Game 7: Sale(ing) away and Viciedo’s blast

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – The story of Friday’s 9-7 victory for the Indians was Chris Sale’s strong debut and a barrage of home runs by both teams. Here’s a look inside the game.

HOME RUN: Oh, if only they gave distances on Cactus League home runs. The folks at Goodyear Ballpark literally would have had to break out the tape measure for Dayan Viciedo’s blast leading off the second against Justin Masterson. It cleared the left field fence, at 345 feet, sailed over the people sitting on the lawn and then cleared the back fence. A best guess was somewhere between 460 to 500 feet.

Brent Morel couldn’t quite match Viciedo’s feat of strength, but hit his own two-run shot off of Masterson following Hector Gimenez’s single. The difference between Morel’s exceptional play this spring and back-pain induced hesitancy last spring is quite noticeable.

TRIPLE: Gimenez knocked out another three hits, leaving him at 5-for-7 in Cactus League action. But of greater importance was the catcher’s ability to settle down Sale after he was out of rhythm in the first. The role of the White Sox catchers is handling the pitchers first and offense second.

DOUBLE: For those who say the White Sox are thin in middle infield prospects, they might want to check out Marcus Semien’s early play. He belted a three-run homer and made a couple of slick plays at shortstop. He has turned in an impressive overall start in Cactus League action

SINGLE: Carlos Sanchez made the defensive play of the game, diving in the hole between first and second to take away a Cleveland hit. Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios had one hit apiece.

STOLEN BASE: Although his sore right elbow is not quite healthy enough to allow him to play the field, Jordan Danks singled and swiped a base as Friday’s starting designated hitter. Danks will need to show a little more than his exceptional outfield defense to help lock down that final roster spot.

CALLED THIRD: Sale wasn’t exactly perfect during his first Cactus League start. But the fact that the 23-year-old was pleased with his effort stands as a good sign, since he’s his own worst critic.

JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: After an impressive start in which he allowed one run over three innings, Erik Johnson was touched up for five runs on five hits over 1 1/3 innings of relief. Matt Carson took him deep.

Game 5: The unbeaten streak continues

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Sure, it’s only Cactus League play, with individuals making major contributions who won’t be part of the Opening Day roster against pitchers who have the same slim chance. But after posting an 8-4 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday at Camelback Ranch, the White Sox are much happier to be unbeaten instead of winless.

“You like the way it is. It doesn’t matter which guys are playing on which day. Even though you mix it up, they kind of keep that flow going,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And we’re pitching well too.

“For the most part, we’re getting guys going out there and limiting things and playing defense. Guys are going up swinging the bat, being aggressive.”

Here’s a deeper look at Wednesday’s victory.

HOME RUN: As hitting coach Jeff Manto and left fielder Dayan Viciedo told MLB.com, Viciedo’s new leg kick as part of his swing will be a work in progress. Ventura agrees, although he liked the two hits Viciedo knocked out on Wednesday.

“I don’t expect him to get it right away. But I think the timing of it and the things he was having problems with last year, it’ll help that,” said Ventura of Viciedo. “Just balance and seeing pitches. I think last year he got into a mode of he was swinging no matter what.

“The leg kick gives you a little more balance of pushing you back and getting recognition and going after it. It is a work in progress but I think having thrown BP to him and watching him, you see little steps that he has taken. It’s working with two strikes.”

TRIPLE: This much is certain through the early part of Spring Training: Keenyn Walker can run. He tripled among his two hits Wednesday, basically gliding around the bases.

DOUBLE: Let’s put Conor Gillaspie in this spot, since a double is the only hit he’s missing from reaching the cycle over his last two games. Gillaspie went deep off of Collin Balester in the sixth inning, adding to his triple and single from Tuesday. He has six RBIs in two games.

SINGLE: Jeff Keppinger doubled, walked and scored two runs after replacing Adam Dunn at designated hitter. Although he has not yet played the field, Keppinger’s hitting has not suffered from a sore right shoulder. Steve Tolleson had two hits, including a double, and Ramon Troncoso threw two scoreless innings in relief.

STOLEN BASE: No, Paul Konerko doesn’t get many of these. But his home run in the fifth inning against Robbie Ross was his 18th in Cactus League action since 2006.

