Spring arrives for optimistic White Sox
Camp officially opened Friday, but many players have been present for weeks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Playoffs or bust.
That feeling has enveloped the White Sox organization and fan base since general manager Rick Hahn finished an offseason with what looks like at least eight impact moves to reshape a 73-win roster from 2014. The idea was broached to many among the White Sox on Friday, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch to officially begin Spring Training. And manager Robin Ventura's answer to that question seemed to sum up their overriding feeling.
"I expect us to make the playoffs," said Ventura. "I expect us to make a good run at it and make the playoffs.
"Again, you look at the commitment the front office has made, the guys they brought in here and you look at the depth we have. It's all on paper, but you're looking at guys going out with the idea of making the playoffs."
Jeff Samardzija, acquired from the A's as part of a six-player deal and slotted in at No. 2 in the rotation behind Chris Sale and in front of Jose Quintana, threw his first White Sox bullpen session Friday. The same held true for David Robertson, the new White Sox closer, and left-handed reliever Dan Jennings. Zach Duke takes the mound Saturday.
George Kottaras and Geovany Soto (non-roster invites) join Rob Brantly as fellow newcomers behind the plate or catching those side sessions in Friday's instance. There will be a getting-to-know-you process with half of the 40-man roster turned over, but it comes with a great sense of excitement and confidence built into this new-look team.
"You want to come into Spring Training with a roster you can win with," Samardzija said. "A lot of things can happen throughout a season and it's all about having those guys there to start. It's about playing games. On paper, we have everything we need to win. It's about us proving it day in and day out."
"There's a different feel around here," Hahn said. "There's a level of confidence and expectations and even some swagger in terms of how guys are going about their business."
Carlos Rodon figures to draw a great deal of early attention and quite a bit of attention for the next 40-or-so days to follow. The third pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and the No.14 prospect as ranked by MLB.com threw on Friday, and how or if he fits in at the big league level stands as one of the questions to be answered in Arizona.
Remember, Rodon has thrown just 24 1/3 innings at the Minor League level and is still working on fastball command and developing his change as a viable third pitch. Also remember that Rodon could travel the same path as Sale and Mark Buehrle by beginning his Major League career out of the bullpen and has the stuff and more importantly, the big league presence to succeed.
Pitchers and catchers draw the early focus, with position players not officially due until Tuesday. It's really a matter of semantics, with Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez, Tyler Saladino, Trayce Thompson, Andy Wilkins, J.B. Shuck, Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell and Conor Gillaspie among the representatives from that group already in camp.
"There are a lot more guys this year. Guys who are more eager," said Johnson, who arrived in Arizona on Jan. 12 last year and came to town on Jan. 26 after SoxFest this year. "A lot of people have more pep in their step. A lot of hard work so far getting ready for Spring Training."
"We have a goal here," Sale said. "We have something to accomplish."