Kenny Williams and the Sox are doing everything in their power to make a deep run into the playoffs in the 2011 season.
They signed Dunn, they resigned Konerko and AJ, they brought in some bullpen depth, they picked up Ozzie’s option, and now they’ve gone and locked up A.Ram for four years.
The only real question mark heading into the season is Peavy’s health, and with the strength that we have in the rotation without him, that is really a question that only impacts who the 5th starter will be. Which is not to say that Peavy would be the 5th in the Sox rotation; but with Buehrle, Danks, Floyd, and E Jax, you’ve got pitchers with the talent necessary to fill the one through four spots in your rotation.
It’s February, baby! Just a few more days until pitchers and catchers report!
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.
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!
Strong performance by Buehrle, in three innings of work, no runs, two hits, four strikeouts, and one walk.
On the other hand, neither Owens or Betemit are able to bat their weight!
Given what we have seen so far, if I am filling out the lineup card, it looks like this:
C – A.J.
1B – Konerko
2B – Beckham
3B – Fields
SS – Ramirez
LF – Quentin
CF – Anderson
RF – Dye
DH – Thome
Beckham may still get sent to Birmingham or Charlotte to ramp up his progress at a slightly more deliberate pace, but as of this moment, that’s how I’d send them out.
An especially strong game for Gavin Floyd and Gordon Beckham in today’s victory over the Dodgers.
Gavin pitched four scoreless innings yielding no hits, two walks, and two strike outs.
Gordon went three for five with three doubles. With none of the other second base candidates grabbing hold of the opportunity, the kid could make the starting roster if he keeps this up.
Johnny Danks starts against the Tribe tomorrow.
Those were the words used by Sox pitching coach, Don Cooper, as he described the progress being made by Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras. According to Coop the next major milestone will come for these two when they pitch their first innings in live action sometime around March 14.
In other news of “hope and optimism” Clay Richard pitched four scoreless innings against the Rangers yesterday.
It is far too early to get too geeked about any of this, but the apparent development of the Sox rotation is extremely good news. Now if we could only find a viable candidate for centerfield!