March 2012

White Sox set final 25-man roster

The White Sox set their 25-man roster on Saturday morning by optioning right-handed pitcher Dylan Axelrod to Triple-A Charlotte and reassigning RHP Brian Bruney, C Hector Gimenez, INF Rey Olmedo, LHP Leyson Septimo and LHP Eric Stults to Minor League camp.

With those moves, the White Sox have 12 pitches, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders set to break camp. Eduardo Escobar was selected as the final position player, as expected, while Zach Stewart and Nate Jones round out the seven-man bullpen.

In that relief crew, the White Sox have four players with 70 days of big-league experience or less and three in Addison Reed, Jones and Hector Santiago, with 30 days or less. General manager Ken Williams said Saturday that he knew two weeks ago Jones and his fastball in the high 90s would make the team.

“He’s not out of nowhere for us,” said Williams of Jones. “When you throw 97-100 mph with a hard curve ball, and I think you guys finally saw the changeup a little bit last night, which we developed when he went down to start a couple years ago so that he could have something … .

“When you throw, last night I think he was 98-99 and the changeup was around the 86 mph range with some sink and fade to it, along with the curveball that makes everything better when you’re just sitting, I think he got into trouble a little bit in spring when you’re just sitting on two pitches. Guys can guess, ‘Ok, I got to be ready for the 98, so let me guess on this.’

“But when you put another thought in their mind, then you have something to work with,” Williams said. “We’ve been impressed with his aggressiveness. He was a little geeked up last night, trying to make that last impression and walked the first couple guys but settled down and really got in the swing of things.”

Game 18: White Sox continue bashing

The White Sox bats continued their recent surge, pounding out 16 hits in a 16-4 victory over the Royals. Here’s a look at the action from this victory over their American League Central rivals at Camelback Ranch Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but Adam Dunn has had a great run in Arizona. Not only is Dunn seeing the ball great and getting tremendous results at the plate, but he also looks good playing defensively at first base.

Against the Royals Bruce Chen, Dunn hit a two-run homer in the first and then hit a grand slam during a six-run fifth. The fact that Chen is a lefty, a sort of pitcher Dunn rarely connected against in 2011, was just a bonus.

“I feel fine against lefties. I don’t feel any different than I do against righties,” Dunn said. “It’s just, I’m seeing them good and I’m getting a pitch, I’m putting a good swing on them.”

Dayan Viciedo hit three home runs in a Minor League game at Camelback Ranch, with the White Sox hoping those extra at-bats gets their left fielder into a more productive mode. Meanwhile, Jake Peavy threw six scoreless innings in that same Minor League contest against the Rangers’ Triple-A team, while Zach Stewart strengthened his case as a long relief candidate with just two runs allowed on six hits over five innings against the Royals.

WHAT WENT WRONG: With 29 runs scored in the past two victories, it’s hard to find a pitfall.

Addison Reed allowed two runs over 1 2/3 innings, but manager Robin Ventura admitted that his pitch count was extended a little beyond where they had him slotted for the day. Matt Thornton threw another scoreless inning, and Ventura added Thursday that he doesn’t expect to name a closer before the team leaves for exhibition games in Houston on April 3 and 4.

“They were fine. Again, it’s what you see,” said Ventura of his closer candidates. “Addison probably stayed a little longer than we would have liked, but he got stretched out. But I thought he threw great. In the end, he was a little hot and tired. Matt threw great. They were on time with everything and where they need to be in a few weeks.”

UP NEXT: The White Sox have split-squad action in Tucson, where Dylan Axelrod gets the start against the Dodgers in the afternoon affair where all proceeds from the contest will benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation. Gavin Floyd starts the night game against the Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Josh Phegley tripled with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth to finish off the White Sox scoring on Thursday. While Phegley certainly won’t break camp with the team, he continues to move his name up the list for future catching consideration.

