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

March 2012 Archives

Nate Jones beats out Bruney for last spot

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rookie right-hander Nate Jones has won a spot on the White Sox pitching staff, beating out veteran Brian Bruney for the 12th and final spot on the pitching staff.

Eduardo Escobar, as expected, beat out Rey Olmedo for the 25th spot as a utility infielder.

Jones, 26, pitched a scoreless inning after walking the first two batters he faced against the Royals on Friday night, then worked his way out of trouble. Bruney was tagged for four runs in his first inning of work, then settled down and pitched two scoreless innings.

The Sox announced six roster moves Saturday morning, finalizing their Opening Day roster. Right-hander Dylan Axelrod was optioned to AAA Charlotte, and they reassigned Bruney, catcher Hector Gimenez, infielder Rey Olmedo, left-hander Leyson Septimo and left-hander Eric Stults to minor-league camp.

General manager Ken Williams said he had a good idea two weeks ago that Jones would make the team. With a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a curveball that is rated the best in the Sox organization, the Sox are willing to look past Jones' control issues to see what he can do at the major-league level.

"He's not out of nowhere for us,'' Williams said Saturday. "When you throw 97-100 mph with a hard curve ball, and I think you guys finally saw the changeup a little bit [Friday] night, which we developed when he went down to start a couple years ago so that he could have something...with a changeup around the 86 mph range with some sink and fade to it, along with the curveball that makes everything better.''

Jones' promotion, as well as Escobar's, falls in line with the Sox' plan to inject youth on the roster in their semi-rebuilding phase while still expecting to compete for the postseason.

"One of the things we talked about was our confidence in some of the guys coming in the bullpen,'' Williams said. "We thought that would be a strength of ours, why we decided to use one of our main strengths with guys like Addison Reed, Hector Santiago and Nate Jones.''

Williams said he traded closer Sergio Santos and his club-friendly contract in the offseason for top pitching prospect Nestor Molina because of his confidence in Reed, Santiago and Jones.

"I know these names were not on the tips of every White Sox fan's tongue but we felt as development and scouting people, that moving Chris Sale into the rotation and still having a solid rotation building for the future while making moves gives us depth in the minor leagues. People falsely -- hopefully -- are looking at our club saying because they have youth they're not going to compete. This is a mistake, these are talented people, they're confident and they have a lot of heart.''

Peavy: White Sox won't lose 95 games

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It's only the Cactus League, but the White Sox seem to have a chip on their shoulder after Sports Illustrated predicted they will lose 95 games this season.

The Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 on Tuesday, winning for the eighth time in their last 11 games. The Sox are 11-13 after a 3-10 start.

"That ain't going to happen, I can promise you that,'' right-hander Jake Peavy said of the 95-loss prediction. "I don't know how many we are going to win or lose, but we are not going to lose 95 games. This team has too much pride and we are going to play the right way and we are going to compete. That's all there is to it.

"We aren't going to give away games. We are going to have some growing pains, especially with as young as we are in the back end of the bullpen. I'm sure there will be times when we may lose some tough ones or give away some games but that's to be expected.

"At the same time, we have a veteran presence on this team, guys who have been in the fire before, to lead these young guys. We have great leadership from a coaching perspective. We have too much pride. This team is going to compete. We are not losing 95 games, let me tell you that.''

Peavy threw 104 pitches over seven innings in a minor league game against Sox AA and AAA players Tuesday. His results were mixed: Seven strikeouts and one walk, five runs on 12 hits. He said at the 70-pitch mark he threw mostly fastballs to work on his command. In the first two innings, he struck out four.

"I felt OK but I'm tired,'' Peavy said. "It was good work.

"It was a long day's work, but it was good. We got everything we went down there to accomplish and we threw a lot of fastballs. Threw a lot out of the stretch so that was good.''

Jesse Crain, on the mound for the first time since March 12, threw 24 pitches in the minor league game and is scheduled to pitch in a real game on Thursday. Peavy faced minor leagues to avoid facing the Indians, an AL Central rival of the Sox. He plans to throw about 60 pitches against the Reds Sunday in his final spring tuneup before he faces the Texas Rangers in Arlington on April 7.

