By Chris Rongey
GLENDALE, AZ–With few decisions left to be made, the White Sox fully expect that their team will be complete by next week. That according to the manager Ozzie Guillen after the Sox 6-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday.
So what’s to be decided?
Final Position Roster Spot: With GM Kenny Williams already declaring that he wants to break camp with 12 pitchers, instead of 11, that final battle comes down to Brent Lillibridge and Lastings Milledge. Alejandro De Aza has already been sent to the minors. Milledge has had a terrific spring, both offensively and defensively, while Lillibridge has struggled at the plate. And though the final spot on the final spot on the 25-man often comes down to spring play, it is not always true.
Ozzie likes Lillibridge because of his versatility (he can play both the infield and outfield), but Milledge is anoutfielder by trade. Though Lillibridge is out of options, the team might want to take the gamble of losing him to another team anyway, considering Milledge would be the only true outfielder the Sox would have coming off the bench and he has more likelihood of greater offensive production. The possibility of a .730 OPS or better from Milledge is probably higher than it would be with Lillibridge. At minimum, the Sox would likely get at least .150 points more OPS with Milledge and though they likely won’t get great defense, it will be better than what Lillibridge would provide.
In addition, the Sox have a backup infielder in Omar Vizquel than can play anywhere (3rd, SS, 2nd) and in Mark Teahen that can play in most places in an emergency situation. The need for Lillibridge may not be as great.
3rd Base Starter: Really, this has already been decided. Brent Morel’s play at the position and sufficient bat have made the decision fairly easy. I’ll be shocked if anyone else is playing there on Opening Day.
5th Starter/ Jake Peavy: It appears as though Jeff Marquez will be the 12th man on the pitching staff and will throw out of the bullpen, but who is the 5th starter for this Sox team at the beginning of the season? All indications are that it will not be Peavy, though the progress he’s made has been encouraging in the days since his rotator cuff tendinitis reached the point of severe discomfort.
I think Phil Humber begins the season in a big league uniform and may fill in a couple of starts or more until Peavy is ready. At this point, I don’t think he is, and they aren’t going to rush him back before he’s ready.
Peavy continues to insist that he’s been more than forthcoming with the team and his doctors in regard to every ache and pain he’s felt during the spring. “It’s been out there that I haven’t been truthful…that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I’ve told these guys everything I feel in my body and let the guys who are more educated than me on the subject make the decisions,” he said Wednesday.
According to Peavy, Dr. Anthony Romeo (Peavy’s shoulder specialist) says that the right-hander has made much better progress than expected, which includes the recent tendinitis setback. Romeo tells Peavy there is no structural damage and Peavy expects to throw some long toss this week, and maybe from the mound this weekend.
There has been a great deal of anger with the Peavy situation, but I just can’t find anything about which to be angered. Disappointed? Sure. I started to feel some optimism that he might actually be good to go by the beginning of the year. But angry? No, not really. Why would I be? I really don’t believe he’s done more than he should have and I certainly don’t believe that the entire team of doctors and trainers would allow him to if they didn’t think he could.
This is one of the most successful medical staffs in the American League, if not the most successful. They aren’t stupid. And they’re not ignorant to the idea that players can sometimes hold back on how they’re really feeling. To think they’re not on top of every single thing he’s done, and is doing, is just false.
He may get sore again. He may even get injured again. And the next time it may be significant. But I truly believe that any such outcome is something that could not have been avoided. If Peavy is going to get hurt, he’s going to get hurt. There’s only so much that can be done to prevent it.
At this point, the best to hope for is a Peavy return by may. Anything better is a bonus.