GLENDALE, Ariz. – There’s an emphasis on getting it right in spring training drills and setting a tone early to avoid a poor start. It’s a vibe third baseman Todd Frazier, one of the new White Sox, likes a lot.
“Yes, I do. I love the tone,’’ said Frazier, who drafted a team in manager Robin Ventura’s office and “captained” it in the first of two intrasquad games against Team Abreu Monday. “Everybody has a role, everybody is taking accountability for themselves and it starts right now from Day 1.
“With the intrasquads you can see it, it’s focus. It’s focus time. The ability to understand it’s not offseason anymore. It’s time to go. I see that a lot with these guys.’’
It’s not like the Sox are putting a premium on executing drills properly for the first time under Ventura, who is entering his fifth season at the helm. But perhaps this cast of players, with personalities like Frazier and veterans like Jimmy Rollins at a key position such as shortstop, will make a difference. The Sox did not play a clean, fundamentally sound brand of ball last year, when they finished 10 games under .500 and looked bad doing it. While general manager Rick Hahn injected offense with Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, he’s relying on players and coaches alike to take it upon themselves to run the bases better, hit the cutoff man and improve individually on defense.
Frazier, who came over in an offseason trade with the Reds, says what he’s seen so far is “better” than expected.
“We had these meetings today and yesterday and everybody is talking and everybody is focused on what they need to do,’’ Frazier said.
In Monday’s intrasquad, Team Abreu walked away with a 5-4 victory. Here are the valuless highlights, which will be long forgotten by Opening Day: Outfielder Daniel Fields, a former Tigers prospect and a waiver claim from the Los Angeles Dodgers, hit a three-run homer against minor leaguer Colin Kleven; Frazier and Lawrie (sacrifice fly) were each 1-for-2; and first-round pick Carson Fulmer allowed two runs on four hits with two strikeouts.
It’s also worth noting right fielder Avisail Garcia got a good jump and ran down a deep fly ball in the right-center field gap.
“In batting practice, I’m trying to read the ball off the bat,’’ said Garcia, whose defense last season ranked near the bottom at his position. “You have to get better at everything. Going to my left side, right side. When you come to spring training you want to do better than what you do last year.’’
In workouts leading up to the intrasquad, the first break in a week from the daily grind, the team work ethic has “been great,” Ventura said.
“You look around at the infielders and outfielders, we’re seeing guys who’ve played a while and have a little history of doing the right things and playing the game the right way,’’ Ventura said.
“It’s been impressive.’’
Lawrie, the second baseman who is with his third team in three seasons, said the work is all about quality, not quantity.
“You give me 10 groundballs, and I’m going to do all of those 10 at the top of the game, with good form, and I’m not going to be tired at the end of it,’’ Lawrie said. “I’m going to get more out of that than doing 50 groundballs and being so tired at the end with bad form. So it’s definitely about the quality over the quantity and refining that.’’
Bad quantity? How about the Sox’ 76 wins last season. For what it’s worth, one oddsmaker listed the Sox over/under on wins at 80 ½ games Monday, another way of calling them a sub .500 team.
Who knows, perhaps a quality spring camp will be the springboard for putting them on the better side of that.