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CHGO White Sox Weekly: Three early themes emerging from spring training

Vinnie Duber Avatar
February 19, 2024

Greetings from sunny Arizona, White Sox fans!

I don’t mean to rub it in, but everyone at Sox camp is talking about how this is the nicest it’s been for the opening week of spring training in years.

Will warm temps in February bring wins in April? I’m not ready to promise that for these South Siders. Yes, they have an abundance of enthusiasm and chips on their shoulders after they saw they were given a 0.0 percent chance of making the playoffs.

But they still have the roster they have.

If it walks like a rebuilding year and talks like a rebuilding year …

Still, they play the games for a reason, and no one in Glendale is preparing for another 100-loss campaign. There’s still an Opening Day roster to craft, and while Pedro Grifol says he’s not thinking about that at this early stage of the spring, it’s what we’ll be paying attention to over the next six weeks. Heck, it’s what we’re already talking about now.

When it comes to what these Sox will look like, we’re already seeing some themes emerge. Click on any of the links below to read more in-depth reporting on the subjects.

White Sox Weekly

These White Sox want to play fast

Grifol wants to see his team play faster and more aggressively, going as far as to call last year’s squad “conservative.” He wants no traces of that in 2024, even if half the lineup is comprised of the guys who trudged through last year’s massive disappointment.

The best comparison I can make is that the Sox want to play as closely to how the D-backs played in 2023 as possible. That team was a nightmare to play because it was constantly running all over the place and generally making life miserable for the opposition. New Sox reliever John Brebbia was a Giant last year and told me playing the D-backs made him mentally and physically exhausted. New assistant GM Josh Barfield came from the D-backs after years running their farm system and told me the hope is to bring that style of play to the South Side.

It’s something Grifol is hammering home. The Sox’ front office made a point to bring in guys who are capable of playing that way, but we’ll see if they get the buy-in from the Yoan Moncadas and Eloy Jimenezes of the world, whose health-related slowdowns contributed to the Sox playing the opposite of that style.

Jobs up for grabs on the Sox’ pitching staff

Grifol’s other buzzword in the first week of camp has been “competition,” and while managers always want to foster an environment where the best performers win jobs, there seems to be an awful lot of opportunity at this year’s camp, particularly when it comes to the pitching side of things.

Grifol said the Sox are stretching out 14 or 15 guys to compete for spots in the starting rotation, though with Dylan Cease not traded, Erick Fedde inked to a multi-year deal and Michael Kopech likely to receive every chance to make it as a starter, there might not be many rotation spots open. The bullpen is another story, with four veteran arms, including a returning Bryan Shaw, joining camp on minor league deals in the last week. All four could conceivably win jobs there, as only Brebbia and Tim Hill seem locked into spots.

On the position-player side, the lineup seems set, but the bench has a few spots up for grabs. Longtime Royal Mike Moustakas is another player in camp on a minor league deal and could grab the lefty-power spot over Gavin Sheets, but that’s contingent on him having health and magic left in his bat that hasn’t been there in recent years.

All told, there’s a lot of opportunity this year, which Chris Getz called a “competitive advantage” for this Sox team.

New leader on the pitching staff

Finally, it’s been impossible not to notice the impact new pitching czar Brian Bannister has had in a week at camp. He’s been easily spotted coaching guys up during bullpen sessions and going in-depth, too. We’ll see what results his efforts produce in the immediate — certainly Kopech’s fortunes this summer will be of interest on that front — but there’s no doubt he’s getting to work in a hurry at camp.

What’s Vinnie been up to?

Hey, it’s not a trip to Arizona without getting out into the natural splendor of the desert and sampling some of the local beverages.

The hike I took Saturday in the Superstition Wilderness was one of the best I’ve ever done. Head to Boulder Canyon if you’re ever in the Valley of the Sun.

Also, I found Wren House Brewing Co. in Phoenix to be a great — and tasty — place to hang out.

I’ve got another week out here in the desert, and I’ll have plenty more on the Sox coming your way. If you’d like to get White Sox Weekly in your inbox all spring training long, make sure to enter your email in the box below.

Vinnie Duber
CHGO White Sox Beat Writer

PS — Consider becoming a CHGO Diehard if you haven’t already! Not only are you supporting my coverage in Arizona, but you also get your choice of a free shirt in the CHGO Locker upon sign-up, exclusive content from our staff, access to our CHGO Discord Lounge to commiserate with other White Sox fans, and year-round discounts on merch and events!

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