Chicago White Sox 2010 preview

Spring training wasn’t a week old before manager Ozzie Guillen raised the ire of general manager Kenny Williams. Guillen created a Twitter account. The GM doesn’t want his manager sharing White Sox matters in cyberspace. Guillen says he won’t; he just wants to have fun. With the AL Central’s deepest rotation and a retooled offense, the White Sox have a team that could make their manager’s job more enjoyable than firing off 140-character wisecracks.

Three questions

Juan Pierre will hit leadoff for the White Sox, but he doesn't provide the power the team needs.
Juan Pierre will hit leadoff for the White Sox, but he doesn’t provide the power the team needs.

1. Where’s the power?

Since their days together with the Marlins, Guillen has wanted Juan Pierre on his side. Why? Pierre is an ideal top-of-the-order hitter in the go-go attack Guillen prefers. Pierre not only can steal bases, but he doesn’t strike out much and has a respectable .348 on-base percentage for his career.

The White Sox won’t be all about small ball, though. Chicago still has three players in its staring lineup — first baseman Paul Konerko, right fielder Carlos Quentin and slimmed-down DH Andruw Jones — with at least one season with 30-plus homers on their resumes. But with Pierre, center fielder Alex Rios, third baseman Mark Teahen, second baseman Gordon Beckham and shortstop Alexei Ramirez, Guillen’s lineup also is loaded with players who have the potential to reach double figures in steals as well as homers.

2. Who’s the DH?
Well, it isn’t Jim Thome. He will continue his push toward 600 homers with the Twins after the White Sox decided not to bring him back. Williams would have liked the steady power potential, but Guillen didn’t think he could get Thome enough at-bats. After years of having Frank Thomas and Thome as exclusive designated hitters, Guillen wants to use the position as a way to rotate and rest players.

Jones figures to be the No. 1 choice, though he sometimes will sit against righthanders in favor of the lefthanded-hitting Mark Kotsay. When Guillen wants to get Jones a start in the outfield, he can give Quentin or Rios a day off from defense. "From the manager’s point, it’s easier when you have a guy you don’t have to use as a DH," Guillen said.

3. Can Rios rebound?
He’d better. The Sox are on the hook for nearly $60 million over five seasons after claiming the 29-year-old off waivers last August. Rios’ first 41 games with the club couldn’t have gone much worse: He hit .199 with a .530 OPS, only three homers and nine RBIs. What happened? "Everything," Guillen said. "It was not easy for him. Playing in Chicago when you’re in the pennant race is kind of tough. He put a lot of pressure on himself. He struggled to me more mentally because he tried to do too much."

The White Sox are hoping Rios will play better after spending a camp with the club and knowing that he will be the everyday center fielder.

Projected lineup
1. LF Juan Pierre: .301 AVG in 10-year career.
2. 2B Gordon Beckham: SN’s top AL rookie in ’09.
3. RF Carlos Quentin: 21 HRs in ’09 but health is issue.
4. 1B Paul Konerko: 197 HRs since ’04 are 3rd-most in AL
5. CF Alex Rios: Only 63 runs scored in 149 games in ’09.
6. C A.J. Pierzynski: Leads AL catchers in games since ’05.
7. DH Andruw Jones: ’08: 3 HRs, .158 AVG; ’09: 17 HRs, .214 AVG.
8. SS Alexei Ramirez: 18 BBs in ’08; 49 in ’09.
9. 3B Mark Teahen: 123 K’s, 37 BBs with Royals in ’09.

Projected rotation
1. LHP Mark Buehrle: 2-7, 4.78 ERA after perfect game July 23.
2. RHP Jake Peavy: No runs allowed in final 17 IP in ’09.
3. LHP John Danks: 3.77 ERA: 3rd-best among AL lefties.
4. RHP Gavin Floyd: ERA, K’s up, but BBs down ’09.
5. RHP Freddy Garcia: Just 23 MLB starts since ’07.

Projected closer
RHP Bobby Jenks. ERA jumped from 2.63 in ’08 to 3.71 in ’09.

Grades

Offense: C. The White Sox plan to use a different approach. Relying on the homer didn’t prove effective last season when they hit 184, their lowest total in 10 years and 51 fewer than 2008’s major league-leading total. Not coincidentally, they finished 12th in the AL in runs.

Pitching: A. The rotation finished second in the AL with a 4.20 ERA last season and should be even better with a healthy Jake Peavy from the start of the season. In the bullpen, closer Bobby Jenks could be a concern; his .250 batting average allowed was second-highest among AL closers.

Bench: B. Omar Vizquel turns 43 in April but remains a plus defender at second and short. Whoever doesn’t DH between Jones and Kotsay should make a dangerous pinch hitter. Chicago needs a boost in that department after its pinch hitters finished last in the majors with a .106 average.

Manager: A. That grade isn’t only for Guillen’s entertainment value, either. He has won a ring as a manager and a coach in past seven seasons. Not that he cares, but Guillen will be under more pressure this season after Williams gave him a lineup the manager wanted more than the GM.

Sporting News prediction: The White Sox will bounce back from their 79-win season and stay in the division chase all season. But they have too many questions on offense to outlast the Twins.

