Results tagged ‘ Las Vegas ’

And the beat goes on?

As Wayne Messmer belted out the National Anthem prior to the start of Thursday’s battle between the Cubs and White Sox, a few rows of seats were noticeably empty behind the White Sox dugout at Wrigley Field. Those areas pretty much filled in by the time the White Sox were done hitting in the top of the first, but this particular scenario represents just one small reason from the first two days of this series to give pause for thought as to whether the all-Chicago competition is as electric as it once was.

“Yeah. I thought it was down a little bit,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, when asked after Wednesday’s victory whether the capacity crowd seemed a bit more subdued. “I think maybe the fact that we play them six times a year, once here and one there, and we played them like 10 times in Spring Training this year.

“It’s still fun to come here and still a great atmosphere, still fun games to be in. It just seemed like there wasn’t as much energy as there has been in the past for this series.”

The White Sox and Cubs actually played five times during Spring Training, including a two-game excursion to Cashman Field in Las Vegas. Other ideas presented by White Sox players for the series being toned down ranged from Tuesday’s rainout offering a bit of a buzz-kill to these games serving as just the second mid-week series in the 13-year history of the competition.

“D (Derrek) Lee and and I were talking at first, and we were saying how once you’ve been in it for a few years, it’s not downplayed but a little more mellow because you’ve already been through it,” White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson said of the rivalry. “I’m sure if you ask Gordon (Beckham), especially getting like eight ground balls in a row yesterday, he’s probably all into it.”

Regardless of a possible slight drop in the fever pitch, the White Sox players agree it’s still the best show in town and potentially the best rivalry in Interleague Play.

“There’s a better atmosphere here then any regular mid-week game, for sure,” White Sox pitcher John Danks said.

“Only a few people in this town root for both teams,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “If you’re a Cub fan, you’re a Cub fan. That’s the way it is. Like I say, a few people do that, they don’t care and root for both teams. But as long as we’re given an opportunity to play this game, it’s going to be a rivalry.”

Wednesday roundup

–Jayson Nix still features that massive wrap around his right quad, but he told me on Wednesday that he’s definitely feeling better. His target is to be playing again on Friday, during a road game against the Padres in Peoria.

Nix hurt his right quad going for a short pop up in a game last Wednesday against the Cubs in Las Vegas and then truly felt the injury as he was going from first to third on a base hit in that same game. He has not played since.

I can attest that it was a ridiculously cold night in Las Vegas last Wednesday, and the high winds were pretty much out of control, which might have been contributing factors to the injury–at least the cold. The good news for Nix is there are still three weeks left in Spring Training for him to build off of his great start in the battle for the job at second base.

–Gordon Beckham doubled and drove in two runs on Wednesday and will start at shortstop on Thursday in Surprise. Beckham has five doubles and 18 total bases this spring, leading the team in both categories.

Here’s an interesting comment from Ken Williams that didn’t make it into my Wednesday story. In that story, the White Sox general manager admitted the team’s top pick from the 2008 First-Year Player Draft has as good of a chance as Nix, Chris Getz or Brent Lillibridge to break camp with the team BUT only as a starter at second base.

“He’s playing the game and having fun,” said Williams of Beckham. “He’s going to be a good player. He’s been impressive since we drafted him, and obviously, he was impressive before then for us to draft him.”

– The first cuts came down on Wednesday. They were INF Brian Myrow, RHP Brad Salmon and INF Sergio Santos, who were reassigned to Minor-League Camp, and RHP Lucas Harrell, who was optioned to Double-A Birmingham. With these cuts, the White Sox have 53 players in camp: 26 pitchers, six catchers, 14 infielders and seven outfielders.

–Javier Castillo returned with a bang from his stint with Panama in the World Baseball Classic. He singled and scored the tie-breaking run on Wednesday and then launced a two-run home run to put the game away. Even though Panama didn’t advance, Castillo loved his experience in The Classic.

–Ozzie Guillen had this interesting comme on Jerry Owens, whose seventh-inning single gave the White Sox the lead.

“This kid is fighting for his job,” Guillen said. “I want to see a lot of better stuff come around. The last couple of days he’s swinging the bat better.”

Owens still seemed very positive when I taked to him this past weekend for a story. Owens, now hitting .200, is out of options, meaning he is fighting for a roster spot but also probably fighting to stay as part of the organization.

– My pick of DePaul to win the Big East Tournament came up a little short. My total focus is on Michigan-Iowa tomorrow afternoon in the Big 10 Tournament.

 

Colon and Contreras update

Judging simply by the sound of Barolo Colon’s pitches during Monday’s live batting practice session at Camelback Ranch, the White Sox might break camp with a veteran starting rotation in tact.

Colon and Jose Contreras have numerous tasks in front of them before being deemed ready for the 2009 regular season, but Monday morning was another in a long line of steps forward. Each hurler threw two 20-pitch innings, facing Minor Leaguers such as Miguel Negron and Matthew Inouye. Colon stayed with fastballs and change-ups, breaking off a few curves, while Contreras threw all of his pitches, from all angles.