MOMENT TO FORGET: That honor belongs to Chen, the Royals starter who gave up more runs on Thursday against the White Sox than he did in five starts total against them last year. Of course, Thursday’s effort was Cactus League related and is more about the work but still a bit frustrating.

“I don’t know what to say,” Chen said. “I mean, it was a tough first inning and last inning. I tried to make some adjustments. I really think my pitches are coming real good out of my hand. I just have to keep working. I’m not going to give in. I’m not going to make too much out of this.”

Game 11: White Sox rally from five down

The White Sox avoided their fifth straight loss by virtue of a 9-7, come-from-behind victory over the Angels Wednesday at Camelback Ranch. They scored two runs in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to claim the win. Here’s a look at the action.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Adam Dunn continues to be the White Sox story on offense.

In four trips to the plate Wednesday, the designated hitter walked twice and launched a two-run homer off of Angels closer Jordan Walden. Dunn leads the team in RBIs and walks and is tied with Tyler Flowers for the long ball lead, after missing Tuesday’s action due to stiffness in his neck.

“Today he felt good enough to go out there and didn’t feel like he would get hurt,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Dunn. “He has had good at-bats all spring. He has looked great even in BP. It’s just, in Spring Training, you just keep it going every day and keep that feeling going.”

Eduardo Escobar, the utility infielder fighting for the final position player spot on the roster, knocked out two hits and delivered the game-winning, two-run single with two outs in the eighth.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Chris Sale continues to build up his endurance in his move from reliever to starter. But as he continues to give up runs, with five scoring in 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday, he continues to be tough on himself.

“Obviously you don’t want to kick yourself around the house about it, but at the same time I’m not going to let it roll off my shoulders,” Sale said. “I take this seriously. Whether it’s Spring Training, Game 7 or a wiffle ball game, I got to go out there and get the job done.”

The more troubling news for the White Sox came off the field, with Jesse Crain being scratched due to a slightly strained right oblique. Ventura played down the seriousness of the problem, but Crain is an integral part of the bullpen and the oblique can be tricky.

WHAT’S NEXT: Philip Humber starts in Thursday’s B game against the Mariners, and Hector Santiago also will pitch. Dylan Axelrod starts in Goodyear against the Indians, with Zack Stewart also pitching. The most interesting note from Thursday is Dan Johnson getting his first look at third base during the B game.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Matt Thornton continues to have an outstanding Spring Training run, throwing another scoreless inning on Wednesday and striking out one. The closer’s job, at this point, could come down to him and rookie Addison Reed, with Thornton having the clear edge.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Maybe it’s actually a moment to remember, but Sale and Anthony Carter were the first of many home run victims for Albert Pujols. The first drive launched by Pujols carried so far down the left field line that Sale even admitted to losing track of it after Pujols made contact.

Game 10: Floyd impresses in loss

Make it eight losses in 10 Cactus League games for the White Sox, who fell victim for the sixth time against National League teams. Here’s a look at what took place:

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Gavin Floyd looked regular-season ready with four strong innings thrown against the Padres. He fanned five, including Orlando Hudson, Chase Headley and Will Venable in the first, and didn’t issue a walk.

Addison Reed earned praise for his one inning from manager Robin Ventura, who said the closer’s decision won’t officially come down until the final week of Spring Training. Eric Stults and Brian Bruney, locked in a battle with Dylan Axelrod and Zack Stewart for the final two bullpen spots, threw scoreless innings and have been unscored upon in seven combined Cactus League innings.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Charlie Leesman continues to struggle this spring, facing only four batters in the fifth and not retiring any of them, before eventually being charged with four runs. Leesman features plus-stuff but hasn’t been able to harness it since his Arizona arrival.

UP NEXT: Chris Sale takes the mound for Cactus League start No. 2 on Wednesday at home against the Angels. Sale had a solid first start against the Cubs on Friday but was hard on himself for walking Junior Lake with two outs and nobody on base in the second and then giving up a 0-2 home run to Edgar Gonzalez.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Jordan Danks’ bloop single to left-center in the third. It wasn’t that Danks crushed the ball, although he did have a good at-bat, but it was more about Brent Lillibridge getting a great jump off of second and making a great read on the fly ball to score easily with nobody out. The White Sox will need to be aggressive on the basepaths, among many other intangibles, in order to be successful.

