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

November 2009 Archives

38923.jpgSo much for the youth movement.
For the second time this week, the White Sox added to their bench depth by signing a player that had his best days during the Bush administration ... first term.
On Monday it was 11-time Gold Glove infielder Omar Vizquel and on Wednesday it was 10-time Gold Glove outfielder Andruw Jones. And while that may be a lot of defensive hardware between the two, there's also a lot of dust that collected the past few years.
Jones agreed to a one-year deal that will give him a base salary of $500,000 with an additional $1 million in performance bonuses.
"This is an opportunity to add a power bat to the roster while improving our outfield depth,'' general manager Ken Williams said in a statement. "With the addition of Andruw, Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel, we feel our bench is taking shape to be a strong asset heading into the 2010 season.''
That might be the case. But it also served notice that the youth movement that was pursued last season has been somewhat cast aside, as Brent Lillibridge and Jayson Nix will now be hard-pressed to make the roster.
A back-up catcher will give Guillen four players on his bench, and if he carries 12 pitchers as has been his history, well, Nix and Lillibridge will be big assets to the Class AAA Charlotte team.
As for the 32-year-old Jones, he batted .214 with 17 home runs and 43 RBI in 82 games with Texas last season, and is a career .257 hitter with 388 home runs, 1,174 RBI and 1,109 runs scored in 1,918 games with Atlanta (1996-2007), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2008) and the Rangers (2009).
He also has 356 doubles and 143 stolen bases on the resume.
The signing of Jones still doesn't solve the hole at the leadoff spot, as talks with Scott Podsednik have once again stalled with the two sides still in a staring contest.
The Sox have spoken to representation for Coco Crisp, but a source close to the situation said that Crisp would still be Plan B if things don't change with Podsednik very soon.

Vizquel now an expensive babysitter

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6a00e54f7fc4c58833011279048fa628a4-450wi.jpgThe White Sox announced on Monday that they signed 42-year-old, 11-time Gold Glover Omar Vizquel to a one-year, $1.375-million contract.
So what does it mean?
Well, the Yankees can still sleep well at night.
"I don't want him to be a coach,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said of the signing. "That's the last thing I want. Omar is so professional handling something he had to do for the first time in his life. I think the job he did with the kids in Texas [last season] was outstanding.
"His presence with the team is very important. He's a guy that knows how to play the game, he's a Hall of Famer. The kids can take advantage, especially Gordon [Beckham] and [Alexei] Ramirez. We will try and find him a lot of playing time, especially early in the year because everyone knows Ramirez struggles early either because of the weather or over-training.''
Vizquel gives Guillen a defensive presence off the bench at short, third and even second base. He will play mentor for Beckham and Ramirez. And if there is an injury, he is a suitable band-aid. That's it. In other words, he's a $1.375 million babysitter.
All the talk of keeping the chain of great Venezuelan shortstops on the South Side - from Chico Carrasquel to Luis Aparicio and Guillen - is nice PR, but this is a starting pitching staff built to win this season, with a bullpen and lineup that still isn't up to code.
And now there are even more concerns.
With talks between the Sox and Scott Podsednik back on frigid, there is still a gaping hole in the leadoff spot.
"I'm not concerned about it, but I'm thinking about it,'' Guillen admitted of Podsednik. "The last few years, people think it's easy to say, 'This is my leadoff hitter.' The good ones are already signed, the good ones cost a lot of money. In the meanwhile, by April 4 or whenever the season starts, we will have one.''
Re-insert Coco Crisp rumors here.
Meanwhile, Vizquel's main concern is a jersey number to wear. Guillen told his friend that he "doesn't have enough money to get my number [13],'' so Vizquel was kicking the tires on Aparicio's No. 11 or Carrasquel's No. 17.
"This closes a great chapter in my career,'' Vizquel said. "Every great shortstop from Venezuela has passed through Chicago.
"I look at myself as a mentor. I think that will kind of be my role on this team.''

