Monday brings about the first competition against an actual other professional baseball club for the 2012 White Sox. While it will still be a functionally useless Spring Training game with the thousands of factors that compromise the results that every Spring Training game has, it will at least be more exciting to see Dayan Viciedo hit home runs off of pitchers from other teams, rather than continue to abuse poor Gavin Floyd.
As trivial as the games might be, it is the first bit of lineup making and roster-figuring of the year, and there's something entertaining enough about that.
Brent Lillibridge started Saturday's intrasquad game at shortstop, while Eduardo Escobar played on the same team at 2nd base. For the time being, the previously stated intention to have Lillibridge serve as the backup shortstop seems entirely sincere. Because it's a new regime and all, let's assume that Ventura & Co. will pull the plug on the project if Lillibridge can't pick it over there, until horribly proven otherwise.
“[The batting order] could change for me with a lefty, either putting Brent [Lillibridge] in there or Gordon at the top,” Ventura said. “If Lillibridge is there, it kind of changes that around, too.”
There was a smattering of tweets from the beat writers about the back end of the bullpen, but I'm not really sure if they gel together.
Coach Don Cooper says final three spots in Sox's pen could be decided by who can pitch anywhere from 2 to 4 innings. Protection for Sale
11:16 AM - 4 Mar 12 via web · Embed this Tweet
A need for long relievers would seem to enhance the likelihood of Dylan Axelrod and Zach Stewart making the Opening Day roster. On the other hand...
Coop on 4 lefites in bullpen: "Yes, I think it would be a reach. What I will say if there are two other lefties besides Ohman and Thornton jump up and show they can do it, we’d have to seriously consider it."
11:14 AM - 4 Mar 12 via web · Embed this Tweet
I...um...hhmmmm. What scenario would force that? The other lefties on the 40-man roster are Pedro Hernandez, Charlie Leesman, Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana, and Donnie Veal. The non-roster invite lefties are Leyson Septimo and Eric Stults. From that list, the players who I would imagine would be a strong Spring Training away from forcing their way on, despite there already being enough lefties would be, well, just Santiago. Who is apparently being used to start some B games during Spring Training, indicating he could still be on that career path.
There's not exactly a wellspring of more deserving righties (not everyone loves Brian Bruney), but the notion of there being a bunch of lefties worth cramming on the roster is out of left field.
- Alejandro De Aza CF
- A.J. Pierzynski C
- Alex Rios CF
- Paul Konerko 1B
- Adam Dunn DH
- Alexei Ramirez SS
- Dayan Viciedo LF
- Brent Morel 3B
- Gordon Beckham 2B
All outrage and shock about Dunn and Rios still having starting jobs in 2012, and what that says about the state of the organization was just and due, but should have come with the understanding that they would return to their old roles in full. Still, every step closer is...wow...there they are.
Inherently, Morel acting upon the promise of his September, Beckham reclaiming his whiz kid status, or Viciedo hitting the ground running could facilitate raises in the order, just as Rios and Dunn could quickly see themselves to the back. For a batting order with as many lottery tickets as this one, the initial order may not matter much. It needs to be seen who's returned to camp as a competent baseball player, then things can shake out from there. This is the lineup for if everything goes right. And if everything goes right, well then, this isn't a bad order at all.
The reasoning behind it sounds a little old-school though.
Pierzynski doesn't have much speed and has a single-season career-high of 25 walks, but he also possesses the best bat control on the team.
"Not that he steals a lot of bases, but he handles the bat and does the appropriate things," said Ventura. "He's always a tough out. 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."
Ventura will not use Alejandro De Aza and Pierzynski back to back against tough left-handers, possibly moving up Brent Morel to No. 2 in that case. Look for Paul Konerko to hit fourth, with Alex Rios likely third to break up the speed-challenged trio of Pierzynski, Konerko and Adam Dunn, but Ventura hasn't officially decided on the third slot.
To this day, I'm not sure what exactly bat control is supposed to mean exactly. If they want the #2 hitter to put the ball in play all the friggin' time, then A.J. is their man. If they want the #2 hitter to ground out to the right side of the infield as opposed to the left when there's a runner on 2nd, well AJ's their man for that too. He doesn't have a high OBP, but there's not exactly a sure bet later down the order to trump him in that regard. Though if they're really concerned about a lack of speed at the top, Alexei Ramirez is an obvious substitution.
For now, centering the hopes of the lineup around Rios is very intentional.
“I like Alex there,” Ventura said. “He’s been swinging it great. You look at everything he has, he would be that guy who fits that spot. That’s where we’re going. I trust him.”
Now, firstly...God help us. Secondly, far be it for me to question the scouting acumen of Robin Ventura. I'm sure if he saw some horrifying problem in Rios' swing that portended doom for the entire season, he would both let the press know and move him out of the center of the lineup.
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, Brent Morel, brian bruney, charlie leesman, Chris Sale, Dayan Viciedo, Don Cooper, donnie veal, dylan axelrod, Eduardo Escobar, eric stults, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, hector santiago, Jose Quintana, leyson septimo, Matt Thornton, Paul Konerko, pedro hernandez, Robin Ventura, White Sox, Will Ohman, zach stewart