The front office positivism train is rolling into the station in time for SoxFest this weekend.
Now that Matt Lindstrom has been signed–the terms have not been released but I tend to trust rumors that have been plastered up on the team’s official website–the White Sox finally have the complete bullpen (provided Addison Reed steps up) necessary for them to tout their pitching staff as a strength…a strength worthy of leveraging a playoff campaign on.
Speaking of leveraging things on arms–boy, that sound exhausting…maybe those arms could use a break. In light of that, Robin Ventura has already announced intentions to hold John Danks–he of the shoulder troubles that could still yet spell the end of his time as an effective starter–and Chris Sale–he of the wonky mechanics, tender elbows, late-season velocity loss–out of the early games of a Spring Training schedule bloated by he World Baseball Classic.
It’s all in the name of proper prudence, but given the recent troubles of the pitchers Ventura is protecting, it raises questions how close to full-strength each starter is. Language about Danks being prepared for Opening Day has become steadily less certain in spite of his remaining on schedule, and Hector Santiago is behaving like someone who knows there are starts to be had. He dropped out of the World Baseball Classic despite having a start guaranteed to come his way if he stayed on with the Puerto Rican team.
“It’s just bad timing. Right now, with [John] Danks, I can be a rover: starter or spot guy. I don’t want to risk it, go over there and have some doubt that I’m … . I’m all for the White Sox. They mean everything.”
Between that quote, the screencap in the whitesox.com article about his dropout being an image of a bummed-out Roy Oswalt, and his heartrending outreach efforts in Connecticut that garnered a long profile from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and this video, Santiago is putting on the full-court press toward earning affection. The post-strikeout mound-circling and the scooping phone numbers from the bullpen was enough for me, but this definitely helps.
Having good pitchers, and pitchers who are really good people is one thing, but concerns about the White Sox season and its chances are rooted in an aging and troubled offensive core. Between the stopgap nature of the Jeff Keppinger signing, and the off-season tease of a “left-handed bat” that never came to fruition, a fixing upgrade to an offense that stalled out and killed the season in September hasn’t made its way forth.
Appearing on CSN Hot Stove on Tuesday, GM Rick Hahn again offered the notion that offensive help might be coming with the line “we’re not done.” Since, the Lindstrom signing is apparently being held till SoxFest for an official announcement, Hahn could be referring to that and not be a liar, just a buzzkill. Instead, he made a point to refer opaquely to trades that he had been cultivating, to offer the reminder that it’s being considered.
Robin Ventura seems to be preparing to enter the season as is, and discussed the possibility of switching last year’s #3 and #5 hitters–Adam Dunn and Alex Rios respectively–in the order so as to space out his two left-handed bats from one another. The move has balanced enough pros and cons–Dunn provides a service in seeing a lot of pitches, but also had the same OBP as Rios last season and more lingering problems in his production–that the simple desire to avoid giving easy innings to LOOGYs makes sense. They both need to produce like #3 hitters to prop up the offense anyway.
The speculative talk from the front office about the team’s chances can seem like an uninspired response to the double-barreled assault Detroit is launching at their own competitive window, but Opening Day doesn’t function as a deadline for a team as active and successful in the mid-season trade market as the White Sox. If it all comes down to pitching, as Kenny Williams reminded, then that unit of the team proving itself capable of a playoff run in the early months will be what finally provides the impetus for reinforcements elsewhere.
Per Pale Hose Perspective monitoring a conference call with Robin Ventura:
-Hector Santiago is still behind Jose Quintana for the 5th starter slot for now, despite all the hubbub.
-Josh Phegley has a chance to compete with Hector Giminez for the backup catcher slot. Phegley’s defense is supposedly improved, but not nearly enough to make his presence on a 25-man roster not worrisome
— Gordon Beckham (@gordonbeckham) January 23, 2013
But my favorite was Jake Peavy’s oddly pragmatic advice to the youngsters:
— Jake Peavy (@JakePeavy_44) January 23, 2013
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan