White Sox eager to prove themselves on field
Reshaped roster gets chance to show 2014 may hold a surprise
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Lindstrom has made a special request with White Sox Cactus League action beginning at 2:05 p.m. CT (live via an exclusive whitesox.com video webcast, MLB.TV and Gameday Audio) on Friday against the Dodgers.
"Everyone uses the word 'retool.' I don't like that word," said the White Sox closer candidate, who is scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers, in regard to the present characterization of his team. "I like the words 'getting younger.'"
Those "getting younger" White Sox will be on full display at Camelback Ranch in what will be a road game for a facility shared by the two teams. Adam Eaton and his potential Aaron Rowand-like qualities will be situated in center field and at the top of the batting order, and look for Avisail Garcia in right field and hitting third.
Actually, it's fairly difficult to overlook Garcia's 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame and a player who possesses the high-end power and speed of a five-tool talent. Jose Abreu will be at first base, batting cleanup in the middle of the White Sox lineup.
Abreu, the 27-year-old free agent from Cuba who agreed to a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox around Halloween, unofficially began his career Tuesday with an infield hit during an intrasquad game. Even in Cactus League contests, where statistics really don't matter, fans and media alike will be studying Abreu's every move at the plate and in the field.
He sits at the center of this White Sox reshaping process. But the mature rookie, who has been credited early for his intense work ethic and professional plan at the plate, has simple goals when it comes to Arizona baseball.
"I'm just going to watch a lot of live pitching and look to get ready for the season," said Abreu through translator and White Sox coach Lino Diaz. "That's what I'm doing here in Spring Training. Take it at-bat to at-bat."
Matt Davidson, another offseason acquisition made by general manager Rick Hahn, ranks as the club's third baseman of the future. Whether that future begins on March 28 or some time later in April or May remains to be seen and could be influenced by the next month, with Davidson getting the call Friday and batting seventh.
Hahn and manager Robin Ventura have discussed Davidson's viable shot to win the starting job, even with the current roster situation on the infield.
Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham remain set at shortstop and second base, respectively. Conor Gillaspie, a left-handed hitter with an easy swing, is out of options, and Jeff Keppinger, whose shoulder soreness during rehab from September surgery has limited him throwing defensively, still has two years and $8.5 million left on his contract.
Third base becomes one spot to watch in regard to Spring Training position battles, as does whether the White Sox have room for a valuable utility infielder such as Marcus Semien or Leury Garcia. Of course, Paul Konerko has another first/last coming: his first Cactus League game of his 16th and final season with the White Sox, starting at designated hitter against Hyun-jin Ryu and batting sixth.
While there have been only limited opportunities for Konerko to work with these young charges, he already senses hunger in this group.
"That's what it should be. We have a lot of guys who are right there trying to establish themselves and set up the rest of their career and life basically," Konerko said. "I sense that hungriness of these guys wanting to be really good. They don't want to just hang around and just hold a job down. They want to be All-Stars. They want to make a lot of money.
"Those should be the goals. You do it the right way, it might not be in the forefront of those thoughts, but if you're not thinking those things, I think you should be. This is where you make your hay. You have your body, you're 24, 25, 23, whatever it is, given a chance to play every day. That's the way I was thinking."
The honor of starting the Cactus League opener goes to staff ace Chris Sale, who almost certainly will get his second straight Opening Day start on March 31 at home against the Twins. Friday's game will feature a couple of innings for the lanky left-hander, with the possibility of working into the third.
John Danks takes the mound Saturday against the Indians, weather permitting, but he's as interested as everyone else to see the team behind him in action. There seems to be a buzz around this '14 version of the White Sox, even though they aren't mentioned when American League Central favorites are discussed.
Danks, though, has a theory about this '14 team.
"Obviously, we know what's being said about us, but in my time here [since '07], the years we are not expected to be very good, we usually are a surprise. Unfortunately, vice versa," Danks said. "I'm excited about it. I think we have a good chance to surprise a lot of people. I'm expecting a big year, an exciting year, and looking forward to it."
Ultimately, it's a year of reshaping, retooling. Or by Lindstrom's request, it's about getting younger.
"Being one of those guys who feels like I'm just starting to learn more about Major League Baseball and this is my eighth year, I can't imagine how some of these other guys feel," Lindstrom said. "They want to make a name for themselves. I think we are in a good spot. We are going to see how our preparation translates on to the field."
"Hopefully, we stick together for a while, too," Sale said. "They seem like great guys, hard workers and talented ballplayers. Hopefully, we can ride this thing out for a few years and do some special things."