GLENDALE, Ariz. – If three-fourths of the White Sox infield is comprised of Todd Frazier, Jimmy Rollins and Brett Lawrie, that’s about 75 percent more moxie than the Conor Gillaspie, Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson/Carlos Sanchez set at third base, shortstop and second base featured much of last season.
Last season’s group was a blend of inexperience and timidity, with no take-charge type in the bunch. This year’s group is vocal and energetic with some All-Star pedigree.
“It’s good,’’ manager Robin Ventura said Thursday. “Even watching today of going around the infield and seeing how they’re reacting, we’ve somewhat flipped that a little. We’ve been very young for the last couple of years and now there’s a little more of a veteran presence in there. It’s just a nice little feeling they have in there.’’
The hope is that this year’s bunch covers things like positioning, or even rundowns, with more aplomb.
“Even watching us go through drills, it has a different element to it,’’ Ventura said. “I think that was missing on the field last year.’’
Cranking up the intensity
Vice president Ken Williams can never get enough passion, and in that regard, he likes what he’s seen during the first week of spring training.
“The attitude coming in and the focus is a little different in [light of how we] were all disappointed at what happened last year,’’ Williams said. “The level of intensity, the level of seriousness is not missing from this camp. What has also filtered in is a little lightheartedness with the recent additions because they’ve been through the wars and have a little personality to them – Frazier, Lawrie and Jimmy Rollins can add to that, too. So there’s a balance between intensity and having fun. We just hope it all translates into better baseball play.
The Sox did not spend big but managed to make upgrades via trades (Frazier, Lawrie) and inexpensive free agents (Mat Latos, Rollins, Alex Avila, Dioner Navarro) during the offseason.
“We have used our resources as effectively as we could possibly use them,’’ Williams said.
The payroll as it stands now is around $120 million, a million or two more than last season.
Family ties and goodbyes
It’s one thing when your team doesn’t tender you a contract. It’s another, as in catcher Alex Avila’s case, when the team’s GM is your dad. That’s what paved the way for Avila coming to the Sox on a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
“I know they wanted me back but the business of the game takes over,’’ Avila said. “There was disappointment whatsoever there. That was fine by me.’’
“It was weird,’’ Al Avila told MLB Network. “Getting ready for spring training it was very emotional. But yeah, there is a little rivalry now with people in the family wearing Chicago White Sox stuff.
“It will be a double-edged sword [seeing him a lot in the AL Central] but we have to face him.’’