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
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.