By Bruce Levine-
CHICAGO (CBS) — The White Sox find themselves picked to finish anywhere from third to fifth in the AL Central this season. With new additions at four positions for Opening Day this season, the fan base should be enthused that this team may catch the ball and run the bases like major league players.
Manager Robin Ventura has stressed better defense, with a spring training regiment that seemed to work, at least in the Cactus League.
“This is going to be a better baseball team,” Ventura said. “They did the work we asked them to. I think we have the guys to be able to do it.”
Errors of omission and commission were a problem for the White Sox team that lost 99 games in 2013 , the second-worst record in franchise history. General manager Rick Hahn started to change the culture of the team last July.
“There are a few variables to this,” Hahn said. “We are more athletic this season, and some of the players who were bad on the bases and defense had good years in both areas previous to last season. So from a simple progression to a means standpoint, there is going to be improvement.”
Losing 99 games is tough enough for any organization, but more importantly the Sox have prided themselves on solid Baseball 101 in recent times. Chicago made the fewest errors (70) of anyone in 2012 and the second-most (121) in 2013.
“In our many organization meetings, we talked about some of the priorities going into this spring,” Hahn said. “Defense and baserunning were highlighted. If things weren’t done right, they were repeated. Every drill that I saw had a real focus that seemed to matter. It was not just, ‘Hey this is February 17, let’s just go through the motions.'”
New lead-off man Adam Eaton will be one who is counted on to set that sort of tone.
“A lot is being asked from the kid,” Hahn said. “He does have the makeup and baseball IQ that I think he can handle it.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.