Spring training officially opens for the White Sox Friday. Odds, ends and things to look for as they prepare for Opening Day April 4 in Oakland:
Third baseman Todd Frazier, second baseman/third baseman Brett Lawrie, starting right-hander Mat Latos, catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, right-handers Jacob Turner and Tommy Kahnle and outfielder Jerry Sands.
Shortstop Alexei Ramirez, catcher Tyler Flowers, right-hander Jeff Samardzija, third baseman Conor Gillaspie and second baseman Micah Johnson were Opening Day starters in 2015. Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon Beckham, Hector Noesi, Geovany Soto, Javy Guerra and Kyle Drabek were on the roster but are long gone (only Soto made it to the end).
Getting to know you
Shortstop Tyler Saladino, who played in 10 games at short (55 at third) in 2015, and Lawrie, who played in 42 at second base for the Oakland Athletics, need to get acquainted around the bag as the brand new keystone combo. Avila and Navarro must get familiar with the pitching staff and vice versa, starting with sideline sessions and into Cactus League games which begin March 3. Staff ace Chris Sale, for one, sang Flowers’ praises and was taken aback by the departure of his favorite receiver – whom he never shook off.
Isn’t that Rich?
Rick Renteria, the former Cubs manager who took the 2015 season off on the North Siders’ dime (he was unceremoniously shown the door when Joe Maddon became available), will be a hands-on overseer of spring camp as manager Robin Ventura’s bench coach. Renteria is replacing Mark Parent, who is managing the Angels’ AA Arkansas team after being fired at the end of last season. Class act that he is and jilted as he was, Renteria wants no part of being viewed as a managerial replacement in waiting should the Sox struggle in the last year of Ventura’s contract, but he won’t avoid that should the Sox stumble out of the gate as they did last season.
Turning up the volume
The clubhouse, occupied by mostly calm and collected personalities in 2015, should perk up with an injection of noise, energy and edge that will likely accompany Lawrie and Latos. Both demonstrated emotion on the field and make their presence felt in the clubhouse. Frazier and Avila are expected to bring confident leadership qualities to the mix, a lacking commodity among the position-player cast due to Jose Abreu’s language barrier, Adam LaRoche’s poor performance, Melky Cabrera’s first half struggle and Adam Eaton’s youth. The fresh mix and clubhouse chemistry will be something for Ventura, who is adept at handling people, to keep an eye on.
Show us whatcha’ got, kid
Fans might not have to wait’ll next year to see shortstop Tim Anderson, the 17th pick in the 2013 draft, and right-hander Carson Fulmer, No. 8 in 2015, in a major league game. The club’s top position player and pitching prospect figure big in Sox plans – Anderson might be the starting shortstop in 2017 and Fulmer, the most major-league ready college pitcher in the draft, will be given every chance to make the rotation in 2017. But while general manager Rick Hahn said management won’t rush Fulmer as quickly as Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon, and even though Anderson is expected to start the season at AAA Charlotte, expect to ready plenty of glowing quotes about these two this spring.