CALLED THIRD: Simon Castro followed Nestor Molina’s lead on Tuesday, allowing one hit and one walk over three innings.

“I feel good right now with my mechanics and everything we do,” Castro said.

“You’re looking at maturity and just being able to compete at a different level,” said Ventura of Castro. “This year I think he has command and the confidence that comes with being another year into it and control.”

JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: It was a good news, bad news sort of afternoon for veteran reliever Jeff Gray. The good news was that he struck out the side in the sixth. The bad news is he also allowed three runs in the frame.

Game 4: White Sox topple Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Cactus League unbeaten streak continued for the White Sox, as they scored early and often against the Rangers. Here’s a look.

HOME RUN: Conor Gillaspie believes his first hit, a two-run single to left during a six-run third, was “kind of lucky honestly.” But there was nothing lucky about his two-run triple to right during a five-run fourth, giving the new acquisition four RBIs in the victory. Even with Jeff Keppinger sidelined defensively by a sore shoulder, the White Sox look as if they have a competitive situation at third base with Gillaspie and Brent Morel.

“Again, getting him in here and getting him at-bats, that’s the biggest thing right now,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Gillaspie. “He’s a little behind, not getting many at-bats over there. So it’s catching him back up. It’s a good short swing. He’s got a little pop too.”

TRIPLE: Hector Gimenez did a little bit of everything on Tuesday. He knocked out two hits, drove in a run and threw out Elvis Andrus trying to take second on a wild pitch in the first inning. It’s early, but Gimenez looks to have a plus throwing arm, backed up by his 43.1 percent success rate (22-of-51) of throwing out base stealers with Triple-A Charlotte last season.

DOUBLE: When the White Sox acquired Nestor Molina from the Blue Jays for Sergio Santos at the 2011 Winter Meetings, it sounded as if the right-hander could be in the Majors rather quickly i.e. that upcoming 2012 season. Molina instead tried to pitch through elbow pain and had a rough debut campaign with the White Sox in 2012. He took Step 1 to getting back on the right track Tuesday by throwing two scoreless innings.

“I concentrate on throwing strikes,” said Molina through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. “If I do throw strikes early on, I’m going to get a lot of outs.”

SINGLE: Josh Phegley helped complete the scoring with a blast to left in the eighth. Jared Mitchell and Marcus Semien each knocked out another hit, and Zach Stewart fanned three over 1 2/3 innings.

STOLEN BASE: Trayce Thompson actually picked up the White Sox first stolen base of the spring and scored two runs.

CALLED THIRD: After escaping a bases-loaded, two-out situation in his first Cactus League outing, Brian Omogrosso gave up two hits over two scoreless innings. Omogrosso’s most likely big league usage, either at the season’s outset or into 2013, is in long relief.

JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: Santos Rodriguez, who received high marks from pitching coach Don Cooper for the great arm he possesses, struggled in allowing three earned runs on three hits and two walks in just one-third of an inning.

Game 3: Another Day, Another Tie

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Rick Hahn Cactus League era is starting to look just like the Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL record. Three games for the White Sox with Hahn as the new general manager, one win and two ties.

Monday’s deadlock was almost like a victory for the White Sox, who trailed 9-0 after three against the defending World Series champions from San Francisco. But the White Sox scored two in the sixth and seven in the eighth to forge the 9-9 break-even point. Here’s a look.

HOME RUN: It’s commonly believed that the White Sox will go as far as their pitching staff will take them. That statement means relievers as well as starters.

Late-inning relievers Matt Lindstrom, Jesse Crain and Nate Jones and closer Addison Reed combined to throw four innings and allow one hit while striking out five. Not a bad start.

TRIPLE: Brent Morel came into camp brimming with confidence, buoyed by a healthy back and knowledge of the on-field ability he possesses when he’s healthy. Monday’s effort continued to show that not taking Morel could be the White Sox toughest Spring Training decision. Morel lined a solid single to right off of Madison Bumgarner in the first and made a slick catch on Angel Pagan’s line drive in the bottom of the frame. Morel’s back also survived what has been described as a fairly hard infield at Scottsdale Stadium,

DOUBLE: This comeback was brought to White Sox fans by the organization’s Minor League system, albeit against Giants’ Minor Leaguers. Keenyn Walker and Josh Phegley had big hits in the seven-run eighth, setting up Seth Loman’s game-tying three-run clout off of Brett Bochy.

