Mark Gonzales' White Sox mailbag
The Tribune's Mark Gonzales answers questions about Chris Sale's durability and the role that's best suited for him and the direction of the Sox, as well as a passionate plea for massive rebuilding from a long-time Sox fan.
Chris Sale at Opening Day of SoxFest at the Palmer House. (Phil Velasquez / Tribune Photo)
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Gregg, I fully understand your concerns about Sale. A few scouts believe that Sale is more valuable to the Sox as a reliever.
As far as his durability, I went back to look at his numbers during his sophomore and junior seasons at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2009-10. During those two seasons, Sale pitched in 31 games -- 27 as a starter. He threw 192 1/3 innings during that span.
During his junior year in 2010, Sale threw 101 of his 103 innings as a starter and had a 2.05 ERA. I think Chris knows how to train as a starter, and the coaching and training staffs will be very protective in monitoring Chris' innings.
In anticipation of this move, I talked to C.J. Wilson in October of 2010 about his transition from reliever to starter (Wilson went from 73 innings in 2009 to 204 innings in 2010), and he spoke more of conditioning than adding strength. Wilson's delivery is more orthodox than Sale, but I think Sale can succeed as a starter with the proper handling.
Thornton was 14-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 27 starts at Class-A San Bernardino, but that was 11 years ago. He had some control problems, and later control issues that led to his trade to the White Sox. I think he's found his niche as a late-inning reliever, and that's where he should stay.
I saw Dave Righetti briefly try to convert to a starting role in 1992, but it was a disaster. I think Matt is in the right spot.
With the Tigers locking up Prince Fielder with a nine-year deal, and with the Royals becoming viable with prospects turned major league players in Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the White Sox have to be in the backburner of the division. With that in mind, wouldn't it be smart for the White sox to commit to their rebuilding phase, with a goal to contend for a playoff spot in 2014 -- during which they build through the draft and trade for top prospects? With that being said, I think the Sox could surprise people this year, what is your take on this. -- Joshua, Chicago
I'll answer the last part first. Much has to happen for the Sox to contend. At least two of the three players who struggled mightily (Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham) must make substantial contributions. Someone (Dayan Viciedo?) must emerge and provide protection for Paul Konerko.
It's possible they could contend in the division, partly because there will be greater expectations for Cleveland, Minnesota must get consistent production from their starting rotation and more offense, and Kansas City needs their young rotation to step up.
As for the Detroit Tigers, they have a formidable lineup and the best pitcher in the game in Justin Verlander. But Boston was supposed to win the World Series last year, and Philadelphia didn't reach the NL Championship Series despite possessing the best rotation. Stranger things have happened.
As a long-time Sox fan, I'm deeply saddened by the complete collapse of our major and minor league talent pool caused by poor drafts, irresponsible trades, and underachieving, high-priced players. Diminishing further hope, we have only one player recognized as a top 100 prospect, and I hear that might be a gift so that all teams are represented. This feeling of despair has recently been amplified by the recent trade of arguably our best hitter Carlos Quentin for two obscure minor league prospects. This is after trading Sergio Santos, a proven closer, for just one prospect. Sox fans are beginning to wonder if we are getting outwitted and outmaneuvered. Now add this to the collective body of work negotiated over the last three years, and you begin to see the evidence of what's causing the problem: a flawed talent-acquisition strategy.
Sox fans are appreciative of what Jerry Reinsdorf has done for the organization. He wrote the checks last year to fund the all-in strategy. That was a brave and courageous move by probably the only owner in baseball that would spend more than he took it in for the chance of winning another championship. But we were eventually equally dismayed when we found out that the field manager and general manager were not on same page squandering a precious opportunity for moving the organization forward.
Adding to our despair, we are now hearing that the Sox have the WORST minor league system in baseball because they drafted poorly, traded away high-potential prospects, and mismanaged their Latin American development efforts. This news is coupled with the fact that they haven't made the playoffs in two years.
As fans, we will always appreciate Kenny and Ozzie for winning the 2005 World Series. It was a magical run and a monumental accomplishment. But based on recent poor results, it is time for a new game plan of rebuilding the organization from the ground up with highly talented youth so that we as fans have hope for the future. Please begin to implement this new strategy by signing the free-agent Cuban players. We need a vote of confidence in our future and we need it now. -- Ed Lasak; Riverside, CA
I'm all for all-out rebuilding. But I don't write the checks, and would management be able to sustain some big financial losses? Would fans be able to fully embrace a major shift after aiming for the post-season every year and be financial and emotionally committed to a rebuilding program that could take a few years?
There's plenty of competition for the Cuban players, but I like the greater commitment/investment to Latin American players.
I have been a "Friday Night Fights" fan for many years. I could predict the outcome of 99% of the heavyweight fights. All I did was check their weights and look at their bodies. It was easy to tell which fighters were fighting to win and which fighters were there for just the money. Your article last Wednesday featuring Adam Dunn reported that Adam Dunn weighs 285 and as far as I could tell he hasn't lost an ounce. -- Mike Sidor
After seeing him for the first time since the end of the season, I wrote last weekend that he appears leaner than his listed frame. Adam doesn't want to make a big deal of it, but I'm sure readers want to know what kind of shape he appeared to be in.
More important is how he bounces back. Not many made an issue of the body frame by Babe Ruth and Cecil Fielder because of the power they supplied. It won't be an issue with Adam as long as he reverts to his pre-2011 production.
I will say that he appeared in pretty good shape, and I'd have no qualms about him playing some first base or the outfield if he can display ample agility.
Now that SoxFest has come to a happy conclusion, what roster moves do you anticipate before opening day? If the payroll is at $107 million and they need to get down to $90 million as some say, simple math says somebody will have to go. -- Allman; Tempe, Ariz.
I see some healthy competition for the final three bullpen spots. I know pitching coach Don Cooper said there are four openings, but I'd be surprised if Addison Reed doesn't make the opening day roster. I also see Eduardo Escobar and Ozzie Martinez battling for a backup infield spot, as well as Tyler Flowers trying to position himself for more playing time.
Keep in mind that Ken Williams said at SoxFest that he doesn't have to cut any more payroll right now. But should a team with a reservoir of prospects discover late in spring training that it needs a starting pitcher, I could see Gavin Floyd becoming a factor. And if a team with deep pockets needs a left-handed relief specialist, Matt Thornton could get a strong look. The Sox subtly added left-handed relief help this off-season (Donald Veal, Jose Quintana and Pedro Hernandez), so they could be better equipped to trade a left-handed reliever should any of the three new lefties make a strong impression this spring (along with Hector Santiago).