White Sox enter 2023 with redemption on their minds

March 27th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Don’t ask White Sox manager Pedro Grifol about his team’s 2023 regular-season schedule. At least, don’t ask about any games past the first 10 of the campaign.

Grifol knows about four games to open in Houston and the home-opening series vs. San Francisco, but only knows about the ensuing road series in Pittsburgh because his wife, Ali, is joining him on that trip. Otherwise, it’s a seven- to 10-day focus for the first-year manager.

Big picture predictions aren’t near his preparation, even when talk arises of a fast start.

“A fast start to the season would be nice, energy is a must, but I'm here now, man,” Grifol said. “I'm in the moment.

“What do you mean by season? 10 games? 15 games? 20 games? I'm here now.”

“Here” is running a White Sox team with lofty expectations for the 2023 season, coming off an extremely disappointing ’22 campaign when the team was mired in mediocrity. Here’s a few predictions for this White Sox crew under new management:

What needs to go right? Good health
This answer could work for any Major League Baseball team, but after watching the 2022 White Sox battle through a plethora of key injuries, this response is an easy one. Having top talent such as , , , and physically sound for an entire season will make a huge difference for a team with the raw talent to play with anyone. Some of those players need to bounce back from underperformance in ’22, as well, but that underperformance can be partially attributed to dealing with their respective maladies.

Great unknown: Who will be the closer?
, one of the game’s top closers and an equally outstanding clubhouse presence and person, continues treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Grifol has decided not to name a closer subbing in for a pitcher who is tough to replace, choosing instead to go closer by committee or working in high-leverage pockets. The White Sox have plenty of late-inning options, such as , and . also is in the mix, appearing healthy enough to break camp with the team after taking a step back at the start of Spring Training due to lat soreness. And José Ruiz was impressive during his stint in the Classic with Venezuela. It’s not so much an unknown for the White Sox, but more about sticking with the original plan and choosing against going with the hot hand consistently in the ninth.

Team MVP will be ... Anderson
It didn’t take long for his Team USA teammates to understand what those around the White Sox already know: Anderson’s energy and ability are driving forces. The White Sox simply are a better team with Anderson leading off, or hitting somewhere in the lineup, and playing shortstop. The 29-year-old didn’t play after Aug. 6 last season following surgery to repair a tear on the middle finger of his left hand, and while was a strong replacement, the team will be even stronger with the duo now anchoring up the middle. Anderson has the capabilities to produce 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season, if not more, and is healthy and ready to go.

Team Cy Young will be ...
As the old saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Cease, 27, makes his first career Opening Day start on March 30 in Houston following up a 2022 campaign where he finished second to Justin Verlander for the American League Cy Young. The right-hander posted a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts over 184 innings pitched, building to another level of excellence as he had done coming off each of his three previous Major League seasons. Cease got knocked around by Kansas City in an early Cactus League start, but it meant nothing more than getting his work in and something for him to potentially joke about as the season progresses. Last year’s immense success, which also featured 8 2/3 no-hit innings thrown at home against the Twins on Sept. 3, should only be just the start for Cease.

Bold prediction: Anderson wins AL Most Valuable Player
No, not Mike Trout. No, not Shohei Ohtani. Well, with the amazing value brought by Ohtani as a pitcher and a hitter, he’s seemingly always the MVP. But after an injury-plagued 2022, as a microcosm of a season which was a disappointment for the entire organization, Anderson is driven, challenged and having fun with baseball. His full value will be felt once again for the White Sox and throughout MLB in ’23.