Vizquel to the Sox? Ozzie has spoken to the veteran

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vizquel.jpgOzzie Guillen would like to confidently admit that the White Sox are indeed close to signing free agent shortstop Omar Vizquel for the 2010 season, but then again, the manager knows how it works.
Making sure the free-speaking Guillen doesn't jump the gun on club business, general manager Ken Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn have done their best to keep Guillen just on the outskirts of the circle of trust.
Guillen did confirm on Friday that both he and the club have spoken to Vizquel about him joining the team, but the manager didn't know how far those talks have progressed.
"I hear they are talking,'' Guillen said in a phone interview. "I've talked to Vizquel in the past, but they aren't telling me anything. I just got back from Venezuela, and I guess Kenny and Rick didn't want me running my mouth down there.
"I'll tell you what, though, if this kid is on the team there's no way in hell he's wearing No. 13.''
Guillen has worn 13 his whole career, so sorry Omar.
On the same day that the Sox took a step in adding a veteran presence like Vizquel, however, talks with free agent Scott Podsednik have taken two steps back. According to a source, enough so that Williams is looking elsewhere for a leadoff hitter right now.
"Do we need Pods, yes,'' Guillen said of the situation. "Do we want him? Yes. But we have to make the best deal for this organization. That's not my problem right now. That's on Kenny, Rick and [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] to decide.''

Gone camping

According to pitching coach Don Cooper, for the first time in his tenure, the club will have a pitching summit in January for a group of major and minor-league pitchers in the organization to come together in Chicago, making sure they are practicing what the club is preaching from their hurlers.
"Something kind of new we're thinking about,'' Cooper said. "Bring our system together even more in Chicago. Get the minor-league people and their DNA knowing what we do. Whatever it might be. We're bringing a few guys in for that. We want them to know what to expect at this level. In my mind it's trying to get some guys over the hump. It's trying to continue to reunite our whole pitching system. We're bringing in certain guys on the 8,9 and 10th of January to have a little pitching meeting.
"I don't need Freddy Garcia or Jake Peavy to come to this. John Danks might come, but the main thing I'm doing is looking at numbers and formulating ideas.''

Roster moves

The Sox did announce on Friday that they purchased the contracts of outfielder Stefan Gartrell and right-handed pitchers Brandon Hynick, Brian Omogrosso and Sergio Santos from Class AAA Charlotte and right-hander Santo Luis from Class A Winston-Salem.
With the moves, the Sox 40-man roster is at 37.

