SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Edwin Jackson was on the mound and Ozzie Guillen was managing against the Brewers in the Maryvale section of Phoenix, but for the White Sox on Thursday the action was on the other side of town.
All three of the White Sox’s candidates for the team’s backup outfielder role were playing in a split-squad game against the Colorado Rockies and it was Lastings Milledge who made the biggest impression with two home runs. The White Sox defeated the Rockies 12-6.
“I picked the wrong team,” said Guillen, who presided over a 4-0 loss to the Brewers. “Like I say, always the last couple cuts [are] the toughest ones. We have [Alejandro] De Aza and [Brent] Lillibridge and Milledge. … It’s a tough call. I’m glad they’re make it exciting. Maybe a few days ago I said nobody stepped it up and try to get the job. Now everyone is swinging better and pitching better.”
Milledge was in the leadoff spot and playing in left field, while De Aza batted sixth and was in center. Lillibridge, opened the game at second base while batting eighth, but after defensive changes in the fifth inning Milledge remained in left with Lillibridge moving to center and De Aza moving to right.
With general manager Kenny Williams keeping an eye on the action from the press-box level at Salt River Fields, it was Milledge who appeared to take a commanding lead in the three-man competition.
Signed to a minor league contract over the winter with an invitation to big league camp, Milledge has made the most of his chance. He hit a two-run shot to left field and a solo shot down the line to left in his next at-bat.
After Guillen characterized the play of his outfield candidates as tight, the battle has ramped up with intensity.
On Wednesday Lillibridge hit a home run and nearly had another to win the game in the bottom of the ninth against the Giants but his drive was caught at the wall.
“I guess they read the papers, when I say I wasn’t too happy with their performance,” Guillen said after Wednesday’s game. “… Milledge is playing well, De Aza playing good, and Lilli is swinging the bat well. It’s going to be fun. That’s the fun thing about spring training. This ballclub is going to [go down] ’till the end to pick.”