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Vinnie Duber’s White Sox Grab Bag: Funny moments from camp and my tips for fans traveling to Arizona
What’s up, White Sox fans?
I’ve been back from Arizona for a couple weeks now and wanted to provide you guys with some extra nuggets from White Sox camp that I thought you’d find entertaining.
We’ll start with the richest free-agent contract in club history. It might strike as a little weird that you’re not hearing too much about the team’s biggest offseason addition this spring, but apparently that’s the norm for Andrew Benintendi, who’s about as quiet as they come.
“Quiet,” said Joe Kelly, who won a World Series playing alongside Benintendi with the Red Sox. “(He’s) here to play baseball and nothing else. It’s one of those guys that you need. Instead of not being ready to play, he’s one of the kids who straps it on every day.
“You wouldn’t even know he’s here unless you were looking for him because he’s so quiet.”
So maybe not exactly what the marketing department was hoping for when it heard the White Sox were spending more on a free agent than they ever had before. But hey, if he hits, no one will be complaining that he’s not TV commercial material.
And hitting is something he’s obviously done quite a bit of in his career. That includes in that Fall Classic with Kelly. Benintendi’s four hits in Game 1 of the 2018 World Series landed him in the Red Sox’ record books.
He’s also hit against Kelly before, though that required some playful negotiating, according to the White Sox reliever.
“He texted me after the game one time last year, we were messing around, and he’s like, ‘Just don’t hit me,’” Kelly explained. “I think I said something, messing around, ‘I’ll let you hit a double off me if you never get any RBIs.’ And he’s like, ‘All right, deal.’
“And I think last year he actually did hit a double and didn’t have any RBIs, so it was good.”
The quote of the spring might have belonged to Bryan Shaw, who the White Sox made a late-in-the-game invite to camp.
Shaw, of course, is quite familiar to the White Sox and South Side baseball fans after spending seven of his 12 major league seasons with the division rivals in Cleveland. Oft-used, he’s led the AL in appearances four times and led baseball three times.
So how did he decide to join the White Sox this spring?
“What answer do you want?” he replied. “The actual answer or the PC one?”
There’s only one answer to that question.
“They called and gave me a job,” he said.
After much guffawing among the press corps, he elaborated that it wasn’t quite that out of the blue.
“They had interest all offseason. We’ve been talking to them,” he said. “We were hoping to find a big league deal somewhere. It didn’t happen. But they were interested from the jump, from the beginning of the process.
“It was between them and someone else. The other team kept waiting, waiting, waiting. The White Sox have been interested from the beginning, so jumped on it. I wanted to get to spring, start throwing, start doing stuff. I was tired of sitting at home.”
We’ll see if Shaw can pitch his way into the White Sox’ bullpen, already well loaded with arms. But the team likely being without All-Star closer Liam Hendriks and waiting for the return of Garrett Crochet frees up a couple of spots. Aaron Bummer, too, was experiencing some health-related delays and is worth keeping an eye on when figuring out who makes the trip to Houston for Opening Day.
Dieting sucks, according to Eloy Jiménez.
The so-called “Big Baby” wasn’t so big this spring, and he credited his 25-to-30-pound weight loss to a change in diet.
“Diet, yeah,” he said. “Diet, pretty much. The work was there all the time, but like you need to take care of what you are eating and all that. I wasn’t that kind of guy, but last year, yes.”
So what did he stop eating to get in shape?
I already don’t like where this is going for me, personally.
“Red meat (was the toughest thing to cut out) because I like to eat a lot of red meat. But not anymore,” he said. “(Now I eat) chicken breast, beans, no rice, fish like salmon and all that.”
Oh man, I love rice. And I didn’t hear “pizza” or “tacos” in the list of approved foods.
Walking by a floor-to-ceiling window at Camelback Ranch this spring, I caught a side view of myself that I wasn’t wild about, and now I’m fearful the Eloy Diet awaits.
Let’s forget about all that diet nonsense by transitioning to my off-the-field activities this spring, mostly eating and drinking around Phoenix. We’ll consider this the recommendation portion of the program, which will come in especially handy if you’re heading down to Arizona for spring break to catch the last few weeks of Cactus League games.
Best Place to Eat
El Pollo Supremo, Tempe. This hole-in-the-strip mall Mexican joint near Arizona State University serves up some of the best food you’ll ever have. It’s cash only, so bring about 12 bucks for the combo plate: specially seasoned chicken and steak along with beans, salsa and a trio of tortillas for a DIY fajita-style experience. My mouth is watering just writing about it.
– Fry Bread House, Phoenix
– Welcome Diner, Phoenix
– Chelsea’s Kitchen, Phoenix
Best Place to Drink
UnderTow, Phoenix. Perhaps my favorite bar ever. This tiki paradise is an expertly themed escape from the desert to the hold of a ship floating to various tropical locales. While aboard, you’ll see the scenery pass by from the portholes on the wall and even experience a mid-voyage storm. Spy the dodo head on the wall, and if you brought your reading glasses (and no one to talk to) you can read the latest chapter of this epic tale in your menu. The bar is tiny, so make a reservation.
– O.H.S.O. Eatery And Nanobrewery, Phoenix
– Angel’s Trumpet Ale House, Phoenix
– Four Peaks Brewing Co., Tempe
Best Place to Hike
Treasure Loop Trail, Lost Dutchman State Park. If you’ve got a set of wheels, cruise about an hour west of downtown Phoenix into the Superstition Mountains of Tonto National Forest for incredible Western scenery that you can hike right through. This trail – which starts in the state park and quickly enters the forest – is plenty suitable for most levels of fitness and/or experience and comes with a showstopper of a main attraction all within about an hour of walking. The perfect “Goldilocks” trail for folks seeking something not so involved. And great at sunset.
– Peralta Trail, Superstition Wilderness
– Butcher Jones Trail, Tonto National Forest
– Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley, South Mountain Park and Preserve
Album of the Week honors go to the disc I was most excited to find at my favorite record store in Phoenix, Tracks In Wax. When you find an original copy of “Led Zeppelin II” for 10 bucks, you’ve got to jump on it. Considering the relative bargain of a price, I was concerned there might have been some hidden skips when played, but I lucked out. The thing plays like a dream.
If pressed, I’d probably call it the best Zep album, one of the best collections of guitar riffs in rock history thanks to Jimmy Page. Every song is a winner, though “Ramble On” is a standout for me, personally. I also highly recommend “The Lemon Song” for Zep’s take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and the cover of “Bring It On Home.”
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