MOMENT TO FORGET: The Padres’ four-run fifth. Leesman’s struggles started the frame, but errors from Lillibridge and Jhan Marinez on a pickoff attempt contributed to the rally. The White Sox finally got out of trouble on a Marinez wild pitch that bounced back off the wall to catcher Hector Gimenez and allowed him to tag out Nick Hundley before he scored.

Game 6: Late rally grabs victory from defeat

The White Sox turned a two-run deficit into a 3-2 victory via a ninth-inning rally against the Rangers, raising their record to 2-4 overall. Here’s a look at Saturday’s first-game action.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Dylan Axelrod, Zach Stewart and Eric Stults amped up the long relief competition with two strong innings apiece Saturday. Hector Santiago seems to have a leg up for one of the three remaining relief openings, meaning it might be tough for another southpaw such as Stults to break camp as the fourth left-hander. So, it could come down to Axelrod and Stewart for one relief opening.

“I focus on what I’m doing, but you don’t want to root against anyone,” Stewart said. “I want everyone else to do good, because the better everyone else is doing, the better it makes the team around you.”

Although the regulars were gone by the ninth inning, some White Sox Minor Leaguers helped put together a three-run rally for the victory. Trayce Thompson walked, Andy Wilkins doubled and Ken Williams, Jr. delivered the two-out, game-winning single via an infield hit with the bases loaded.

Eduardo Escobar, who remains in the mix for the final position player roster spot partially because of his versatility, had two hits after starting at third base. Brian Bruney earned the victory with a scoreless ninth, giving him two scoreless innings in Cactus League action.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The White Sox didn’t get a baserunner in four innings against Texas starter Colby Lewis, and on any level of competition, those results aren’t good.

“We tried to set up Lewis, just for Opening Day, make him comfortable,” said a smiling White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who gave all the credit to Lewis.

Paul Konerko also fouled a ball off of his left knee on a seventh-inning pitch from Scott Feldman, and White Sox fans collectively held their breath as he walked around in pain. But Konerko finished the at-bat and seemed to walk normally off the field to the clubhouse when he was replaced prior to the eighth inning.

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s bonus baseball at Camelback Ranch, with Philip Humber and the White Sox taking on Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers Saturday night. It’s the second time the White Sox have faced Billingsley this week.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Williams has not had a lot of luck where health is concerned or a great deal of overwhelming success over his four Minor League seasons with the White Sox. But he did get to experience a game-winning hit with his single to center and his hustle down the first-base line in the ninth.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Pretty much the first four innings. Lewis was outstanding and efficient, needing just 36 pitches, and the White Sox didn’t seem to have much of a chance.

Game 5: Sale’s high standard

Round 1 goes to the Cubs, who claimed a 5-1 victory over the White Sox before 10,327 at Camelback Ranch on Friday. There will be seven more chances for the White Sox to get even, but here’s a look at the highs and lows of this first battle.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: If Chris Sale gets this charged up over his first Cactus League start, one can only imagine the energy he’ll bring to the rotation during the 2012 regular season. The raw stuff is there for Sale, probably the best raw stuff on the White Sox staff.

Like any other pitcher, he’s working on location and building up arm strength as the regular season fast approaches. The endurance is especially important for Sale, who is moving from late-inning relief to the starting five.

And his anger over the two-out, nobody-on walk issued to Junior Lake in the second, which was followed by Edgar Gonzalez’s two-run home run, is reminiscent of the same high personal standard for no free passes held by new staff ace John Danks. Sale felt as if he’s figuring out his pregame routine as a starter, but wasn’t making excuses even in his Spring Training debut.

