Ask Mark Gonzales

Only one question: Is that mustache real? --Gambler, Chicago

Bet on it.

OK, so the White Sox and TNA Wrestling have a thing for each other now. Will we see Greg "The Bull" Luzinski teaming up with AJ Pierzynski in a no-olds-barred bout against "Mongo" McMichael and Ozzie Guillen sometime this summer at the Cell? --Rogelio, Charlotte, N.C.

How about Kenny Williams vs. Frank Thomas? Or Ed Farmer vs. any driver not using an earpiece while on a cellphone?

I am a Cubs fan, but give full credit to the Sox for their championship season. I am afraid for my friends that are Sox fans that they are going to be disappointed this year. Of the regulars in the lineup last year, only Aaron Rowand failed to live up to expectations at the plate. In fact, several players had career years. I just think it is unreasonable to expect back-to-back career years from that many players again. I only have to look back at the year following Gary Gaetti's lightning in a bottle season. What do you think? --Terry Hunt, Big Rock, Ill.

Finally, a baseball question. Kenny Williams knew that the Sox couldn't win in 2006 if they brought back their entire team. You're right. The pitching staff will be hard pressed to duplicate what it accomplished last year, but the addition of Jim Thome will make the offense much better and give the starting pitchers an early cushion.

First off, how in the world did Kenny Williams get snubbed for GM of the year? Now that I got that off my chest I'd like to ask a few questions. I've watched every televised game this spring. Does Joe Crede's swing and plate presence look as good to you as it does to me? Who do you think is gonna have big years this year (both offensively and starting-pitching wise)? My "Picks To Click" are, Crede, Dye, Pierzinski and Thome, Contreras, Vasquez and obviously the big southpaw Mark Buerhle. --Andrew Link, Arlington Heights, Ill.

The voting for executive of the year was done during Cleveland's surge last September, and there's a small cartel of GMs who voted for Mark Shapiro. Shapiro did an exceptional job last season, but it wasn't Kenny Williams who signed Juan Gonzalez for $4 million last season.

It's an important year for Joe Crede, but his confidence should help him work out of the roughest slumps. I look for Crede to have a big year and possibly move up in the batting order.

My sleeper in the rotation is Javier Vazquez, who should prosper as a fifth starter.

Two questions: Which is the real Jon Garland, 2006 or pre-2006? And how is the Brandon McCarthy-reliever project looking from close-up? --John Browning, Flemington, N.J.

There's no doubt Jon Garland pitches to contact. It's tough to evaluate him in the windy Arizona conditions, but I think he'll be a consistent winner. The Brandon McCarthy project will require a lengthy examination and patience on the part of the Sox's coaching staff.

Hey Marko, is Seattle going after the White Sox Class AA outfield of a few years ago? What do they see in our outfielders that we don't. I would rather have Jeremy Reed than any outfielder that we have right now. That guy is going to be a star. I just hope that Borchard doesn't develop into one. --Daggwood, Austin, Texas

Jeremy Reed is a fine prospect but I don't think his ceiling is that high. He might turn out to be an Aaron Rowand-type player, except that he'll have to move to a corner outfield position soon, I believe. Mike Morse is the guy to keep an eye on, not Reed or Borchard.

Why in the world would the Sox switch Harold Baines and Tim Raines? The runners won't be able to hear Baines even if he says something. I was at spring training and noticed Raines was standing the dugout behind Baines yelling the runners to get back when a throw was coming over. Harold will cost us some games. If we want to continue to be a running team why put one of the best base-runners of all time on the bench? --Don, Lemont, Ill.

Don, Harold will be more alert after getting nailed in the leg Tuesday by a Rob Mackowiak line drive. But Ozzie wanted Raines in the dugout to spend more time talking to base runners when they're in the dugout.

Mark, I'm worried about Pod's health? He is really important to the top of the line up, and him not playing all of spring training is a concern. What do you think? --Scott Rizek, Indiana

Scott's biggest concern will be his legs. He should be fine as long as his legs stay healthy. This is a big year for him, with his contract up and Jerry Owens very close to joining the major league roster. I can see Scott stealing at least 75 bases as long as he stays healthy.

I'm a student reporter. Could you get me an interview with a player? Thank you! --Jamie, Tucson, Ariz.

I'd contact the reliable White Sox public relations department to assist your needs. Thanks for your interest.

What are your thoughts on the floundering White Sox bullpen? It seems all of spring training their starters have all pitched well enough to get a win but in comes the bullpen and the flood gates open. Before you know it it's another loss. Do you think they made a mistake in trading half of last year's bullpen? --Frank Smith, Boston

Frank, you make some valid points. Many of the relievers who failed this spring were pitchers who won't sniff the big leagues this year. The biggest disappointment of the spring were these pitchers who had an opportunity to make the team but reported out of shape or couldn't throw strikes. I think they'll miss Luis Vizcaino the most because of his versatility. I know that will bother some people, but Vizcaino filled a variety of roles. Damaso Marte needed a change of scenery, and Rob Mackowiak will help the Sox win more games than Marte would have had he stayed.

Mark, the White Sox bullpen has been a mess and the team has looked listless all spring. The key to the success of the 2005 team was a fast start, based on pitching, defense and a quality bullpen, Shingo notwithstanding. The feeling I have is that Cleveland is going to be ready to pounce all over the White Sox early and often. I'm trying not to panic, but it is becoming more difficult as the days go by. Will the White Sox start 18-42 and be left behind by a hungry Cleveland team? --Don, Hattiesburg, Miss.

Don, great to hear from Charlie Hayes' hometown. I think the Sox will be challenged all season but I don't think their spring performance will carry over to the regular season. Too many players are battle-tested and know what's at stake. Don't expect the Sox to be as successful as they were last season in terms of victories, but they handled Cleveland very well. And the Tribe will miss Kevin Millwood.

Mark, longtime reader, first-time writer. I'm a fan of Ryan Sweeney. I haven't heard or read much about him this spring. What is his status and does he have a chance to make the Sox some day or is he trade bait for July? Thanks. --Chip Ramsey, Waukesha, Wis.

Ryan Sweeney is the real deal! But there's no room for him at the major league level right now. The plan is for him to play every day at Triple-A Charlotte and see what happens. This kid is as close as he can to being an untouchable. It wouldn't be a surprise if he's the first outfielder called up in the event of an injury. This is a big-time player who handles himself well.