All of the questions during the off season about whether pitcher Matt Thornton or newly acquired JJ Putz were going to take over the coveted main closer position were put to rest first thing on Friday at SoxFest.
"He looks the best I've ever seen him," said Sox GM Kenny Williams.
"Bobby Jenks is going to be my closer until he can't be my closer anymore," Ozzie followed up on Saturday morning during the AM seminar.
News broke late last Saturday evening that both Jenks and outfielder Carlos Quentin had avoided arbitration by signing 1-year multi million dollar contracts. Bobby's didn't come without stipulations. Last year plagued by kidney stones, fatigue, and injuries, Jenk's ERA went up and his time spent on the mound went down. KW deemed these things "fat man" problems. Both he and Ozzie mad it clear to Bobby that he needed to downsize, and fast.
After a quick outburst to mlb.com about what he thought were comments singling him out after the 2009 season, Bobby did just that. Reports surfaced quickly Friday evening at Sox fest about the weight he'd dropped, and the Chicago Sports beat writers sat around talking about how great Bobby looked. Joe Cowley reported that he looked as though he had lost nearly 30 pounds, and Jenks followed up that it was "all in his shoes."
During the morning seminar I couldn't get over the love fest going on for Jenks. "They should rename this 'Jenks Q&A/Appraisal with KW and OZ" I tweeted around 10am.
"This pitching, our 1-11 guys,
is probably the most solid we've had in a long time"
Good thing, because we all know pitching wins games.
Of course another topic that fans couldn't get enough of was the topic of the DH. The first question brought to KW's attention when he arrived 15 minutes before Ozzie, Ed Farmer, and Darrin Jackson was about the re-signing of Thome. The first fan stood up and remarked "Whats going on with Thome? We're hearing it's 50/50 now."
"Well when a reporter says it's 50/50 isn't he really saying 'We don't know what the HELL is going on.'?" Kenny replied which brought laughter to the room. Avoiding the question a little bit, he followed with "You know I lobbied for Ozzie to let me come in as a DH but he told me that I couldn't hit even when I was younger." Kenny Williams is no stranger to the fact that a good chuckle will usually get a questioners mind off of things, but 3 minutes later the question resurfaced again. "It's really up to Ozzie. If that's how Ozzie wants to do things then we'll do it. If not, then Thome will always be a part of the [future] White Sox family."
Ozzie followed up that we would all know the Thome/DH situation by the time he leaves for Miami, which is slated as tomorrow evening.
For now I'm guessing Thome will end up with the Twins. If Ozzie breaks down and decides we really do need a big bat like Jim's in our line up and that a rotating DH is best for him, then I'll be very surprised. However with Kotsay and Jones in the DH spots, I find it hard to believe that we'll actually sign Big Jim.
So what about this rotating DH spot? KW and Ozzie were addressed that question this morning at the seminar too. Ozzie remarked after the fan finished speaking and the crowd sighed and booed, tired of hearing the words "designated hitter" in every other question, "You guys boo because it keeps getting brought up, but every time someone says DH, these guys [the media and beat writers] do this.. (put their heads down to listen and pens to their pads of paper as if KW and Oz will say something new)"
Speaking of the National League, former northside outfielder, Juan Pierre was acquired by the Sox this off season and welcomed with open arms at SoxFest as well. Some fans voiced their opinion of how they would have rather had Scott Podsednik, who had arguably one of his best hitting seasons with the Sox last year, but Ozzie and Kenny reassured us that Juan fit in perfectly with the Sox and that they just couldn't give Pods a multi-year deal the way he wanted.
The issue of our infield was probably one of the most fun topics for me to listen to. Any of you who follow me on twitter know I was tweeting like crazy the entire time at Sox Fest. (I even had some fellow tweeters come and find me while I was having a glass of wine at Potters in the Palmer House Hotel where the event took place.) One of the most fun ways to keep up with the players and what was going on at different seminars was by following newly acquired 3rd baseman Mark Teahen. On twitter as ESPY_TEAHEN (apparently its supposed to be his dog's twitter page.....) he tweeted how excited he was for SoxFest, how awesome his teammates were, and how he was excited to sign autographs. "BREAKING NEWS!" he tweeted around 10am this morning, "Looks like im going to be wearing #23." Robin Ventura fans, I'm sure, will have something to say about this, but it's nice the kid was so excited about getting his jersey number.
Kenny and Ozzie talked up our infield whenever they were addressed questions about whether putting Beckham at 2nd base was the right decision (which was quite often because, you know, we as fans clearly know more than Ozzie or Kenny put together do about where our players should field on a day-to-day basis...............), and talked about how great Teahen was going to be, and how we would have one of the best defensive infields that the team had seen in a while.
Tweeting away like crazy, I see a new tweet from Mark Teahen just as Ozzie and Kenny are talking up his praises. "KC I apologize. I love @Boulevard_beer," he said in regards to his tweet the night before about how Goose Island 312 was delicious and Boulevard beer had nothing on it. "I got a little wrapped up in the big city lights last night and let the 312 do my twiiting."
I paused, laughed at the irony, and immediately facebooked: "So, I'm sitting in seminar with KW and Ozzie Guillen who are praising Mark Teahen and his defensive fielding, and as Im listening to this, Teahen himself is twittering apologizing to a beer for his favoritism of another beer last night. I'm not sure if I'm in love with this guy or if I should be nervous about a hung over third baseman all season."
Probably the sweetest and most heart warming (this is where the girl in me comes out) part of the panel was when Ozzie interrupted Kenny Williams speaking as a little baby boy came running across the stage. Ozzie put his microphone down, ran to the child with open arms, scooped him up and held him in an embrace. The crowd resounded with "awwww," as we quickly realized it was Mark Buehrle's son, Braden, who Ozzie apparently has a very close relationship with.
What excited me the most was Ozzie's demands that our team play small ball this summer. He and Kenny voiced that he didn't want to put all the pressure on long-ball hitters, but instead wanted our guys to focus on driving in as many runs as they could in a productive manner. Kenny remarked that "that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to pick up Pujols and stick him in the middle of our lineup," but made it clear that small was the name of the game, and that's what they were sticking to.
All-in-all, questions were addressed well so far at SoxFest. I'm excited that Jenks is healthy and our bullpen is going to be productive, that the young guys in our infield have a good chemistry and will hopefully execute defensively as well, and excited to see how this rotating DH will work for the team this year. After everything I couldn't be more excited for the season, and for those of you as pumped for spring training as I am, Ed Farmer wanted to remind everyone that 1) he hates the yankees, and 2) spring training broadcast will begin March 4th.
Well, that's all for tonight, tomorrow I will address something near and dear to my heart, the Chicago Baseball Museum. Look for a new blog before midnight and as always,
We Are Chicago Baseball
We Are Chicago Baseball