TUCSON, Ariz. – Top 5 observations to come out of the early days of spring training.
5. The Real Deal – It was instantly obvious on the first day of Nick Swisher’s arrival why general manager Ken Williams gave up so much to get him. If a lack of a swagger was truly one of the problems facing the White Sox clubhouse the last few years, problem solved. Swisher hasn’t had one at-bat on the South Side yet, but is already setting the stage to be one of the more popular players on the team. He has the grinder attitude of an Aaron Rowand, the cockiness of an A.J. Pierzynski and then brings his own style by dropping “man’’ in a sentence more than American Idol’s Randy Jackson. You need an example? “My old man played with the Cubs for all those years and told me about Chicago and what a great town it is,’’ Swisher said. “Man, it really is. I’ve had the chance to go there a few times and, I don’t know man, it’s like I’m getting giddy, like a little school kid.’’
4. Good Ol’ Boy – Any concerns that a $56-million contract extension would change Mark Buehrle were quickly put to rest on Wednesday. The lefty starter was his usual trash-talking self in his first session against live hitters, and especially had fun with “Buehrle-Killer’’ Jermaine Dye. Dye, who has owned Buehrle throughout his career, took a swipe at one Buehrle pitch and broke his bat. Buehrle started laughing, and yelled to Dye that he wanted the cracked bat autographed. No word yet on if his request was met.
3. Turn the Page – Pitcher John Danks pitched like, well, a rookie the second half of last season, but is poised to have a breakout year. Why? The southpaw has been working on a cutter similar to Buehrle’s since late last year, and now seems to have it mastered. Case in point: On Wednesday, facing live hitters, Danks squared off with spring roommate Josh Fields. “He keeps telling me about this cutter,’’ Fields said, before the showdown. After the seven-pitch at-bat, Fields seemed impressed. “Wow, I guess he wasn’t kidding,’’ Fields added. “It was nastier than advertised.’’
2. 65* - Outfielder Jerry Owens checked into camp on Tuesday, sounding, and looking, like he was all business. He’s sporting 10 pounds of muscle, as well as a fro that would make Linc from “The Mod Squad’’ jealous. Owens also called his own shot, predicting 65 stolen bases this season if he gets 500-plus at-bats.
1. Reality Check – As far as I’m concerned, few television shows rival MTV’s “Rob & Big,’’ but considering the living arrangements for Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski this spring, there’s a hit reality show in-waiting. “Boo-Zynski’’ just happens to be rooming with all 6-foot-6, 265 pounds of minor league conditioning coordinator Dale Torborg – aka “The Demon’’ from his days as a WCW wrestler. The introduction to the show itself would be priceless, with the theme song from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father’’ playing. Pierzynski then tosses a Frisbee towards his roommate, and “The Demon’’ promptly catches it, takes a bite out of it and throws it on the ground in anger. You hear me Hollywood – do your job!