“It was what it was. You’re still working out kinks, but there’s no excuse at all,” Sale said. “You still got to pitch. But you’re still finding some things out and figuring some things out along the way. But at the end of the day, you still got to be better than that.”

Alejandro De Aza laid down a perfect bunt single in the first, while A.J. Pierzynski, back hitting in the two-hole, moved De Aza to third with a single to left in the first and sacrificed over two runners in the third. Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, both strongly in the closer’s mix, each pitched a scoreless frame.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Nate Jones, who pitched two scoreless innings during his Cactus League debut, gave up a Marlon Byrd homer in the sixth and a Steve Clevenger home run in the seventh. The White Sox also failed to score with the bases loaded and out in the third against Travis Wood and Randy Wells.

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s a rare doubleheader for the White Sox on Saturday, with both games taking place at Camelback Ranch. Dylan Axelrod gets the start in Game 1 against the Rangers, which will be an exclusive whitesox.com webcast starting at 2:05 p.m. CT, and Philip Humber starts the nightcap against the Dodgers at 8:05 p.m. CT. Brent Lillibridge will be leading off and playing second base against the Rangers in the early game.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Adrian Cardenas’ ninth-inning pop out to shortstop Ray Olmedo, as it completed two scoreless innings of relief for Nestor Molina. It was a tough first outing for Molina on Monday, allowing five runs on seven hits over 1 1/3 innings, but the right-hander gave up one hit and struck out two on Friday.

“You can hear him talk and doing things, taking charge, which is nice,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Molina. “To have that first outing and come back, with that impressive performance, it catches your eye.”

MOMENT TO FORGET: Sale’s 0-2 pitch to Gonzalez in the second. It got too much of the plate.

Game 4: Ventura wins, Dunn bashes

There were no champagne corks popping or raucous celebrations going on in the White Sox clubhouse following Robin Ventura’s first win as a manager on Thursday in Surprise. But the 6-3 victory for the South Siders still had plenty of highlights, as the White Sox improved to 1-3 in Cactus League action.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn. And … . Oh, yes, Adam Dunn.

It was just the fourth game of 2012 for the White Sox and it was Cactus League play in Arizona, after all, where the statistics don’t make their way to the back of baseball cards. But the big slugger still looks locked in at the plate in a way he never did during all of the 2011 season.

“The at-bats are more important for me looking at it,” said Ventura of Dunn, who homered on a 1-2 pitch from Neftali Feliz in the first and doubled home another run in the third. “I see his at-bats, his approach when he does it, instead of if he gets a hit. That’s all I’m really looking for right now, him having quality at-bats up there. He’s in a great spot.”

Gordon Beckham also went deep in the fourth, while Brent Morel’s two hits leave him at 5-for-8 over the first four games.

And let’s not forget about Hector Santiago, who is getting extremely close to locking up the fifth spot in the White Sox bullpen. Santiago started on Thursday and held scoreless over two innings a Texas lineup featuring Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli and Elvis Andrus. Santiago struck out Cruz and Hamilton.

“I just worry about the next time to go out there. I try to do the same thing every time,” said Santiago, refusing to handicap his roster status. “I just tried to go out there and not worry about who is in the box and just hit (Tyler) Flowers right in the mitt. That’s all I was trying to do.”

WHAT WENT WRONG: Gregory Infante possesses Major League stuff, but simply has trouble getting it over the plate at times. He walked three over 1 2/3 innings on Thursday.

The biggest trouble spot was the first real injury of camp suffered by Minor League prospect Brandon Short. He dislocated his left shoulder going for a Luis Martinez double in the eighth, running into the center field wall on the attempt. Short was to have a MRI done on the injured area.

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s the first of eight meetings this season between the Cubs and the White Sox, with first pitch set for 2:05 p.m. CT Friday at Camelback Ranch. Chris Sale makes his long-awaited debut as part of the starting rotation, not counting his intrasquad appearance. The two teams hook up again on March 18 in Mesa, before meeting six times during regular-season Interleague action.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: The handshakes on the field at Surprise Stadium after Anthony Carter, who had good velocity on his pitches in earning the save, retired Martinez on a ground ball double play to end Ventura’s first victory. Ventura also offered up this on-the-mark postgame quote.