SINGLE: Paul Konerko knocked out two hits in three at-bats. Jared Mitchell tripled home two runs.

STOLEN BASE: Ok, Loman just turned 27 and has next to no chance to break camp with the White Sox. But give the young first baseman credit for his prodigious power. He has two homers in three games, and they’ve traveled an approximate combined distance of 900 feet. Monday’s blast hit the awning over the fan deck in right, beyond the bullpen.

CALLED THIRD: Neither Hector Santiago nor Andre Rienzo had the afternoon they wanted on the mound. That’s the somewhat bad news because after all, these statistics never make it to the back of baseball cards. It’s all about the work. The good news is they are ready to for their next trip to the mound, which for Rienzo, will be Saturday for Team Brazil in Japan at the World Baseball Classic.

Game 2: White Sox fit to be tied

There are no shootouts in Major League Baseball to break a tie, and often times in Spring Training, there are no extra innings to do the same. So, the second of back-to-back games between the Dodgers and White Sox at Camelback Ranch Sunday ended in a 2-2 deadlock. Here’s a look.

HOME RUN: Let’s go with the man who actually hit the home run, Adam Dunn. The slugger said coming into Spring Training that he was going to be more aggressive early in the count, in an attempt to cut down strikeouts and raise his average, and there was Dunn driving out a 1-0 pitch from Peter Moylan to left for a two-run homer in the fourth inning Sunday.

“You know, it’s nice to get those,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Dunn’s blast. “If it lingers on too much, not having good at-bats, you are starting off battling from the negative. It’s nice for everybody to kind of get on the board and have a good at-bat. It feels nice to end your day that way too.”

Dunn’s job won’t change from driving in runs, and he won’t suddenly become a .280 hitter and watch his home run total drop to 15. But he’s taking the time at Spring Training to work on subtle improvements.

“There’s one little mechanical thing I wanted to work on, and I didn’t know how long it was going to take me this spring. I knew we had an extended spring,” Dunn said. “But actually I’m able to carry it over from the cage to the game so far. That’s a positive.”

TRIPLE: On his 35th birthday, Dewayne Wise tripled to right with two outs in the third off of Hyun-Jin Ryu.

DOUBLE: Little things continue to mean a lot to the White Sox under the Robin Ventura regime. In the third, Hanley Ramirez delivered a run-scoring single off of Erik Johnson to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead but Dunn cut off the throw home by center fielder Blake Tekotte and threw back to first, behind Ramirez, where second baseman Gordon Beckham was covering to tag out Ramirez, end the inning and cut short any continued rally.

In the second, backup catcher Hector Gimenez fired a perfect strike to Beckham to catch Andre Eithier stealing by quite a margin.

SINGLE: Alex Rios tripled before Dunn’s opposite field homer, giving Rios three extra-base hits in two games.

STOLEN BASE: When I asked Tyler Flowers for pitchers who had looked good during side bullpen sessions, he mentioned both Daniel Moskos and David Purcey. The two southpaws threw one hitless inning apiece.

CALLED THIRD: It was a solid debut for Johnson, who took advantage of an opportunity the White Sox are giving to their up-and-coming Minor League starters during this first week of Cactus League action. Johnson struck out two and gave up one run on four hits over three innings.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to go out there and pound the strike zone and attack hitters and keep the ball down, let my defense play behind me.”

The native of Los Altos, Calif. also seemed to get a charge out of facing the Dodgers.

“Growing up in the Bay Area and watching the Giants growing up, I saw the Dodgers a lot,” Johnson said. “It felt good to go out at these guys and attack them. It was just another great opportunity today.”

JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: After a leadoff single by Steven Tolleson in the ninth, he was caught stealing with Trayce Thompson at the plate and pulling back on a bunt.

Game 1: White Sox 9, Dodgers 0

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The White Sox could not have had a better opening to Cactus League competition with Saturday’s 9-0 whitewash of the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.

Fourteen hits for the White Sox, three hits allowed, contributions across the board.

