Only four days until the Sox hit the field in Glendale, Arizona. Yes, it just so happens that the White Sox are the very last team in the league to officially open their camp this year!
Focus will be on the health of Jake Peavy, the battle for the closer spot, Chris Sale’s contribution to both of those issues, the battle at third between Morel & Teahen, and the battle for the fourth outfielder position.
My predictions are that Peavy will prove himself healthy enough to start the season as the fifth starter. With all of the two day breaks in the April schedule, he can go out and pitch five innings and let the pen carry the rest of the load. That will allow him to avoid too much early stress on his surgically repaired shoulder.
Having Jake in the rotation will allow Sale to start the year as the team’s closer. In admittedly limited work, Sale looked outstanding as the closer last September. Putting Sale at the back of the pen and leaving him there allows all of the pitchers in the pen to know their role. That consistency is critical. The idea of a closer by committee makes me queeezy.
When Jenks was the closer and was healthy it allowed all the other guys in the pen to know exactly what their role was. When Jenks was out or ineffective, it threw everyone’s game into flux, and the performance of the entire pen suffered. To tell Sale the same thing not only gives the kid some clarity in terms of his role, it locks everyone else in as well.
Teahen v. Morel – I hope that Morel proves to all of us that he can hit well enough to start in the majors. His play in the field toward the end of last year proved clearly that he has the glove for the majors. If he can do anything serviceable with his bat he can sit at the bottom of the lineup and give the Sox a vast improvement over Teahen.
Finally, for no other reason than that he has five tool skills, I think Milledge will get the early shot at the fourth outfielder position. If he fails, De Aza will be ready, but the early opportunity will be with Lastings.
The issue that not many folks are talking about is Carlos Quentin. With Konerko back, Rios clearly playing in his prime, and the arrival of Dunn, TCQ will likely hit no higher than 6th in the lineup. I think this could be a very good thing for the kid as the pressure to perform higher in the lineup had clearly stressed him out. Not thinking that he has to carry the team will clearly work to the benefit of the very earnest Mr. Quentin.
The ice is melting in Indianapolis, and the baseballs are being hit in earnest in Florida and Arizona. Baseball is coming, and it’s bringing summer with it.
You can almost smell the churros!