“It’s good to get wins just for the psyche of guys walking on the field, shaking hands,” Ventura said. “But you know, most of the guys that you want to see do it are already driving home. It’s good for the young guys to kind of finish it off and do that, but I’m concerned about those first five innings a little more than the end right now.”

MOMENT TO FORGET: Short’s injury. Otherwise, the White Sox had a pretty solid afternoon of baseball.

Game 3: Peavy gives happy all-clear after start

Make it three up, three down for Robin Ventura as White Sox manager in Cactus League competition. Here’s a look at the important factors behind the 10-6 final in favor of Milwaukee at Camelback Ranch Wednesday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Jake Peavy felt good.

Yes, I repeat, the White Sox right-hander, scheduled to make the second start of the 2012 regular season in Texas, felt no pain—anywhere.

“I did, I did, I really did,” said Peavy of feeling good during his two innings of work. “I can’t help but have a big smile on my face.”

“You want to win the game,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of one of the silver linings from Wednesday’s setback. “But it’s good seeing Jake go out … . Good velocity.”

Brent Lillibridge continues to show himself as the utility infield favorite by playing a solid second base and knocking out one hit. He also swiped a base, presenting a solid right-handed hitting alternative at the top of the White Sox lineup.

Jared Mitchell launched his first Cactus League home run during the White Sox three-run fifth inning, and Brent Morel finished with two hits.

“He has had good at-bats,” said Ventura of Mitchell. “His confidence level coming in his at-bats, you like what you see. He’s making a good impression.”

WHAT WENT WRONG: Sure, it’s only three games into Cactus League play, but the White Sox middle relief spots could end up being a war of attrition. Nestor Molina, who is a long shot to break camp with the team, got hit hard Monday by the Dodgers, while Dylan Axelrod and Zach Stewart combined to give up six runs on six hits over four innings Wednesday, with three walks and two strikeouts. Eric Stults helped his cause with a scoreless frame against the Brewers.

WHAT’S NEXT: Hector Santiago can strengthen his case for a middle relief job during a start against the Rangers Thursday afternoon in Surprise. Gavin Floyd, Will Ohman and Addison Reed all will pitch during a morning B game, also in Surprise.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Peavy’s genuine happiness after Wednesday’s outing. It wasn’t exactly a celebration befitting a playoff clincher, but White Sox fans are hoping for about 35 healthy postgame smiles from Peavy this season.

MOMENT TO FORGET: A couple of fly balls hit off of Peavy and Axelrod, looking somewhat routine at first, ended up carrying over the outfielders for extra-base hits. It’s good to remember how hard it is to judge pitching during Spring Training in Arizona, which is what makes it tough to pick a final two or three pitchers somewhat based on performance.

Game 2: Danks gone a little wild

Robin Ventura stayed winless through two Cactus League games following the Angels’ 6-2 victory Tuesday at Diablo Stadium. Here’s a quick look at the breakdown:

WHAT WENT RIGHT: After striking out twice on Monday, Gordon Beckham ripped two solid singles to left in Tuesday’s setback. It goes to show that Cactus League results aren’t nearly as important as the process to get there.

“After yesterday, you come back and you work on things and get him a little more aggressive,” said Ventura of Beckham. “He looked great.”

Matt Thornton threw a scoreless inning in relief, striking out one and giving up Albert Pujols’ double. Ventura praised Thornton’s work and then sarcastically took a jab at the pitch selection to one of the game’s top players.

“He realized Albert can hit a fastball down the middle,” a smiling Ventura said of Thornton. “So we got that out of the way.”