"I'm looking forward to starting in Texas,'' Peavy said. "Everything I got right now is geared toward Texas. Getting a start at home vs. Detroit [in the home opener April 13] will be fun, but we got our work cut out for us in this first week of the season, starting with Texas. For the next week or so, we'll be doing a lot of preparation, watching some videos from last year meetings with Twiggy and some of the scouts on what Texas guys are doing here late in the spring. It's a big week for us. It will be exciting to get back home but big start before I get there.''

Dan Johnson, five others cut by White Sox

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- First baseman Dan Johnson and five other White Sox were reassigned to minor league camp on Tuesday.

Johnson, a left-handed hitter with a flair for dramatic home runs, was competing with shortstop Eduardo Escobar for the 25th spot on the roster. Escobar is batting .471 with a home run, two doubles and six RBI and no walks.

Johnson hit .333 (8-for-24) with two home runs and a double this spring. Keeping Escobar, a switch-hitter who stole three bases (and was caught stealing twice) gives the Sox more speed, a pinch runner and more options along with Brent Lillibridge as a backup utility infielder.

"I'm really excited,'' Escobar said. "I've been working very hard and will continue to do that. Being here as long as I have, making the cut, shows the hard work that I've been doing."

Escobar, 23, has been rated as the Sox' top defensive infielder the last three seasons by Baseball America. A career .270 minor-league hitter. he played most of 2011 with AAA Charlotte and nine games for the Sox. Thirty-year-old veteran infielder Ray Olmedo is still in camp as well.

Outfielder Jordan Danks, infielders Jim Gallagher Tyler Saladino and Dallas McPherson and catcher Josh Phegley were also assigned to to minor-league camp.

Thirty-one players remain in major-league camp: 16 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders and five outfielders. The remaining competition for jobs is for two bullpen spots, with Zach Stewart, Brian Bruney, Nate Jones, Dylan Axelrod, Eric Stults and Leyson still in camp.

White Sox have plenty of options for closer's role

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hector Santiago is scheduled to pitch the ninth inning both Wednesday and Thursday, the latest indication the Sox are giving serious consideration to using the rookie left-hander as their closer.

Addison Reed, a rookie right-hander, is also a candidate, as are veteran lefty Matt Thornton and right-hander Jesse Crain. Veteran lefty Will Ohman was even thrown in the mix of possibilities by pitching coach Don Cooper.

This is clearly the biggest decision the Sox must make before the season opens on April 6 in Texas. The seventh and eighth are arguably as important as the ninth, but blowing leads in the ninth -- as the Sox found out last April -- is gut-wrenching. There are only so many of those a team can take.

"Yeah, if you get in situation where you're snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, that's no fun,'' Ohman said. "When it's a final thing, a walkoff, it's a terrible feeling. For a back-end guy, that falls on you.''

The key thing for the guy who gets the job is, "can you have a short enough memory to be OK with that, come back the next day and let it not affect you?" Ohman said.

At least the Sox have options, if not one obvious choice.

" We have power arms, guys who are old who know how to get people out and guys who are young who know how to get people out,'' Ohman said. "Whichever way we decide to go forward, the options are there.''

Danks named Opening Day starter

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After pitching seven strong innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, John Danks was officially named the White Sox Opening Day starter by manager Robin Ventura.

Danks will face the Texas Rangers in his home state on April 6. It will be his first opener.

"I was joking with him about how long it took,'' Ventura said. "He's that guy for us. He's the guy we want to lead off with and count on. And he's willing to take that on. I like when I look in his eyes what I see back."

Danks has been lined up all along to pitch the first game but Ventura stretched it out. His first two starts of the spring were shaky, and Ventura wanted to make sure he got untracked. Danks signed a $65 million extension during the off-season and has been considered the heir apparent to Mark Buehrle for the honor all along. Even Buehrle touted Danks for the role.

"It's something I wanted to see,'' Ventura said. "I wanted to make sure and see it and in the last couple with him, I've seen what I needed to see. And I feel comfortable and confident with him making him the Opening Day starter."

In the Sox' 4-3 loss to the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, Danks allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked none.

Adding to the usual buzz of pitching on Opening Day are several other factors for Danks: He'll face the defending American League championship team that drafted him.

"It could be in Alaska and I wouldn't care,'' Danks said "I think that's cool. It's an honor. It's something everyone dreams about, throwing on Opening Day. I've had the opportunity to watch five of them. You can't help but think, man, what if that were me out there?"
"It could be in Alaska and I wouldn't care,'' Danks said "I think that's cool. It's an honor. It's something everyone dreams about, throwing on Opening Day. I've had the opportunity to watch five of them. You can't help but think, man, what if that were me out there?"

White Sox' Nate Jones racking up strikeouts

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With Hector Santiago taking one of the three open bullpen spots, two remain open with Zach Stewart, Brian Bruney, Nate Jones and left-hander Eric Stults in the pool for the last two.

Jones, a 6-5, 185-pound Kentuckian drafted in the fifth round by the Sox in 2007, possesses a mid-90s fastball and for several years the highest-rated curve in the organization. His 15 strikeouts rank among the leaders in the Cactus League. Jones was both surprised and happy to hear that fact.

"All I'm trying to do is make it a hard choice for them [to decide],'' said Jones, who pitched a scoreless inning against the Dodgers on Monday. "All I concentrate on is throwing strikes.''

Jones is the mix but probably not at the top of the list of candidates to make the team. There's a good chance he'll be seen in a Sox uniform during the season at some point, however.

After getting a team-high 12 saves at AA Birmingham in 2011, Jones played in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He said that helped him jump right into camp without having to find his arm slot. With 173 walks in 397 minor-league innings, control has been Jones' bugaboo. He had walked four in 8 1/3 innings this spring going into his scheduled relief appearance against the Dodgers Monday, but his stuff is impressive.

Roster cuts are expected Wednesday.

"Spring training has been awesome,'' Jones said. "I'm just taking what I did in Winter Ball and using it here. That has helped a lot. Instead of taking four months off not throwing and having to find your arm slot, I've been able to keep throwing strikes.''

Santiago, Ohman in '5-horse race' to be White Sox closer

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the White Sox have an idea about who they're leaning to as their closer, nobody is saying.

Pitching coach Don Cooper even went as far as saying that veteran left-hander Will Ohman is in the picture. A more realistic candidate just added to the mix is rookie lefty Hector Santiago, who pitched the ninth inning on Sunday. Santiago got the save, his first, in a 5-2 victory against the San Francisco Giants.

"Addison [Reed], Santiago, [Matt] Thornton, [Jesse] Crain, those are the guys we're talking about, right?'' Cooper said Sunday morning. "And hey, you know what? Will Ohman got a [two-inning] save yesterday, don't be surprised. You guys will find out. But right now they're all still going. Ohman just made it a five-horse race.''

Ohman (1.29 ERA) is having a good spring, helped by the addition of a usable changeup to go with his fastball and slider, but he does not have textbook closer stuff. Santiago has a mid-90s arm, and his screwball -- described as "baffling" around the Sox clubhouse -- makes him tough on right-handed hitters as well as lefties. He attacks hitters and, like Reed, seems to have closer-type makeup despite his inexperience.

"Listen, we're looking at everybody and what's our best thing,'' Cooper said. "But nothing has been discussed about the finality of it all. Heck, I dont know what we're going to do. We haven't spoken about it. Everybody is gathering information, watching games, watching guys pitch.''

"It was exciting, to go out there and get a save opportunity,'' said Santiago, a New Jersey native who grew up cheering for the Mets and lefty closer John Franco. "That would be nice if they're actually considering me, being a first-year guy. Having a chance to do that would be awesome.''

As a rookie, Santiago simply wants to land a spot on the staff. That is all but a sure thing.

"It would be nice to have the closer job but ... I would love to just pitch,'' Santiago said. "Any inning, doesn't matter. Whatever inning they want to do, it doesn't matter.''

Crain's chances of closing have been hurt by being sidelined but he took an important step with a solid bullpen session Sunday. He is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday for the first time since March 12.

Cooper said Crain threw "free and easy and there was no pain.''

"I thought he threw all his pitches well ... Everything is pointed in a good direction.''

Pierzynski hits inside-park homer in Sox win

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A.J. Pierzynski got plenty of running in during the White Sox' 6-3 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. After hitting two doubles against left-hander Joe Saunders in his first two at-bats, the White Sox catcher legged out an inside-the-park home run against right-hander Brett Lorin.

"I saw [third-base coach] Joe [McEwing] waving me and when I hit third, Blummer [former teammate Geoff Blum] was like 'You gotta go, tubby.' So, I thought that was rather funny.''

Pierzynski almost cleared the center-field wall, the ball bouncing off the top into right field, where Justin Upton tracked it down.

"When I hit it, I thought I hit it good enough that it was going to be a regular home run,'' said Pierzynski, who has three homers this spring. "It just kept going. I saw it hit and I wasn't sure if it was out or still in. I saw Upton chasing it and I was like it's a foot race and he'll proabably win.''

Gavin Floyd walked five and allowed five hits in six innings, but worked out of trouble and allowed two runs. Left-hander Hector allowed his first run of the spring, a homer to AJ Pollack in the seventh, before right-hander Nate Jones pitched two scoreless innings for the save.

The Sox dugout was up for grabs when Pierzynski got there. Pierzynski appeared to have been smiling rounding third and he slid into home without a play, although the relay throw home arrived at about the same time.

"I actually hit one in Triple-A and I think I hit one in A-ball too,'' Pierzynski said. "But I just remember when I was hitting second thinking about {Paul] Konerko talking trash for all these years about him having one in the big leagues. I was thinking that I have to score on this one so I don't have to hear about it from him.''

Floyd, projected as the No. 3 starter in the rotation, said he felt better as the game went along. He did not have good command, especially early, of his breaking pitches.

"That's what pitching is all about,'' Floyd said. "When you don't feel the greatest, when you're out there battling, you try to make pitches. If you don't hit your spots, be repetitive [and try to] execute pitches and keep the team in the game. That's what we're paid to do.

"I'm progressing. In a couple of starts I'll need where I need to be.''

Staff wanted Molina to stay: Williams

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GLENDALE, Ariz. Right-hander Nestor Molina, the high-end pitching prospect acquired from the Blue Jays in the somewhat surprising trade of 2011 closer Sergio Santos, left general manager Ken Williams feeling good about the deal.

Molina was optioned to AA Birmingham last week, but he will likely be seen in a White Sox uniform this season.

"If it were up to the coaching staff they would probably carry Molina on this club,'' Williams said. "But we think he has such a bright future as a starter, he needs at least to get through a half year and get some innings in. We'll see how he's doing at that point.''

After getting rocked for five runs in 1 1/3 innings by the Dodgers in the first Cactus League game, Molina made two scoreless appearances.

"His stuff, pitchability, ability to throw strikes, and throw the changeup in any count'' impressed the Sox GM.

To Molina's credit, he did not become unglued after his bad outing. Like Santos, the 23-year-old Venezuelan is a converted position player. His minor league numbers are impressive: 27-7 with a 2.21 ERA with a 277-47 strikeouts to walks ratio. Pitch command is his calling card.

Baseball America ranks Molina as the No. 2 prospect in the organization.

Danks gets 96 pitches in vs M's minor leaguers

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox switched things up on Wednesday, assigning left-hander John Danks to pitch in a minor league game and sent lefty Eric Stults to face the Seattle Mariners in Peoria.

The Sox, who play at Seattle on April 20-22, prefer not to match starters against teams they will face during the regular season. Jake Peavy, in line to face the Royals on Thursday, will face Texas Rangers minor leaguers instead. Zach Stewart will get the start against the Royals.

Danks pitched six innings, threw 96 pitches and gave up four runs (three earned).

"I'm getting there,'' said Danks, who struck out seven and walked one while allowing a home run. "I'm not where I need to be. A lot closer than I was a couple of weeks ago. I'm on pace. I think I'll be ready. It was a good day today.''

Stults, 32, gave up two runs in four innings, finding a nice rhythm after the first.

He had not allowed a run in five innings over four spring appearances. He has a chance to make the Opening Day roster in one of the three bullpen spots that are open, possibly four if Jesse Crain's strained right oblique doesn't heal.

"I feel like I put myself in a good situation,'' Stults said after his outing. "I feel like I can go either way for them, whether they need a starter or reliever. I feel like I got that flexibility. They're going to do what they feel is best for the team. Whether I'm in the plans or not, I'm going to continue to go out there and when they give me the ball, give them quality innings."

Crain felt better about his prospects, however, after throwing 20 pitches from in front of the mound, then 12 on the mound on Wednesday morning.

"Definitely a step forward," Crain said. "A big step forward coming from where I've been."

"It starts off kind of tight so you don't know how it's going to feel so you kind of work through that. And it loosened up a little bit.''

Crain is now planning to throw an extensive bullpen session on Friday.

"I didn't go 100 percent. I got off the mound and I was throwing strikes, throwing all my pitches. You know, it was a big step forward, especially coming from where it felt the last couple of days. I think it's something that day by day it will get better.

"I imagine we will throw a real hard pen and if all goes well there, hopefully I'll be ready for a game.''

Stults pitched 12 innings for the Colorado Rockies last season. He started 10 games for the Dodgers in 2010, going 4-3 with a 4.86 ERA. He is 8-10, 4.93 over 157 innings in his career.

Right-handed prospect Terry Doyle, whom the Sox lost to the Twins in the Rule 5 draft, was returned to the Sox and will report to Class AAA Charlotte.

Sale pitches six scoreless innings vs. Reds

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Chris Sale took a big step forward with six scoreless innings against the Reds on Monday that rivaled - if not topped - Jake Peavy's five hitless innings two days earlier.
Making the transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation, Sale gave up eight runs over his first two starts. Against the Reds, Sale was dominant with six strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed.
"I was out there not trying to throw the nastiest breaking ball I've ever thrown or throwing 100 miles per hour on every pitch,'' Sale said. "Just trying to make pitches instead of trying to do something I'm not capable of doing.''
The Reds scored a run in the ninth against Brian Bruney for a 1-0 win. Hector Santiago and Addison Reed each pitched a scoreless inning for the Sox.

Crain needs to work, heal to be ready for opener

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - The strained oblique muscle on Jesse Crain's right side is not something the White Sox want to linger. Crain will be a key piece to the bullpen, either in a set-up or ninth-inning role, and the more he remains sidelined the greater his chances of being unavailable on Opening Day are.
Crain played catch Monday and might do so Tuesday. A self-described slow starter in spring training, he cherishes his pitching days. He has made three.
"I would like to get, in a perfect world, at least 10 in,'' Crain said Monday.
Between side bullpen sessions and games, Crain said he can get enough work in to be ready, but he wasn't brimming with optimism.
"I think it feels a little better,'' Crain said. "I've never had it before so I don't know what to expect. I don't know how long it will be.''
Matt Thornton's chances of another try at closing just got better, unless Addison Reed gets an unexpected nod out of the gate.
"The biggest thing is I just want to get healthy as soon as possible," Crain said. "I just have to take it day-by-day. That's all I know. That's all I'm trying to do. Rehabbing and doing the same thing and wait until it feels better."

White Sox' Floyd unfazed by trade rumors

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PEORIA, Ariz. - Gavin Floyd seems unfazed by the trade rumors. A day after the latest report surfaced that the Toronto Blue Jays are still coveting the White Sox right-hander, Floyd looked very sharp in a four-inning start against the Padres.

"It's a good thing in a way. Teams want you,'' Floyd said after throwing 38 of his 59 pitches for strikes. "But I'm here in Chicago and I want to be here and it's our second home. I'm happy I'm here and that's what I look forward to, being here and having an impact in Chicago."

Floyd gave up a run on three singles while striking out the side in the first inning. He allowed two singles after that, leaving with the Sox leading 3-1. His breaking pitches were sharp, and he didn't walk a batter while striking out five.

''I feel like I'm building each outing,'' said Floyd, whose previous stints were in intrasquad and B games. "But even from the intrasquad, I'm getting ahead and doing everything you need to do as a starting pitcher.''

General manager Ken Williams has said that he's not looking to trade Floyd, although he entertained offers during the offseason. Dealing an important piece of the rotation for prospects would send a message the clubhouse won't want to hear: rebuild now, compete later.

When it was unclear which direction Williams was going in the offseason, Floyd remained calm.

"I was hearing things,'' he said. "People were text-messaging me and you just really.... until it happens, you really don't know. They're all rumors and a lot of those don't necessarily come from the teams.''

Said manager Robin Ventura: "I don't blame them. I don't see us involved in any of that, but I guess you never know. I see the interest, because he's that good.

"Yeah, I want to see him pitch with us. Definitely. Again you got to go through spring and see how that all pans out. But he's pitched well enough that I definitely want him in the rotation.''

Dunn scratched from White Sox lineup with stiff neck

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Adam Dunn was scratched from the White Sox lineup Tuesday with a stiff neck. Dan Johnson took Dunn's place in the lineup.

Dunn had a wrap on his neck and shoulder area in the clubhouse Tuesday morning.

The slugging designated hitter, who is coming off a terrible season, has had a good spring with three hits in 11 at-bats with four walks and four RBI. His hits include a home run and a double.

White Sox' Dunn won't alter routine

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GLENDALE, Ariz. - Adam Dunn appreciates Robin Ventura playing him at first base in Cactus League games.

Not that Dunn wants more playing time at Paul Konerko's position. It's just that being a designated hitter in the spring isn't the same as being a DH during the season.

"Yeah, it's boring,'' Dunn said. "Robin has been awesome about that. I've only DH'd a couple times here. DH-ing is really hard down here.''

During the regular season, players have access to the clubhouse, exercise bikes and whatever else they can use to pass time and stay loose. There's no such access on Cactus League fields.

Except for possibly a new drill or two, Dunn said he doesn't plan to alter his DH routine much during the regular season. He batted .159 for the Sox in 2011, his first season as a DH - a role that takes some getting used to. But his hitting problems weren't related to his comfort level, Dunn said, so he sees no need to change.

Among the team leaders in games started, Dunn was not in the lineup for the Sox game against the A's at Camelback Ranch on Monday.

"It's one of those to get guys at-bats,'' Ventura said. "He's been swinging it great, and we've been able to get them at first base and DH, moving him around. Just getting him work and at-bats, and that's just one way to get him at-bats and get him active. Get him on the field and get him running around. Even in spring training, DH is boring. So get him out there and get him comfortable. If we have to get Paulie a day off during the season, we can do that.''

A below average first baseman defensively, Dunn is fine with playing first base but doesn't care either way.

"I have no idea [about Ventura's planned workload for Dunn at first] but if he does that's cool. If he doesn't, whatever. I don't care. I know what I signed up for [to DH] and I'll do whatever.''

White Sox' Ohman adds changeup to

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Left-handed relief specialist Will Ohman, who has made a career with his fastball and slider, is throwing a changeup that he and pitching coach Don Cooper are excited about.

A changeup gives Ohman a pitch to get right-handed hitters out with, which could extend his outings from one or two hitters to a full inning or more.

"I feel comfortable with it,'' said Ohman, who had been searching for a grip since last season, his first with the Sox. "It gives me a chance to get out there for longer periods of time instead of only going for one lefty, or two guys. I can get the right-hander out, too. And I can use it against lefties as well.''

The ball comes out of the 34-year-old Ohman's hand naturally for a slider. Not so with the change, so he has been searching for the right grip for his arm slot.

"To get that movement going the other way across the plate was difficult,'' Ohman said, "especially throwing for short, truncated periods of time. That's not something you can go out and work on in games.''

White Sox prospect Short out for season

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jared Mitchell knows Brandon Short's pain. A former first-round White Sox draft pick, Mitchell tore up his ankle during spring training two years and missed an entire minor league season.

Short crashed into the center field wall in Surprise on Thursday and not only dislocated his left shoulder but tore the labrum. He will have surgery and is out for the season.

"There is nothing I can say to him that will make him feel better,'' Mitchell said Friday before the Sox played the Cubs in their fifth exhibition game of the year. "He was trying to be aggressive, wanting to show something.''

Short, a former 28th-round pick, has moved up the ranks of Sox outfield prospects. Baseball America rates him as their 18th best prospect overall. He can only hope his comeback season is not as rough as Mitchell's. When Mitchell came back, he batted .222 with 183 strikeouts in Class A.

Mitchell was also injured going into the wall. This spring, he has three hits including a home run.

Short batted .262 with 13 home runs, 29 doubles, 60 RBI and 21 stolen bases for Class AA Birmingham last season.

Another good showing for White Sox' Santiago

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Hector Santiago's second straight strong appearance on Thursday seemed to solidify his chances of winning one of the three spots open in the bullpen. Santiago was the starter against the Texas Rangers regulars and struck out Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Mike Olt in his two scoreless innings.

Santiago threw about a 10-12 screwballs, which is his bread and butter pitch.

"From seeing some of the swings and some of the faces on these guys after they saw it, it was something they haven't seen or was odd to them,'' Santiago said.

The Sox open the season in Texas, so starter Gavin Floyd and relievers Addison Reed and Will Ohman faced the Rangers' B team to avoid giving Texas regulars a closeup look at them. Santiago and a list of prospects pitched in the A game, which the Sox were leading 6-2 through eight innings. Center field prospect Brandon Short left the game after crashing into the center-field wall. He appeared to injure a shoulder.

Santiago started but approached it like a relief appearance.

"Oh, yeah, from first pitch, I don't try to hold anything back,'' he said. "You never know how long you are going to be out there. Go right after and give it all you got. Who knows how long you are going to be out there?''

Santiago was impressive when the Sox called him up last season. He pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in relief.

Ventura's Sox staff: 'What's not to like?'

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robin Ventura's staff might lead the Cactus League in team meetings. The good thing is most are brief and to the point, so there have been few complaints.
Players aren't griping about drills that take longer if they're not executed properly, either.
"If you drop the ball, we do it again,'' second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "Do it right and in a game it will go right. If you let stuff go, you'll make mistakes in a game. That's the point. We don't want to make mistakes in a game. And it showed - the first relay we had [right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to Beckham to catcher Tyler Flowers] we did it right. ''
Beckham gives two thumbs up to the new staff.
"What's not to like? They're good,'' he said. "They want to work and they really care about everybody getting a little better every day and that's important. They don't let you take a day off in terms of work.
"They're good, creating a good atmosphere.''
Ventura was looking for his first win when the Sox played the Brewers Wednesday. Jake Peavy started for the Sox against Marco Estrada.

Beckham shakes off rough start at plate with 2 hits

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was only the first day, so don't read too much into Gordon Beckham's pair of strikeouts in his first two at-bats against the Dodgers on Monday.

Beckham didn't. He bounced back with two singles in two at-bats and a stolen base in the Angels' 6-2 win against the White Sox on Tuesday. His three good fielding plays and two whiffs the day before reflected his 2011 season in a nutshell: Gold Glove caliber defense for long stretches at second base and a tailspin at the plate.

"I felt really good in the field. Really good,'' he said the morning after Monday's Cactus League Opener.

"What do you really want to ask?'' he said, smiling, knowing a question about hitting was on the way.

With that, a teammate passed gas while walking past Beckham's locker.

"That can be my at-bats comment,'' Beckham said.

But seriously, folks.

"My swing feels so good in BP and the way my set up feels, it's just one of those days,'' Beckham said. "I was laughing about it because I was telling myself it can't get much worse than that. It's like all uphill from here. I started really hot last spring training and you saw how that worked out.

"I was just frustrated because you don't want to look like that on the first day. I can kind of laugh at it now. I really do feel good. It's not a concern. The way I feel in BP, I'm where I want to be. It's the first game.''

Beckham batted ninth Monday. He batted second Tuesday when the Sox and left-hander John Danks faced the Angels and Albert Pujols in Tempe. Danks had a rough first outing, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in two innings.

Danks hasn't been named officially but he's lined up to be the Opening Day starter in Texas, his home state. Manager Robin Ventura stopped short of making it official after the game.

"I haven't been told that,'' he said after his outing. "I keep my fingers crossed, but two more like this and I don't think there will be any question."

The Sox batting order for Tuesday: Alejandro De Aza CF, Beckham 2B, Adam Dunn 1B, Dayan Viciedo LF, Kosuke Fukudome RF, Tyler Flowers C, Jim Gallagher DH, Brent Lillibridge 3B, Eduardo Escobar SS.

Fukudome's "speech" inspires Team Dunn to victory

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox first intrasquad game started with Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome's pregame speech to Team Dunn, and Chris Sale taking the mound as a starter for the first time in a Sox uniform.

Nobody understood a word Fukudome said, but Team Dunn whooped it up anyway as it prepared to play a game it would win 8-4 over Team Konerko.

"The best part was the start, just the competitiveness and fun of having a scrimmage,'' manager Robin Ventura said.

"Yeah, that's a fun first inning. That was fun to see,'' Ventura said of Fukudome's speech, which came at the urging of Dunn who was promising a "secret motivational speaker" and touting his team as a huge favorite. "That's the stuff you look for besides the playing stuff, camaraderie you see already.''

Dayan Viciedo hit a hanging slider from Gavin Floyd over the left field fence for a grand slam in the first, and A.J. Pierzynski had two hits against Floyd including an RBI double. Chris Sale pitched two scoreless innings in his first "outing" as a Sox starter.

"Yeah, I've seen worse intrasquad games,'' Ventura said. "This had a lot of energy with them warming up and going back and forth. It was enjoyable. You can have these intrasquad games where guys go out there and not do anything but they put some effort into it, and we're looking forward to first real spring game [Monday vs. the Dodgers].''

