Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

February 2009 Archives

Ozzie vs. Lilly II

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MESA, Ariz. - Ozzie Guillen doesn't need a talk with Ted Lilly.
As a matter of fact, the White Sox manager wasn't looking for an apology, a chat or even an acknowledging glance from the Cubs' left-handed pitcher.
But a "little thank you'' on Saturday morning, that would have been nice.
"He should say at least a little, 'Thank you Ozzie,' '' Guillen said, when asked about Lilly's Friday "Sure, I wouldn't mind [seeing Ozzie]'' comments to reporters.
When asked why a thank you, it was classic Guillen.
"Because of what I was doing when guys were making $60,000 and $70,000 a year and now they're making $10 million,'' Guillen said. "Back when meal money was [bleepin] $10 a day and now it's $80.''
It was early in camp when Guillen spoke out about the steroid policy and stated that players that get caught now should be suspended for the season rather than 50 games for a first offense.
In an interview with the Sun-Times a day later, Lilly - the Cubs' players union representative - said, "Well, whatever Ozzie says, that should be what we should do.''
A comment that Guillen felt had more than a drip of sarcasm to it.
The two teams play four more times this spring, so a sit-down could still be in the cards. Just not on Saturday.
And if Lilly was hoping Guillen would soften his stance on the policy, well, not a chance.
"No, no, I no need to talk to him, why?'' Guillen said. "I've got my opinion, he's got his. I respect his opinion, I hope he respects mine. There's one thing about it, when you're a manager or when you're a coach, baseball players think you're a piece of [crap]. They forgot we played. We spent a lot of time, spent a lot of money in the Players Association.''
Guillen was asked if it was further evidence that people dismiss what he says more often because of the "Ozzie's crazy'' reputation that has been circulating around the last few years, and said, " 'Ozzie's crazy,' but some people don't like the truth. Some people can't handle the truth. The only thing I said is, 'Well, if we want to get this thing done and show people we really care about this, we have to be more drastic.'
"I'm not the only one to say that. Cal Ripken said that, Tony Gwynn said that, 'Big Papi' said that, all of a sudden they can talk and I can't? ... If people don't like my answers, don't read it, don't listen to it.''
Guillen pointed out that he again addressed his players on the steroid topic the first day the full squad was in camp, and made sure they understood the organization's stance was on the issue.
He also brought up the fact that he made a promo for Latin American people, and talks to the Spanish-speaking players throughout the Sox system to make sure they all understood the severity of performance enhancements.
"You cannot trust your agent or people behind you,'' Guillen said. "If anyone in the White Sox organization got caught it's because they want to, the information was there. They want to. The Latinos, they got the information from me, face to face. 70-80 kids, talk about that every day.''
It was pointed out to Guillen that it has seemingly been a lot of the Latin American players that have been the ones caught since the policy started, and in classic Guillen fashion replied, "BALCO isn't in Caracas.''

Here is more from the Guillen on the steroid issue:

"I never criticized anybody for having their own opinion. You have your own opinion, I respect that. The other day, a guy is going to talk about me, and about how Joe Crede is going to enjoy playing with [Twins manager Ron] Gardenhire more than he enjoyed playing for me, I respect that. But in the meanwhile, that guy didn't read the day before how much I love Joe Crede, and how much respect I have for Joe Crede. I said, 'Hey, I respect that guy's opinion, but they no respect mine.' Barry Larkin said it [on the MLB Network]. I was like, 'Wow, I love this guy [Crede].' I know how hard, and how hurt, he was hurt when he played for me. Larkin said, '[Crede's] going to have a better time with Gardenhire.' I hope he does. This game is about having fun and being happy. I hope he goes out there and he's happy.''

"I got kids. One of my kids went to college. Thank God. They don't have an opportunity and weren't on the same level playing. I got one kid who might be a professional baseball player. And I know he's not going to take anything. But I want whoever he's playing against will be on the same level. That's easy and that's why I think some baseball players should feel betrayed by their mates. I don't blame those guys to think about that.''

