Roster Battles Heat Up At Camelback
At lunchtime a few days ago, I was flipping around the channels and something between Judge Judy and Maury caught my eye. It was the Chicago White Sox playing their first spring training game against the Cubs. I found myself thinking “Holy crap…it’s happening. It’s back.”
To me this has been one of the longer offseasons in recent memory due to the ups and downs of free agency, Mark Buehrle’s departure, and Robin Ventura’s hiring, among other things.
However, I find it refreshing that when I look at baseball news this spring, we’re actually talking about baseball. Not distractions off the field, which often seem to be the case during the winter months.
Even though we are only seven or so games into spring training, there are already quite a few stories popping up.
One major storyline is who’s going to get that final position player spot on the roster, and if it could possibly be former Tampa Bay Rays hero Dan Johnson. The switch-hitting first baseman can definitely hit for power coming off the bench. He’s also a solid option to back up Paul Konerko when needed. This was actually a smarter move than a lot of people think, especially if he ends up making the 25-man roster, since many didn’t think he had it anymore when the signing was announced.
Another thing White Sox fans should definitely keep an eye on is the emerging battle for one of the bullpen spots, namely long relief. The Sox have a plethora of young, starting-pitching talent right now. Yes, last I checked, the Sox had the lowest-rated farm system in the majors.
Even so, most of these young guys have pitched in the big leagues and have stood toe-to-toe with major league batters. Zach Stewart and Dylan Axelrod saw considerable playing time last year. Even though Stewart seemed to get shaken up during the end of last season. He looks to be improving with pitching coach Don Cooper’s help. Dylan pitched a scoreless inning last week alongside Axelrod and Eric Stults who also performed well.
Stults didn’t really seem to be on the radar at first. Though the veteran pitcher has thrown his hat into the ring and has pitched very well so far this spring. Stults has gone scoreless in his first few appearances. Also, don’t count out guys like Hector Santiago and Nestor Molina in the long relief battle. The White Sox seem to think very highly of Molina and want to see him in the big leagues soon, but since he is a natural starting pitcher, management may opt to send him to Charlotte to start the season so he can stay fresh in a starting rotation.
The Sox also want to take another look at Santiago, since his emergency start last season where he impressed enough to get talked about seriously within the organization.
Over the next few weeks, certain players will pull ahead and the roster will start to take shape more definitively. It’s always fun turning these afternoon games on to get a look at the young players and see what they have to offer. Hopefully, for entertainment’s sake at least, we’ll get to see some of these battles for spots go down to the wire. At the most, then fans will know the Sox have capable guys throughout their system.
This is a guest post by Nick LaBanca from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Nick LaBanca is a Columbia College graduate who grew up in Chicago and is an avid Chicago Bulls and White Sox fan. Wanna read more from Nick? Click here.
Photo Credit: ChicagoTribune.com