Johnson debuts, Dunn repeats himself, White Sox notes


February 19, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher

Erik Johnson

(70) poses for a picture during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Erik Johnson makes his major league debut Wednesday evening and while it’s not exactly the most important White Sox game of the year, it sets off a series of starts that have the potential to portend actual good things for the White Sox future for a change. In a season where the organization’s ability to field a lineup, develop hitters, or teach guys to run the bases in the right direction have all become bigger questions marks than usual, it puts all the more pressure on their pitching pipeline to remain reliable.

If Johnson can grab three or four starts and grapple with the MLB learning curve half as well he adjusted to Triple-A (he walked five in his first start but still only allowed a run over six innings, then cruised from there) it all but cinches up the White Sox rotation plans for next season. Not that the Sox were expected to be big players in it, but the free agent starter market is something to be avoided whenever possible. Especially considering how much work is needed elsewhere.

Also, turning Johnson into a mid-rotation starter–and Marcus Semien–could do a lot to provide some validation of the 2011 draft that Keenyn Walker is unlikely to bring on his own.

Adam Dunn repeats himself

By speaking to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Adam Dunn got to see the speed at which an idiosyncratic quote can fire across the national baseball audience when placed in the right hands.

"“I’m not coming back just to come back for money or because I have one year left (on his contract),” Dunn told FOX Sports on Tuesday. “I’m not coming back to chase home-run numbers or whatever. If I end up with 499 and I’m not having fun, see ya – 499 it is.”"

Notice Dunn never said that the condition for his retirement–him not having fun–had been fulfilled. He just laid out the parameters, just as he laid them out two years ago.

"“If I’m not having fun anymore, I’ll go home,” Dunn told Yahoo! Sports. “Flat out. I’ll go home. I mean that. Swear to goodness. I’ll. Go. Home. I enjoy playing. Even though I suck. Or have been sucking. I enjoy playing the game. Love it. But as soon as I lose that, I’m gone, dude. It’s true.”"

By the time post-game was rolling around Tuesday, Dunn was spending his time convincing the beats that he hadn’t been hiding a scoop from them, but the language he used for his denial was pretty similar again after the first line.

"“No,” Dunn said. “As of right now it’s a no. I think we went down this road before: the day that I quit having fun and quit enjoying making a struggle to come to the ballpark or not enjoying the competition out there is the day I will go home, whether it be tomorrow, whether it be 10 years from now. I’m still enjoying the competition. It’s just tough losing when you have such high expectations.”"

Dunn went on to say that he has no interest in sitting through a rebuild, but there’s no risk in swinging his weight around on that issue when the writing on the walls of 35th & Shields is so clear. The White Sox don’t feel like they absolutely have to sacrifice appearances on the major league level for the sake of rebuilding their infrastructure, so they won’t.

Konerko Watch

Hopefully Dunn is at least a somewhat unreliable assessor of player’s readiness to retire, since he recently proclaimed that there was no chance that Paul Konerko would retire at the end of the season. It’s going to be heartbreaking to see Konerko leave the franchise, but it would be better to see him part on his own terms than get the Urlacher treatment when the franchise decides they do not want to spend money on a 38 year-old first basemen coming off a .244/.314/.358 season.

Well, worse would be for the Sox to re-sign him, and Konerko bombs away a season that might have had a chance otherwise.

Webb almost debuts

Daniel Webb was warming up in the top of the eighth when the White Sox were still riding a 4-1 lead over the Yankees Tuesday night. However, since the possibility of Sale starting the eighth was never broached and the possibility of Webb entering the game once a scoring threat materialized seemed infinitesimal, perhaps he was never that close to entering the game after all. What’s the middle ground to those two scenarios?  In Webb’s place, Nate Jones made his 17th appearance since the start of August instead.

Ozzie Guillen is back

The old skipper was in town doing the press rounds to promote a charity softball game in Schaumburg he’s taking part in. All day long, Ozzie was making the rounds, giving the press A+ quotes, saying that everything White Sox-related was fine while his team lost horribly far away from the scope of his attention. It was 2011 all over again.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan