NEW YORK - In the three years that Javier Vazquez played for Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox manager never asked him to be his ace.
All Guillen wanted to see from the right-hander was a big moment, a mountain climbed, a pulse.
The soft-spoken Vazquez thought he did that. Guillen? Well, the two obviously had a difference of opinion.
Vazquez's best year with the Sox came in 2007 when he went 15-8 with a 3.74 ERA, but Guillen pointed out several times that his best year came when the Sox were basically eliminated by May.
So by the end of the 2008 season, a divorce was expected.
Vazquez was sent to Atlanta, with the Sox getting Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge back. It also came with some harsh comments - one side a bit more venomous than the other.
That's why Saturday afternoon's game against the Yankees has some intrigue, as Vazquez faces his former team for the first time since the relationship crumbled.
"I hope he does, that's his job,'' Guillen responded Friday when asked if he felt like Vazquez would be looking to stick it down the manager's throat. "I think Javy every time he takes the ball, no matter who he faces, he's going to compete. I hope he thinks that way, because I would think that way, and I'm not playing.''
Guillen was then asked if he wished things would have ended differently between the two, and pulled no punches.
"I don't care about him, he's not feeding my family,'' Guillen said. "Things didn't work out for us. When Javy doesn't wear my uniform, I don't talk about him. I wish him the best - after [Saturday's] game. Because I think everyone here is preparing to beat him.
"I don't have any feelings. When you're managing and you've been in this game a long time, you're going to make friends, you're going to make enemies. Some people are going to like you, some people don't. But I can live with that. I hope he shows up to play, I hope he shows up to pitch good because he needs it. He needs it for him, he needs it for his team. I know we will be prepared very well for him.''
The relationship deteriorated at the end of the 2008 season, when Guillen had a problem with comments that Vazquez made to the Sun-Times.
"You know what? It's not going to [change a lot of opinions] because I'm really the type of guy that when I retire, I'm going to be home in Puerto Rico with my family,'' Vazquez said then, responding to the question of fans and teammates not seeing enough fire from him. "I'm not looking to have to change minds if people feel that way ... I won't be paying attention to that. If I do well or if I don't, I'll still go home at the end of my career and be the same person.''
A day later, Guillen said that Vazquez was not a big-game pitcher. Guillen later explained that he said that to try and light a fire under the veteran, but by the end of that season, Guillen couldn't even use Vazquez in a meaningful game because he was struggling so bad.
After the pitcher was traded to the Braves, he told the Atlanta media, "Only thing I'm going to say is, it's good to get away from the negativity and start fresh.''
That rubbed Guillen the wrong way, who addressed it at the Winter Meetings.
"I'm not happy about what he said,'' Guillen said then. "I know Javy real well, and he has more class than that. I always say, 'You can see people's faces, but you never see their heart.' I would rather him say, 'I hate Ozzie, I hope he [bleeping] dies. That was the worst three years of my life.' Be honest. But when you that about the team, you're talking about the clubhouse, the media, the fans, the general manager - because Kenny [Williams] put this team together - so you hurt a lot of people's feelings. But I say, [bleep] feelings, Just win.''
April 2010 Archives
NEW YORK - In the three years that Javier Vazquez played for Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox manager never asked him to be his ace.
ARLINGTON, Texas - With an 0-for-5 performance in the Thursday win over the Rangers, Juan Pierre watched his batting average dip to .200 and the confidence manager Ozzie Guillen has in him fall even lower.
"He ain't playing [Friday],'' Guillen insisted of Pierre after the 7-5 win. "And then we'll try and figure out the next day, we have a couple of righties [pitching Saturday and Sunday], move him down to the No. 9 spot to make him relax a little bit.
"I don't know if he's putting a lot of pressure on himself or trying to do too much, but I'll try and give him a breather, [maybe] bat him second, I don't know. Try and figure out who my leadoff hitter will be. Maybe it will let him relax a little bit.''
Guillen wasn't quite sure how to explain the failings from Pierre, but does know that life in the American League is a bit tougher on first-time players.
"Like I say, a lot of people can say this is the American League and first time in the American League, that can happen,'' Guillen said.
Pierre has seen his share of different ballclubs - four to be exact - but never in the AL until now. What Guillen doesn't want to see from the speedy leadoff hitter is him carrying his failures from one game to another.
"It's one thing I worry about him or concerned about him is don't carry over the struggles to the next day,'' Guillen said. "He's a big part of our ballclub.''
As far as possible replacements, Guillen mentioned Mark Teahen as a possible replacement, mainly because Teahen's .379 on-base percentage and 10 walks. Guillen was also even fighting with the idea of Gordon Beckham.
"I don't want to put this kid in that position,'' Guillen said. "Maybe against lefties, but I don't want to put that guy in that position. You might see him but I don't think he's the typical guy to do it.''
ARLINGTON, Texas - Gordon Beckham thinks he's close.
Some extra work in the batting cage before Wednesday's game gave the second-year infielder that feel-good indication.
His manager, however, was wondering exactly what he's close to? If he thinks he's close to hitting well, that's fine with Ozzie Guillen. If Beckham's close to returning to trying to be the face of the organization, that's where Guillen has a problem. A big one at that.
Guillen sat Beckham for the second game of the Texas series, due in large part to four hits in his last 33 at-bats (.121). As far as Guillen was concerned, Beckham resembled a player that was pressing.
"It looks that way, I feel that way, but in the meanwhile, like I keep saying every day, you cannot come here and think you're carrying this ballclub,'' Guillen explained. "This is about 25 guys, this is not about one. I think if anyone out there thinks they're going to carry this ballclub they're wrong. I'm not going to say it's because they're not that good, but baseball is too tough to do that every day, day in and day out.
"I think [Beckham] is trying to do too much, I think he's desperate to try and do good. This game is a marathon, it's not a sprint, and a lot of people in Chicago think Gordon is the man of this ballclub. That's a bunch of crap. He's not. This kid has a long way to go. Couple of years ago he was playing college, and I think we did something that I don't think we should have been doing, which is put this kid like he's the savior of the White Sox for the next 30 years. It's not easy to handle that, and I hope that he's struggling right now and it doesn't carry on to him to be the man.
"He's not the man, and he never will be the man. As long as I manage this ballclub, nobody is the man. There are 25 men out there, not just one. Because it will take 25 guys to win this thing, not one or a couple to win it. I think this kid has potential to be a great one. But when you're struggling you've got to sit back and relax, don't forget where you come from and do the same thing you've been doing your whole life.''
The last thing on Beckham's mind was sitting back to relax. That's why he arrived to the ballpark early on Wednesday, hoping to figure a few things out.
"Not mechanical. It's more my mind,'' Beckham explained. "I'm not taking my BP into the game. When I'm getting in the game I feel like I'm a little rushed, I feel like my head is moving a little faster than it should. As opposed to being calm and just sitting in the box and let the ball come to me.
"I'm going to spread out a little bit, eliminate the lower half a little bit, and that's going to keep me locked in, a little quieter. Hopefully, that will help me be more accurate with the ball and make better decisions on pitches that are close and not close. I think that should help. I just have to do it in the games. It's all there.''
Guillen did say that Beckham would play in the series finale this afternoon, so it was obviously just a rest, not a punishment.
And as far as if the club did put too much on Beckham's shoulders and could be ruining him, Guillen didn't think that was the case.
"No, I think this kid mentally is pretty tough about it, and he grew up with the right people around him,'' Guillen said. "I don't want him thinking about, 'I'm the man here, I gotta do this, hit .350, I gotta do this, I gotta be the MVP.' No, he's got to go out and play his game the way he did when he was a little kid.''
ARLINGTON, Texas - According to Mark Teahen, Major League Baseball sent out social media guidelines to the players and workers, letting them know that "Big Brother'' is watching what they tweet.
Teahen has been on Twitter since last year as ESPY_TEAHEN. He tweets from the perspective of his dog, ESPY.
"I don't think it was put into place for me,'' the third baseman said. "My dog gets out of line some times, but I'm pretty civil. I think it's more or less saying use commonsense, which I try to do anyway.
"I think it's commonsense anyway. I don't know if they even needed to put it out, but I guess some people out there might need that reminder.''
ARLINGTON, Texas - It was bound to happen.
Jake Peavy expected it, and on Tuesday was even welcoming it - albeit defiantly.
"Anytime you don't do what you're supposed to do, you know ... I mean I didn't hear all these critics talking last year when I did what I did after about the same amount of starts that I've made this year, 3-0 with a low ERA, nobody was talking then,'' Peavy said before the start of the Texas series. "But certainly when you have failure you're going to have people jump out and say, 'We saw this coming ... ' That stuff doesn't matter a thing to me. They can talk all they want to talk. I'm going to get things going and that's the bottom line.
"I just hope now that it's sooner than later. We're working every day to get things going. I'm going to contribute, that's the bottom line.''
The way Peavy sees it, it can't get any worse.
Through his first four starts this season, the expected ace of the staff was 0-1 with a 7.66 ERA. A far cry from the 3-0 record and 1.35 ERA he had in three starts with the Sox at the end of last season.
The collateral damage of that? Peavy critics flocking to break down his problems on talk shows, with a constant reminder that he is now in the American League, where lineups give pitchers very few moments to breath.
While Peavy has never disputed the fact that life in the National League was made easier with most of the lineups there having soft spots, he wasn't about to deem 2010 a disaster just yet. Not when he finally feels that he is on to something.
"I mean if you go look at my delivery at the start of last year to what it was before my last start [against Tampa Bay], I mean it doesn't look like the same guy,'' Peavy explained. "A big part of that is my legs. For some reason I quit using my legs. It's pretty easy to think why.''
Actually, going back to last June 13 was why.
That's when Peavy was put on the disabled list by the Padres because of a strained tendon in his right ankle.
"I mean my ankle was hurt and I pitched three or four games with it in San Diego - probably took my legs right out of the equation subconsciously because I was injured,'' Peavy continued. "Then when I came back I was probably favoring my legs, not wanting to drive off my backside and get out toward home plate. When I came over here [in a deadline trade] and was doing that, [pitching coach Don Cooper] and those guys didn't have anything to go off of.
"We all just discovered this delivery when was were watching some past outings. The tough thing about it is I've been repeating this delivery since Feb. 10, thinking this is me, this is who I am. The other night [in the start against the Rays], I certainly felt awkward. But that was my normal delivery. That's what I had been doing for years, but I've been practicing the wrong way for two and a half months. When you get comfortable with something else, I mean from arm angle to dropping and driving. I mean we're talking about almost a foot difference with my arm angle. Those things lead to inconsistency.''
