes the day-to-day decisions about the lineup and serves as the true face of the franchise. But by Guillen’s admission, because of his candor and honesty with the media, sometimes he finds out about moves orchestrated by general manager Ken Williams right before they happen.

Guillen might say there’s no move to be made or the team doesn’t have interest in a certain player, and to his knowledge it’s an absolutely true statement at the moment, and in 48 hours, that individual is part of a five-player deal sending him to Chicago.

I’m sharing this little vignette because Guillen was questioned after Tuesday’s B game with the Dodgers about the possibility of Gordon Beckham being moved for a high-end performer, in this instance, San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez. And Guillen’s response?

“We plan to have Gordon for a long time,” Guillen said. “I don’t see why people still talking about it.”

In this case, Guillen knows exactly what’s going on. Gordon Beckham is going nowhere but to second base for the 2010 season and probably many, many years to come.

From the time Beckham was drafted in 2008, he was compared by the White Sox to having Michael Young-like potential. That potential translates into 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 home runs, 100 runs scored, 80 to 90 RBIs and a .300 average, offensively, on a yearly basis, and solid defense in the field. And remember, Young is one of Guillen’s favorite players not wearing a White Sox uniform.

Trading Beckham as part of an Adrian Gonzalez trade, as a purely hypothetical example, makes little sense for the White Sox. You are basically getting rid of one franchise player for another who might only be in Chicago for two years. I’m not demeaning Jayson Nix or Brent Lillibridge, both capable players and would-be hypothetical replacements at second, but Beckham is a special force.

Williams has shocked people before and he might again. Let’s say, in that hypothetical mode, Williams decides to go after a big left-handed bat through the trade market, i.e., Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, etc. I’m more interested as to what the White Sox decide to do with Daniel Hudson, who clearly is the talented young pitching every team covets, or a rising catching prospect such as Tyler Flowers, with veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the last year of his contract.

Until further notice, though, let’s stop talking about Beckham going anywhere. He is one of the few near-untouchables on the White Sox roster.

“When we get something done, we let people know what’s going on about the real thing,” Guillen said. “Right now, the expectation about this guy and that guy, I like the team we have. We have a general manager who keeps things quiet, thank God. And when he makes deals, it’s for a reason.

“Every trade the White Sox want to make, people think they’re going to make with the White Sox is Gordon, (Gavin) Floyd and (John) Danks. Those names are going to come up. And we have to deal with that every time they talk about White Sox trying to make a deal. We got to stay on our toes.”

Week in Quotes

At the end of each week during Spring Training and hopefully beyond, I’ll try to give you a little flavor from the past seven days of White Sox action with some of the more telling or even humorous quotes. Here’s a look from the first week of action in Arizona, in no particular order.

1. “People talk about trade deadlines and offseasons and timing on things. We are always looking to take that next step to get us that much better. That goes for today and the trading deadline season. All that means is other clubs are more apt to want to do things and if something arises where we have a need, regardless of where that need is, we are going to try to fill it.”
–White Sox general manager Ken Williams on the team’s aggressive philosophy in pursuit of top talent.

2. “We do things right, then we are out of here quick. If we play around and we do the wrong thing, throw to the wrong bases, and don’t take ground balls seriously or run the bases seriously, we are going to be out there for a long time. The best we work, we out of here.

“I’m not going to babysit them. It’s not an instructional league. You are in the big leagues for a reason. I’m not supposed to teach you here. We are supposed to remind you about what goes on with baseball.”
–Manager Ozzie Guillen, explaining White Sox players will dictate how long they are on the field for practice each day.

3. “Make sure you take that young guy under your wing and show him the ropes.”
–Guillen to Freddy Garcia, whose Spring Training locker is situated next to 22-year-veteran Omar Vizquel.

4. “This is a different type of team. We are not the slugging White Sox that hit 250 home runs and go base to base. But that’s a good thing.”
–White Sox veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the change in philosophy on offense for 2010.

5. “I’m always asked that question and I just want to get as many at-bats as I can get. That’s what I’m looking for. Ozzie is the king of making that lineup and wherever he puts me, I’ll be happy.”
–Carlos Quentin on the ideal spot for him to hit in the lineup.