Coop tells pitchers it's time to raise the bar

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610x.jpgTeam captain Paul Konerko made the saying popular in the White Sox clubhouse back in 2008: "F feelings, it's about winning.''
Not only has manager Ozzie Guillen made that his personal mantra, but wants his entire organization to eat and sleep it.
So if feelings were hurt when questions of conditioning were brought up with several pitchers over the last year, well, it's on those individuals to make sure those questions can't come up again.
"Lack of conditioning, lack of preparation makes cowards of us all,'' pitching coach Don Cooper insisted on Thursday. "We're going to make sure that conditioning and preparation is getting done.''
What Cooper did go out of his way to point out, however, was that the rule applies for his entire pitching staff - from the minor leaguers to the likes of veterans like Freddy Garcia. Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle.
Conditioning concerns have been a sore subject since this past spring, when Buehrle felt that Cooper and Guillen were taking shots at him for showing up to camp with very few throws under his wing in the offseason.
Then Guillen called out Jenks near the end of the '09 season, specifically that Jenks needed to be in better shape come 2010, leading to the closer expressing some displeasure with the club in an October interview with MLB.com.
One of the two seems to have gotten the message.
After a first half in which he went 9-3 with a 3.66 ERA, Buehrle threw his historic perfect game on July 23, before the floor then seemed to drop out. Going 2-7 with a 4.78 ERA in 13 starts after that perfecto was enough of a wake-up call where Buehrle is now getting proactive with his conditioning this offseason, specifically a shoulder strengthening program.
"Buehrle was physically in good shape last spring,'' Cooper explained. "Where I was wrong with what I said [in camp] was that I needed to consider that every time he picked up a ball in the offseason [his shoulder] was barking. I could see why he didn't want to throw with that discomfort. What he's doing now is looking into a program near his home where he can strengthen his shoulder.
"No one said Buehrle was fat, slow and out of shape. We needed to make sure his shoulder was addressed. Things are in place to now do that. That will enable him, as well as how we handle him this season, to stay strong.''
Jenks, well, that might be a different story.
Cooper is yet to sit down and talk to the right-hander about offseason expectations, but will soon. Board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf let the players know his feelings on the topic, telling them in a team meeting late in the year that they had better show up in shape.
"The players have to take some pride,'' Cooper said. "The best motivation for anyone ready to go in spring comes from inside.
"We're asking Bobby to raise the bar. Bobby is a big dude that sometimes may look like he's not in shape. He needs to raise the bar. I tell them all, 'I need you in the best shape of your life come spring training, physically and mentally.' We're challenging these guys.
"If we're not looking to improve, what are we doing? We're standing still then. We're raising the bar for everyone. We're not trying to hurt people. The words are 'Hey, we need you ready for the grind.' If one guy is behind the curve ... we need everybody. These words are not to bust chops or hurt you. We want this taken care of, no matter who it is.
"Success, everyone has to pay a certain price - some higher than others because they aren't as physically gifted. I fill like the Sox pitching staff has represented itself well over the years, now we're asking them to raise the bar. Plus, you know you're prepared for the season because you pushed yourself to level that you never did before.''
Jenks had been the subject of trade rumors heading into the winter, especially because he stands to make $7-$8 million in arbitration. So he was already under a microscope.
General manager Ken Williams has all but put a moratorium on any Jenks trade talk. So how exactly will this end?
"When they all walk through those doors this spring,'' Cooper added, "we want everything behind them, everything. We want one focus, and that's winning the game that day.''

Beckham fifth best AL Rookie?

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gordon-beckham-15.jpg
Fifth.
That was tough for Gordon Beckham to swallow.
While the White Sox third baseman wasn't expecting to be holding up the American League Rookie of the Year trophy on Monday, he admittedly was surprised that he finished fifth in the voting by the baseball writers.
Especially since the 23-year-old's mantle already had AL Rookie of the Year honors by both The Sporting News and the Major League Baseball Players Association sitting on it. He received each last month - as voted on by the players.
But there it was in black and white - fifth.
Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey won the award with 13 first-place votes with Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus second with eight first-place votes. Ahead of Beckham were Rick Porcello (seven votes) and then Jeff Niemann.
"I'm feeling a little bit of everything,'' Beckham said in a phone interview. "I thought I might be a little higher than fifth, but I knew it was an uphill battle for me, getting up [to the major leagues] a little later. I thought I had a great season, but so did those other guys.''
Beckham was the first selection [eighth overall] of the Sox in the 2008 draft after putting on a show at the University of Georgia.
He wasted little time making an impact in his first spring training, and by June 4 was on the big-league roster.
Playing third base on a regular basis for the first time in his life, the former shortstop ended up hitting .270 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI, as well as recording 28 doubles.
He was first amongst rookie with those 28 doubles, as well as 43 extra-base hits, and 63 RBI, while he was second with a .347 on-base percentage, .460 slugging percentage, homers, as well as 58 runs scored and 102 hits.
What might have hurt him, however, was an inconsistent August in which he hit just .223, followed by a .266 last month of the season.
"It was the first full season for me, not even in the big leagues, but ever, and it probably didn't help I struggled the last month,'' Beckham said. "I won two awards that were voted on by the players. At the end of the day I would want the players to respect me more than the writers.''
Bailey, 25, led all AL rookie relievers with 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA, as well as limiting opponents to a .167 batting average.
So what's next up for Beckham? Well, he was already informed that he will now be the starting second baseman with the acquisition of Mark Teahen and the departure of Chris Getz, and plans to enroll in "Camp Cora'' come January, joining shortstop Alexei Ramirez and third base prospect Dayan Viciedo in an offseason defensive workout session down in Miami with bench coach Joey Cora.
"I don't think the writers disrespected me, but they had their opinion,'' Beckham added. "It's a little upsetting for me, but that's not my place. Other guys had great seasons.''