Colon and Contreras scheduled to pitch

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TUCSON, Ariz. - While there has been speculation - and a whole lot of hope - to have the two injured pitchers up and running by the middle of camp and ready for Opening Day, there is now a set plan for both Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras.
"I'm very, very, very pleasantly surprised,'' pitching coach Don Cooper said. "Now I would have bet that [Contreras] would have been ahead of schedule, but I would not have bet that he would have been ready. Who the hell has heard of anyone being back from a blown Achilles in seven months? I know how hard he works, so I knew he would be ahead, but he's well ahead.
"And from the reports I was getting on Colon early from when we first acquired him, the first day I saw him do his throwing program I thought he was throwing the ball OK, throwing the ball better than what I thought he would be. He's right along with [Contreras], and they seem to be on the same path, the same speed.''
The two will finish off their throwing programs Friday morning at the facility in Glendale, take two days off, and then take the mound to throw sideline sessions on Monday.
"Just fastballs, changeups, to build some arm strength,'' Cooper said.
If there are no setbacks, then they will throw sidelines on March 4 and again on the seventh. Cooper will then give them March 8 off, and bring them back the following day to face their first live hitting in a batting practice session.
"It's the same stuff we were doing with the guys that were here before and healthy, and ready to go,'' Cooper said of the process.
But then again, a lot of those other "guys'' don't have the resume of Colon and Contreras.
"We're looking to leave [camp] with the guys that we feel can win ballgames, and they have a track record, they have an edge,'' Cooper said. "Hell, one is a Cy Young winner [Colon] and the other is a World Series and playoff hero [Contreras]. If they're throwing well they're going to be in there [for Opening Day]. If not, we have some other guys to turn to.''
Contreras has been recovering from a ruptured left Achilles suffered last August, and had an original expected return date of a year. Colon had bone chips removed from his elbow this offseason, with the club holding out hope to have him up and running by mid-camp.

Anderson is a lock

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Good news for Brian Anderson. Even if he doesn't win the starting job in center field, it sounds like he's at least locked in to being the fourth outfielder when the team breaks camp and leaves Phoenix for the South Side.
"He's my man, yes,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said on Tuesday of Anderson at least being the fourth outfielder. "I hope he can be a starting center fielder. I don't know how we're going to do it, if it's going to be a platoon situation. But I think Brian grew up a little bit as a man and as a baseball player, a lot better. And the job he did for us last year was outstanding. He took his role very well.''

Beckham ... meet Harold

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Gordon Beckham will never forget who Harold Baines is now, that's for sure.
The entire organization was in attendance for Monday morning's on-field meeting, one Beckham - the team's first-round selection from last season - will always remember.
After addressing the team about the schedule over the next few days, bench coach Joey Cora then said, "We're going to play a game, 'Who am I?' Maybe a couple of you guys will know exactly who this person is?''
Cora then started reading off stats about games played, hits, extra-base hits, at the end of each one all but screaming "ALL TIME!'' to emphasize how important these numbers were. Cora then pointed out that for those that haven't been to U.S. Cellular Field there is also a statue in right field of this player in outfield walkway.
Cora then held up a black and white photo of Baines and said, "I wonder who it is, let's take a crack at it.''
Beckham immediately spoke up, knowing whom the presentation was directed at.
"Harold Baines, he's [Jerry] Reinsdorf's favorite player,'' Beckham said, as his teammates and coaches started sarcastically applauding.
It was on Sunday, when Beckham dug himself into the hole, having a conversation with catcher A.J. Pierzynski. A conversation he was compelled to explain to the entire organization after Cora's "presentation,'' and after Baines mockingly shook Beckham's hand to introduce himself, and then signed a picture for Beckham.
"A.J. asked why I was No. 80. And I said, 'I don't know. What number do you think they should have given me?' AJ goes, 'I thought they were going to un-retire Harold's number for you.' And I said, 'Who's Harold?' Obviously with him walking around here, I knew who Harold Baines was.''
"Or did you?'' Pierzynski then shouted from the gathering.
Beckham's response?
"Now I know.''

'Who is Harold Baines?'

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Gordon Beckham is about to get a rookie wake-up call this morning.
During Sunday's practice, Beckham was part of a conversation in which Harold Baines' name was brought up.
The first-round pick of the White Sox last June then asked, "Who is Harold Baines?''
He will find out this morning, with manager Ozzie Guillen scheduled to stop practice and explain to Beckham who Baines is in front of the whole team, as well as present him with a trophy that has a picture of Baines and all of his accomplishments.