6. “It’s extremely strange. I talked to both a good bit this winter. They are dear friends for life, and I have a great deal of respect for them and their fabulous careers. But more than that, I have a lot of respect for them as people. I know the fans appreciate all they did for us. It was an honor to coach them, and when I retire and look back, those two are right up at the top of my list to be around.”
–Hitting coach Greg Walker on not having Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye in camp.

7. “I don’t want to bring up names, but you take Jermaine. I remember Jermaine telling me at the end of the year, ‘If I don’t like what I see during the offseason or I don’t get what I want, and that doesn’t mean money, it means just the situation and everything I want, I have no problem, I’m happy to not go play. I’ll maybe go during the season if someone asks me, but I’m content with that.’ I would say that would probably be my mindset, where I’m not going to force something if it’s not there because I have other things, I have a perspective of what’s important and what isn’t.”
–Team captain Paul Konerko, on possibly not playing after his contract runs out following this season if he doesn’t find the right fit.

8. “The bottom line is when you get [weather] like this, you have to be like the Marines – adapt and overcome.”
–Pitching coach Don Cooper, on making workout adjustments during a rare Arizona rainy period.

9. “Getting [drunk] every night. Let’s put it plain and simple. When I took a long, hard look at myself and saw where I was headed, at that point, I was headed in the wrong direction.”
–Closer Bobby Jenks, who came into camp in phenomenal condition, on why he stopped drinking during the offseason.

10. “Joey and everyone were praising him and saying how great he looks. He said, ‘I’m on a mission. I’m the best center fielder you have here.’ And Joey said, ‘Well, you should be there are only pitchers and catchers in camp.’ Line of the day.”
–Williams, at the start of camp, recounting a conversation between Andruw Jones and bench coach Joey Cora.

11. “If that thing offends anyone, beat it because I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t need Twitter to let people know what I feel about this ballclub. I don’t need Twitter to let people know what I feel about this organization or Major League Baseball, period.”
–Guillen on the one-day Twitter-gate, after the entertaining manager started his own account, which is now up to 29,203 followers in less than one week.

12. “I’m really not a Facebook or Twitter guy. I’m a prime rib and baked potato guy. I hate to say that but it’s true. Maybe somebody should teach me.”
–Cubs manager Lou Piniella, when asked about the Guillen Twitter controversy.

13. “I’m ticked. We need to get the word out.”
–A smiling Mark Teahen on Guillen’s total of followers on Twitter surpassing the total for the followers of his popular dog, ESPY Teahen.

14. “I stopped pitching freshman year in high school. I closed then and used to throw hard.”
–Sergio Santos, who is making the successful switch from infielder to reliever with a fastball in the range of 98 mph.

15. “You mean Babe? Yeah. He’s a natural. Freaks like that just don’t happen. Don’t go looking for another Buehrle.”
–Scott Linebrink, when asked if Mark Buehrle, who hit his first career home run last year, would be the best candidate to follow Santos and go from pitcher to position player.

16. “I was happy to see him smiling and at peace with his decision and his family was around. I thought it was great. It was a great turn out from the Chicago media and it played well when it went out that night.”
–Williams on Frank Thomas’ retirement ceremony at U.S. Cellular Field.

17. “It was big for us. There were a lot of losing years. I got a chance to go to it, since it was in Miami, and I live there. They are still partying back there. That’s why it snowed in Louisiana.”
–Juan Pierre, on his beloved New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl.

18. “Good for the city? Try the whole state. It’s been a big party down there since it happened.”
–White Sox 2009 first-round pick Jared Mitchell, who played baseball and football at LSU, talking about the effect of the Saints’ Super Bowl win on New Orleans.

19. “They gave me an opportunity, and I didn’t put up numbers. So, this is where I find myself.”
–Cole Armstrong, once the White Sox catcher of the future, with a refreshing look at now being in camp as a non-roster invite.

20. “I still feel like I’m a productive player and feel like I can contribute, but teams want me as a backup player, and that’s something I’m not ready to do. I feel undervalued, basically. I don’t think I have to go out there and prove anything to anyone. My numbers the last five or six years show I can help someone.”
–Dye, speaking to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, concerning his shock to still be without a Major League job.

(Personal Bonus): “No, Merkin. I’m the animal whisperer and got that animal to lie down in front of me.”
–Pierzynski, showing off of a special calendar featuring the big game hunted on an African safari he took with Aaron Rowand and their wives. The response was to my question as to whether the mammoth animal in front of him really was dead.

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