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PHOENIX – Rick Hahn strolled past the White Sox fans gathered at Camelback Ranch on Sunday, and the shouting started like kids waiting in line to see Santa Claus.
“How about a right fielder?”
“Go get a backup catcher!”
“Another starting pitcher, please?”
White Sox fans have their wish lists for what the general manager should accomplish in the time between the end of the lockout and Opening Day. And Hahn has already gotten to work, with reported deals for bullpen arm Joe Kelly, infielder Josh Harrison and rotation depth piece Vince Velsaquez.
But plenty are clamoring for a bigger splash for the starting rotation.
Yasmani Grandal is not one of them.
“I’m confident in my staff,” he said Sunday.
Grandal is the one who will be taking on the bulk of the catching duties for the White Sox’ starting five, which has been a hot topic of conversation all winter long. Plenty saw the woeful four-day stretch during the ALDS and determined big changes were needed. Hahn correctly opted not to overreact to such a small sample size after the team boasted the best rotation in the AL during the regular season.
But now Carlos Rodón is a member of the San Francisco Giants. There are also some sizable outstanding question marks regarding Michael Kopech’s move from the relief corps to the starting staff and how Dallas Keuchel will follow up the worst year of his otherwise very accomplished career.
Grandal, though, who has a habit of blunt talk – when asked for his takeaways from that ALDS defeat, he said, “I didn’t take anything from it other than the fact that we lost” – arrived at camp with the belief that the rotation is in a good place.
“They showed what they can do,” he said. “Obviously, we lost Rodón, a guy we would have liked to have back because he was a big part of it. Thankful enough that we have other guys that are willing to step up. Like Kopech, I know he was itching to start last year, especially toward the end of the year.
“But also, Cease took a step forward. Lance is leading the way. I’m not really worried about Keuchel. Giolito’s going to be there. And Giolito just had a normal year last year. It wasn’t like he had his best year.
“Coming into this year, I’m feeling pretty confident in all five guys.”
Grandal’s stamp of approval doesn’t assure smooth sailing, erase any of the aforementioned question marks or mean that fans need to stop asking Hahn for more help in the arms department. But he has a track record of success handling a pitching staff, with multiple pitchers who have come to the White Sox citing his presence as a factor in their decision-making, so his opinion is certainly worth listening to.
Vince Velasquez, come on down
Hahn and Tony La Russa spent their initial media sessions of camp talking about the importance of pitching depth in this bizarre, lockout-impacted season.
Well, this is what pitching depth looks like.
Velasquez is reportedly the newest member of the White Sox’ pitching staff, a guy who won’t excite fans after posting a 6.30 ERA splitting time with the Phillies and Padres in 2021. In fact, he hasn’t had a ton of great results over the last few years, with a combined 5.25 ERA in 113 games (96 starts) since 2017.
Again, no one’s going to get a Vince Velasquez tattoo or anything to celebrate his arrival on the South Side. But pitching depth, as La Russa said Saturday, will be critical in 2022, and Velasquez can provide that.
He’s not the splashy addition to the rotation so many fans are clamoring for and his acquisition doesn’t preclude such a move at a later date. But he is the type of pitcher who can slide into the bullpen or even go to the Triple-A rotation (though his deal is reportedly of the major league variety) and be ready to pitch in case of emergency.
Lynn or Keuchel hit the injured list? Velasquez can step in to fill their vacant spot in the rotation until they return. And he might not even be the first name called upon, not after Reynaldo López’s resurgent season in 2021.
But depth means players that line up after the five guys in the rotation. The White Sox were basically looking at López and minor leaguers like Jimmy Lambert. Now there’s another name on that list.
Tim Anderson celebration practice
Spring training is all about getting ready for the regular season. That includes celebrations.
Anderson jumped into White Sox (and baseball) lore for his dramatic home run to win last summer’s Field of Dreams game in Iowa, a homer that came with a memorable trot around the bases and celebration.
Anderson, of course, was already famous for celebrating home runs with bat flips prior to delivering that win in the Hawkeye State. But every good performer needs new material, so why not get practicing?
Anderson, taking batting practice Sunday, followed up the final swing of one of his rounds with this gem:
Can we get a score on that one from the judges?
There’s another ‘stache in town, folks.
Look what Dylan Cease was rocking when he showed up to camp Sunday.
La Russa said to me, “You and Dylan. What is it? A club?”
Maybe we should start one. There are dozens of us. Dozens!
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