Remember, Contreras is coming back from a ruptured Achilles, while Colon is coming back from offseason surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. So, from a purely throwing standpoint, Contreras is ahead of Colon. That gap appears to be closing judging by the zip on Colon’s pitches.

There will be another batting practice session for the two on Wednesday and then possibly live game action this weekend. Having Contreras and Colon ready instantly gives the White Sox a very deep pitching staff, with Clayton Richard and Jeff Marquez moving to long relief.

With a B Game going at the same time, manager Ozzie Guillen did not join pitching coach Don Cooper to watch Colon and Contreras throw. Gordon Beckham batted twice while I was watching the B game and had four hits–just kidding. He had one hit and drove home a run with a ground out.

By the way, for you boxing fans, Rock Newman, Riddick Bowe’s former manager, was in attendance at Camelback Ranch on Monday. We had a brief discussion about the “fan man” fight, which I attended in Las Vegas in 1993, when a man paraglided into the ring during a Bowe-Evander Holyfield fight. That “fan man” has his own Wikipedia page, which is kind of sad.

 

Where have I been?

A hectic few days, including the Cubs-White Sox two-game series in Las Vegas, not to mention a cold or battle with allergies that won’t quite go away, have kept me off the blog. But I’m back with a few news items to start the week.

–Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon will be throwing batting practice tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. CT, as part of their continued comeback from injuries and push to the White Sox starting rotation. Ryan Braun also will be throwing batting practice on a separate field, as he battles his way back from Tommy John surgery on April 22, 2008.

I’m just guessing here right now, but I think Contreras will start the 2009 season as part of the rotation, but Colon, who is coming back from an elbow injury, will not but won’t be far behind. By the way, I think both Clayton Richard and Jeff Marquez are locks to make the team in some pitching capacity.

–Gordon Beckham continues to… Well, I was going to say impress but I don’t think that word is strong enough. How about amaze? He had three doubles on Sunday and has caused the White Sox to take a serious look at him as a possible starting candidate at second base, less than one year after being selected with the eighth pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

I don’t think Beckham breaks camp with the team. But I reiterate that he will be playing Major League baseball before September callups. His confidence, as much as his ability, impresses me. Beckham looks as if he’s been doing this for 10 years.

“Well, I hope I’m looking like that,” Beckham said. “I think there’s a difference in being cocky and being confident. I try to be as confident as I can without being cocky.

“Why not? I’ve been playing this game my whole life. The game hasn’t changed. It’s just the scenery and settings got a little different.”

–Here’s an example of Ozzie Guillen’s popularity. The White Sox manager came out in the third on Sunday to check on Alexei Ramirez, who had fouled a ball off of his foot, when some fan at Camelback Ranch yelled, ‘Hey, Ozzie. How are you doing?’

I watched Ozzie walk the hallways of the Bellagio Hotel during the 2008 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, and he couldn’t take three steps without someone stopping him to talk or pose for a picture.

–Michigan wins its first round game in the Big 10 tourney, and its NCAA Tournament drought is over. No questions asked. Minnesota might be the Big 10 team with the most trouble.

You heard it here first: Michigan vs. Michigan St. for the NCAA crown.

–Jayson Nix is expected back in action after Tuesday’s day off. Brent Lillibridge will play Monday.

  

Wednesday musings

–A hearty congratulations to Jamie and Mark Buehrle on the birth of their daughter, Brooklyn Jayden, who entered the world early Tuesday morning at 6-pounds, 7-ounces. We will all have to wait until Mark returns Sunday to find out the origin of this beautiful name.

–Keep an eye on John Van Benschoten’s mound work, with the right-hander pitching tonight against the Cubs in Las Vegas. He has a shot to make the White Sox as a long reliever.

–Make sure you check out Gordon Beckham’s new blog, titled “Deep Thoughts By Gordon Beckham.” His first entry, The Japanese Game Show, is a fun read. He’s an articulate young man, and as I’ve said in this blog numerous times, Beckham is a player, with star written all over him.

–As I was sitting at dinner the other night at a restaurant in Westgate, three major White Sox fans–Mike, Bob and Bob (I remembered their names because they e-mailed me after the fact. The memory starts to go after 40), introduced themselves and we started talking baseball and about my job, etc. It was a most interesting conversation.

I wanted to encourage anyone who comes to Spring Training to check out the White Sox or any other baseball team, and bumps into me around town, to come up and introduce themselves. It’s always good to get fans’ perspectives on the team, as it often triggers future ideas for stories, and it’s just as good to get feedback on our coverage–positive or changes you would like to see made.

In fact, I’m currently in Las Vegas covering the White Sox and Cubs. So, anybody who made the trip, feel free to e-mail me. We could all meet up after the game, if we could just find a place that stays open late here.

