Notes: White Sox ponder lineup
Middle of order could change with two lefties at top
TEMPE, Ariz. -- With Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad physically ready for the start of the 2007 regular season, the White Sox have two fleet-footed, adept handlers of the bat sitting at the top of their potent offensive attack.
But the White Sox also will have two left-handed hitters working back-to-back, meaning manager Ozzie Guillen might juggle the order to avoid having a third straight left-handed hitter in Jim Thome. This plan has been tossed around amongst Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko for the past three weeks or so during Spring Training, according to hitting coach Greg Walker, and on Tuesday, neither Walker nor Dye seemed overly concerned about a possible change.
"Our big boys are so unselfish, all they want to do is wherever you put me in, that's where I'm going to hit," Walker said. "We've talked to them about it and they don't care. They are all comfortable wherever you put them. They all want what's best for the team, seriously."
"It doesn't matter, as long as I'm in the middle somewhere," Dye added. "What's best for the team, I'll hit wherever. It doesn't change my approach in what I do. [Ozzie] is the manager, so whatever he says, goes."
Judging by last year's statistics, the most effective order would have Thome hitting third, Konerko sitting fourth and Dye hitting fifth. Thome batted .292 with 34 home runs and 88 RBIs in the third spot during his first year with the White Sox, Konerko hit .303 with 28 home runs and 88 RBIs batting cleanup and Dye became an AL Most Valuable Player candidate with a .315 average, 30 home runs and 80 RBIs from the fifth slot.
Of course, the bulk of each hitter's at-bats came in these respective order locations, slightly skewing the numbers, but they are more than talented enough to move around. Thome was the only one of the trio who didn't have experience batting in all three spots covering the order's middle, as the left-handed slugger never batted fifth.
Putting Dye in the third spot gives the White Sox a good handler of the bat and a quicker runner in front of RBI potential from Thome and Konerko. Using Thome in the cleanup spot also provides the South Siders with a hitter who has walked 100 times in at least nine separate seasons possibly leading off an inning.
Even Joe Crede, who set single-season career highs in average, home runs and RBIs during the 2006 campaign, could step into the third slot if needed. The White Sox offense is strong enough and deep enough to have plenty of possibilities, all of them willing to accept change.
"Ultimately, Ozzie makes decisions on lineups and he has to be comfortable with it," Walker said. "I don't think it's going to mentally affect [them]. ... If we were out there in the middle of the season and everything was rolling and going along fine, then it's not broke, so don't fix it. We've talked to all of them and all of them don't care. Whatever is best for the team."
"That's what's good about us three," Dye added. "It just depends on who's hot. With the four guys we got in the middle, I don't think it really matters."
Grand opening: The plan laid out for fifth starter John Danks is to start Wednesday's contest against Arizona, getting free reign to throw six or seven innings or 100 pitches. The left-handed rookie then will stay back in Arizona while the White Sox travel to Atlanta for two weekend exhibition games, working approximately five innings on three days' rest Sunday during a Minor League start.
A side session on April 4 sets up Danks for his Major League debut on April 7 at home against Minnesota. Danks will join the team for Monday's opener at U.S. Cellular Field against the Indians.
Around the horn: Closer Bobby Jenks worked one scoreless inning Tuesday during a 12-2 loss to the Angels, striking out one and yielding one hit. He consistently hit 94 mph on the radar gun. ... Right-hander Adam Russell, who made a lasting impression on the White Sox as a non-roster invite during Spring Training, will start for the Major League squad Thursday night for the exhibition contest in Birmingham, Ala. Russell is expected to be part of the Barons' 2007 starting rotation. "But I don't want him facing us," said Guillen with a laugh. ... Erstad received a nice ovation from Angels fans at Diablo Stadium prior to his first at-bat on Tuesday. Erstad played 11 years in Anaheim before signing with the White Sox as a free agent. ... The White Sox finished 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position during Tuesday's shellacking at the hands of the Angels. ... Chris Getz, a possible utility infielder of the future for the White Sox, singled Tuesday giving him three hits in four Cactus League at-bats this spring.
Up next: Cactus League play comes to a close for the White Sox back in Tucson, with home contests Wednesday against Arizona and Thursday against Colorado. The White Sox are 2-20-1 against these two teams during spring games since 2006. Wednesday's contest, featuring Danks against Dustin Nippert, begins at 3:05 p.m. CT, with Thursday's getaway game beginning one hour earlier.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.