They've also led to Peavy spending the last week playing long toss and throwing bullpen sessions, constantly reminding himself to keep his lower-body mechanics intact.
"The stuff I will take the mound with [Wednesday night], having more life on my pitches, will help me turn that corner,'' Peavy said.
And to Peavy, that's all that matters right now.
The critics? Well, his attitude is let them do what they do best.
"I want to be that pitcher that people have seen in the past,'' he added. "I don't have added pressure, because every fifth day is a big day for me.''
A strained calf kept Milton Bradley out of the Seattle lineup Friday night in what would have been his first appearance in Chicago since September when he was suspended and sent home by the Cubs. Since that time and the troublesome months that preceded it, the temperamental outfielder has had little to say about the 2009 season. When he has talked, it has been with disdain about his time here.
He chastised the Cubs and its management during spring training in a television interview with ESPN and a New York Times story. On Friday--in the clubhouse where Cubs manager Lou Piniella called him out and sent him home during the Cubs-White Sox series--Bradley again had few charitable words for the city.
``I really don't care,'' he said when asked what reception he thought he would have here. ``I'm not playing tonight anyway. My calf isn't right. It is what it is.
``Just move on,'' he said of his thoughts about the city, adding ``God bless Seattle.''
He said ``the people, and the media'' were better in his new city ``because I've never had 10 people with a camera in my face in Seattle. This is about baseball. That's what we're trying to do. It's not about everything else. In Seattle, they care about winning baseball.
``Personally, I didn't mention anywhere else, but for me, Seattle works for me.
``I don't have to do anything--just be myself. That's the main thing. Everywhere else, people want you to be someone else. I'm going to be me. Nothing you ever say or do is going to change what I do. When I make up my mind what I'm going to do, that's what I do, so that's what I've been doing for 32 years. I'll do it for another 32 years if I live that long.''
Sergio Santos has made huge strides in the one year he's been turned from a shortstop into a pitcher.
So what's the end game with the hard-throwing rookie right-hander?
Even though he has three above average pitches, including a fastball that hits the 97-98 mph, becoming a starter is not in the plans. At least not in Santos' plans.
"I don't think so,'' Santos said about the idea of starting. "I think they would like for me to establish a role in the backend of the bullpen. I mean that's what I would like to do personally. But I haven't really thought about it. I've been focused on trying to learn as much as I can as a bullpen guy, and I like the bullpen life. I like coming to the park every day being prepared to pitch.
"Hopefully, I can do well enough to put myself into position to be a backend guy. It's pretty tough with this bullpen because you have three potential closers in [Matt] Thornton, [Bobby] Jenks and [J.J.] Putz, but they are good guys to learn from. They are where I want to be someday, so why not learn from them.''
Up until last season, Thornton still had thoughts of becoming a starter, but that dream has died.
That doesn't mean the Sox don't see big things for their rookie. With the future of Bobby Jenks up in the air, Santos could be headed toward ninth-inning duty. He has the fastball for it, that's for sure.
"It allows for me to not have to be as perfect,'' Santos said. "There are other pitchers that are 92-93 that have to spot up in and out and have to at least have one off-speed pitch working. Me, I have a little more room for error where I don't have to be as perfect, and it is nice. I know for the most part, a majority of the days I will have that 97-98.''
Ozzie Guillen has always been in A.J. Pierzynski's corner.
As a friend at times, as a manager, and other times almost like a father giving his son a kick in the rear.
On Wednesday, it was the latter.
After reading Pierzynski's comments in a Sun-Times article about his immediate future on the South Side - or what could be the end of a five-plus year run - Guillen offered some words of advice: "The only thing I'm going to say is start playing the game.''
It was on Tuesday that the veteran catcher was asked about growing speculation that the Sox could trade him this season if they continue to slip in the standings, and he said, "I'm sure. I mean obviously everyone knows my situation, I'm a free agent at the end of the year. But I also know this, if it gets to about June then they can't trade me, so they're going to have to make a decision here pretty quick. Cause I'll be 10-5. Obviously I want to be in a place where I can win, but I would love to stay in Chicago. Up until then I have no say so in the matter, but if they find a move that they think is right and they think it will help the organization, there's nothing I can do. I'll go to a new team and be happy there, so ... I hope it works out here and this is my first choice.''
Guillen not only insisted that Pierzynski will remain his starting catcher, but also wants to see him turn his focus away from trade talk and the fact that he will be a free agent after the season.
"He's good,'' Guillen said. "He's not going to lose his job. I'm very happy with what I've got and I have a lot of optimism with what I have and I think A.J. is my catcher, hopefully he doesn't get hurt. But I believe in him. He doesn't have to worry about anything - not with me.
"But when you start making comments about your contract and how long you're going to be, when is your first day, when is your last day, I think it's not necessary. But I'm not going to tell my players what to say when your manager says whatever he wants. I respect that. ... He's my catcher until he gets traded or he's not here anymore. As long as I'm here, I don't see him why he's not going to be my catcher.''
Pierzynski is owed $6.25 million this season, but come June he will be granted the power to block any trade because he will be 10-5 [10 years in and the last five with the same team].
The Sox have Tyler Flowers in the minor leagues, but general manager Ken Williams told the Sun-Times back in the spring that he wasn't sure if he was ready to hand the keys of an experienced pitching staff to a young guy just yet.
Guillen did have a reaction to Pierzynski saying, "I'll go to a new team and be happy there.''
"A.J. is not an easy cookie to swallow. OK?'' Guillen said. "Be careful what you wish because they are not going to treat him the way we treat him. He's not going to have a smile on their face when he goes somewhere else and I know it for fact. A.J. has been great for me. Awesome. Awesome. But he's not an easy guy to manage or coach. Then I just leave it that way. I love him. I do love him. When A.J. got here, nobody liked him and now we like him a little, little bit more. And that's because of his reputation in the game.
"If A.J. goes somewhere else, good luck to the manager or coach that's going to be with him. That's all I've got to say. I've known him for five years and I know him very well.
"People can say whatever they want to say about him. Sometimes I want to kill him. I have more meetings with A.J. Pierzynski since being manager than I've had with anybody in my club since I got this job. Every time A.J. puts on that uniform, he goes out and kicks some butt.''
Not only did general manager Ken Williams continue to preach patience on Tuesday, but also admitted that even if he was searching to improve the team, it would be a hard sell in mid-April.
"I haven't explored anything, simply because most clubs think I'm nuts when I start calling in May,'' Williams said on Tuesday, when asked about the possibility of trade talk starting up. "If I start calling in April, it's, 'Really? Seriously?' ''
That's not to say that there hasn't been a talk with manager Ozzie Guillen about the state of the team.
"I'm not preaching anything,'' Williams said. "I talked to Ozzie and said, 'Do you need anything?' 'You all right?' 'Yeah.' We got 149 games left, or something like that.''
Plus, Guillen had his own list of problems in returning to the South Side Tuesday morning after spending the off day at his home in Miami.
The seventh-year manager is still carrying around the "me against the world'' mentality, very well aware that it hasn't taken the fans very long to turn on him in the midst of the slow start.
Asked if he thought the fans were angrier than usual at the Guillen way, he replied, "Angry? The one [person] I don't want angry with me, and her name is Ibis Cardenas Guillen. Because if she gets angry with me that's going to cost me a lot of money. That's it, my wife. Everyone else, I care less if they like me or don't.''
Guillen spent most of the road trip reiterating over and over again that he is willing to take the heat, blame him. It seems they now are.
"Why are they angry with me, because we're playing bad?'' Guillen continued. "If the fans are mad at me, well how many people we hold here, 50,000 people? I invite all 50,000 people to come out and boo me because at least we're going to have people in the stands.
"They've booed me before, they've hated me before because I'm not an easy guy. Some people hate me, some like me, there's no in between. That's the way it is. I don't come here to have people like me or not. I come here to win at my job. If we win 10 games in-a-row, 2005 will come back to their minds, and I guarantee you that. If we lose five games in-a-row, they have to hate me. I don't expect anyone to like me if I'm not doing my job.
"I said that in February and March. I hope we love each other in June and July the way we love each other right now. When we're winning, everybody loves each other. When you lose, you hate each other. Why are we panicking right now? Because people don't believe in this ballclub, I do. As long as those guys out there don't panic, I can live with that.''
And for now, Williams is learning to live with it. Still not an easy process.
"Listen, this early in the season, I'm watching,'' Williams added. "But to a large degree, because of all the various factors coming out of spring training, the weather issues and all the different things, it's best at this point, and it took me a while to realize and understand it, it's best at this point to take a step back,
"I didn't travel with the team. You don't like what you see, you turn to the news for five minutes and watch ABC or NBC to see what's happening in Chicago, and turn it back and still don't like what's going on. Let's turn to Growing Pains. I like it better when I got a TV in front of me. I can't turn the channel when I'm here live. But I can always go back. You never know when your team might come back.''
CLEVELAND - It seems that manager Ozzie Guillen can't help but read his e-mails - good or bad.
Bad was the best way to describe the batch that started filling up his box since Saturday's disappointing 3-2 loss and into the series finale with Cleveland.
"I read them [Sunday] morning, it was fun,'' Guillen said. "Oh, it was bad, we've got a bad team. They're writing e-mails to me like I'm in Venezuela and I don't watch the game. They tell me all kinds of lineups. I make comments like, 'I make different lineups for a reason, because the team is struggling. You try to find a way to fix it.'
"I love to take the heat, I love to take responsibility. I'd rather they blame me than blame the 25 guys. This is my job. Like I said, it's easier to be the manager when you're not the manager, it's easier to be a broadcaster when you're not a broadcaster. It's easier to be something when you never do it.
"There's desperate people out there. Well, I don't think there's more desperate people than me. The only thing I have to do is show up here with a positive attitude and let those guys know I still believe in them, I'm behind them.''
Basically, exactly what Guillen did concerning hitting coach Greg Walker on Saturday.
It was Guillen that put to rest any talk of Walker's job security before it could start gaining momentum. And while Walker's hope is that his name never even comes up, he did his best to try and deflect that attention on Sunday.
"As a hitting coach, you never want to be in the press,'' Walker said. "You don't ever want to be an issue. I haven't even read it and don't know what was said. I don't really care. All I know is the guys are working and are healthy. At times, we've done some really good things. We've scored some runs. We just haven't scored enough.''