Pierzynski batted second, a spot he might see a lot this season.

"Right now I'd like to have A.J. in there,'' Ventura said. "He handles the bat great. He's always a tough out. Not that he steals a lot of bases but he handles the bat and does the appropriate things. He's one of those guys who will hook it if you have to or put it the other way if they shift on him. Right now I like him right there.''

If likely leadoff man Alejandro De Aza gets on, that would give Pierzynski a hole to pull through with the first baseman holding the runner.

Ventura also said he prefers having Paul Konerko bat fourth. Konerko batted third a lot last season, but Ventura doesn't want him following Pierzynski. Neither are fast, especially Konerko, who is one of the slowest runners in baseball.

"I think Monday I'm going to bat him fourth,'' Ventura said. "I'd like Paulie to bat fourth. For him he probably feels more comfortable there.

"Once you put A.J. second you don't want to follow with Paulie and Adam. Get somebody in there who can outrun them.''

Viciedo played left field and Alex Rios played right.

"He's pretty good,'' Ventura said. "He's hot in left field.''

Ventura said he wants Viciedo to just worry about taking good swings and not worry about numbers.

"You want everyone to be run producers but for us you want him to make solid contact,'' Ventra said. "For a rookie you want consistency. Today he hit two balls hard and that's what you want to see. Not going to tell him he has to knock in a bunch of runs. He wants to do that anyway. It's staying consistent bat after at bat like that and we'll take what you get.''

Sale threw free and easy and took another staff in his transformation from reliever.

"Honestly, I came in here like a deer in the headlights. 'where am I going now. I was like a little kid. Hey Gavin, what are you doing now?' So just talking to Coop and the trainers, try to find something to get where I need to be. Not doing too much or doing too little."

Sale has to get used to taking his time warming for a start as opposed to rushing as a reliever.

"That was something I paid attention to, not firing from the word go,'' he said. "Just taking it nice and easy and really loosening it up because you have time. You're in no rush. That was nice to go out there and flip some in and start stretching it out and pick it up as it goes."

Sale heard players, who surrounded Fukudome in short left field, getting fired up while he was warming up.

"I heard it was Fukudome. He went out there and got the guys pumped up,'' he said. "It was awesome. I was out there throwing and they were screaming and cheering and I was warming up and missing everything."

Brandon Short had a three-run double, and Jared Mitchell an RBI single. Both are considered top prospects.
Dunn walked and scored and was called out on strikes against lefty Eric Stults.

Psychologist helps White Sox with approach

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- White Sox players met this week with team psychologist Jeff Fishbein, who was around last season -- much to former manager Ozzie Guillen's chagrin. Guillen scoffed at his presence and had no use for what a psychologist brings to the clubhouse, but some players - including Brent Morel -- say he's useful.

"It's about him helping you develop routines, your thought process when you're in the on-deck circle and in the box, stuff to do to help you have a free mind when you're up there,'' Morel said.

Fishbein played golf with Adam Dunn while Dunn was struggling last year. It didn't help Dunn out of his hitting slump, but Dunn said then that he liked hanging out him. He's there if players need him.

"I think it's something we can all benefit from, have everybody take a little something there and apply,'' Morel said. "I think it can be useful for us.''

The Sox are having an intrasquad game Saturday, pitting Team Dunn against Team Konerko. The lineups:

Alejandro De Aza CF, Gordon Beckham 2B, Alex Rios RF, Paul Konerko dh, Alexei Ramirez ss, Tyler Flowers c, Jim Gallagher 1B, Dallas McPherson 3b, Jared Mitchell LF, Gavin Floyd P.

Brent Lillibridge SS, A.J. Pierzynski C, Kosuke Fukudome RF, Adam Dunn DH, Brent Morel 3b, Dayan Viciedo lf, Dan Johnson 1b, Jordan Danks cf, Eduardo Escobar 2b, Chris Sale P.

Humber to start Cactus League opener

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robin Ventura's starting rotation began to fall in order Thursday.

Ventura said right-hander Philip Humber, who is the likely fifth starter in the White Sox rotation, will start the Cactus League opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday at Camelback Ranch. John Danks, the likely Opening Day starter at Texas on April 6, will follow on Tuesday against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz. Jake Peavy is penciled in for Wednesday against the Brewers, followed by Gavin Floyd against the Texas Rangers Thursday and Chris Sale against the Cubs Friday.

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