The Sox beat the Tigers this afternoon with strong outings from Freddy Garcia, J.J. Putz and “gulp” the offensive combination of Juan Pierre, Alexei Ramirez, and Carlos Quentin.
One of the defining features of a not so good team is lack of consistency, and the Sox this year have certainly shown themselves to be inconsistent.
That said, it’s still May, and we are still within ten games of the Twins. If, if, IF we can get some consistent play from Juan, Alexei, and Carlos to match up with the play we have seen so far this year from Rios, Andruw, and Paulie….this could still be a team that wins the division.
We cannot, however, afford to keep digging a deeper hole. CAN NOT!
Recent reports out of Camelback Ranch already have me concerned for the start of the season.
Apparently Coop and Bobby Jenks are experimenting with Jenks pitching from the wind-up, rather than the stretch. It’s not entirely clear, based on the reports from the Tribune and the Sun-Times, whether this experiment is being done to improve Jenks’ rhythm, alleviate a recurring calf problem, or improve his velocity.
Either way, the thought that Jenks may not be “right” heading into the season sends a chill down my spine. This bullpen has been set up with a certain pattern in mind. And when it is working appropriately that pattern concludes with Jenks closing the game. In the past two years, when Jenks has been injured and that pattern has been disturbed, ugly, horrible, nasty, losing has occurred as a result.
Without knowing for certain what Putz is going to add to the pen, I am left to say that we need Jenks at the end of the bullpen to make it successful. The thought that he may not be right, is not a good thing!
Sox.com ran a story on the final relief position tonight. The reasonable expectation is that the following fellas have positions locked down in the pen: Randy Williams, Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton, Scott Linebrink and Tony Pena.
As Merkin points out in the story: the final relief slot needs to have a pitcher who can work in any number of different roles. He might be called on to fill an inning late in a close game if this group of previously mentioned talent has been used frequently in a specific time period.
With regard to the remaining candidates for the 7th spot, Ozzie has said the following about Greg Aquino. “Aquino is very impressive. He throws strikes,” Guillen said. “Every time he’s out there, he does a good job. It’s a situation game. He can be on and see how he handles it very well.”
“He came back [in the ninth] and did the same stuff. He’s got a lot of experience. He throws strikes. Especially when you’re competing for a job, you can get wrapped up and all of a sudden you lose what you have. He takes care of it very well.”
Aquino is a 32 year old right hander who has pitched 145 games in the majors.
Sergio Santos is talented, but extremely green. Dan Hudson is also talented, but also green, and is being groomed to be a starter. It seems to me that the better place for Hudson is in the rotation in Charlotte.
Given all of that, it seems to me that Aquino is your man.
Bobby Jenks has reported to spring training in what is being described as the best shape of his career. A healthy and focused Bobby Jenks sitting in the bullpen is an extraordinarly important part of this team’s success. We have seen in recent years what happens when Bobby fails and the other members of the ‘pen are put in situations that they are not used to (hello, Scott Linebrink!)
Similarly, J.J. Putz has reported to camp with no complaints regarding his surgically (let’s call it) maintenanced throwing arm. If these two are healthy, and Thornton can repeat his performance of recent years this could be a damn fine bullpen to compliment one of the finest rotations in the AL.
There are snowflakes floating through the air in Indianapolis, but the Hitmen are thinking about baseballs.
The boys come together at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. They can’t get started a moment too soon. Real winter weather in the Midwest and financial distress have made this winter insufferable. So let’s play ball.
Quite happily, 4/5 of the rotation and all of the starting field positions appear to be set heading into spring. There only seem to be three significant roster battles:
DH – With the potential Damon signing looming in the background, we appear headed to a “DH by committee” plan which will primarily include Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay. Earlier in his career A. Jones was an absolute stud for the Braves. If he can get his body right and find some of that magic, it would be outstanding for the Sox. That’s what this Sox fan is hoping for!
Fourth Bench Spot – Castro (Flowers needs to go to Charlotte to work on his defensive game), Kotsay, Jones, and Vizquel appear to be locks for bench spots, which leaves the need for another infielder, IMO. As happened last spring, this appears to be a battle between Nix and Lillibridge. Unless Lillibridge shows some real maturity at the plate, which he clearly lacked last year, this seems to be Nix’s job to lose.
Fifth Starter – Garcia and Hudson appear to be the main combatants here. I suspect that Garcia will get the spot because of his experience and his relationship with Ozzie. Frankly, I’d prefer that Hudson return to Charlotte to get a consistent spot in their rotation. Regardless of who fills this spot, I am thrilled not to have to be worried about the health and wellbeing of Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon anymore!
The bullpen will be some combination of Jenks, Putz, Thornton, Linebrink, Randy Williams, Pena, Dolsi, Carlos Torres, and Nunez. I have a hard time getting a good read on this, but there should be enough talent there to carry us into the regular season, and if not, “Coop will fix ’em!”
THIS JUST IN – As I am writing this WSCR in Chicago is reporting that the Sox have withdrawn their offer to Johnny Damon.
Looking forward to getting a great season started. We’ve got one of the three best rotations in the AL, and an overall better defensive team than we did last year. If Ozzie ball can score some runs, there is no reason to think that this team can’t win the division!