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What the White Sox need to do in ‘spring training’

The dog days of summer will be here soon, and that can only mean one thing: Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training. So it goes in a new world of baseball turned upside down by the coronavirus.

MIchael Kopech warms up before his first start of spring training last March at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
MIchael Kopech warms up before his first start of spring training last March at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
AP

The dog days of summer will be here soon, and that can only mean one thing: Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training.

We didn’t see that coming. So it goes in a new world of baseball turned upside down by the coronavirus.

So instead of talking about which White Sox player might be named to play in the All-Star Game in mid-July, we’re here to discuss the start of what some are calling “Spring Training 2.0.” Football’s “training camp” term is more appropriate for baseball now, and not just because it’s no longer spring but because the leisurely feel that usually blesses a six-week spring training in Arizona will be anything but.

It’s summertime, and with three weeks to prepare for a 60-game schedule slated to begin in late July, there will be a sense of urgency. The Sox will train at Guaranteed Rate Field, with another accompanying site to be named.

Here are three things for the Sox to zero in on once “Camp Renteria” begins July 1, when players will be floating into town to prepare for 66 days of a national pastime that will pass by in a hurry:

Stay healthy

Easier said than done, and this challenge goes well beyond shoulders, elbows, bones and hamstrings.

The coronavirus, the evil, creeping menace that derailed the game in March, is alive and well more than three months later, threatening to halt the game at any point during the season. Within moments of the union’s announcement that it would comply with commissioner Rob Manfred’s imposed outline for a 60-game season, word came down that star outfielder Charlie Blackmon and two other Rockies tested positive for the virus after workouts at Coors Field. Last week, about 40 players and staff members around baseball tested positive.

There are a bevy of guidelines for players and staff to adhere to in risky baseball environments, including no spitting, high-fiving or showers. And distancing will be required as soon as training camp.

As of Wednesday, there were no known coronavirus cases among Sox players, a half-sentence delivered to the beat of a knock on wood.

As for body parts, players were given training and throwing programs to follow while they were away, but where they’re at physically is a big TBD until they report. When we last saw the Sox in March, catcher Yasmani Grandal (calf), designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (hip) and left-hander Gio Gonzalez (shoulder) were in various states of healing, but that was a long time ago.

Can the kids come out and play?

One benefit of a shortened season is having right-hander Michael Kopech and left-hander Carlos Rodon in full recovery from Tommy John surgery. Innings limitations are now by the boards, although both of them figure to be eased into action. The planned-on rotation of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and Gonzalez can now be supplemented by Kopech and Rodon in some fashion, perhaps in relief roles, although the same could be said for anyone, with starts as long as five innings shaping up as the absolute longest at the outset of the season.

Nick Madrigal, the prized second base prospect who figured to start the season at Class AAA Charlotte, might begin with the major-league club instead with the minor leagues out of service. These are among the many questions general manager Rick Hahn will be asked when he addresses the media soon.

Study the schedule

The schedule, to be announced, will include 10 games against each American League Central team, likely divided into home-and-away five-game series to limit travel. That means 10 against the Twins, Indians, Royals and Tigers. The Sox also would have 20 games divided among the National League Central’s Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds and Pirates. It’s not known if those would be evenly distributed. For what it’s worth, oddsmaker BetOnline set the Sox’ over-under for wins at 31½, which happens to be the same as the Cubs’. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections peg the Sox to go 31-29, behind the defending division champion Twins (35-25) and Indians (34-26).