Spring Training play creaks to an acceptable start


Concern about the White Sox poor play in Spring Training extends no farther than the actual moment of watching them get kicked around in February and March. It has the emotional resonance of a stiff breeze.

With that said, it was nice to see the White Sox open their spring training schedule on Saturday by mercilessly pummeling the high-priced Dodgers. Look no farther than the list of pitchers the Sox used on Sunday–which has a small chance of not having a single 2013 major league contributor on it–for the nearest reminder of the integrity of spring competition. But it’s better to dissuade irrational exuberance than ease panic. The White Sox are undefeated, and are going all the damn way. Tell this to everyone you know up until they lose their first spring training game. It will be worth it.

No major steps on John Danks‘ rehab take place until next month, so Matt Thornton‘s inflamed elbow is the one source of hard news coming out of Glendale, and from Scott Merkin, it certainly sounds like this story stream is running dry.

"Matt Thornton threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Sunday morning at Camelback Ranch and reported absolutely no discomfort.“Not at all. Felt great,” said Thornton, who mixed in all of his pitches. “Aside from being numb from the cold and wind, it’s fine.”"

Welp, (brushes off hands), that’s the end of that chapter.

"The veteran left-hander played down the soreness, even joking that it must be a slow news run in White Sox camp to place so much focus on what he didn’t even consider a minor setback."

Pretty much, Matt. Pretty much.

It’s hard to believe that there’s another line of stories about Gordon Beckham‘s batting stance coming around, and yet, here they come rolling down the road. Of course, Beckhams’s a starter on the team, and persistently working on his hitting (because it’s never to the point of not needing work), and it makes sense that it’s getting reported. But the uncanny resemblance to previous versions of the story have to be wearing on Beckham himself.

The crux of the piece is that Beckham is moving forward with the crouched stance that he showed at the end of 2012, which achieved mildy improved results, but it’s amazing to hear that after all of the work that’s been put into tweaking Gordon’s swing over the years, hitting coach Jeff Manto still termed the staff’s approach as a major overhaul:

"“It was an unusual situation where when we looked at him and thought, ‘Where would we start first?’ The unusual part is collectively, we said we would change his top hand,” said White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto of Beckham. “That’s unheard of. He has such a strong grip, and like an overgrip, I guess. I don’t know what you would call it on his top hand. I’ve never seen anything like this.”"

Beckham hit .250/.355/.438 in September, with a dead-even strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his typically awful batting average on balls in play (.246).

As the weekend’s work of blogging and beat-writing has revealed, the benefits of having Adam Dunn bat fifth in the order are three-fold

  1. He’s not as good as the hitters in front of him in the order (the intuitive reason)
  2. His lack of double plays and reliance on home runs make him a poor hitter to run in front of, and the Sox won’t be running with Paul Konerko (that comes courtesy of Larry from South Side Sox’ research)
  3. Dunn actually hates it when men on base run in his eye line, to the point where it scatters his thoughts too much for him to swing (that comes courtesy of Van Schouwen)

If the only things we can actually trust to carry over from Spring Training are injuries, the only manner of checking in with AL playoff competition is from macabre observations of their health, and assessing whether or not it improves the Sox chances. The practice feels icky, but since the Sox are all about touting their superior health as a path toward a playoff birth, that plan includes the more talented teams above them being hampered by aches and pains as well.

To that end, Curtis Granderson breaking his forearm leaves the Yankees without their starting center fielder for 10 weeks is a significant event. He was no miracle worker last season, but he’s hit 108 home runs in three seasons in New York. It’s not a positive development for the Yankees.

For the Tigers, Ramon Santiago‘s calf strain just opens up the competition among their light-hitting middle infield reserves, and Andy Dirks‘ strain of his intercostal muscle (in his chest) is very mild, but does re-open concerns about his ability to stay healthy and hold down the left fielder role after he only played 88 games last season. However, Victor Martinez is back, excited and has already homered in Spring Training. Perhaps this picture of Miguel Cabrera booting a grounder is the most cheerful thing that can be shown about the Tigers.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan