There was an incredible environment yesterday in Glendale’s Camelback Ranch. The Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw was facing the White Sox Chris Sale. The game was the third sellout in a row for the complex which is shared by the White Sox and Dodgers.
The festive atmosphere included people wearing every form of White Sox and Dodgers gear known to man. The scent of great food permeated the park and the concession stands were mobbed. Most importantly, the media dining room featured outstanding roast beef tip and all the trimmings. In my book, Camelback Ranch has some of the best media food in either Florida or Arizona-and I’ve tried them all. They even had some type of chocolate moose for dessert.
The controversy regarding Adam LaRoche’s son being in the clubhouse was still a topic of conversation in the press box. I have spoken about this on radio in both the United States and Canada. I spoke about it on the BERNIE’S BASEBALL WORLD video. But I do have a couple of final thoughts.
First and foremost, I think the entire situation was blown out of proportion. Specific details should never have escaped the clubhouse. To say it is unusual for a child to be in the clubhouse repeatedly is an understatement. Generally, in every instance I know the time for children and family in the clubhouse is very limited. Apparently, that was not the case with the LaRoche situation. Allegedly, the boy was even on the team bus and on the field during drills. I do think there is enough culpability to pass around on this one. It was a bad situation that got out of control and it was difficult to manage.
I do have a feeling some of the newer players to the team may have privately made their feelings known about the constant presence of the young LaRoche. Apparently, management did get complaints from players. I get it.
AS for the White Sox on the field. I saw some things that were interesting. For example, Austin Jackson may well find a home in center field, moving Adam Eaton to left. That would give them two good outfielders with speed to track down anything hit to the left side of the field. But Jackson will have to hit to stick in the everyday lineup. That leaves Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia as the third outfielder in most lineups. Either J B Shuck or Jerry Sands could hold down a spot, depending upon their performances. But Eaton to left is interesting.
Todd Frazier has lengthened the lineup and has given Jose Abreu some real protection in the middle of the order. Both should hit their share of home runs in hitter-friendly Cellular One. Frazier may not set the world on fire with his batting average, but he will be dangerous every time he comes to the plate. We have to remember that he’s coming from the National League and there may be some adjustments to make to new pitchers. But his old park and new one are similar in their friendliness to right-handed hitters. He should be a real force on the south side of Chicago.
The catching situation interests me. Dioner Navvaro can hit. But Alex Avila may be better defensively. And with that solid left-handed dominant pitching staff, Avila may well be the prominent starting catcher. That said, Navvaro will make his presence known. Again, especially in that ball park. I look for both to get lots of at-bats to keep them fresh for the long season.
The White Sox have only 37 men on their roster as I write this. There is plenty of room to add three solid pieces before the end of camp. I look for them to be very busy evaluating waiver wires and looking at players in their own organization or on Minor League contracts that they may be able to promote. Jerry Sands seems like a perfect candidate to make the final 25-man team.
Tyler Saladino is a very slick-fielding shortstop. But I saw a few too many one-handed stabs for my tastes. He has excellent range and a solid arm, but he looks a bit unconventional in his approach to most ground balls. I think he will split some time with Carlos Sanchez or even Leury Garcia during the season. And ultimately, Tim Anderson will take over the position for the next decade or so. Saladino, Sanchez and Garcia buy some time until Anderson is ready. I don’t know though if they can keep both Sanchez and Garcia in the final mix of the 25-man roster.
Brett Lawrie really does stabilize the second base situation. He gives the team a guy in the middle-infield with a respectable bat over a long season. If he stays healthy and gets off to a good start he can help the White Sox improve.
Jose Abreu is a professional hitter. He is patient at the plate, doesn’t get himself out with wild, aggressive swings and takes pitches where they are thrown. It really is rare to see a big, strong power hitter take a pitch to the opposite field as Abreu is able to do. His bat control and quick hands through the ball make him almost immune to lengthy slumps. I think he’s a real offensive threat.
Overall, I think the White Sox look fresh and capable to me. I really do like their top of the rotation trio of Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon. Then, I think manager Robin Ventura may get some heartburn with Mat Latos and John Danks. However, Dioner Navvaro thinks he has spotted Danks tipping his pitches. Since that revelation, Danks has pitched better. And that’s what a veteran catcher can bring to a new organization. Fresh eyes and a new voice for the pitching staff.
Tomorrow: The Los Angeles Dodgers.
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That’s it. I’m done. For now.