Reader Q&A: Mark Gonzales' White Sox mailbag

I see that Alex Rios is hitting balls up the middle more during his resurgence. I believe he would be further pushed in this direction if Robin Ventura made him the second-place hitter. Rios, when he is hitting well, has better bat control than the free swinging Alexei "Cuban Missile" Ramirez. Also for consideration, is that it's best to have a lefty in the second spot to take advantage of being able to more easily hit balls to right field to move runners over and hit in the hole created by men on first. How about Rios leading off and Alejando De Aza hitting second? -- Tom Pappalardo

I love De Aza in the leadoff spot. He's one of the Sox's must underrated players on the roster. As for Rios batting second, I think it's best for now to keep the middle of the order (Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Rios) intact for a while. Rios might see more fastballs in the second spot, but teams might be more inclined to pitch around A.J. to get to the hitter behind him.

It's not hard to be a Gordon Beckham fan, given his personality and defensive abilities. His marketability seemed wide open upon his arrival. However, in 2012 on a team with a lineup with several offensive holes (Brent Morel .167 BA/.214 OBP, Dayan Viciedo .196 BA/.211 OBP, slow-starting Alexei Ramirez .213/.244), it seems that Beckham's hole may be the largest (.170/.254) principally due to the duration of failure. How much longer will the first-round-draft-pick tag save his roster spot before he's sent to AAA to figure it out? And, if such a move were to happen, is giving Eduardo Escobar the position the natural course of action? I suppose such moves beg the question: who is first in line at AA or AAA to get the bench-warming role Escobar has been keeping; Dan Johnson? I don't see a huge falloff defensively with Escobar at second, but surely more offensive productivity potential than Beckham has provided in 400 games over roughly four seasons. I don't see Ventura putting Brent Lillibridge there as his value is too great in his current role. -- Mike, Orland Park

How much longer do you believe that the Sox can afford to keep Viciedo, Morel and Beckham on the roster? We need help at the bottom of the lineup! -- Allman of Tempe; Tempe, Ariz.

We've seen Robin pinch-hit for Viciedo, Morel and Beckham more liberally in late-inning situations. So I'd say the clock has started to tick to some extent,

The middle infielders at Triple-A Charlotte haven't been overwhelming. I like what Robin did on Sunday, moving Lillibridge from third base to left field after Viciedo came out, and I'm sure he would have moved him back to third had the Sox tied the game or went ahead in the ninth inning.

So I could see a situation where Lillibridge could get more playing time at second or third in this scenario, but he has to cut down his strikeouts.

Third baseman Dallas McPherson and outfielder Jordan Danks have played well at Charlotte, but I believe Robin is going to be more patient with Viciedo and Morel, to a somewhat lesser extent.

Is it time to scrap Hector Santiago as the closer for the Sox? Does he have the stuff for a full-time closer? I think the league will catch up with him. -- Howard; Columbus, Ohio

When I watch Santiago pitch, it seems to me that all he does is throw one fastball after another. You see the speed on TV -- 94, 95, 94, 95 mph, etc. Why aren't they letting him throw his other pitches with more timely frequency -- especially the screwball? It just seems that the hitters are lining him up with the steady diet of fastballs. -- Cary, Grayslake

Hector's location hasn't been the greatest, and that's what's hurt him the most (as evidenced by his hits, homers and walks allowed in 10 innings). He's got the stuff to be a closer, but I think his best long-term role is as a starter because he has four pitches. He's going to be an interesting study in the next few weeks with Sale moving to closer and a logjam of relievers -- particularly from the left side.

When was the last time a team had four starters with batting averages under 200 on April 30th? If you looked at strictly home batting average I wouldn't be surprised if it were six. Are you surprised we haven't seen more Lillibridge and Kosuke Fukudome? To me, Beckham looks worse this year, not better. Not that long ago, if a player was this clueless at the plate, he would have been sent down to get his head straight. Why isn't that done any more? -- Michael Carl; Billings, Mont.

I still believe Beckham can be a good, if not great offensive player. It seems his problems are more in the head than anything. Wouldn't it do him good to be sent down for a few weeks, work on his swing and confidence and then come back up? -- John D., Mt. Prospect

In the case of the Sox, there hasn't been a strong alternative in the minors to Beckham.

And yes, I'm very surprised Lillibridge and Fukudome haven't played more.

I'm writing to you again out of total frustration. How can the Sox win when five starters are batting under 200. They only have two hitters, Konerko and A.J. What is wrong with the rest of them? Something tells me they are in for a long year. They must do something about Beckham, Morel and Rios. Their replacements aren't any better. Now Ramirez has gone sour. He wants to hit a homer every time he's at bat. Just totally frustrated again. -- Ted Cee, Las Vegas

When Alexei decides to take a pitch and stands up out of his crouch and puts the bat on his shoulder, what's the percentage of those pitches being called strikes? 99.8? 99.9? -- Brian, Lemont

Alexei has come up with a few big hits that have been overshadowed by game-ending home runs by the opponents, and he's provided Gold Glove-caliber defense. But his lack of production has been as disappointing as the bottom three hitters.

