The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, he addresses power hitters bunting, whether weight training is bad for pitchers and yet more on the Brian Anderson subject.
In your previous mailbag, you wrote "I'd hate to see Jim Thome or Paul Konerko pull a hamstring while trying to leg out a drag bunt" as a seemingly sarcastic response to a reader who suggested these guys bunt when the situation presents itself. I know the idea is that you don't take the bat out of your best hitters' hands, but these guys are slow-footed double-play types who can turn a first and second with no outs situation into a relatively harmless runner on third with two outs in one bad swing. Plus, look no further than our enemies to the North, the Twinkies. They have won again and again with no payroll because they play the game right. And guess who bunted not once but twice the other night? Yep, defending AL batting champ Joe Mauer. --Brian Pollina, Chicago
Brian, I wasn't trying to be sarcastic. You make a good point about Mauer. I've seen Barry Bonds bunt against Atlanta in the late 1990s to cross up the Braves' shift against him. Jim Thome has a high-maintenance body, from what we're seeing with him on the disabled list. I had a great chat last August with hitting coach Greg Walker on the number of double plays late last season, and it had to do more with approach and trying to do too much (trying to pull the ball) instead of hitting the other way, hitting behind the runner, etc.
Hey Mark, I have been a life long sox fan and I am just 15 years old. My favorite player is Frank Thomas. Ever since he left the Windy City I have always regretted Ken Williams' decision. I know they left on bad terms, but do you believe that there might be any chance that the Big Hurt will come back to Chicago to retire? --Andre, Victorville, Calif.
Andre, they say that time heals all wounds, but this will take a while. I can't see Frank finishing his career with the White Sox, but I can see him being honored once he retires.
What's up with AJ throwing his bat and helmet around like he's a 10 year old in Little League? Has anyone from the organization ever said anything to him? How 'bout the umps? Isn't throwing equipment against the rules? I love AJ, but he looks like a 30-year-old brat when he reacts like this to getting out. Your thoughts? --Drew, Chicago
A.J. is frustrated by his low batting average, and has had his share of tough-luck outs. I know throwing equipment doesn't look good in the eyes of fans and kids. At least he hasn't punched a wall and hurt his hand.
The Tribune quoted Billy Pierce yesterday as suggesting that one reason for modern pitchers' decreased durability is that pitchers now do more weight training than pitchers traditionally did. I recall Ron Santo making a similar comment many years ago (way before Wood and Prior). Recognizing that, like Jim Hendry, neither Billy Pierce nor Santo is an MD (and nor am I), this makes common sense to me. Is this a mainstream view within baseball? If so, why aren't more teams stressing more aerobic training rather than weight training for pitchers? --Dan, Chicago
Dan, this is a great debate, just like the number of pitches thrown by starters in bullpen sessions between starts or skipping those sessions to preserve the freshness in their arms. Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson are known for their off-season and between-starts weight work. My observation is that some pitchers get too bulky and limit the flexibility they need.
As of now, it seems to be paying off that Mark Buehrle hired a personal trainer and started throwing earlier in the off-season at the suggestion of pitching coach Don Cooper. It will be interesting to see if Mark can continue to throw around the 90 mph range, but I think we're all seeing a noticeable improvement from 2006, when he was feeling the effects of a taxing 2005 season.
Mark, always enjoyable to read your comments. This is more of a baseball question. What are the stipulations on placing someone on the disabled list? How does placing someone on the 15-day DL as opposed to the 60-day DL help or hurt a ball club? --Derek, Chicago
A player on the 60-day DL doesn't count against the team's 40-man roster. If the Sox knew that catcher Toby Hall would be out at least 60 days, they could have put him on the 60-day DL and opened up a spot on the 40-man roster instead of outrighting first baseman Casey Rogowski.
