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

February 2010 Archives

News on Jenks, Ad. Gonzalez and the rotation

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Bobby_Jenks.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - There are no longer questions about Bobby Jenks' conditioning, after the White Sox closer showed up to camp 20 pounds lighter than last season.
Now, there's the little matter of his arm.
According to pitching coach Don Cooper, the right-hander is behind schedule from the rest of the hurlers in camp, but not enough for there to be any growing concern.
"Because Bobby worked so hard on his conditioning, plus Bobby had another child, plus the weather in Chicago is bad,'' Cooper explained. "And he told me he had a little difficulty getting somebody to catch him. So he was just playing more catch than actually pitching off a mound.
"But one thing I know about Bobby, every year if you look back, everybody is, 'Jeez, we've got to get him in shape. Jeez, he's not ready.' But when it came to be Opening Day, he was always ready. I know he's going to be ready again.''

Don't believe the hype

Pitcher Jake Peavy told the Sun-Times back in January that general manager Ken Williams had inquired about Peavy's former San Diego teammate Adrian Gonzalez this offseason, and of course Peavy gave the stamp of approval. So that it came out over the weekend again is not a big deal.
A Sox source said last month that the feeling around 35th and Shields was it would take a package that included Gordon Beckham to get Gonzalez, and that's not really an option.

Setting the order

All that was told about the starting rotation this spring was that Mark Buehrle would pitch Opening Day, followed by Peavy. Cooper wouldn't offer up any details about three through five, but did show his hand.
"What I'll say is maybe look at who we're playing and look at the lineups and think maybe what you guys would do,'' Cooper said.
The Sox open with Cleveland and then the lefty-heavy Minnesota Twins, so all signs point to Gavin Floyd starting the finale against the Tribe, followed by John Danks against the Twins.

Beckham overcoming growing pains at second

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140658_White_Sox_Tigers_Baseball.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - Back in January, Gordon Beckham estimated that "I should be very good by the time we get to June,'' in talking about the transition he was making to second base.
Bench coach Joey Cora is doing everything he can to make sure the second-year player is wrong.
"I feel like I've made some real good strides so far in camp,'' Beckham said Saturday. "Every day I'm working with Joey extra from what infield we're all doing as a team - before and after workouts. It's been a lot of one-on-one work, but [Friday] it was actually me, Joey, Alexei [Ramirez] and Omar [Vizquel].
"I'm getting plenty of reps. I said I would be ready my the end of May, early June just to give myself some leeway, but I'll be ready by the start of the season. Joey is making sure of that.''
That he is. Every day.
Especially when it comes to turning the double play. It's that part of playing second that is really being focused on for obvious reasons.
"It's just the turn on the double play that I need to work on,'' Beckham said. "That's what we've worked on every day the last week. It's about being smooth around the bag, not rushing yourself to make the throw, putting your feet in the right spot to get the ball off quick, not reaching for the ball, letting it come to you.''
Once Beckham gets that part of it down, the sky is the limit for the shortstop turned third baseman turned second baseman.
"It's going to take some time to make the incredible plays that some of the other second basemen make, but I think I can do that,'' he continued. "At some point it's going to happen. I feel real steady over there.''
Don't discount the Vizquel influence, either. In just the Friday session alone with the 11-time Gold Glover, Beckham improved - after he was done being in awe.
"It looked like he had just woken up, fallen out of bed and he was fielding everything clean,'' Beckham said of Vizquel. "He's the best. He's one of the best infielders of all time. He helped me [Friday] just by watching me. He gave me a few tidbits that I need to work on and I agreed with him.''

Is Paul Konerko on his way out?

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konerko.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - At least Paul Konerko is consistent.
The team captain made his first official visit to spring camp on Friday - the first day position players were expected in - and will handle this contract year the same way he handled it heading into free agency back in 2005.
"My whole approach is to identify what I can control and can't control and know the difference of those two, and I think I do,'' Konerko said. "I've been down that road before and it's kind of simple from my end. I'm under contract. I can't do anything. I can't go anywhere. Talking about contract right now, the ball is in their court. Which is perfectly fine. I understand how the game is played. You just control what you can control. The contract stuff, that's a result at end of hard work and good play and you go after that. I've always felt that's successful since I was young, doing what you should be doing, success-wise, and all that other stuff follows. It's no different.''
Neither is his self-imposed rule about answering questions concerning his contract status. Konerko reiterated that once the regular season begins, thus ends the questions about his contract. But does that means it ends talks with the team?
"Again the ball is in their court on that front and they have the right to conduct their business how they want to do it,'' he said. "No problems there with me. As far as signing before the end of the spring or no talking during the season, every player who's ever said that [they won't talk], I think what the players mean is that they don't want it to become a distraction.
"Usually when it's a contract of any proportion and somehow someone finds out about it and it becomes a big deal, I think that's what players want to avoid and I want to avoid. I've been here long enough I've enjoyed my time here. You're always going to pick up the phone if that happens.
"They might call tomorrow, they might call in the middle of the season, they might never call. That's very possible. And if that happens, fine. That's great. We've had a great run here and again I know what I can control and I don't foresee whatever the ending is a year from now or whenever it is, being bad because I see both sides wanting to handle it the right way.''
Manager Ozzie Guillen knows ho he wants it to end.
"This isn't the first time the situation came up to him and he played real well when the first one did,'' Guillen said. "That's up to the organization, but I don't think he is the type of player that will carry it with him. I hope that situation doesn't happen, I hope I can manage him next year, but that's part of the game.''

Meeting time

The annual "Ozzie addresses the team for spring camp'' meeting was held on Friday, and was a bit more mellow than it was in the past. The message Guillen wanted conveyed?
"I was more calm, more relaxed. I cursed a little less,'' Guillen said. "I finished up the meeting when I said, 'Good teams win games, bad teams have meetings.' I got my point across to the players, don't just prepare to play, prepare to win. Those are two different things - when you prepare to play every day and when you prepare to win every day. I wanted to keep it on those guys' mind that we came here to win. We didn't come here just to have a season.
"They have to remember we have one goal and one goal only, and that's to go out there and win games.''

Guillen, Ozzie 7.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - This latest birthday wish brought to you by manager Ozzie Guillen.
"As soon as he dies, I'll get the [bleep] out,'' the White Sox skipper insisted on Thursday.
And just like that, Guillen was offering up a happy 74th to his boss, and the organization's board chairman, Jerry Reinsdorf. But in doing so, he also put to rest the idea that he will be leaving his managerial post anytime soon.
It seems like once a year, Guillen tells a media outlet that he's about to call it quits, but Guillen cleared the air and made it very evident that he is with the Sox until they fire him or "as long as Jerry is still alive.''
It might not be what Guillen critics want to here. Frankly, Guillen doesn't care.
"I think one guy I'm praying to stay alive the most is him,'' Guillen said. "I think I love Jerry, and he knows it, he's like a father to everyone here.
"He's not just my boss. I think the reason I have a great life and the reason why I really take care of all my family is because of him. He means a lot to us. I thank God for my dad but I think my real dad is Jerry. He spent the most money (on) me. My dad gave me a couple dollars - Jerry's made me rich.''
As far as perspective teams that want to make a play for Guillen to manager their club when his contract runs out after 2012?
"I don't think anybody out there has enough money to buy myself to go someplace else,'' Guillen added. "I don't think I'm going to walk away from here for any reason - for better money or better team or better town.''

Linebrink set to rebound? He better hope so

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scott_linebrink200.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - Scott Linebrink doesn't want to be put into a box.
The problem is his numbers over the past three seasons can be. First half? Solid. Second half? Disaster.
So as the veteran White Sox reliever dressed for his workout on Tuesday morning, he gave an explanation for why the last three years may have looked identical on the back of his baseball card, but were each different in why they happened.
"Two years ago, of course it was the injury,'' he said of his first season with the Sox. "The year before that, there was a trade [from San Diego to Milwaukee] in there, so there was a bit of a transition period in there. Last year, it was not getting strike one and kind of losing touch of my whole approach. I think there are things in there that we can look at and learn from and improve on, but I don't think there is one specific thing we can look at and say, 'This is why it's been tough for me in August and September the last couple of years.' ''
What Linebrink can't deny is that he hasn't been able to put an entire season together since 2007. Over the last three years he has a combined 2.29 ERA in the first half of the season, only to see his post All-Star ERA climb to 7.04 over that same time.
"I just have to keep my foot on the gas the entire season, stick with what keeps me successful, which is getting strike one and then being able to have several options instead of getting behind the count and having to throw fastball,'' Linebrink said. "The one thing I learned from last year is just to persevere through it all. All of those struggles I went through reminded me, 'Hey, this is a game that does not come easy.' You have to continue to focus on what you do best in order to make it.''