More Ozzie on Crede

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Ozzie Guillen wanted to make a correction.
The White Sox manager was adamant in pointing out that in letting Joe Crede walk into free agency after the 2008 season, and now into the open arms of their rivals from the Twin Cities, it wasn't done because the South Siders were going younger.
"We no go younger at third base,'' Guillen insisted Sunday. "We offer Joe Crede a three-year deal, a four-year deal, a couple of years ago. This would be the second or third year in his contract if he signed with us. We didn't go younger, we went good.
"I think when you are younger, then we have [catcher Tyler] Flowers catching, [Paul] Konerko DH-ing, the Cuban kid [Dayan Viciedo] playing third base. We no going young. We are putting the team there that's best for the ballclub.''
Guillen was referring to the club offering Crede a contract extension in July of 2007, after he had major back surgery. An offer that Crede said never really happened, and was debated about last spring.
Either way, Guillen wished Crede good luck, except when he plays his former team.
"If Joe Crede was healthy last year for us, that makes a lot of difference,'' Guillen said. "I love that man. I love him.
"It's too bad he couldn't play for us the last couple of years.''

Oh no, it's Crede

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Guess which team in the Central Division just got better?
But there's a big "if'' that goes along with the Joe Crede to the Minnesota Twins signing, specifically, it's a great deal "if'' his chronic back problems don't creep back up.
Sure, the newer Metrodome turf is a bit more forgiving than the painted green cement they used to have there a few years ago, but it's still not ideal for a player that has been walking around like Fred Sanford the past two-plus seasons.
"I'm not a doctor, but I know when I was there [with the Twins], I know we had a different turf, but we had guys all the time that had healthy backs who were complaining about the field,'' catcher A.J. Pierzynski said on Saturday. "Joe says he's healthy, so we'll see.''
But the Twins do have a plan.
When I first discussed the rumors of Crede to the Twins back in late December on The Score 670, the talk in the Twin Cities was he would play third more often on the road, while at home he would see some time in the DH spot.
So it can be done.
The other reason the Sox should be a bit nervous about Minnesota trying to be the team to beat in the division with their latest acquisition? Their already stellar defense just got better.
"One of the greatest third baseman off all time, if you ask me,'' Sox starter Mark Buehrle said of Crede. "What he did, like I said before, when he wasn't over there, there were balls he got to that you expect to be caught, and you turn around and they weren't caught.''
Not all the numbers fall in Minnesota's favor, however. Crede never really played well in the Metrodome, and the .219 career average with five homers in 169 at-bats shows that.
The Sox better hope that continues. The last thing they need is another "Piranha'' swimming around.

Spring Camp - Day 6

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Manager Ozzie Guillen has no idea when injured pitchers Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras will be cleared to take the mound, but the White Sox manager does know it will be this spring.
If all goes well, he even offered up a warning for the rest of the American League Central Division.
"I'm going to predict this - if we have Contreras and Colon, watch out,'' Guillen said on Friday. "It's going to be a pretty good club. We're good without them, but I think we're going to be better. We got three veterans with the two kids. I think the pitching staff is going to be stronger.''
Contreras' recovery from a ruptured left Achilles tendon last August has been the talk of camp so far. Not only because he showed up 30 pounds lighter, but three months ahead of schedule. As it stands now, Contreras has gone from a pitcher expected to help come July, to a guy that can now challenge for a spot in the rotation out of camp.
"If you give Contreras the ball to be on the mound right now, he'll start the game,'' Guillen said. "That's how good he feels.
"Contreras, we have a plan for him. He will start in spring training. I don't know what exactly which day he will start, he will start and we'll see how we can handle him.''
As far as Colon and his recovery from bone chips being removed from his elbow, "He said 'I'll be there for you, sooner than people think,' '' Guillen added.

DYE JOB

Guillen on Jermaine Dye being traded: "He's going to hear the truth from me and Kenny [Williams] about trades. Kenny already told him, 'We're not trading you.' You never know how we're going to handle this year. I guarantee if we're in the pennant race, we're not going to trade anybody. If we're not, then that's when Kenny makes the decision what to do with the ballclub."