Mark, in the first game of the set with the Royals, MacDougal was pitching in the eighth. Ross Gload was announced to pinch hit, and headed to the plate. So then Ozzie brings in Matt Thornton for the lefty-lefty matchup. Then, Reggie Sanders, a righty, pinch hits for Gload giving the Royals the matchup they want. Correct me if I'm wrong, but once Gload is announced as a pinch hitter, the Royals cannot pinch hit for him again, right? Or was Gload not actually announced? If, so, did Ozzie make a mistake here and make the switch to Thornton too soon? It obviously hurt us as Sanders delivered a run-scoring single. Thanks. --JD, Ventura, Calif.
Ozzie waited until Gload's name was announced before pulling MacDougal. Gload can be lifted for a pinch-hitter and was then out of the game.
Mark, random frustrations and observations: Juan Uribe has returned to his undisciplined self at the plate. McDougal needs to pitch inside more and throw more strikes. He has a good backup fastball to righties. He needs to use it to make his slider more effective. It was hard to see Ross Gload in a Royals uniform. He's a great team player, a good hitter, and a better outfielder than Ozzie gave him credit for. Your thoughts? --Kurt Livingston, Marion, Iowa
Don't you like Juan's Cliff Johnson-like swing? Just kidding. He does tend to overswing but he is making improvement in the walk department, and his defense has been stellar. I'd like to see Mike throw more fastballs because it has natural sink. I'm happy for Ross Gload. One of the true professionals in the game and glad he's getting a chance to play more. If the Sox beat Detroit for a playoff spot by one game, you can thank Ross Gload. In an April 18 game at Detroit, Ross' hustle allowed him to avoid a game-ending double play that alllowed the Royals to beat the Tigers in extra innings.
Mark, do relief pitchers command a particular temperment and set of skills that sets them apart from starters and do they privately aspire to the starting position? I know years ago there was talk Keith Foulke might move into the starting rotation. --Brad Womack, Chicago
I covered Keith Foulke as a rookie starter with the Giants in 1996, and he didn't possess the velocity at the time. In a role where a pitcher throws a finite amount of pitches or innings, their velocity usually increases.
The closer's role takes a special mindset that only a special group possesses. I always liked Danny Graves' mindset when he was effective for Cincinnati without a blazing fastball.
Don't you think it's time the Sox gave up on Podsednik? He has become the Wood/Prior of the White Sox. --Fred, Denver
Fred, I thought the Sox would seek another leadoff batter last off-season, but Kenny Williams recognized the skyrocketing costs of leadoff batters (Matthews, Pierre, etc.) and figured Podsednik would be a bargain in a hopeful rebound year. Scott might have as many as four months to redeem himself from a frustrating start, so I wouldn't close the door on him yet.
Love your column, Mark. I can't for the life of me figure out why, down 4 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth and bases loaded against the Detroit Tigers, Guillen didn't pinch-hit for Brian Anderson. The guy is now 0-for-9 in bases loaded situations. Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye weren't in the lineup! Doesn't it make sense to pinch hit one of them to try to steal a win against a division rival? --Matthew Corum, Hemet, Calif.
Matthew, thanks for the kind words and sorry for not answering this sooner. We all saw what happened to Thome in his next at-bat (aggravating his ribcage injury and going on the DL). Dye had been pulled out of two previous games because of back problems, so the reward might not have matched the risk.
Was Brandon McCarthy so popular in the Sox clubhouse that the hitters, en masse, have decided to abandon John Danks because he came in the BMac deal? --Larry Bristow, Clavert City, Ky.
Larry, I don't think so. The fielders love it when Danks throws strikes with regularity. Every pitching staff has a tough-luck pitcher, and John has been stuck with that distinction since the regular season started.
Ozuna still vainly chasing fly balls, Mackowiak still playing singles into doubles, Anderson at DHDH!pitchers still beginning work in the second inning: Sox don't seem to learn very quickly, do they? --St. Petersburg, Fla.
David, congrats on your move from one coast to the other. We're finding out that his season will be an on-going work in progress.
