Roster decisions remain for White Sox
Russell's stuff demands attention; Anderson's status uncertain
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The seven cuts announced by the White Sox prior to Wednesday's Cactus League game with the Giants didn't exactly include any major surprises. Instead, the list featured a number of top young prospects, such as Josh Fields and Ryan Sweeney, who still figure to help the team in the very near future.
But a few of the players still precariously balanced on the team's roster bubble could provide that end-of-spring shocker if they survive next week's final cutdown. Manager Ozzie Guillen's crew appears to have 21 players who are veritable locks -- the nine position-player starters, including Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad, four starting pitchers, four relievers and bench players Pablo Ozuna, Toby Hall, Rob Mackowiak and Alex Cintron.
This list leaves 12 players competing for four roster openings, with a number of these individuals battling for the same one or two slots. Here's a look at the main decisions remaining in White Sox camp, with one week left in Tucson.
The pitching staff
John Danks and Gavin Floyd have received the primary focus during their quest to become the White Sox fifth starter. But the final stages of this job search appear to have Adam Russell as the late entry and Charlie Haeger dropping out as solely a candidate in relief.
According to pitching coach Don Cooper, Danks will start on Friday against the Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, and Floyd will follow in relief. Floyd will start on Tuesday in Tempe against the Angels, with Danks getting the call on Wednesday back at home against the Diamondbacks. Russell will replace Haeger as the starter for Sunday's game against the Rangers at Tucson Electric Park.
Russell, a 23-year-old non-roster invitee who has never pitched above Double-A Birmingham, has used his 96 mph velocity and drop-down fastball and slider to match Boone Logan in 2006 with his stunning rise into roster contention. Russell could also figure into the bullpen mix, with Andrew Sisco, David Aardsma, Ryan Bukvich, Logan, Haeger and the loser of the fifth starter battle all working to fill two spots.
The coaching staff has been impressed once again with Logan's spring dominance, and Sisco could be used as a starter for Triple-A Charlotte if he doesn't break camp with the White Sox. Bukvich, a 28-year-old right-hander with 48 previous Major League relief appearances, simply is glad to be healthy after battling elbow problems in 2006.
"I'm working forward from that," said Bukvich, who has fanned eight in seven innings this spring. "But there are a lot of guys doing really well. It's good for our coaches to have a tough decision to make. Those guys really have helped me compete and do what I can."
"Everyone has been focused on the fifth spot, but the little side note is, we have some bullpen decisions to be made," Cooper added. "But we are going to make them like the fifth spot. We are not going to rush to judgment. We will let it play out and see where it takes us."
When Anderson played college baseball for the University of Arizona, his coach, Andy Lopez, delivered a message that sticks with the center fielder to this day.
"He told me that you don't stay the same every day," said Anderson. "You either get better or you get worse.
"I feel like every day here, I've made adjustments to improve myself. I feel good right now. I feel like I'm hitting the ball hard."
Entering Thursday, Anderson had a .303 average with two home runs and five RBIs this spring and had made great strides with his approach at the plate. But the question for the White Sox is whether they want to carry the young outfielder as a reserve if Podsednik and Erstad are the starters. It's a role that Anderson played from time to time after his early struggles in 2006 and a responsibility he handled during Tuesday's game against the A's.
Although Anderson didn't figure on playing in Phoenix and was being worked on by athletic trainer Herm Schneider when he was called in, he managed to draw a walk and single to right in his two plate appearances. Making the team has become far more important to Anderson than the role he is presented.
"It's not what I prefer to do, because I think everyone wants to start," Anderson said. "But I'm willing to do whatever. I don't care. I want to be with these guys. They are my teammates. I want to help them win another championship."
The 25th man
If the White Sox take 11 pitchers, stick with Anderson and don't make any trades at the close of Spring Training, then the roster is set. If Anderson is sent back to Charlotte to play every day, then another position player such as outfielder Luis Terrero or first baseman Eduardo Perez has a chance to make the team.
Perez strained his right calf on a home run launched off Milwaukee's Chris Capuano last Wednesday, and he has not played in a game since then. He went through infield practice before the game with the Giants and hopes to return for Thursday's contest at Tucson Electric Park, pointing out that he doesn't need to be 100 percent, but he has to be careful to be as healthy as possible.
Any injury is inopportune, and this one holds even greater significance, with Perez fighting to make the roster. Then again, Perez once went 21 days last year without getting an at-bat, so he's used to not playing for indeterminate periods of time and then being called upon to deliver.
A trip to the Minor League disabled list at the season's outset could be an option for Perez. But as both Perez and Guillen agreed on Wednesday, the lack of playing time brought on by the strained calf won't keep him off the team.
"They've been around and played the game. They know what they are doing and they know I know what I'm doing," said Perez, 37, who has continued hitting during his recovery. "It's what I've been doing for the past few years. Having a week without seeing live pitching is normal for me. I'm not a guy who is going to steal bases. All I want to do is hit a home run and be able to run the bases on my own."
"If Perez is going to be on the team, he's going to be on the team no matter what," Guillen added. "He doesn't need to show us what he can do. The decision is, what are we going to do with the rest of the guys, but it's not because of the injury."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.