Walker's job is to try and change that. In any state of the team address that might be made through the first 13 games, the offensive woes top almost everyone's list.
From Walker's seat, a lack of confidence is what has been weighing on the shoulders of a handful of his hitters.
"Coming into this season, I felt like there were a lot of people who had questions in their own mind about where they were in their careers for whatever reasons, whether they were hurt last year or didn't play,'' Walker said. "Whether it be whatever, that's not an excuse.''
Translation: It's time for Walker to once again play team shrink.
"If you could learn how to instill confidence in baseball players, you would probably be a billionaire.'' Walker added. "The biggest thing you fight as a coach is dealing with anxiety in players. It's the battle everyone faces in this game, especially in a market like Chicago. Guys tend to put too much pressure on themselves in big situation, instead of walking up there with their chest stuck out knowing they are going to get it done. We are walking up there hoping we will get it done, and it just doesn't cut it in this league.''
CLEVELAND - Much will be made of Ozzie Guillen's decision to keep Jake Peavy in Saturday's game to start the eighth with 104 pitches, and the manager explained his thinking after the eventual 3-2 loss.
"I like the match-ups [to start the inning],'' Guillen said. "That was the plan [to leave Peavy in] no matter what. Because I had [right-handed hitters Austin] Kearns and 'MaTola,' whatever his name is, the first baseman, the fat guy, I don't know what [his] f------ name is - [Matt] LaPorta - on the bench and I didn't want them to face Matt [Thornton]. I thought Peavy was throwing the ball well, and the plan was to get into [switch-hitter Asdrubal] Cabrera, Cabrera is a way better hitter right-handed than lefty, and unfortunately he hit the home run [off Peavy].''
Thornton was ready to come in and face Grady Sizemore, and eventually did with the score then tied. Thornton then gave up the game-losing double to Shin-Soo Choo.
CLEVELAND - So you want a new hitting coach?
Tired of the yearly Greg Walker saga?
Think there's someone out there who can do a better job?
Let's see what White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has to say on the subject.
"Two things I keep saying this and I always do this: As long as my coaches go out there and work and give the guys the information, that's all you can do,'' Guillen said. "If you have kids, [Dayan] Viciedo, [Jordan] Danks and [Tyler] Flowers, that's a little different.
"F--- them, that's [the players'] fault. It's not Greg Walker's fault. F--- it. I'm not going to fire a guy that has nothing to do with this thing. Look at [Mark] Kotsay, [Omar] Vizquel and [Jayson] Nix, they don't need a hitting coach. They need to f------ get hits.
"Every time I have a problem with my coaching staff, I'm the first one who fires them. This is like a chain, bro. If they no hit, they blame the hitting coach and then the manager. If they are not pitching, they blame the pitching coach. It's about blaming people.
"I take the blame. I don't want Walk or Coop or Joey to take the blame. All of this thing, blame it on Ozzie. Don't blame Kenny or Jerry or anyone else. Don't put anyone in the middle. When we are not hitting, not pitching or not winning games, my name is out there. That's why I'm the manager.
"I'm not afraid to get blamed. I don't give a s--- to be blamed.
"All of a sudden you start blaming people and you aren't blaming the one who should be blamed. Blame me because I write the lineup every day and blame the players because they don't produce. Greg Walker is here everyday at 8 in the morning watching videos, getting the information. He talks to them about hitting.
"Juan Pierre, 2,000 at-bats or more. [Gordon] Beckham and [Carlos] Quentin, they no need a hitting coach. It's a matter of time when they start hitting. If we have different players, then we need to teach them. Those guys, I don't think any guy in this lineup needs a teacher or know how to handle the big leagues.''
Well, there you go.
CLEVELAND - Time is a luxury the White Sox cannot afford to waste this season.
Not when the Minnesota Twins look like a well-oiled machine on offense, apparently solved that so-called closer problem that was going to hamstring them, and suddenly have American League East money to spend.
This is not 2009, where one could tell from the start that it would be a scrum come September. This is 2010, where the Twins are a year older, a year wiser, and poised to tap out the rest of the Central by late July if the other four teams keep blinking, waiting for the switch to flip.
"I don't worry about the new ballpark or new contracts,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said Friday, of the Twins flexing their muscles the first 10 games into the season. "I worry about [Minnesota's] good players. Very underrated. I wonder why. This season, I don't see any difference from the last two. It's going to be a fight all the way to the end. Obviously there are a couple of teams out there with good make-up, Detroit and Minnesota always have a good ballclub. I think if you fall asleep against Cleveland or Kansas City you will pay the price. In this division you've got to come every day and compete.''
That's why the stumble by Freddy Garcia on Thursday might be a bigger deal than the Sox would like to show.
Publicly, it's easy to brush it off as one bad start. Privately, the staff is hoping that it's not the first hole in the starting staff about to spring open.
Garcia's first outing of the year against Minnesota, the veteran looked stellar. Then again, that was coming off of nine days rest. Thursday's three-plus innings of dribbling down his leg came on normal rest. The same normal rest that Garcia was struggling with throughout the spring.
With top pitching prospect Daniel Hudson waiting, and willing, in the minors, Garcia was asked on Friday if he felt like he had to start looking over his shoulder.
"I don't think about anyone else,'' Garcia said. "I think about me. I don't care if they have Roy Halladay in Triple-A. I got to do what I got to do and they got to do what they got to do. I don't want to worry about that stuff. If I don't do the job, something is going to happen. But for right now, I got to think about my next start.
"If they have Daniel Hudson or Roy Halladay, good for them. I got to worry about me. I don't have to think about what they have at Triple-A or Double A. I'm here and I try to do my job.''
Garcia said that he felt great warming up in the bullpen before the finale against the Jays, and then something strange happened between that warm-up and his walk to the mound. What was it? Garcia wishes he knew.
"I don't know what the hell happened at the start of the game,'' Garcia said. "I was off. I was watching the video and it was two different people.''
So now there's good Freddy and bad Freddy.
"I'll continue to do my stuff and try to get better,'' Garcia said. "I cannot go one good one and one bad one. I got to be more consistent. That's what I think.''
What matters, however, is what his bosses eventually think. With Jake Peavy struggling out of the gate, the Sox cannot afford the perceived strength of the club to spend April and May trying to find itself. Not when the offense already has that department covered.
Garcia's next start is scheduled to come on Wednesday, and it comes with an extra day off. Make no mistake about it, Garcia will be closely watched. But according to him, he's his toughest critic.
"You can't wait for the next five days,'' Garcia said of wanting to get back out there, "to go to the mound and do your thing.''
TORONTO - Don Cooper isn't losing any sleep over Jake Peavy's slow start.
The White Sox pitching coach is simply leaving that up to everyone else who seems overly concerned about it.
"Certainly that would be a surprise to anyone because he's listed as the top guy,'' Cooper would admit, when asked if the stumble out of the gate for Peavy was a surprise. "Certainly that's what people would say and look for. I think Peavy's going to be fine.''
Asked why he thinks that, Cooper didn't hesitate to answer.
"Because I think he's good,'' Cooper said. "I think he's a good pitcher and I think he's going to be fine.''
Peavy enters his weekend start in Cleveland 0-0, but has an 8.44 ERA. Not exactly the type of numbers expected from the staff ace.
Asked after his Monday outing against the Jays what's been the problem, Peavy said it was location of the fastball. A good description as far as Cooper was concerned.
"That's kind of what it is,'' Cooper said. "When guys aren't doing so well it's usually location. He's made some mistakes and he's paid for them. We're looking to eliminate those mistakes, and that's what we're working for. We are going to eliminate those mistakes. I think when it's all said and done he's going to be a major contributor to what we do.''
He had better be, especially considering the Sox have $15 million invested in him this season, $16 million next year and then $17 million in 2012. Forget the $22 million club option with a $4 million buyout in 2013 - the Sox will cross that bridge when it's time.
What Cooper is not worried about is questions concerning Peavy's velocity being a few ticks down in his Monday outing.
"No, the command is the concern,'' Cooper added. "As a pitching coach I can't give him, we can't give him, more velocity. On that given day the guy's got what he's got. Gavin Floyd's got what he's got, Buehrle's got what he's got. Velocity is never my concern. It's the commanding of the pitches that you've got and changing speeds.''
TORONTO - Ozzie Guillen knows at some point - whether it's his decision or not - he and the White Sox will go their separate ways, but the seventh-year manager was posed an interesting question on Wednesday: How quickly did he feel he would get rehired or would teams shy away from the traveling circus that seems to come with the Guillen show?
"If the White Sox fired me? It's one thing about it [the next club is] going to get what they get,'' Guillen said. "That's one thing about it, I guarantee you. I might find another job a lot quicker than people think, maybe not, but since I got this job ... when we won this thing in 2005, I've always said they have a right to fire me, they do. But I think there's a lot of people now, where if I'm going to leave, I think they would give me a shot. There are a lot of horse[bleep] managers out there that they've given two and three shots to manage in the big leagues. I don't see why not me.''
Guillen brought up Cleveland manager Manny Acta, who entered the night with a career .384 winning percentage, and the fact that several teams were battling over his services this offseason, before the Indians landed him.
"Manny Acta - I don't want to talk [bad] about Manny - but Manny had negative seasons, no? He had two [bleeping] teams that wanted him. Why can't I get another chance with another team? Am I going to keep on doing it? Well, I have to see what is going on. I know I will be in baseball, easily. I can do anything in baseball except one thing - general manager.''
It's not the first time Guillen indicated he would never want to be a GM. But he also knows that if there isn't a managerial job, there is always TV. He worked the World Series for FOX last October, and rather liked it.
"I never thought, because my English is broke, that I could do television, and they put me in for the World Series,'' Guillen said. "And they were begging me to be in the booth. If I go and get fired, I will tell [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] to 'Fire Steve Stone, Farmio [Ed Farmer] or D.J. [Darrin Jackson], I want that job.' ''
TORONTO - Ozzie Guillen is glad he's not Alex Rios.
As the seventh-year manager put it on Tuesday, if he was, he would probably be serving some jail time right now.
Guillen went surfing on the internet before Game 2 of the Jays series to see what the big deal was about the YouTube video in which Rios got into it with a few Toronto fans last June. In the video, a kid is trying to get an autograph, and then an adult starts yelling stuff at Rios when he apparently refused.
"If you put yourself in Alex Rios' shoes, that kid is lucky it wasn't Ozzie,'' Guillen said. "I would beat the [crap] out of him and the guys. Because the way they approached him to go to that point, is not the way to approach a human being. They were making fun of him.
"I swear to God, I'll be in jail right now. Because the people surrounding him were harassing him and I don't think they approached him the right way. They forgot. I saw the YouTube with his wife next to him. People think they can do whatever they want with celebrities, 'Oh, us poor people, whoever makes money or whoever a celebrity is.' That's not right.''
As far as Rios was concerned, he still held no grudges about the career he had with the Jays, and didn't hold any resent about the treatment he has been getting on his return this week. Jays fans were still booing him on Tuesday, but the Rogers Centre was far emptier than it was for the home opener.
The only thing that did catch Rios off guard was the venom in which the Jays fans have toward him.
"Yeah, I was surprised about that I guess,'' Rios said. "It wasn't my choice to leave here, they [waived] me, but it's all good. It's part of the game. It keeps the game exciting.
"I don't mind it. I had it many times here, so I'm kind of used to it.''
TORONTO - Not even White Sox chief marketing officer Brooks Boyer could embrace the slogan Ozzie Guillen was pitching late in spring training.
And that says a lot, considering Boyer would try forcing a PlayStation 3 on an Amish family if it meant ticket sales.
"Don't hate Ozzie Guillen, hate the White Sox,'' Guillen insisted on several occasions.
Well, it became obvious on Monday that it's catching on.
Forget the ugly Americans adage, how about the ugly South Siders? Making their first road trip of the new season, the Sox were unwelcome guests at the Rogers Centre for the Blue Jays home opener, not only because of the usual suspects - Guillen and catcher A.J. Pierzynski - but because of former Toronto outfielder Alex Rios now a member of the traveling party.
It seems that Jays fans hadn't forgotten Rios' big contract he received while he played here, as well as a YouTube video in which Rios has some choice words for a fan after a charity event.
That meant loud boos anytime his name was announced and chants of "Rios sucks'' throughout the game.
Guillen did his best to smooth the situation over like only he can.
Translation: gas on the fire.
"Every time they boo him we'll be laughing because they're still paying him like $20 million,'' Guillen said, which actually wasn't true because the Sox picked up the contract in full when they grabbed him off waivers.
"That's not his fault. It's not his fault they paid him that much money. He played better for the Blue Jays than people think he played. Why are they going to boo him? I don't see any reason. It's not his fault they lose or his stats or whatever. If they boo him, believe me I don't think Alex cares that much. I love when the fans boo people, that means they care.''
Guillen didn't stop there.
"Put it this way, they booed Jim Thome in Cleveland [when he returned with the Sox]. When you boo Jim Thome in Cleveland then you don't know what you can expect from the fans. People probably didn't know where Cleveland was until Jim Thome got there. They're going to boo Alex Rios in Toronto? That doesn't surprise me.
"They're going to boo me too. We have the team that everywhere we roll, they boo A.J. everywhere, they pick someone to boo. We get used to it. How many people going to show up [for the opener]? About 50,000 or 40,000? Tell the fans in Toronto, 'Alex Rios is in Toronto, all you fans come out and boo him.' We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex the next four days. Please, we haven't seen many fans here the last three or four years. Come out just to boo him.''
They did, and coincidentally, the next stop for the Sox on this current road trip? Cleveland, the same place Guillen said, "people probably didn't know where Cleveland was until Jim Thome got there.''
As for Rios, he seemed unfazed by the hostility thrown in his direction.
"It was their decision to [waive] me, I have no clue why they did it or whatever,'' Rios said of his former club. "What can I say? Like I said, it's baseball. Things like that happen. But it's time to move on, and just move on.''
Rios didn't seem completely overwhelmed by the situation, either, singling in three consecutive at-bats, after a strikeout in his first at-bat.
Not that Guillen expected anything less from him.
"He couldn't play worse than he did last year for us,'' Guillen admitted. "Even if he's trying this year, he can't. He was one of the worst I've ever seen. But I don't blame him. I predicted last year when the season was over that Alex was going to be a different ballplayer. He has a lot of confidence, he knows everyone here.
"It's not easy when you get traded from one team to another, the team you grow up with, to the city of Chicago, it's not easy. But I think right now, I don't care about the numbers, he's the one that is swinging the bat the best.''
Not only are the Minnesota Twins coming off a Central Division title, but they also enter 2010 with a new organizational philosophy - at least a richer one.
With a new ballpark has come a new payroll, starting with the news before the season that they signed the face of the club - Joe Mauer - to an eight-year, $184-million contract.
So not only do the Sox have to stress about facing a team that has fundamentally out-baseballed them over much of the last decade, but one that now seems poised to spend more money to add to the product if need be.
"This is a business and more money to work with when you're putting teams together is a good thing,'' team captain Paul Konerko said. "Other teams have proven that more money to spend isn't always a good thing if you don't get the right guys, but I just think the Twins, one thing I always respected about them is they have made moves on the character of the guy. I'm sure they're going to keep that at the forefront.
"The Twins are good, there's no doubt. As a member of the White Sox what do you expect? There's not going to be a division that you just walk through without any resistance. I've won a couple divisions since I've been here, won a World Series, and it's never easy. We've gotten them a couple of times, they've gotten us more times, but we've also won a World Series here, where the group we've played against there hasn't done that. There's a give and take to it all.''
As far as who Konerko sees taking it this year?
"They won the division last year and they haven't taken a step backwards, so they're the team to beat,'' Konerko said.
A division title at stake isn't the only intriguing storyline this year, however. Minnesota signed free agent Jim Thome in the offseason, shortly after manager Ozzie Guillen made the decision to pass on the veteran DH.
Konerko, who is good friends with Thome and his family, was with the slugger when the Twins talk started, and admittedly will be torn seeing Thome in the opposing dugout tonight.
"I was kind of with Jim the week before, and kind of had the inside knowledge on it,'' Konerko recalled. "So I kind of knew where he was going to go, who had interest in him. Gave me time to brace myself. At that point in the offseason you care about your friends, people that you like, who people play for is all secondary. You want to see people get what they want. When it comes to your friends you pull for what they want. The fact that it was the Twins, I wasn't like, 'Jim, don't sign with the Twins.' I wanted to see him play, and we'll deal with it when he gets here [tonight].''
Thome will be welcomed back with open arms from all his former teammates. And then, hopefully beaten.
"I want him to have the best end of his career that he can have,'' catcher A.J. Pierzynski added. "I just hope he finishes in second.''
Don Cooper didn't want to hear the numbers, or frankly just didn't care, when it was pointed out that Gavin Floyd has a recent history of coming out of the gate slowly the past two years.
As a matter of fact, not only did the pitching coach ignore that assessment, but made an assessment of his own on Wednesday concerning both Floyd and Friday scheduled starter John Danks.
"If [John] Danks and Floyd make another step forward certainly it's going to enhance our chances to win the division,'' Cooper said. "If they both have the years that I feel like they're capable of having, they will put themselves in the elite guys in the league, where everyone knows their name, everyone is counting on them.''
It starts with Floyd Thursday night, as he makes his 2010 debut against Cleveland. The red flag with the right-hander is a 7-6 career April record and 6.25 ERA to go along with it.
"This kid is throwing the [crap] out of the ball February, March, April, May,'' Cooper said. "Whether he comes away with wins or not is another thing. That has nothing to do with his stuff not being there. He comes in ready to go. I know this kid is throwing the ball better than whatever [he's getting] credit for in April and May.
"I will say this - if he has another season like he's had the last two years then he has put himself into the category of upper third guys for me. That's where I think he's at, that's where his pitching coach thinks he's at. He's a dynamite pitcher, he's done very, very well for himself the last two years in many, many ways. He's risen from where he was, whatever you want to write about where he was in Philadelphia. While he's been with the Chicago White Sox, the last two years starting, he's been a very, very solid guy, and I think another year like that puts him into the upper third of pitchers in the American League.''
What Cooper wouldn't do was say which pitcher was ahead of the other in reaching that level - Danks or Floyd?
"Very close to each other, very close,'' Cooper added. "It's hard for me to say which one is ahead. That's like comparing your children - I got good kids, I've got good pitchers.''
SOX 2010 PLAYER POWER POLL [Start of the season]
A look at the Sox 25-man roster ranked by talent, makeup and value to the team
1. RHP Jake Peavy - A potential 20-game winner and 200-plus strikeout guy.
2. C A.J. Pierzynski - Try and replace him - try it.
3. 2B Gordon Beckham - The future of the club, and the present No. 2 hitter in the lineup.
4. LHP Mark Buehrle
5. RHP Bobby Jenks - If Jenks falls, the entire bullpen has to shift up a spot.
6. RF Carlos Quentin
7. LHP John Danks
8. 1B Paul Konerko - Da Captain
9. RHP Gavin Floyd
10. LHP Matt Thornton - No longer under the radar as an elite lefty reliever.
11. CF Alex Rios
12. SS Alexei Ramirez - Good teams have to be sound up the middle.
13. LF Juan Pierre
14. 3B Mark Teahen
15. RHP J.J. Putz
16. DH Andruw Jones
17. DH Mark Kotsay - Jones and Kotsay are interchangeable, as long as one is swinging the bat well.
18. RHP Sergio Santos - Could be the closer of the future or a May send down.
19. RHP Freddy Garcia
20. INF Omar Vizquel
21. RHP Tony Pena
22. LHP Randy Williams - Is he ready to slay the M & M boys [Mauer and Morneau]?
23. RHP Scott Linebrink
24. INF Jayson Nix
25. C Donny Lucy
Former Bulls GM Jerry Krause and White Sox board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf could only stay broken up for so long.
During his pre-game meeting with the media before Monday's season-opener against Cleveland, manager Ozzie Guillen - never one to keep secrets - confirmed that the club had brought Krause on as a scout, with an emphasis on handling those duties as far as improving the influx of Latin players.
It came with a ringing endorsement from Guillen.
"I hope he finds another Ozzie Guillen,'' the seventh-year skipper insisted.
After all, it was Krause who found the first Ozzie Guillen, responsible for adding the likes of Guillen in a trade with San Diego, as well as recommending then-first baseman Greg Walker.
"He's a very smart man,'' Guillen said. "He gambled by trading for me and he won. I think this man is a very, very brilliant guy. He's a great baseball person.''