Coming Thursday: Indians preview.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Spring training wasn’t a week old before manager Ozzie Guillen raised the ire of general manager Kenny Williams. Guillen created a Twitter account. The GM doesn’t want his manager sharing White Sox matters in cyberspace. Guillen says he won’t; he just wants to have fun. With the AL Central’s deepest rotation and a retooled offense, the White Sox have a team that could make their manager’s job more enjoyable than firing off 140-character wisecracks.

Three questions

Juan Pierre will hit leadoff for the White Sox, but he doesn't provide the power the team needs.
Juan Pierre will hit leadoff for the White Sox, but he doesn’t provide the power the team needs.

1. Where’s the power?

Since their days together with the Marlins, Guillen has wanted Juan Pierre on his side. Why? Pierre is an ideal top-of-the-order hitter in the go-go attack Guillen prefers. Pierre not only can steal bases, but he doesn’t strike out much and has a respectable .348 on-base percentage for his career.

The White Sox won’t be all about small ball, though. Chicago still has three players in its staring lineup — first baseman Paul Konerko, right fielder Carlos Quentin and slimmed-down DH Andruw Jones — with at least one season with 30-plus homers on their resumes. But with Pierre, center fielder Alex Rios, third baseman Mark Teahen, second baseman Gordon Beckham and shortstop Alexei Ramirez, Guillen’s lineup also is loaded with players who have the potential to reach double figures in steals as well as homers.

2. Who’s the DH?
Well, it isn’t Jim Thome. He will continue his push toward 600 homers with the Twins after the White Sox decided not to bring him back. Williams would have liked the steady power potential, but Guillen didn’t think he could get Thome enough at-bats. After years of having Frank Thomas and Thome as exclusive designated hitters, Guillen wants to use the position as a way to rotate and rest players.

Jones figures to be the No. 1 choice, though he sometimes will sit against righthanders in favor of the lefthanded-hitting Mark Kotsay. When Guillen wants to get Jones a start in the outfield, he can give Quentin or Rios a day off from defense. "From the manager’s point, it’s easier when you have a guy you don’t have to use as a DH," Guillen said.

3. Can Rios rebound?
He’d better. The Sox are on the hook for nearly $60 million over five seasons after claiming the 29-year-old off waivers last August. Rios’ first 41 games with the club couldn’t have gone much worse: He hit .199 with a .530 OPS, only three homers and nine RBIs. What happened? "Everything," Guillen said. "It was not easy for him. Playing in Chicago when you’re in the pennant race is kind of tough. He put a lot of pressure on himself. He struggled to me more mentally because he tried to do too much."

The White Sox are hoping Rios will play better after spending a camp with the club and knowing that he will be the everyday center fielder.

Projected lineup
1. LF Juan Pierre: .301 AVG in 10-year career.
2. 2B Gordon Beckham: SN’s top AL rookie in ’09.
3. RF Carlos Quentin: 21 HRs in ’09 but health is issue.
4. 1B Paul Konerko: 197 HRs since ’04 are 3rd-most in AL
5. CF Alex Rios: Only 63 runs scored in 149 games in ’09.
6. C A.J. Pierzynski: Leads AL catchers in games since ’05.
7. DH Andruw Jones: ’08: 3 HRs, .158 AVG; ’09: 17 HRs, .214 AVG.
8. SS Alexei Ramirez: 18 BBs in ’08; 49 in ’09.
9. 3B Mark Teahen: 123 K’s, 37 BBs with Royals in ’09.

Projected rotation
1. LHP Mark Buehrle: 2-7, 4.78 ERA after perfect game July 23.
2. RHP Jake Peavy: No runs allowed in final 17 IP in ’09.
3. LHP John Danks: 3.77 ERA: 3rd-best among AL lefties.
4. RHP Gavin Floyd: ERA, K’s up, but BBs down ’09.
5. RHP Freddy Garcia: Just 23 MLB starts since ’07.

Projected closer
RHP Bobby Jenks. ERA jumped from 2.63 in ’08 to 3.71 in ’09.

Grades

Offense: C. The White Sox plan to use a different approach. Relying on the homer didn’t prove effective last season when they hit 184, their lowest total in 10 years and 51 fewer than 2008’s major league-leading total. Not coincidentally, they finished 12th in the AL in runs.

Pitching: A. The rotation finished second in the AL with a 4.20 ERA last season and should be even better with a healthy Jake Peavy from the start of the season. In the bullpen, closer Bobby Jenks could be a concern; his .250 batting average allowed was second-highest among AL closers.

Bench: B. Omar Vizquel turns 43 in April but remains a plus defender at second and short. Whoever doesn’t DH between Jones and Kotsay should make a dangerous pinch hitter. Chicago needs a boost in that department after its pinch hitters finished last in the majors with a .106 average.

Manager: A. That grade isn’t only for Guillen’s entertainment value, either. He has won a ring as a manager and a coach in past seven seasons. Not that he cares, but Guillen will be under more pressure this season after Williams gave him a lineup the manager wanted more than the GM.

Sporting News prediction: The White Sox will bounce back from their 79-win season and stay in the division chase all season. But they have too many questions on offense to outlast the Twins.

Coming Thursday: Indians preview.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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