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Battle heats up to be the last man standing

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Inside of a week remaining at spring training, Brent Lillibridge is making one last push for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

With the backup outfield spot down to him and Lastings Milledge, things could get interesting by the time the White Sox break camp Tuesday and head to Winston-Salem for a final exhibition game before the regular season begins.

With the rest of the roster pretty much decided, the Lillibridge-Milledge duel is the only game in town at this point, outside of Phil Humber and Jeff Marquez vying for a temporary spot in the rotation.

The beauty of this chase is that despite it being for a backup role, nobody will get the spot by default.

Milledge looked to be the favorite, and by a wide margin, when he hit two home runs in a March 17 game against the Rockies. He was atop the Cactus League leaders in home runs at the time and was on a lengthy hitting streak.

He has remained steady ever since, heading into Friday’s night game against the Diamondbacks with a .319 batting average. Lillibridge entered with a .220 mark, but hit a home run and a single in his first two at-bats Friday.

Both made impressive defensive plays in the game with Lillibridge diving to make a catch and Milledge throwing out a runner at home plate.

At some point the White Sox will have to make their decision and the fact that Lillibridge is out of minor-league options could have a huge influence. His versatility is likely to be desired by somebody if the White Sox try to put him through waivers.

Milledge, on the other hand, could be sent to the minor leagues to play every day and then recalled in the event somebody gets injured.

It’s a difficult decision the White Sox are glad to make. As manager Ozzie Guillen said way back at SoxFest: “If the 25th man is the toughest decision, I’ll take that.”