Hey Mark, I was hoping you might have a clue as to why so many fans have been down on Darin Erstad from the start? Either they're big Brian Anderson fans(for reasons unknown?) or they simply do not have recollection of how good Erstad has been for several years in this league (only player in MLB history w/gold gloves at two diff. positions!). --Adam F., Lisle
Can you explain to me why Brian Anderson was the DH against the Tigers instead of playing left or right field in place of Ozuna or Mackowiak? --Tom Horvath, Highland, Ind.
Ok, I guess I'll keep the questions coming about Brian Anderson. Tonight's game, Wednesday vs. Detroit, saw BA as the DH. When will the Ozuna in LF experiment end? Why wouldn't BA be in LF and Ozuna at DH? --Jim, Chicago
Aa-ron Row-and!! Aa-ron Row-and!! --Alex Bartkus, Coconut Creek, Fla.
I know a lot of people believe that we need to let Brian Anderson get some more at-bats, but have these people watched the few at bats he has had? I think that he looks overmatched and sometimes ridiculous. Erstad looks almost as bad. What is the likelihood that we trade some of our young minor league pitching or current starting pitching for a center fielder that can actually hit the ball before the trade deadline? --Carl Bennett, Lynchburg, Va.
It's hard sometimes to keep up from out of town, but I've been expecting to see Brian Anderson start in the outfield for a few games now and haven't seen him. Last night, since I actually got to watch a game on ESPN, I figured they'd put him in for sure when Mackowiak went down. I'm still puzzled as to why Ozzie would use an infielder in right when BA is supposedly his best defensive outfielder. --Eileen, Columbus, Ohio
If Kenny and Ozzie come to their senses and send Brian Anderson to Charlotte, who's the most-likely replacement? --Norm Cohen, Kings Park, N.Y.
In response to the poll question of what the outfield should be , don't the White Sox have to play Anderson or trade him now? With Sweeney and Fields and others in the minors, it seems they need to find out immediately whether Anderson can play. Inconsistent playing time isn't helping his development or future trade value. --James, Santa Monica, Calif.
Hey Mark, How much longer are the Sox going to play Anderson and Cintron. Both belong in the minors for some other club. --Cliff Zeider, Port St. Joe, Fla.
I'll try to answer these questions as thoroughly as I can.
I think now we're seeing why Kenny Williams signed Erstad. He covers a lot of ground, is unselfish and is hitting with authority after a slow start. He didn't play that much last year (because of an ankle injury), so I think management understood the time it took for him to get untracked. I was surprised that Darin didn't hit for more power while with the Angels, but I've enjoyed the way he prepares for each game and each situation.
As for Anderson as the designated hitter last Wednesday against Detroit, Ozzie felt it was better to have Mackowiak in the lineup at one of the corner outfield spots in the event of a late-inning switch. As many of you know, Andy Gonzalez is a true infielder. But he played 11 games in the outfield last year at Triple-A Charlotte.
Call it being shorthanded, but if Anderson would have moved from DH to right field, the Sox would have been forced to have the pitcher's spot hit twice. And the Sox's depth already was stretched with injuries.
As for Rowand, his hot start probably doesn't make him available at this point. Interesting that as Brian Anderson was being optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, Brady Clark was delivering a game-winning double for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Milwaukee had interest this spring in acquiring Mackowiak for Clark (who was dealt to LA for pitcher Elmer Dessens), but the Sox would have lost one of their best left-handed pinch-hitters and a corner outfielder who can also play third and second. Does Jason Ellison (traded from San Francisco to Seattle before the start of the season) excite you? He can play center field, run and hit right-handed, but I'd rather have Brian in the role he was in for the first month without having to give up someone for Ellison.
During the Sox's last trip to Minnesota in late September, one of Kenny's regrets was not landing a right-handed hitting backup center fielder. In my opinion, Erstad was too good to pass up as a starting center fielder in January despite the fact the Sox were vulnerable in games against left-handed starters last season. Shannon Stewart and Preston Wilson weren't the answer, in my opinion.
I think Kenny will be as patient as possible in evaluating Brian's progress. The best thing that can happen is for Brian to get his at-bats and stroke back and help Darin down the stretch when Brian is ready.
As for Alex Cintron, he is the Sox's most dependable backup shortstop, and those are very hard to find. It's why Mike Benjamin lasted so long in the majors.
A friend of mine was telling me that on the road the Sox players share hotel rooms. Is this true? It's hard for me to picture these multi-millionaires sharing rooms. If they do share rooms do they get to pick their roomates? --Mike S., St. Charles
Each player gets his own room on the road.
No question here. I want to urge fans to vote early and often for Sox All-Stars. I believe the fan vote is BS. But since we have it, let's not let Yank and BoSox fans be the only ones stuffing the ballot boxes. Chicagoans are supposed to be known for doing that well, anyway. --Les, Manteno
Hey, here's a great story for you: Since last year, I've joked with A.J. about being selected or voted to the 2007 American League all-star team. The reason: the game will be played in San Francisco, where he was barbecued in 2004 but got the last laugh when he joined the Sox.
He'd consider it an honor to be named to any all-star team, but this selection would be amusing.
Since none of the Sox pitchers seems to be able to get out of the first inning without being scored upon (This was last year also) Why not change the routine? Maybe have them pitch to 3-4 batters in the bullpen. Maybe have them run a bit to get rid of the nerves. --John Strelecky, Winter Garden, Fla.
John, pitching coach Don Cooper has spoken to several starters about their routines, whether it's warming up longer or simply focusing more. It's one of the many early-season mysteries.
Isn't it time Ozzie has a sit down talk with the team and indicate to them that it appears they are just going through the motions? --Frank Johnson, Watertown, N.Y.
Ozzie's late-spring criticism of the pitching staff seems to have worked well, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a chat soon. But the lineup is without Thome, and Seattle is one of the worst hitters' parks.
Welcome back Mark. I enjoyed your column a great deal last season and am happy to see you back. I hope your winter was a good one. I'm curious if you've had much of a chance to see Gavin Floyd pitch. With McCarthy being hit hard in Texas, the deal for Danks and Masset is looking like a steal, but the parting of Garcia might not look so great. Also, I've had a hard time understanding why Kenny chose to shell out some cash to tie up Javy Vazquez. When he's good he's good, but we never know when that's going to be, and he isn't getting any younger. Any thoughts? --Tyson Shroyer, Peoria
I've followed Gavin's starts closely since he was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, and I was impressed with his ability to rebound from a rocky first inning last Wednesday against Toledo. He needs to keep improving because the Sox may need him to start in one of the games against Minnesota on July 6, if not sooner or later due to injury.
As for Vazquez's contract, he has proven to be as durable as any pitcher on the staff, and we're seeing glimpses of his upside and success that he possessed in Montreal.
Its a shame to see some very strong pitching performances being wasted by a total lack of any run support whatsoever. Other than some after-the-fact admissions by Ozzie that perhaps the approach to Spring Training was faulty for our hitters not being primed and ready to go at the start of the season, how can a team with this many proven, solid hitters continue to struggle at virtually every position? At what point do you start to look at the hitting coach Greg Walker and his apparent ineffectiveness? --Daryl White, Dana Point, Calif.
Daryl, great to hear someone from the beautiful town of Dana Point. I'm baffled as much as anyone by this prolonged slump. I'm not a hitting coach, but I think Greg and Mike Gellinger have searched for several cures. Some problems are obvious (trying to pull the ball, tough opponents such as C.C. Sabathia, tough luck), others aren't.
But contrary to what one e-mail alleged, I don't think the Sox's victories have been lucky. They've had their share of satisfying road wins, but that needs to carry over to U.S. Cellular Field. The travel has been rough, but the long stretch of games in Chicago in May should allow them to get extra work in.
Thanks for your questions and interest.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun