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Baseball Thu Apr 05 2012

Things To Anticipate for the White Sox

The White Sox begin their 2012 season on Friday, with a 1:05 game in Texas. City-wide excitement would be higher if the Bulls and Blackhawks weren't title contenders and if the Sox didn't project to be below average.

The South Siders do have some things going for them, however. A few things I'm looking forward to this season:

Chris Sale, stud starter. I watched two of the former reliever's starts in spring training, and he looked really good. Against the Dodgers in Glendale, AZ, Sale struck out seven in six innings (including three on Matt Kemp) with no walks. Tuesday, in Houston, Sale struck out six in four innings. Sale had 28 strikeouts to only four walks in 28 innings this spring. Granted, it's a small sample size (in exhibition games, no less), but the 6'6" lefty has pitched well in the games leading up to the season.

Adam Dunn, the rebirth. I don't think I need to remind anyone of Dunn's batting stats from last year (Sox fans: "Please don't"), but Dunn hit six home runs this spring (which led Chicago), walked more times than he struck out (14 to 12), and even reached base 40.8% of the time. Not bad. Against Houston on Tuesday, he smacked a home run to center; nice swing, nice drive on the ball. Again, I am aware that we're talking about spring training. At least there are not problems from day one again this year.

Addison Reed and Hector Santiago, young guns. Are we really to believe that Matt Thornton is the answer at closer? Wasn't he terrible in the spot just a year ago? Young hurlers Reed and Santiago are candidates for the closer job. Reed can touch the very high 90s on the radar gun, and Santiago is known for his screwball. These guys have more upside than the 35-year old Thornton.

White Sox, low expectations. Detroit wins 95 games last year, advances to the ALCS, then adds Prince Fielder... pencil them in for 100 wins for 2012, right? Not so fast! Perhaps like the Phillies of last year (and like the Heat and Eagles of the NBA and NFL), it's not so great to add a fantastic player and live up to everyone's lofty expectations. There's a ton of pressure there, no doubt, and that's not even getting into Miguel Cabrera re-learning third base. Kansas City may be a year or so away from contending, the Twins won only 63 games last year, and the Indians are the Indians.

Do the Sox have a chance to make the playoffs in 2012?

I wouldn't bet on it, but the team will not be as bad as everyone projects. Who knows, if Dunn and Jake Peavy have bounce-back years, and if young players like Dayan Viciedo prosper, and if the closer situation works out, and if Paul Konerko remains consistent, and if their top of the rotation (John Danks, Peavy and Gavin Floyd) pitches well... the White Sox can win 85-plus games, right?

Right?

 
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