“That’s why you have intrasquad games,” said a smiling White Sox manager Robin Ventura, referring to the team’s rough instrasquad action on Thursday. “Get that out.”

Here’s what will be a regular look at the standouts and missteps for each White Sox contest in Arizona.

HOME RUN: Dylan Axelrod would be classified as the White Sox seventh starter, but he certainly set the tone for other starters Saturday. He simply threw strikes over three scoreless innings and breezed through the first two quick enough that he got a third.

“He’s one of those guys who wont dazzle you with the radar gun but he’s a smart pitcher,” said Ventura of Axelrod. “He comes out and just finds that way to keep people off balance.”

TRIPLE: The Tyler Flowers’ era officially began with a bang, as he launched the White Sox first Spring Training home run on a drive Gordon Beckham said was one of the hardest baseballs he had seen hit.

Flowers laughed at the hoopla over one prodigious clout to left, stressing there’s more work to be done.

Kudos to Flowers for bringing up the great effort turned in by Axelrod, pointing up again how Flowers’ role is handling the pitchers first and offense second.

DOUBLE: Brent Morel has returned to action, looking a little more like the Morel from 2011 as opposed to the player held down by back issues all of last season.

Morel played third, batted second and knocked out a single in his second at-bat. The key for Morel, who felt his back was back on track as far back as an interview he did with MLB.com in late November, is how he responds the day after game action.

SINGLE: Alex Rios picked up where he left off as the team’s top offensive player in 2012 with two doubles. Gordon Beckham hit the ball hard twice, including a RBI double in the second off of Clayton Kershaw. Dayan Viciedo delivered a two-run single in the third with the hit coming on a two-strike pitch.

STOLEN BASE: The name Seth Loman doesn’t often get mentioned among the White Sox top prospects, as he didn’t crack MLB.com’s Top 20 list. But the left-handed hitting first baseman has some definite power, with 115 career Minor League homers. Loman launched one to right for a two-run homer in the ninth to cap off the scoring.

CALLED THIRD: Zach Stewart picked up where Axelrod left off Saturday, throwing two perfect innings of relief. Both men figure to start the 2013 season as part of the Triple-A Charlotte rotation.

JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: It’s hard to find fault in a total team effort like Saturday. Brian Omogrosso emerged unscathed in the eighth and threw the ball well, but he did issue three straight two-out walks to earn the only small blemish on an otherwise near-perfect day.

White Sox make no new additions as deadline passes

As the clock struck 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Ken Williams watched Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline pass and moved on to other pressing matters.

“It has come and gone and at this point I’m going home to get some sleep,” the White Sox general manager said.

Williams listened to all range of proposals Tuesday, although the team’s target figured to be utility infielder, reserve outfielder and possibly another pitcher. But nothing materialized, so the first-place White Sox will try to hang on to their American League Central lead with the upgrades of Kevin Youkils, Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano already in place before the deadline.

“There were some interesting discussions but nothing that I would describe close enough to start exchanging medicals,” Williams said. “I feel like just as we ask the players to grind it out and give it everything they have, we have a responsibility to do the same. We want to show them we are in this fight with them and believe in them.

“Whether or not we have positioned ourselves to close this thing out or not, we’ve given all we have and exhausted all options in the quest to be as good as we can be. Hopefully that’s enough and hopefully the players see that.”

Dunn appreciates praise, respect from Guillen

While Ozzie Guillen was holding court in his return to Chicago at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, Adam Dunn was getting ready to help the White Sox to another victory some 983 miles away at Fenway Park in Boston.

Guillen and Dunn have not spoken directly since Guillen’s White Sox managerial tenure came to an end after the 2011 season, although they have exchanged friendly messages through Austin Kearns, a good friend of the White Sox designated hitter and a current player for the Marlins manager. The two apparently don’t have to talk directly, though, for Guillen to express his profound respect for the affable veteran.

That effusive praise came through loud and clear during Guillen’s comments to the large group of assembled media in Chicago. Guillen spoke of the positive way which Dunn handled his forgettable debut with the White Sox in ’11 and added how happy he was for Dunn to find success in 2012.

Dunn, who is as laid back as a summer Sunday afternoon and seems to be truly enjoying this return to his previous norm as he promised during Spring Training, appreciated Guillen’s kind words.

