GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took Don Cooper about three seconds to answer Tuesday afternoon's question concerning how much credence he puts in Cactus League pitching statistics and results."Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero," said the White Sox pitching coach, reinforcing the point with each response.• Spring:Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster |
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It took Don Cooper about three seconds to answer Tuesday afternoon's question concerning how much credence he puts in Cactus League pitching statistics and results.
"Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero," said the White Sox pitching coach, reinforcing the point with each response.
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Cooper certainly doesn't want to see pitchers destined to break camp get lit up in Arizona. But he also knows there's a greater purpose during the six weeks before the season begins.
"I'm interested in getting their innings and their pitches where they need to be," Cooper said. "I'm interested in our focused work and trying to make as many pitches as we are going to have to make on [Opening Day] April .
"Every pitch we throw out here, we are trying to make it a pitch that works April  and all of that stuff. That's what's always been important to me, as well as trying to give everybody their opportunity they were hoping for coming into this."
On a couple of occasions, Cooper has referred to his pitching days and being that guy in camp looking for the extra inning or two. So he's sensitive to presenting fair opportunities, especially early in camp, whether that pitcher is ace Chris Sale, a Minor League prospect or a veteran non-roster invitee.
Those opportunities have come with Sale throwing live bullpen sessions or in Minor League games until his Cactus League debut March 19 at home against the Dodgers. Jose Quintana started his Cactus League work in a B game, and Mat Latos will make his second trip to the mound at Camelback Ranch on Saturday while Erik Johnson gets the start in Mesa against the Cubs.
"Latos looks fine," said Cooper of the right-hander who threw Monday. "He's up to four innings and 60 [pitches]. He's where he needs to be. And we're doing the focused work like we were with Chris. Make it as focused practice as we can."
Split-squad action Thursday allows Carson Fulmer, the team's top prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, another start against the Royals. Jacob Turner gets a second start Wednesday with Sale not yet in the rotation.
Turner, Fulmer, Johnson and Chris Beck provide rotation depth, with the team knowing it most likely will need more than five starters to get through the season. Turner, who is out of options, could break camp as a long reliever, but it will be a move more out of need then based on a dominant Arizona showing.
"Tell me what our individual [Cactus League] numbers were in 2005 and 2008? The answer is I don't know," Cooper said. "The answer means that don't mean [anything]."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.