Ramirez, Alexei.jpg
There was no delicate way to put it, so White Sox general manager Ken Williams decided to be blunt. When he shuffled his infield last week, why not move Alexei Ramirez back to second base, where he had been solid in 2008, and return Gordon Beckham to his natural position at shortstop?

''Because Alexei's better than Gordon at short,'' Williams said Tuesday, during Day 2 of the general managers meetings at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport. ''Not that Gordon can't play the position, but Alexei is a special guy.

''What we do have to get Alexei a little bit better on is his focus. That's not unusual for a young player. Gordon would also have some of those defensive lapses if he were in the middle of the field. People really don't understand how fast the major-league game is until you're out there. Believe me, it's not an indictment on Gordon's abilities; it's more praise of what Alexei can do.''

When the Sox took Beckham in the first round of the 2008 draft, he was a shortstop. It's the position manager Ozzie Guillen insisted he would play all the way through spring training. But when a need arose at third base, Beckham made the switch. When Beckham debuted with the Sox in June, Ramirez was struggling at the plate and in the field at shortstop.

It seemed a natural switch to return Beckham to short and do anything else with Ramirez. But Guillen, who on several occasions blasted Ramirez for his mental lapses, wasn't budging. And after the Mark Teahen trade meant sending second baseman Chris Getz to the Kansas City Royals, the Sox resisted the urge to make the switch again. They simply moved Beckham to second base, where he spent some time last year in the Arizona Fall League.

Dye speaks!!

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jermaine_dye1.jpgJermaine Dye isn't ruling anything out.
After all, at 35 years old and 13-plus major league seasons under his belt, the about to be former White Sox outfielder has seen crazier things happen.
"I mean first of all I could come back to the Sox,'' Dye insisted in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. "I talked to [general manager] Kenny [Williams] and negotiations could still go on. Kenny talked to me about the fact that his hands are tied as far as spending money, but you never know, I could sign for less.''
That's classic J.D., being the good businessman and keeping all doors open. Even one as slammed shut as the Sox situation actually is.
The club announced last week that they were exercising the $950,000 buyout on Dye, rather than picking up the $12 million option for 2010. Translation: Thanks for the memories No. 23.
So while Dye expressed his desire to return to the South Side, he also knows the reality of the situation. The place he spent the last five seasons, won a World Series and played the best baseball of his career is about to become a fond memory.
Sure, Williams and Dye are saying the right things, but the likelihood of a Dye return is small and shrinking.
"I think Kenny is legit with me and [free agent] Jimmy [Thome] on what he's told us this offseason,'' Dye said. "He's honest. If he doesn't have [the money to spend], he doesn't have it. Kenny and I have a friendship beyond baseball, and he will be real with me. He's not someone that will tell you something and then go behind your back.''
Neither is Dye.
Even with a window still open to negotiate with the Sox exclusively, he was already fielding inquiries from other teams. While Dye won't say which, it's no secret that Texas has had him on their radar for years, while Boston - a team that was on his list of no-trade destinations - is also a possibility.
"At the end of the day, I wasn't surprised with how this has played out,'' Dye said. "With me being with the Sox as long as I had been, if they wanted to pick up my option or do something else as far as a new deal they would have done it during the end of season.
"I have to assume that because they bought me out my services are terminated with them right now. In the future, who knows? That's a place I love and won a World Series. That's a place I'll never forget. Someday I may come back as a player or with another title. My first choice is still there, but this is a business.''
Not a pretty one at times.
During Dye's hot first half of the 2009 season, both manager Ozzie Guillen and Dye expressed their desire to get an extension done. A frigid second half in which he hit .179 with just seven homers seemed to all but seal his fate. Just like that, one of the more prolific hitters the last five years was deemed expendable.
"I don't think it's fair to label a guy as declining because of two or three months,'' Dye said. "That's just the way my second half was. For me to go through that one time in 13 years, that's pretty good.
"People said the same thing about me in Oakland when I came back from the broken leg [after the 2002 season] and played bad. What happened? I played five years of great baseball. I'll keep proving people wrong.''
And also calling his shots.
With outfielder Bobby Abreu signing a two-year, $19-million deal last week, the bar has been set. Dye knows that the economic uncertainty makes this winter a bit tricky, but also knows that a .278 average with 164 homers and 461 RBI since 2005 carries weight.
"There are a number of teams I've heard already that would love to have me,'' Dye said. "I know one thing, I will not be DHing. You can put that down. If a team wants to try me out at first base on an every day basis I'll do that. That's something I feel will be easy to learn. But as far as DHing that's not for me. Teams shouldn't call if that's their plan.''
So what happens when the offers start coming in?
"I won't go back to the Sox and say, 'This team offered me this,' '' Dye said. "I wouldn't do that to Kenny. I'm ready to be patient with this. I'm not in a rush. If a team comes and shows me on paper how we will be, we can compete and win, I'll do it early, but I want to feel wanted first.''

