SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Aside from the Adam LaRoche and son firestorm that burned a wide swath through the middle of White Sox camp, general manager Rick Hahn has liked what he’s seen of his spruced-up team.
Other than that, how was the play Mr. Hahn?
Before the Drake LaRoche fiasco, all was well with solid play, crisp workouts and a lively vibe in the clubhouse.
Since Adam LaRoche retired and left the premises with his 14-year-old son, the mood seems as lively as it was before his tumultuous exit, almost as though, if you look around the clubhouse, nothing happened On the field, the Sox continue to mash the ball with 42 home runs, tops in all of spring training. Sunday’s 13-9 win over the San Francisco Giants was unsightly at times, with rotation right-hander Mat Latos struggling with an unsightly performance for the second straight time, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins and minor leaguer Jacob May committing a throwing error in center field.
All in all, Hahn, while enjoying this Arizona power surge in with guarded optimism, says he likes what he’s seen.
“We’ve shown more power, and we’ve played better defense,’’ he told the Sun-Times, when asked to sum it all up in capsule form before the game. “There’s times we needed to tighten up the base-running and rundowns, which the coaching staff got right on. But from the standpoint of the pieces fitting together, guys taking their work here seriously and being focused on winning when the regular season comes, we’re all very pleased.’’
Those 42 long balls, coming from a team that finished last in the American League in homers despite occupying a hitter’s ballpark in 2016, “does show the infusion of more power in the lineup and certainly gives you reason to believe it will continue in the regular season.’’
The LaRoche debacle had, and still has, the potential to upset the apple cart and be an unwanted narrative should the Sox get off to a bad start. Hahn says the clubhouse, under the leadership of manager Robin Ventura, has held firm.
“Before everything occurred in the middle of camp we had a very strong unit in the clubhouse that was focused on the task at hand,’’ Hahn said. “Obviously we got sidetracked. If anything, the clubhouse came out of it showing how strong they are, how unified they are and how professional they are in terms of turning the page fairly quickly and refocusing on things that matter out here — and that’s getting ready for the season.
“It’s nothing you anticipate happening or prepare for, but at the same time you like having that type of character in the clubhouse in case an external distraction does arise. You want to see the team respond the way they have, with professionalism and focus once the book was closed on it.
“Publicly we’re done talking about it. In terms of the players and the staff and their ability to close the book and turn the page, we’re all very pleased with how quickly and effectively that happened.’’
When LaRoche retired, he left $13 million in salary on the books, money that could be used for a variety of needs, including a DH, an upgrade in the outfield or in the starting rotation.
Burning a hole in your pocket, Rick?
“We had anticipated spending that money … since everything went down in middle of camp,’’ Hahn said. “The discussions with [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf is] ‘the What’s best use of these funds going forward?’ We haven’t had the opportunity as of yet to find a good way to spend it this spring. But should the opportunity arise in the coming weeks or days leading to the deadline. It’s good to have added resources to address your needs.’’