jenks_bobby-sm-791947.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - Jake Peavy has obviously started a landslide, and Bobby Jenks is drinking the Kool-Aid.
It was the White Sox ace that told the Sun-Times back in January, "I'm not in the gym every morning now for the Cy Young. I want what the boys did in 2005. I want that dog pile, that memory, that ring. If you're not dreaming of that same thing, I question where you are as an athlete.''
Peavy's all or nothing mentality with chasing the championship in 2010 seems to be infectious.
"That's bold right there,'' Jenks said on Monday. "Absolutely though. What we see in this locker room is a team that we should definitely win our division. Obviously anything can happen in the playoffs, but without a doubt we're definitely a division-winning bound team.''
Jenks was then asked if a team that finished third in the Central last season should be thumping its chest like the Sox seem to be doing the last month, and wasted no time explaining the mentality going into this year.
"Not at all because we've always had that swagger,'' Jenks insisted. "That's what we build around. Just looking around, looking at the guys' names on the back of jerseys, 'on paper' we're built to finish first. But we know inside this clubhouse that the game is won on the field, and that's what we're built around, playing solid defense and pitching.
"And with the way the lineup we do have, it's solid one through nine. It's a good statement to say that if we're not there [in the postseason] it's not a good year.''

More on A.J.

General manager Ken Williams said on Sunday that the contract status of catcher A.J. Pierzynski is something that will be talked about in the very near future, and stated that he wasn't sure how comfortable he would be in handing the reins of a veteran pitching staff to Tyler Flowers next season.
As far as if Pierzynski - a free agent after 2010 - would be willing to do a short-term deal and help with the transition?
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it,'' Pierzynski said. "I haven't really thought about that, but we'll focus on it if it comes up. My mind is on 2010, but if they came to me with something that was fair for both sides I would definitely take a look at it.''

The final word on Damon

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Johnny-Damon_article_0.jpgGLENDALE, Ariz. - After losing out to Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera sweepstakes back in the 2007 Winter Meetings, a defiant Ken Williams insisted, "All this has done is put the Tigers in a better position to contend with us.''
On Sunday, with the Sox missing out on free agent Johnny Damon to Detroit, it was a much calmer general manager reacting to it.
"Well, I think you see he did very well for himself,'' Williams said of the reported deal the outfielder received. "He gets to train in Florida and that's where he wanted to be. Had we got into it a little bit earlier and I known that was really an overriding factor then maybe we could have considered moving camp out to Orlando and set up shop to accommodate him. It was a little too late for that. We had everyone here.''
Asked if Damon now put the Tigers in better position to contend, Williams wasn't biting.
"Uh, if I acknowledge that, that means I felt we were above them anyway,'' Williams said on Day 1 of camp. "It's a little disrespectful. We are positioned very well. Would we have been better? Perhaps. But some times, one of the things I've learned over the years, some times the things you don't do or aren't able to do turn out to be your better decisions.''
Williams maintained that he is fine with the Ozzie Guillen plan of DH-by-committee, despite his actions dictating otherwise, and asked about the idea that former Sox World Series MVP Jermaine Dye was still sitting out on the free agent market, totally didn't close the door on it.
"I am shocked that Jermaine Dye is still out there,'' Williams said. "I thought about [bringing him back]. But our biggest need would be a left-handed bat, in my opinion. That doesn't fit or is consistent with what Ozzie wants to do. I did think about it, and Ozzie would be in a position where he would have to play him.''

Damon talks all but over

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050402_JohnnyDamon_hd_hmedium.jpgThe game of chicken has all but come to an end.
White Sox general manager Ken Williams said on Friday that while the club was still giving free agent Johnny Damon until Sunday morning to take the last offer they had put on the table for the outfielder, any further negotiations have died.
In other words, once that first stretch comes from Mark Buehrle's usually sore shoulder when pitchers and catchers report Sunday morning, the doors to the Camelback Ranch facility are closed to any additions.
"We're touching the opening of spring training and you know how I am about spring training distractions,'' Williams said. "That's never a good thing. Never a good productive thing for everyone to be watching the door. From the first day on I want everyone pulling from the same rope.
"We asked for their bottom line and obviously we underestimated on what the market is for him because we thought we were competitive with what the rumors were out there. With what we got back [Friday afternoon], unless Johnny sees this as a great opportunity for him, enjoys a chance to win in a great city, it's an unrealistic number in which we got back from them.''
Williams wouldn't go into details, as the Sox have been rumored to be offering anywhere from $4.5 million to $6 million including incentives and deferred money.
Whatever they offered seemed to be way off on what Damon and his agent Scott Boras were asking.
"If circumstances change in the next 24 hours I certainly will be willing to revisit it,'' Williams said. "Jermaine Dye cashed in big time for something like this, taking less money to win a championship, and maybe Johnny wants to do the same.
"It's the nature of the beast, but this has gone on long enough. We have a have a pretty good club as is. Would Johnny Damon add to it? He's proven that. He was icing on the cake as far as we're concerned.''
Williams did clear the air on the relationship between himself and Boras. It was rocky in the past, at best, but Williams did say, "If there is a silver lining here, from beginning to end, Scott and I had some pretty good dialogue. At the end of the day it wasn't a meeting of the minds, but it may lay the groundwork for future deals.''