Spring camp - Day 4

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - With the Sun-Times reporting on Wednesday morning that Paul Lo Duca is no longer an option as a White Sox backup catcher, it's A.J. Pierzynski or bust this season.
If Pierzynski - who has proven to be the ultimate iron man for a catcher since arriving on the South Side in 2005 - does get hurt, however, manager Ozzie Guillen said there is a plan. It might not be a good one, but there is a plan.
"I think Mr. Flowers will be our catcher ... right now, right now,'' Guillen said, referring to highly-regarded prospect Tyler Flowers. "We've been lucky with A.J. over the years.
"I appreciate what he does, I appreciate this kid goes out there every day without complaining. He goes out there and does his job without crying about it. The one thing about A.J. - people can what they want about A.J., I can say what I want about A.J., but the one thing about it is he goes about his business the right way and I appreciate that.
"Me and A.J., we have problems every other week, but that's the same way he has problems with his wife, his mom, his kids, he has problems with everybody, but one thing about A.J. is he shows up to the ballpark to play everyday and to win. He doesn't show up just to show up, but to win. As a coach you appreciate that effort he always puts out.''

The other surgery

Not only did Josh Fields have knee surgery in the fall, but told reporters that he also had LASIK surgery to improve his vision.


Viciedo is in camp

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - As Ozzie Guillen called him this week, "The Cuban Pimp'' has checked into camp.
Walking side-by-side with shortstop - and fellow Cuban - Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo arrived into spring camp Wednesday morning.
He shook hands with teammates and the media and will have his first press conference on Thursday.
Any concerns of his weight were quickly put to rest, as the 19-year-old looked close to the 240 pounds he is listed at in the media guide, rather than the 260-270 people were claiming he ballooned up to this winter.
Now the real question is can the baby-faced Viciedo play?
He's already got a major-league ride, that's for sure.

A.J. vs. Buehrle ... sort of

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The best exchange between a pitcher and catcher in Tuesday's bullpen sessions? Leave it to A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Buehrle to capture that honor.
While Buehrle - never one to scare a radar gun - was throwing to Pierzynski, the catcher yelled to the southpaw, "I'm trying to break in a new glove,'' referring to the mid-80s fastball coming from Buehrle.
Buehrle's response?
"Well then you better catch someone else.''

Early reviews

The one pitcher that looks like doo-doo so far, at least according to his manager? Octavio Dotel.
But the right-handed reliever has an excuse. The plan for him was to come in and work on a changeup under the watchful eye of pitching coach Don Cooper.
It's obviously a work in progress from the early reviews.

Lights out

Ozzie Guillen commented on Monday that both John Danks and Gavin Floyd came into camp throwing like it was June already, and Floyd once again raised some eyebrows on Tuesday.
With GM Ken Williams watching his bullpen session, Floyd once again impressed. Enough so that Williams said to him after, "Damn, slow down. It's Feb. 17, not March 31.''
As it stands right now with the Big Three, Buehrle will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Floyd and then Danks.

Day 3 - Morning News

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The invitation is still out there, but as of Tuesday morning, no word from the most powerful White Sox fan in the free world.
With President Obama making a visit to the Valley on Wednesday, the Sox e-mailed an invitation to his people to see if he would like to visit the new facility at Camelback Ranch. They had still not received any confirmation, but considering the place is still under construction and a work in progress, it would seem that security would be a big problem for the 44th President.

Other notes from the morning

--Position players aren't required to be in until Thursday, but they keep filing in earlier than expected. Brent Lillibridge, Jayson Nix, Jim Thome, Jerry Owens and Brian Anderson have all been in camp the last few days, getting some batting practice in, as well as Josh Fields, Jermaine Dye, and the list goes on.

Spring camp - Day 2

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The invitation is out there and now the White Sox are waiting for a reply.
President Obama will be in the Phoenix area this week, and has been given an invitation by his favorite organization to visit the team in Glendale and get a glimpse of the new state of the art facility that is Camelback Ranch.
As of Monday afternoon, the Sox have still not heard back.

Anger management

After fracturing his hand by hitting himself with his bat out of frustration last season, Carlos Quentin said it might be time to find a new way to vent.
"It's a legitimate question,'' Quentin said on Monday. "I've thought about it. That is something that I have reflected upon. I feel like I am a realistic person and I know there is going to be a time in a game in the future where I will be upset, frustrated. I don't want to feel like I can't express myself, but at the same time, do it the right way. So I'm still brainstorming. I'll take any ideas you guys [the media] have, and I'm hearing ideas from my teammates. Something that would keep me away from any injury.''