Keep an eye on Nate Jones, the fifth-round selection from the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander who fanned 67 in 63 1/3 innings for Double-A Birmingham last season struck out three over two innings on Tuesday. Jared Mitchell also served a ninth-inning single to left.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Call it a good day of work for John Danks, who threw almost 50 pitches in two innings. The fact that almost half of those pitches were out of the strike zone made it a bit of an erratic work day for the southpaw.

“I’m just trying to throw the ball and make the ball do what I want it to do,” Danks said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t very sharp today.”

The team finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position for those keeping track of such statistics two games into spring, and Brian Omogrosso was touched up for three runs on four hits in one inning of relief.

WHAT’S NEXT: Jake Peavy goes full throttle 19 months after surgery to reattach his lat muscle when taking the mound against the Brewers on Wednesday. Peavy is scheduled to start the second game of the season in Texas.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Trayce Thompson and Gordon Beckham both picked up stolen bases in Tuesday’s loss, as the White Sox were much more aggressive on the basepaths. The White Sox don’t have a highly-touted Minor League system, but they do have young athletes who seem to be learning the game.

MOMENT TO FORGET: It’s a toss-up between two: John Danks snapping his glove in frustration on a throw back from Tyler Flowers after walking Bobby Wilson in the first, showing even Spring Training can draw anger, or Beckham’s name spelled as Beckman on the Diablo Stadium scoreboard during his two trips to the plate.

Game 1: Ventura loses debut

Monday’s Cactus League opener for the White Sox and Robin Ventura’s managerial debut ended in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. Here’s a quick look at the breakdown.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The infield defense looked as if it would be a White Sox strong suit this season even before Monday’s showing, and stellar second-inning plays from shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham on hard-hit groundballs backed up that assertion. Jim Gallagher, who is competing for the roster’s final position player opening, added a leaping catch at first base, and the White Sox also threw out James Loney at the plate on A.J. Ellis’ double via a perfect relay throw from Kosuke Fukudome to Beckham to Tyler Flowers to end the fifth.

Philip Humber looked smooth and efficient over two innings, and every other hurler but Nestor Molina was unscored upon. Hector Santiago threw two scoreless innings in his quest to claim one of the long relief vacancies.

Dan Johnson brought the team close in the ninth with a two-run blast to right, adding his name to the list of players on the roster bubble who started off strong. Most importantly, Ventura got the first game as manager under his belt, and although he didn’t come away with a victory, he’s happily moving forward after what he saw.

“Alexei had a great day. Defensively, I like what happened,” Ventura said. “You work on certain stuff and you see it happen out on the field and you’re happy about it. We had a nice relay with Kosuke (Fukudome) to Gordon, stuff you work on and you’re happy to see they’re getting it.”

WHAT WENT WRONG: Not exactly the debut looked for by Molina, who has been projected by the White Sox as a future frontline starter. It’s unfair to nail the rookie for one rough effort, especially in the first game of Cactus League action. But the right-hander acquired from Toronto in the Sergio Santos deal really did get hit hard over his 1 1/3 innings. Ventura, for one, was not getting down on one of the White Sox top prospects.

“I like his competitiveness and what he has when he goes out,” said Ventura of Molina. “He has a presence on the mound. He has good stuff, there’s no doubt about it.

“It’s one of those days is how I look at it. First day, he’s trying to impress but good stuff. He’s going to get more chances.”

Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Beckham combined to finish 0-for-5, but again, it’s Game 1 and absolutely nothing to be read into with so much more to play.

WHAT’S NEXT: John Danks and Matt Thornton both make their Cactus League debuts on Tuesday, as the White Sox travel to Tempe for a game with the Angels. Look for Dunn at first base, Beckham hitting second and Brent Lillibridge playing third.

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Ventura walking to the mound to remove Molina in the sixth. He’s hoping these sorts of trips don’t become too frequent during the upcoming season.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Scott Van Slyke’s sixth-inning home run off of Molina is still sailing somewhere toward Mesa. He simply crushed that particular offering.

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