I’m not talking about this unseasonably warm February that we’re experiencing here in Chicago. Surely we’ll be paying for this in May.
No, I’m talking about baseball. The book has finally closed on football season — though it’s been over in these parts since about mid-October — and we can segue to our annual nine-month love affair with the national pastime.
This is the time of year when hope springs eternal, though the White Sox will seemingly have a tough time getting their fans in that state of mind following the massive disappointment of 2022 and an offseason that’s done little to get folks jazzed for different results in 2023. Of course, a picture of a baseball in the sunshine and artificially placed green grass of the Arizona desert can do a lot of the heavy lifting on that front, and even the surliest South Sider will find some level of excitement when videos hit social media featuring the crack of the bat and the slap of the mitt.
Whether you’re already all in on the 2023 campaign or will need some convincing, here’s everything you need to know about White Sox spring training.
When does White Sox spring training start?
Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, February 15, but expect to see plenty of images of players arriving at Camelback Ranch in the days prior, as the World Baseball Classic has led to several different “report days” for guys, depending on their participation in the international tournament.
Pitchers and catchers participating in the World Baseball Classic will have their first workout Tuesday, February 14 with all pitchers and catchers having their first workout the following day. Position players participating in the World Baseball Classic will join the fun on Thursday, February 16, and all other position players are due at camp next Monday, Feb. 20, for the first full-squad workout.
While spring training games are essentially meaningless other than to get players up to speed for the regular season, folks back home obviously enjoy footage of their favorite team playing a game. The Cactus League schedule begins Saturday, Feb. 25. The White Sox host the Padres to open their exhibition schedule.
Which White Sox players are participating in the World Baseball Classic?
Even when those Cactus League games roll around, though, expect to see even fewer regulars than usual, as the White Sox have a significant number of participants in the World Baseball Classic.
Tim Anderson, Lance Lynn and Kendall Graveman are part of the United States roster. Luis Robert and Yoán Moncada will be playing for their native Cuba. Eloy Jiménez is on the Dominican team. And relief pitcher José Ruiz is part of the Venezuelan pitching staff.
The World Baseball Classic doesn’t actually get going until more than a week into March, and White Sox players participating in the event will be scattered across the globe for pool play. Robert and Moncada will be in Taiwan with the Cuban team. Jiménez and Ruiz will play with their respective teams in Miami. Anderson, Lynn and Graveman get to stay close to White Sox camp, playing for the American team in Phoenix.
Second-round games take place in Tokyo and Miami, and the championship round will be played in Miami, as well. The final game will be played on March 21, nine days before the White Sox open the regular season in Houston.
What are the biggest storylines at White Sox spring training?
Despite giving Andrew Benintendi the richest free-agent contract in club history, the White Sox placed a lot of their faith in bounce-back seasons for the players who contributed to last season’s disappointing .500 record. And so nothing will be of greater interest this spring than seeing if the team’s hiring of new manager Pedro Grifol and a mostly new-look coaching staff, well, worked and whether Grifol & Co. have succeeded in fixing the many things that went wrong in 2022. Of course, that shouldn’t be expected to be visible overnight, and despite plenty of offseason communication and even hands-on instruction, in some cases, spring camp is where much of that work will be done.
Also of interest will be how the team handles the loss of team leader and franchise icon José Abreu, who signed a three-year free-agent deal with the Astros this offseason. Abreu was not only the team’s clubhouse leader and mentor to young players Moncada, Robert and Jiménez, but he was also the team’s best hitter, meaning the White Sox will have to make up for that production as well as his off-the-field importance.
Additionally, all eyes will be on newly acquired starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, who is under MLB investigation after allegations of domestic violence and child abuse; rookie outfielder Oscar Colás, who is the favorite for the starting right-field job; and catcher Yasmani Grandal, who has been feverishly working out this winter after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons.
Will there be any position battles or roster spots up for grabs at White Sox spring training?
The White Sox’ 26-man roster for Opening Day is generally an easy thing to project, even before spring workouts have even begun.
Lynn, Graveman, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Joe Kelly, Jake Diekman, Reynaldo López, Jimmy Lambert, Aaron Bummer and even Rule 5 pickup Nick Avila all seem safe bets to make the pitching staff, while Anderson, Grandal, Robert, Moncada, Jiménez, Benintendi, Colás, Andrew Vaughn, Seby Zavala, Leury García and Gavin Sheets all seem safe bets to make up the position-player side of things.
The mysteries lie in how Clevinger’s situation will affect the fifth spot in the rotation, which arms will finalize the bullpen and whether Garrett Crochet is far enough along in his Tommy John recovery to be one of them, who wins the starting second-base job — Romy Gonzalez enters as the favorite — and which of the team’s minor league free agents might grab a spot as a defense-first reserve outfielder.
There will also be questions about which pitcher or pitchers take over the closer’s role while Liam Hendriks undergoes treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who emerges as starting-pitching depth behind Davis Martin and how playing time shakes out in right field between Colás, Sheets and even Jiménez.
And of course, health will factor greatly into everything, especially after the White Sox spent the last two years experiencing an onslaught of significant injuries to key players.
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