How long do give Robin to stick with Morel? I know we need to be patient with younger players, but he looks over-matched through April. -- Keek; Tucson, Ariz.

Everyone talks about Beckham's failure, but what about Morel? How long do the Sox stay with him and what other options do they have inside OR outside the organization? -- Irv Kaage, Park Ridge

Do the White Sox have any other alternative to Morel at third base? Is the Sox farm system void of talent? -- F. Wisin, Westchester

Of the players who have struggled through the first five weeks, Morel's woes might have surprised me the most. He might have peaked too early in spring training, or too much might have been made out of his production in September.

But he looked so ready for a productive season with a compact swing and good plate discipline this spring. I'm extremely baffled by this.

It's an important draft for the Sox, and they could use plenty of infield prospects.

I know the season is only a month old, but so far the Sox are really improved in limiting the opponents running game. I don't want to pile on Ozzie Guillen but in all his years as manager they were unable to control the opponents running game even a little. Am I imagining something or is the coaching staff change making a difference. -- Ike; Manalapan, NJ

I saw a tremendous dedication to harnessing the running game in spring training, and that's continued in pre-series planning meetings. Bench coach Mark Parent has played a big role in the improvement.

In fairness to the previous regime, there were some pitchers who were very deliberate to the plate and were content to concentrate on the batter.

Did the rules change when tagging out a runner? I saw a game recently where the fielder tagged the runner with his glove while the ball was clearly in his hand, I thought the ball had to be in the glove. Why is the ball changed if it strikes the dirt around home plate whether batted or pitched but not on an infield grounder? -- Scot, Braidwood

Sounds like the umpire blew the call on the tag. The rules didn't change.

There are some amazing tricks that pitchers can do with a ball that is scuffed by the dirt after throwing it 90 mph or faster.

How does Ken Williams, Jr. get to stay on the Class-AA Birmingham roster? I would think his dad would be embarrassed. KW2 has a consistent track record of hitting below .200 (including this year) with little power, and he is 28. There are a couple of outfield prospects at Winston-Salem who could use those ABs. -- Jim Fainter, Denver

Kenny Williams Jr. is actually 25-years-old. But he's batting .175 with 17 strikeouts in 57 at-bats. After extended spring ends and the June amateur draft is completed, I'd be surprised if he's still in the organization unless his production picks up dramatically.

Now that Sale has been moved to the bullpen, is there any chance Jake Peavy can talk the Chairman into trying to sign his hunting and fishing buddy Roy Oswalt to strengthen the rotation. (Last I heard he was driving his tractor in Mississippi and throwing batting practice sessions.) Roy would also -- at least to this untrained eye -- give this staff a bit of "an attitude". -- Jimmy D; Sugar Land, Tex.

I think Roy wants to pitch for a bonafide playoff contender, and he seems very comfortable in the National League.

I don't think the rotation is as big of a problem as the offense. I don't think the Sox are in a position to add a free agent unless attendance picks up. I would never tell fans how to spend their money. It's just likely that they'll subtract and not add around the trading deadline if their play and home attendance doesn't improve.

What the heck? The Sox have talked about Chris Sale being a starter since they drafted him. They went into spring training with Addison Reed seeming to be the most likely closer out of the gate. He's pitched 12 total innings without giving up a run, so why in the world are the Sox making Sale the closer without giving Reed a shot first? Have they decided that Chris will never be a long-term starter because of his quirky motion? -- Kurt Livingston; Marion, Iowa

The Sox drafted Chris with long-term intentions of him being a starter. The workload that accompanies the transition was just too much at this point. I'd like to see them revisit him being a starter in the future.

Could this end up being another Gossage (Reed)/Forster (Sale) setup? Just a thought.

Or how about Reed being a starter if he's not given a chance to close at any point in 2012? He was the Friday night starter at San Diego State in his junior season.

Two questions: 1. A new rule this year allows teams who play a doubleheader to carry a 26th man on the roster for that game. If that team then sends down a pitcher called up to pitch that game, how does that affect his total allowed options? Does that count against that team and player? 2. FOX telecasted Philip Humber's masterpiece, but never showed a side view on Brendan Ryan's fateful last swing on replay. WGN/Comcast always show the side view on appealed strikes. Does FOX use their own cameras or do they use WGN/Comcast cameras? Can you definitely say that Ryan swung? -- Bob Sagen; Fort Mohave, Ariz.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to bring up an extra player from the minors when playing doubleheaders to give the pitching staff a little relief. Does this use up one of the players' options? -- Brian Levy; Woodridge

If a player is optioned to the minors and spends at least 20 days there, then the option kicks in. It doesn't have to be 20 consecutive days, just 20 day over the course of a season.

FOX had exclusive television rights to Humber's perfect game. By the way, I'm a big fan of David Benzer, a Bay Area-based cameraman who is in his 30th season. David recently beat stage 4 throat cancer and returned to work this season. In the past, David has worked the post-season and World Series.

mgonzales@tribune.com

Twitter @MDGonzales

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