Old man river

Pitcher Jose Contreras is doing light running and playing long toss, as he continued to surprise the club with how far ahead of schedule he is after suffering a ruptured Achilles last season.
Manager Ozzie Guillen said, "as soon as [Contreras] tells me he is ready to go on the mound he will be there.''

Quote of the day

"Colon was like 360 pounds when he won the Cy Young. He's not a model. When you're a model you have to look good. He's not a jockey. Colon is always going to be like that.'' - Manager Ozzie Guillen on chubby hurler Bartolo Colon.

Spring Camp - Day 1

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The only thing missing Sunday was White Sox general manager Ken Williams pounding a piece of firewood on the ground, chanting "It just doesn't matter ... it just doesn't matter ... ''
Who could blame him?
Across the lake from the Sox facility, wearing all their glorious white and blue, were the Dodgers. Joe Torre, a throng of media waiting for the Manny Ramirez signing, Camp Mohawk in every way.
On the other side of the lake?
The Sox. Camp North Star.
The defending Central Division champs that are again being disrespected by the prognosticators as nothing more than a fourth-place team in many cases.
"Have we ever not been?'' catcher A.J. Pierzynski remarked, when asked about the so-called experts predicting their downfall. "The one year, in 2006, after we won the World Series [we were favorites]. We are always picked to finish last - that's the way it is. We understand that.
"We have to go out and play the best we can and try to do everything we can. If it works, it works. If not, then we will still give it everything we have and try to make this as fun of a season for everyone as we can. We know one thing about the White Sox--we are going to go out and give it everything we have and play as hard as we can.''

Other observations from Day 1

--Not only is Jose Contreras 30 pounds lighter, but looks to be 10 years younger - making him now appear to be 40. The right-hander wasn't expected back from his ruptured Achilles tendon until July or August, but now has May or June on his radar.

--Mark Buehrle will once again be on a lighter work schedule, getting starts off this spring so that the veteran can be ready for the regular season. The club did this with Buehrle last year, and it paid off. He and his wife are expecting the birth of their daughter within the next three weeks, so the left-hander will be getting some time off anyway.

--Pierzynski is still awaiting word on if he will be playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

--Carlos Quentin, Josh Fields, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome were all in camp five days early to check out the facility and get some batting practice in.

--Quote of the day - "I think they got him so I wouldn't' be the fattest pitcher on the staff." - Buehrle on the Bartolo Colon signing.

Spring Camp - Day 1

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The only thing missing Sunday was White Sox general manager Ken Williams pounding a piece of firewood on the ground, chanting "It just doesn't matter ... it just doesn't matter ... ''
Who could blame him?
Across the lake from the Sox facility, wearing all their glorious white and blue, were the Dodgers. Joe Torre, a throng of media waiting for the Manny Ramirez signing, Camp Mohawk in every way.
On the other side of the lake?
The Sox. Camp North Star.
The defending Central Division champs that are again being disrespected by the prognosticators as nothing more than a fourth-place team in many cases.
"Have we ever not been?'' catcher A.J. Pierzynski remarked, when asked about the so-called experts predicting their downfall. "The one year, in 2006, after we won the World Series [we were favorites]. We are always picked to finish last - that's the way it is. We understand that.
"We have to go out and play the best we can and try to do everything we can. If it works, it works. If not, then we will still give it everything we have and try to make this as fun of a season for everyone as we can. We know one thing about the White Sox--we are going to go out and give it everything we have and play as hard as we can.''

Other observations from Day 1

--Not only is Jose Contreras 30 pounds lighter, but looks to be 10 years younger - making him now appear to be 40. The right-hander wasn't expected back from his ruptured Achilles tendon until July or August, but now has May or June on his radar.

--Mark Buehrle will once again be on a lighter work schedule, getting starts off this spring so that the veteran can be ready for the regular season. The club did this with Buehrle last year, and it paid off. He and his wife are expecting the birth of their daughter within the next three weeks, so the left-hander will be getting some time off anyway.

--Pierzynski is still awaiting word on if he will be playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

--Carlos Quentin, Josh Fields, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome were all in camp five days early to check out the facility and get some batting practice in.

--Quote of the day - "I think they got him so I wouldn't' be the fattest pitcher on the staff." - Buehrle on the Bartolo Colon signing.

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