Notes: Dye 'not out to break the bank'
Right fielder insists he wants to stay on South Side
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Jermaine Dye led a procession of media members to a table out behind the White Sox clubhouse at the Kino Sports Complex after he finished his Wednesday morning hitting session, setting up his first contractual discussion of Spring Training.
From the tone of Dye's seven-minute interview session, steeped in the laid-back, straightforward demeanor that has defined the right fielder since his arrival in Chicago, it seems as if he would like to be talking to the media covering the White Sox for many years to come.
"I've already expressed to [the White Sox] that my first choice is to be here and I wanted to get something done this offseason," Dye said. "But they have other things they wanted to try to get done before that.
"I love being here. Chicago is a great place to play in. The fans are great. My teammates are awesome and I get along with everyone. We play together as a team. Ozzie [Guillen] is a great manager. He keeps the clubhouse loose and that's what it's about. That's how you win ballgames."
A chance to continue winning could possibly become the most important factor in Dye's free-agent decision coming after the 2007 campaign. Much like the comments made by Mark Buehrle and Tadahito Iguchi, expressed a few days apart earlier in Spring Training, Dye understands Ken Williams' plan to table contract discussions until after the 2007 campaign and simply focus on winning in the present.
Dye acknowledged informal talks between Bob Bry, his agent, and the White Sox during the offseason but opted to stay out of the negotiations unless something was "really going." His first test as a free agent came after the 2004 season, when Oakland declined to pick up its club option. Dye eventually agreed to a two-year, $10.15 million deal with the White Sox, with a club option for 2007, despite another team coming in at the 11th hour and offering more money.
This option for 2007 rose to $7 million through incentives, after Dye produced one of the best single-season efforts in franchise history via a .315 average, 44 home runs and 120 RBIs. In order to stay with the White Sox for a few more years, taking less money would be involved for Dye.
It's a point readily acknowledged by the 2005 World Series MVP, but doesn't seem to draw much consternation. Factoring in Dye's low-key approach, that attitude won't change in the immediate future.
"For me, it's not about the money," Dye said. "It's about winning and going out and having fun and hopefully, finishing my career here. I've already told them I'm not out to break the bank, but I just want to be fair, whatever market value is.
"These last two years have been awesome for me. Hopefully, they will want me here and bring me back."
A tweak for excellence: Williams, hitting coach Greg Walker and pretty much any member of the organization will talk at length about the quality of person they have in Dye and his exceptional clubhouse presence. But Williams and Walker also will point out how, at the age of 32, everything just seemed to click for Dye to rise from an outstanding player to a prime AL MVP candidate.
With a greater understanding of his swing, Dye's staggering numbers don't figure to dip much in 2007, or in 2008 or 2009, for that matter. And it was one minor adjustment in his swing that seems to have paid big dividends.
"I've only changed one thing in my swing, standing more upright, standing taller," Dye said. "I got that from watching Frank [Thomas] hit. Being tall, you have to watch those guys who are tall. I watched Richie Sexson, Frank. Just playing with Frank, and Frank telling me that if you are more upright, you have a better chance of getting to that inside pitch.
"That's what has helped me. I've always been a guy who got jammed a lot, just missed balls from getting out of the park because of getting jammed. That one move has helped me."
Leadoff pair: Taking a healthier mental approach in handling his inevitable day-to-day shortcomings certainly will help Scott Podsednik once again thrive as the White Sox leadoff man once he recovers from offseason sports hernia surgery. But Walker also believes the presence of Darin Erstad will serve as a big plus for Podsednik, despite posing a possible challenge to his position.
"Darin had filled those shoes before, he knows how the game is played, and anybody that tells you, when Darin Erstad's name comes up the first thing that's said is, 'He's a baseball player,'" Walker said. "He understands the game and I think it will be good to have another guy that has played that game before, that can work with him and talk to him about pitchers.
"Iguchi has done a great job in the No. 2 hole, but when we got Tadahito, he came over as a No. 3 hitter. So there was really not a lot of communication there about that part of the game. As good a job as Tadahito has done in the No. 2 hole, that's not his past history. Well, it is Darin Erstad's past history. I think there's something to be gained there."
Going live: Wednesday's workout marked the first day of live batting practice for the pitchers, and newly acquired Nick Masset impressed once again, among a group of strong performances.
"It's the first day and when you face your own teammates, you look real good," Guillen said. "I like when you see another uniform at the plate. But, it's good. Everybody is healthy. Everybody is ready to go. I like what we have."
All of the high praise from the first five days of camp could give Masset a false sense of confidence. Instead, the rookie right-hander approaches each day with a distinct process in mind, fully realizing his biggest test will come when Cactus League action begins. On Wednesday, Masset spent his first 20 pitches getting loose and throwing strikes and then went after the hitters with his final 20 pitches.
"As long as I hit the key points and do what I need to do, I feel I'll be ready," Masset said. "I felt great today. It's good to get that first one out of the way, get my feet up from underneath me, while working on hitting my spots."
Around the horn: According to Guillen, Juan Uribe is scheduled to arrive in Tucson on Thursday night and should report to camp Friday. Catcher Gustavo Molina remains late for Spring Training with visa problems in Venezuela. ... The White Sox Minor League mini-camp, aimed primarily at pitchers and catchers, begins Saturday.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.