GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having flexible position players such as Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham could provide the White Sox with the luxury of opening the season with 13 pitchers, manager Robin Ventura said.
Assuming Micah Johnson or Carlos Sanchez emerge from camp as the starting second baseman, that could conceivably leave Bonifacio, Beckham and the backup catcher on Ventura’s bench. Bonifacio can play all three outfield positions, second base, shortstop and third. Beckham can play three infield spots.
“We’re pretty open to it,” Ventura said.
“You could take the other route where you bring an extra pitcher. With the versatility we have we have some options on how we are going to go early in the year. With some days and probably have some rainouts and things like that, but you want to be protected all the way around.”
It’s early, but after closer David Robertson, lefties Zach Duke and Dan Jennings and right-handers Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and Javy Guerra, the remaining two or three bullpen spots would appear to be open to a group that includes Daniel Webb, Maikel Cleto and Matt Albers. Carlos Rodon could be in the mix, and pitching coach Don Cooper mentioned Frankie Montas, Scott Carroll, Brad Penny and Erik Johnson as sleepers to make the staff Monday. And in almost every camp, an unexpected arm emerges into the mix.
Jesse Crain could be in there, but he won’t be rushed back as he attempts to come back from injury.
“We have a little different plan for him,” Cooper said.
Ventura said he envisions Bonifacio playing more outfield than infield if someone else wins the job at second.
“With Alexei [Ramirez] being at short and Conor [Gillaspie] at third, there will be some spots for him in the infield but a guy like him that has the versatility to go all over the place, you envision him having some outfield time,” Ventura said.
Ventura has coveted having versatility at his disposal but hasn’t had much in recent years. Last season, having first basemen Jose Abreu, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko on the team handcuffed him in that regard. General manager Rick Hahn saw the same need.
“We were both on the same page as far as where we’ve been the last couple of years in regards to flexibility and versatility,” Ventura said. “You can see it across the field on certain teams that you play, with what they have and how they are able to use it. We haven’t really had that. This is part of going into this year of being able to have a little versatility with some guys that can play different positions. Alexei got stuck out there and he wants to play every day but there are some days where he needed days off and we weren’t really able to give it to him.”
Who wins the job at second base will play into this as well. Johnson can run, and his speed in the No. 9 spot in front of leadoff man Adam Eaton would add a nice piece to the lineup. But it remains to be seen whether his defense will be adequate, and defense will be a factor.
“It’s a part of it. We have to be able to catch the ball,” Ventura said. “With the pitching that we expect to have, you want to be able to catch the ball. You want to limit as much as you can. There is going to be an offense element but you have to be able to play second base and turn double plays and be productive there.”