Among the many things the White Sox have going for them this spring training will be a lack of roster drama.
The offseason legwork done by general manager Kenny Williams and company addressed many potential holes on the roster. With that, there might not be battles like those from past springs with aging veterans or players on the rebound fighting it out with prospects for the chance to make the big-league team.
That’s not to say that battles like that don’t have their benefit, especially to the young prospects trying to make their mark, but as far as the coaching staff is concerned, there won’t be a lot of splitting hairs to see who makes it and who gets the crushing news that they didn’t do enough.
One such battle does exist, though, although it comes way down at the 24th or 25th roster spot. The recent addition of Lastings Milledge to a minor league contract with a big league camp invite will pit the former highly-regarded prospect against others trying to make an even bigger name for themselves like Alejandro De Aza and Jordan Danks.
Filling out the bullpen could be interesting as well. For the most part, though, the major decisions have been made, barring injury of course, but it still should be an interesting spring.
With that in mind, here is a peek at what the Opening Day roster could look like, just days before pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Ariz., on Thursday.
There are four spots in the rotation already set with Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson. Jake Peavy’s injury and subsequent surgery last summer is expected to leave a temporary void at the final rotation spot.
Despite pitching coach Don Cooper’s well-intentioned suggestion that young left-hander Chris Sale be used as either a reliever or starter the entire season, and not both, Williams suggested during SoxFest Cooper won’t make that call alone.
Predicted starters to make roster: Buehrle, Danks, Floyd, Jackson, Sale.
The White Sox are expected to open the season in a closer-by-committee situation, and outside of a mind-blowing performance by one of the relievers, spring training results aren’t expected to change that.
There continues to be talk about how the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 using three different closers throughout the season in Shingo Takatsu, Dustin Hermanson and Bobby Jenks, but that wasn’t a true closer-by-committee situation at any point. Takatsu yielded the job to Hermanson and when he started to have back issues, Jenks took it from him.
The expectation is that while Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and even Sergio Santos get chances to close games early in the season, somebody will step up and take over the job. Sale will join this group once Peavy returns and could end up being the closer.
If the White Sox decide to open the season with 11 pitchers, the battle for the final bullpen spot could be a spirited one between Harrell, Philip Humber, Kyle Cofield, Brian Bruney, Josh Kinney, Jeff Gray, Shane Lindsay, Gregory Infante and Anthony Carter.
Predicted relievers to make the roster Thornton, Crain, Santos, Pena, Will Ohman, Bruney.
The best battle of the spring could be at third base where the job looks to be Brent Morel’s to lose. The rookie, who got some valuable major league experience in September, won’t be able to just walk away with the assignment, though.
Most White Sox fans might not care for the idea of Mark Teahen starting at third base, but the California native will be heading into the spring knowing that the job could be his if he eats up the Cactus League and Morel stumbles.
If Morel wins the third-base job, Teahen is in line for a utility role. If Teahen wins the job, Morel figures to be headed back to Triple-A. Omar Vizquel will provide backup at shortstop, third base and even second.
Brent Lillibridge and Dayan Viciedo are both valued, but could have a hard time cracking the Opening Day roster. One factor not to be overlooked: Viciedo is guaranteed to make $1.25 million this season and the White Sox are going to want to see some return for that investment.
Predicted infielders to make the roster: Morel, Ramirez, Beckham, Konerko, Teahen, Vizquel, Viciedo, Adam Dunn.
Pierre not only led baseball in steals last season with 68, but his defense got better and better as the year wore on -- despite his below-average throwing arm.
Rios was tied for second in RBIs among AL centerfielders with 88 and was third in on-base percentage at .334.
Quentin’s history of nagging injuries continued in 2010, and he seemed to disappear at times late in the season. But his run of six home runs and 11 RBIs over a four-game stretch just before the All-Star break showed he can still carry a team at times.
The White Sox don’t know Milledge personally so while he figures to be a lock for the backup outfield role, they will take a close look at his work ethic and how he relates to his teammates.
Predicted outfielders to make the roster: Pierre, Rios, Quentin, Milledge.
A.J. Pierzynski was so close to signing elsewhere that he even announced to his mother he was going to play for the Dodgers until a last-minute two-year deal was worked out with the White Sox. Like last year, Pierzynski will be backed up by Ramon Castro.
Predicted catchers to make the roster: Pierznski, Castro.