Podsednik6.jpgShortly after saying he is in the hunt for ''that ideal leadoff guy,'' general manager Ken Williams shot down speculation that speedy free agent Chone Figgins is on the White Sox' radar.

Discussing his tight finances this offseason, Williams was specifically asked Monday during Day 1 of the general managers meetings about Figgins and said: ''We don't have that kind of money. Sometimes the minor [free-agent deals] are the major ones, in my mind. How many Novembers have you heard that line?''

Along those lines, sources said talks between the Sox and incumbent leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik have heated up in recent days.

Podsednik, 33, showed some of his 2005 form last season, hitting .304 and scoring 75 runs in 132 games. Earlier in the offseason, Williams indicated the Sox were willing to part ways with Podsednik, but that stance, sources said, has changed.

Teahen Era begins, but Dye's might be over

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AAGS214.jpgChris Getz and Josh Fields are now Royals, Mark Teahen is now the White Sox starting third baseman, Jermaine Dye is all but gone, talks with free agent-to-be Scott Podsednik have disintegrated, and Gordon Beckham is now the new starting second baseman.
Just another day of the Ken Williams experience.
Less than 36 hours after the New York Yankees were crowned World Series Champions, the South Side was a flurry of activity with Williams wasting very little time in showing his hand on how the general manager wants the 2010 team to look.
The first order of business on Friday morning was announcing that they bought out the 2010 mutual option on Dye, paying him $950,000 rather than picking up the $12 million for the upcoming season and making the outfielder a free agent.
Within an hour of that announcement, the Sox finalized the deal with the Royals, sending Getz and Fields to Kansas City and getting back Teahen and cash.
"We've kept our eye on [Teahen] the last few years, asked about him last year and nothing materialized,'' Williams said of the trade. "He's a tough-nosed ballplayer. He was hurt last year and dragged his ass out there. He's a winner.''
It didn't hurt that current minor league director Buddy Bell had Teahen under him when Bell was the Royals manager.
"It's about projection sometimes guys,'' Williams said in response to those that might criticize the move. "The defensive fit, Buddy Bell's experience with Mark in the clubhouse and having him on the field made him a pretty attractive player for us.''
The versatile Teahen will also have a permanent home with the Sox, as the everyday third baseman. Williams already spoke to Beckham about the change and the rookie was all for it. Manager Ozzie Guillen was also all for it, as the Sox have instantly become a better defensive team in the infield.
"The past three years I haven't known where I'm going to play,'' Teahen said. "The last 24 hours I didn't know what city I would play in. Knowing both now, playing third base is my comfort position.
"I've always produced better when I've been left alone, playing just third base. I'm excited about that.''
As far as what the Sox gave up, it ended a 24-hour chaos for Getz and Fields who had heard they had been traded, but couldn't get confirmation from the club because the money in the deal was the holdup.
"We didn't really go in depth on why,'' Getz said of his talk with Williams Friday morning. "His reason was they were just looking for some reasons to shuffle things up and I was involved. No further than that. This is the nature of this business. I don't look at it as a negative. I can speculate why they would want to get rid of me, but that could be endless thinking. It's a new opportunity.''
Teahen, 28, hit .271 with a career-high 34 doubles, 12 home runs and 50 RBI in 144 games with the Royals in 2009, playing third, second and right field.
Getz, 26, hit .261 with 18 doubles, four triples, two home runs, 31 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 107 games, while Fields, 27, appeared in 79 games with the Sox last season, hitting .222 with seven home runs and 30 RBI.
"It's tough leaving Kansas City, but as far as the baseball side of it I'm excited to get to a team that competes and contends every year,'' Teahen added. "It's exciting to play in meaningful games.''
The other news to come out of Friday was that talks with Podsednik on staying atop the lineup for 2010 have broken down, meaning that Jordan Danks could be tabbed as the third outfielder/leadoff hitter. Williams said there was very little money for a free agent, making Chone Figgins a pipedream once again.
"Money is tight,'' Williams said. "Money is tight all over the world, certainly on the South Side. We'll spend whatever we have available, but there's not much.''
"As far as Podsednik is concerned, we already had talks and a little bit of dialogue back and forth with him. It's not likely based on what he wants so we'll have to look elsewhere.''