damon1_500.jpgA.J. Pierzynski did his part.
He played recruiter, said the right things, and talked to Johnny Damon about how much he would help the White Sox if the free agent accepted the latest offer from the club.
But now, it's no longer in Pierzynski's hands.
"It's his decision now,'' Pierzynski said on Wednesday. "Everyone knows how I feel about it and how much I would like him to sign with us, but it's his choice now. If he signs with us it would really help. If he signs with Detroit, well then it helps them.''
What is known, however, is the Sox feel they have gone from long shot to frontrunner the last 24 hours in the Damon sweepstakes, not only because of the golf outing Pierzynski and Damon went on, but because the organization has upped their original offer, moving closer to the money the Tigers have put out there.
"I would be surprised if he didn't sign with us,'' one member of the club said.
Pierzynski said he had no feeling one way or the other which direction Damon was leaning. The two were teammates at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., as well as Damon getting involved with Pierzynski's TNA Wrestling storyline "Basebrawl'' a few years back.
At the end of one of Pierzynski's matches it was Damon, sitting ringside, that handed a home plate to Pierzynski. Home plate then went upside Simon Diamond's head for the eventual 1-2-3 count.
As far as the rocky relationship between Damon's agent Scott Boras and Sox GM Ken Williams, that might not be as much of a factor in the final decision. Williams allows assistant Rick Hahn to handle most negotiations at this point, while sources close to Damon have indicated that Boras works for Damon, not the other way around.
The addition of Damon would change Ozzie Guillen's plans, but the manager wouldn't exactly be complaining. Guillen has wanted a DH-by-committee, enough so that he made the final call of no for adding Jim Thome a few weeks back.
But Damon is a bit different in that he would be a top-of-the-order type player and could still play a bit in the outfield, as well as getting a majority of the reps at DH.
There is no timetable on when a final decision is coming, but the Sox are expecting Damon to make the announcement soon, especially with pitchers and catchers reporting on Sunday.

The latest on Damon

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Damon_1.jpgThe Johnny Damon talks haven't just picked up, but now the White Sox front office is feeling like they may have "significantly'' closed the gap between themselves and Detroit for the free agent's services.
That was the word from several sources on Wednesday afternoon, as the team has laid out all their cards - at least the ones under their self-imposed salary cap - on the table.
One source did warn, however, that Detroit has more money out there and was still the frontrunner. The Sox are just doing everything they can to make sure it isn't an easy decision for Damon.
As far as all the buzz over the fact that Damon went golfing with Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, well, Pierzynski might have been doing his best Urban Meyer in recruiting Damon, but the two are also good friends, playing baseball at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., as well as Damon getting involved with Pierzynski's TNA Wrestling storyline "Basebrawl'' a few years back.
At the end of the match, it was Damon, sitting ringside, that handed a home plate to Pierzynski. Home plate then went upside Simon Diamond's head for the win.
If the Sox do land Damon the plan is to primarily use him as their DH, giving him some reps in the outfield.

Sox after Damon?

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040510_damon_vmed_5p_widec.jpgHave the Sox thrown their name in the hat for Johnny Damon?
Yes, according to one source.
But just how serious are they pursuing the free agent outfielder?
"It's more about doing due diligence than anything else,'' the source said.
Several media outlets reported on Thursday afternoon that the Sox had entered the Damon sweepstakes late, joining the likes of Detroit and Tampa Bay. The asking price now is said to be near $7 million, which would take the Sox out of the equation.
However, don't put it past general manager Ken Williams to be involved with the Scott Boras client to both drive the price up for a division rival like Detroit or simply play chicken with Boras, who he has no love for at the end of the day.
Williams was asked at SoxFest if he would be pursuing Damon a few weeks back and replied sarcastically, "Who is his agent?''
There's your answer.

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