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New approach for White Sox as spring training draws near
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff

With former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy now heading an already deep rotation, the White Sox' strength is obvious.

 

Associated Press

Questions surrounding Carlos Quentin's ability to stay healthy

 

Associated Press

Alex Rios

 

Associated Press

Mark Kotsay

 

Associated Press

Andruw Jones

 

Associated Press

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Published: 2/13/2010 8:40 PM | Updated: 2/13/20 8:41 PM

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White Sox' tentative opening-day lineup

Juan Pierre, LF

Gordon Beckham, 2B

Carlos Quentin, LF

Paul Konerko, 1B

Alex Rios, CF

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Mark Teahen, 3B

Mark Kotsay, DH

Alexei Ramirez, SS

Jake Peavy, RHP

The recent departures of two Hall of Fame-bound sluggers - Jim Thome and Frank Thomas - has removed the focus from the White Sox' upcoming season and replaced it with a double dose of nostalgia.

Thome has moved on to the rival Minnesota Twins, and it looks like he will play out the remainder of his career as a pinch hitter. Thomas officially has moved into retirement, bringing back waves of memories in the process.

Many Sox fans have been basking in the aftermath of Thome and especially Thomas, but that figures to change in a hurry when pitchers and catchers report for their first day of spring training next Sunday for the 2010 White Sox edition.

With former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy now heading an already deep rotation, the White Sox' strength is as obvious as Thome and Thomas eventually landing a place in Cooperstown.

Here are 10 other issues awaiting manager Ozzie Guillen's club with a week to go before training camp opens:

Pop, pop, fizz? The Sox were pretty sluggish last season, tying for last in the American League with a .258 batting average, alone in last in hits, 11th in slugging percentage, and 10th in on-base percentage.

Skeptics already contend the White Sox are going to be even less potent in 2010, given the loss of Thome and Jermaine Dye, along with the questions surrounding Carlos Quentin's ability to stay healthy, and Alex Rios' eroding confidence at the plate.

And don't forget about the Sox' unorthodox plan to go with a rotating designated hitter, with Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones positioned to get the most at-bats.

Thome and Dye had their problems last season, but they still managed to hit a collective 50 home runs.

The power drain doesn't seem to be a concern for Sox officials - yet.

"We're more focused on having good hitters, getting on base and moving the line," general manager Kenny Williams said.

Defensive posture: Much like the offense, the White Sox' glove work often was wretched last season.

Alexei Ramirez is back after a shaky year at shortstop, and Gordon Beckham moves from third base to second to make room for newcomer Mark Teahen, who comes over from the Kansas City Royals.

With Dye no longer in right field, the outfield defense instantly gets better.

"We were really, really bad on defense last year," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We have to get better, and I think we will. With the pitching we have, we have to play good defense."

If veteran Omar Vizquel can help Ramirez reach his potential, the defense can make a big leap from last season.

Jenks & Co.: Next to the rotation, this looks like the Sox' most solid unit.

A relatively trim Bobby Jenks returns as closer with plenty to prove after blowing 6 saves and allowing 9 home runs, both career worsts.

If Jenks again falters, newcomer J.J. Putz is waiting in the wings, as is the steady Matt Thornton.

Blame it on Rios: The White Sox are certain Rios is going to be a major upgrade in center field.

But the 29-year-old Rios looked lost at the plate after being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays, batting .199 with 3 home runs, 9 RBI and a .229 on-base percentage in 41 games.

The White Sox gladly would settle for the numbers Rios put up in 2007 with Toronto: .297 BA, 43 doubles, 24 HR, 85 RBI, 17 SB, .354 OBP.

End of the line? While playing for three different teams (Braves, Dodgers, Rangers) the past three seasons, Jones hit a collective .198.

Guillen believes Jones can be a force again, but the former all-star slugger signed for $500,000 and expectations are low. If Jones isn't getting it done by mid-May or so, look for Williams to make his first deal of the season.

On the move: Gordon Beckham already can make a case for being the Sox' best player. He's playing a new position, and fans are going to be clamoring for another move, to shortstop, if Ramirez gets off to another bad start.

The White Sox are confident that both players are now in the right positions.

Captain K: He wants to finish his standout career with the White Sox, but Paul Konerko is entering the final year of his contract and has to bounce back big from a rough second half last season (.243, 12 HR, 28 RBI).

Twin trouble: Are the defending AL Central champs going to be vulnerable after moving from the Metrodome to outdoor Target Field?

With Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span and newcomers Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy in the lineup, don't bet on it.

Calling Quentin: The Sox keep saying they don't need the injury-prone outfielder to duplicate his 2008 numbers (.288, 36 HR, 100 RBI), but it sure wouldn't hurt.

It's all on Oz: The manager didn't want Thome back, and he didn't want Dye. But Guillen did want Jones and Vizquel, so a potential blame game is in play.