– A special thanks to e-mailer Dan, who sent me a recommendation for Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar on Paradise in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, this short trip won’t allow me to check it out, but it’s on my list for the next visit.

–Three words to describe this past Sunday’s Rock of Love: Best episode ever, seriously!! That’s actually four words, but it was highly entertaining.

–The word shocking should never be used to describe an epidsode of The Bachelor, as I saw on one entertainment show following Monday’s finale, unless someone’s talking about the ridiculous ratings that show gets. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but could someone explain the attraction of this show?

I know, I watch Rock of Love. But that show is real, at least.

–One final thought: I enjoy checking out the status updates of my various Facebook friends throughout the week. But one young lady on that list recently had an update that caught my eye. She apparently was watching the first White Sox Spring Training game in Glendale, played last Sunday afternoon, on her DVR that night.

That, my friends, is true devotion to one’s team!

 

 

Roster Roulette

So, Wednesday officially begins the Cactus League ledger for the White Sox, which means I will be in Las Vegas for the Cubs-White Sox games in one week. I’m actually going to buy a small suitcase as soon as I finish blogging.

For those not concerned with my travel plans or my future purchases at Target, which pretty much covers everyone, the contest between the Angels and White Sox also marks the start of numerous interesting position battles to be waged by the South Siders. Instead of going through the primary roster openings, let’s look at the roster as a whole.

If you assume Ozzie Guillen takes 12 pitchers, coupled with nine position player starters, then you are left with four open spots. One goes to a back-up catcher and one goes to a back-up infielder, probably Wilson Betemit, leaving Guillen with two roster openings. And then this equation becomes a myriad questions.

–Who is starting in center field? If it’s Brian Anderson, then do both Jerry Owens and DeWayne Wise make the roster or does Guillen take a second utility infielder and risk losing Owens or Wise?

–Who wins the job at second base? If it’s Chris Getz, then does Brent Lillibridge have an advantage for one of those two remaining roster spots because of his infield versatility, speed to burn AND his ability to play center? Remember, Wise, Owens, Betemit and Jayson Nix all are out of options.

–Will Guillen actually break camp with 11 pitchers, meaning only 20 roster spots are committed?

–Is there any chance Dayan Viciedo breaks camp with the White Sox?

–Can both Jose Contreras or Bartolo Colon be ready, health-wise, by the time the fourth and fifth starter’s slot comes up during the first week of the 2009 regular season? While there might be a target date for these veterans to pitch during Spring Training, Contreras just told me the other day as to how there isn’t a “Jose Contreras Comeback Day” set. When he’s ready and White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider and the rest of the team’s upper management agrees, Contreras will be out there.

Many questions to be answered, approximately 45 days to come to a decision. Tell me how you think this roster roulette shakes out.

Things I learned … Recently

–Apparently, I need to go see Slumdog Millionaire.

–I still think Mickey Rourke should have won Best Actor for The Wrestler. Then again, that was the only movie I saw out of the nominations.

–Michigan won’t be going to the NCAA Tournament unless the Wolverines win their next three games or win the Big 10 Tournament. What happened to Manny Harris, is what I want to know?

–Taking a nap from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. is not conducive for falling asleep later that night. I tried this trick out on Saturday. It won’t happen again.

–There are FAR too many pseudo-reality shows on VH-1. Keep Rock of Love and dump the rest.

–I’m looking forward to Cactus League games actually beginning. Trips to Tucson on Las Vegas on the horizon in the next week.

More later. It’s 85 in Glendale today, by the way.

 

Exploring Glendale

Thought I would share with you my Monday adventures with Danielle and Stacy from the White Sox community relations department in an area of Glendale called Westgate. Think of a glitzy, sort of in-your-face type of shopping complex like you would find in Las Vegas, only without gambling and the Kardashian sisters. At least, they weren’t at our restaurant, and trust me, I always look.

As for the restaurant we visited, the food was not really good enough for me to recommend the place–although it was just one visit. There was one sort of interesting service moment, when I ordered my entree and then asked the waitress about also getting a side dinner salad. Little did I know, salad came with the entree so she actually brought two for me.

Clearly, it was my mistake, but when I told her I wouldn’t have ordered another salad if I knew one came with the meal, she looked at me, smiled and said, “Awww.” As they say in the game of baseball, she clearly owned me. But she also took the salad off the bill.

We followd up dinner by visiting an establishment called Saddle Ranch Chop House, where I watched a White Sox staffer ride a mechanical bull. My goal is to tackle the same challenge before I leave Arizona, although my two brothers are taking bets as to what I injure if I actually go through with it.

If you make the trip here for Spring Training, and I encourage everyone to do so to see Camelback Ranch, if nothing else, Westgate seems to be a nice evening venture after baseball. Just be careful of the parking crunch if the Coyotes are playing, since the stadium is bascially attached to the complex.

I also would liked to extend a belated Happy Birthday wish to my friend, Katie, and my Facebook friend, Denise Richards.

 

 

 

 

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