mark%20teahen.jpgOne word summed up Thursday for Chris Getz - "Bizarre.''
The second baseman woke up a member of the White Sox, but by the time breakfast came to an end he was headed to Kansas City.
At least that's what a New York Daily News story was reporting.
The paper had Getz and disgruntled third baseman Josh Fields fitted for royal blue uniforms with the Sox getting 28-year-old Jack of all trades, master of none, Mark Teahen coming to the South Side.
A source close to the situation then confirmed to the Sun-Times that the deal was all but done, but there were still talks about the possibility of minor-league prospects being involved. There was the hold up.
Meanwhile, the Sox and Royals each told different media outlets that they had nothing to report on the matter, and that included letting Getz in on what was going on.
"I have no idea what's going on,'' Getz responded in a text.
That stance didn't change for the infielder as the day went on, still not hearing anything on the matter from the Sox - either confirming or denying the trade.
Yet, no one in the organization, including general manager Ken Williams, returned texts on the matter. Not even a "Stay out of White Sox business'' from the GM - a line he likes to use concerning rumored trades.
But while the rumored deal initially raised some eyebrows, it did make sense considering the trail of breadcrumbs left by the club the last few months of the season.
The two free agents on their radar going into the 2009-10 offseason were Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins, but those close to Abreu in the Sox organization already knew that Abreu and the Angels were in discussions to keep him in Los Angeles, which came to fruition on Thursday afternoon with the news of his two-year deal. That left Figgins still with a bull's eye on his back, but an expensive one at that.
The Sox have also all but indicated that free agent-to-be Jermaine Dye will not have his $12 million option picked up for 2010, allowing him to test the market after the 15-day window from Thursday closes.
There were initial talks with Scott Podsednik to re-sign with the club, but that might have been nothing more than a PR move by the club, allowing them to stall and find out the asking price for Figgins in just over two weeks.
If Teahen, who hit .271 with 12 homers and 50 RBI last season, is in fact South Side bound, his versatility to play the outfield or third base gives the club options as they move forward in building the 2010 team. Teahen could allow the Sox to move Gordon Beckam to second base. Two weeks ago, manager Ozzie Guillen said that he saw Beckham as a future second baseman when asked if Beckham could ever return to his natural position of shortstop.
The other option is that the Sox will play Teahen in the outfield, moving Beckham to second and clearing the way for Figgins to be the third baseman.
Jayson Nix could also be in the mix, but Guillen was not happy with the at-bats the free-swinging Nix gave away and said he would need to be more selective if he wanted to make the team next season.
What the Sox did announce on Thursday morning was that they agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract for free agent-to-be Mark Kotsay. The versatile Kotsay gives Guillen a backup first baseman, as well as an outfielder to rotate around. More importantly, Kotsay emerged as a team leader from Day 1 and was an instant favorite of Guillen's.
As far as where the Field, Getz, Teahen deal is, stay tuned.
Bizarre indeed.

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