“Absolutely it means something,” Dunn told MLB.com after singling, walking and stealing a base in the White Sox 7-5 victory over the Red Sox. “I talked to (Guillen) about it all the time. He did everything he could to help me out.

“Everything he did was to help me. He gave me every opportunity in the world. You know, I feel bad. I feel bad for that whole staff that was here. I know they took a whole bunch of (garbage) each and every day about it. You know, it means a lot: (Guillen) has been in baseball a long time.”

This high-profile free agent signing came in to the White Sox on a four-year, $56-million deal, as almost the centerpiece of the team’s “all-in” campaign. So with that scenario in mind, Dunn still puts the previous team’s problems upon his broad shoulders—including, in part, the strained relationship between Guillen and general manager Ken Williams.

“I’ll take it all,” Dunn said. “I feel like I’m responsible for all that more than anybody else. You know, it (stinks) how it went down but everybody now seems to be doing good.”

That 2011 campaign is a distant memory for Dunn, where he has been trying to keep it since the start of the 2012 season. With the Major League lead in homers at 28 and 65 RBIs to go with those homers, not to mention the 2012 season fast approaching the end of July, Dunn has every right to believe such an expectation would be followed.

Comments from Guillen’s Tuesday press conference put a positive spin on that rough year for Dunn. In fact, Dunn was put in the same category as Jim Thome and Paul Konerko by Guillen, which is the highest compliment in player comparison coming from Guillen.

“If there’s one player I have more respect for in the game than Thome, Konerko, I think Dunner is,” said Guillen to the large group of assembled media. “What Dunner went through last year, and he took it like a man. He was the same guy in the clubhouse and dugout every day.

“He just had a bad year. It takes a very strong man mentally to go through what he went through last year. I’m very happy for him and his family for what he’s doing right now, and he knows that.

“I’m not saying this about Dunner because I’m here,” Guillen said. “He knows how I feel about him and I’m very glad he’s having the season he’s having.”

White Sox snag first pitcher and college player with Chris Beck in second round

The White Sox took 6-foot-3 right-handed pitcher Chris Beck from Georgia Southern with the No. 76 pick in the second round of the First-Year Player Draft.

Beck has three main pitches in a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a change up. Beck was invited to the Cape Cod All-Star Game after a great summer.

Beck’s 6-7 record doesn’t turn many heads, but he’s thrown 115 strikeouts to just 29 walks, with a 3.91 ERA. He posted a 3.23 ERA with 109 strikeouts his sophomore season.

The South Siders went with another college player in round three, selecting Arizona State second baseman Joey DeMichele, a versatile infielder who has also played third base, with the 108th pick.

DeMichele won the Pac-10 batting crown with a .368 batting average his sophomore year, smashing a team-leading nine home runs.

He once again leads the Sun Devils in batting average this season with a .336 hitting clip and six home runs. DeMichele’s speed is evident with seven triples and a team-high 12 stolen bases this year.

With the No. 141 pick, the White Sox selected their second pitcher in the first three picks on day two with junior college pitcher Brandon Brennan, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed hurler from Orange Coast College.

Brennan, who committed to play at the University of Houston before being drafted, was 11-1 with a 1.25 ERA and a .197 batting average against. His big frame is enticing and his fastball reaches the mid-90s.

Shortstop Nick Basto from powerhouse Archbishop McCarthy (Fla.) High School was selected with the 171st pick in the fifth round. Basto, who was heading to Florida International, helped lead the school to its third straight state baseball title this season.

Sixth-round pick Kyle Hansen, who went 5-5 with a 3.46 ERA this season, stands at 6-foot-8. The 201st selection from St. John’s is the older brother of former Red Sox first round pick Craig Hansen.

A local product was selected in Pinckneyville, Ill., native Brandon Hardin with the 321st pick in the 10th round. Hardin played at Delta State and lowered his ERA from 5.77 as a junior to 1.03 this season, after shifting from starter to closer.

The White Sox selected a high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins with the No. 13 pick Monday and followed  in Comp Round A with Keon Barnum, a high school first baseman, with the No. 48 pick.

-Rowan Kavner

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.”

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