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Mark, have the White Sox ever thought about moving Scott Podsednik to second in the batting order and let Tadahito Iguchi lead off? I think Iguchi get on base more and he can use his base-stealing skills. Pods can just worry about getting him over instead of on base. --HLLJ, Chicago
I think they believe that Iguchi is better suited for the No. 2 spot because he has better bat control, and I fully understand this. If Podsednik drops to No. 2, then you have consecutive left-handers in Pods and Thome and it helps opposing managers in late-inning situations.
I thought the trading deadline was July 31, but there have be several trades afterwards. Can you help me understand what all this means? More importantly, can the Sox still get a much needed arm? --Joe Varghese, Elmhurst, Ill.
Players can be placed on waivers after July 31. If a team claims that player, the team that currently owns that player can make a deal with that club, pull him off waivers and keep him, or allow that team to claim him and keep him and his salary. A team can make a deal with any team involving a player who clears waivers. I think the Sox are satisfied with their current make up.
Why is it that everybody forgets that we were at the top of baseball in home runs last year? --Leo Carlson-Tessler, Chicago
Because the Sox didn't lead the American League in homers. Texas hit 260 last year, compared to the Sox's 200.
Hey, Mark, you said that it's too late to stretch out Brandon McCarthy to be a starter. But just this week pitching coach Don Cooper said that if Javier Vazquez struggles much more that they might have to consider making Brandon a starter. Who's right? --Shamus, Chicago
Ozzie's right. He took care of that last week by saying there was no thought to putting McCarthy in the rotation this season.
Scott Podsednik's continued decrease in playing time, primarily against lefties, is disconcerting and makes me wonder if he'll be back next year. He's batting only .239 against lefties and his speed seems to be down, which is partly evident in his decreased stolen-base totals. Do you think the Sox will re-sign him, or will they look to a player like minor-leaguer Jerry Owens to bat leadoff next year? Also, will Jermaine Dye be back? How far away is an Owens-Anderson-Sweeney outfield? --Josh J., Hartland, Mich.
Before you run Podsednik out of town, keep in mind that there aren't many good, pure leadoff hitters. Jerry Owens struggled initially but is starting to make big strides at Triple-A Charlotte. This could be a big winter for him. Jermaine Dye's 2007 option ($6 million is very affordable), but I don't think we're that far away from an Owens-Anderson-Sweeney outfield.
I noticed that A.J., Crede, and Freddy have trimmed their hair even more than when Sox management ordered their initial clean up. I am curious was this latest cut job also ordered by management or did the players do this on their own? --Katie Chinn, Cottage Grove, Minn.
The players recently did this on their own. The heat and humidity in Baltimore and Kansas City was brutal, so it was a matter of doing anything to stay cool.
Mark, I think your right that next year might be a good time to move a lefty out of the bullpen and put him into the starting rotation to make room for Boone Logan. But not Neal Cotts, he's been getting rocked lately. I'd rather see Matt Thornton in there. Does Matt need another pitch to be a starter and do you think it could happen next year or in the near future? --James, Chicago
I think the Sox have to be careful with Thornton. I like him in the bullpen. Other than Billy Wagner, there aren't too many left-handed relievers who throw harder than 95 mph. I think we're going to see a stronger Neal Cotts in 2007, and I wouldn't rule out a return to the rotation if Boone Logan continues to show progress.
I find it exasperating to watch the base running of Jim Thome, Scott Podsednik, Tadahito Iguchi and Rob Mackowiak as they refuse to watch the ball until they know they can make it. Where is Joey Cora on these mistakes? Doesn't Ozzie give signals or does he simply wait to see if they do it as he wishes? Another huge issue is the pitching getting careless and not bearing down on each pitch. Watch Jose Contreras when he is in trouble versus when he thinks he has a safe lead. Unless the Sox move runners along, play each inning as if their season depends on it, they will not make the playoffs and my heart will break. --James Poulsen, Viera, Fla.
The base running has been brutal at times. I think there will be an increased emphasis on smarter base running next spring.
Mark Buehrle is pitching like he is hurt. His command, location and break on his pitches is not what it was earlier in the year. It does look like the innings have caught up with him. What are you hearing? --Howard Dock, Columbus, Ohio
I think Buehrle was handled the right way on Saturday, pitching six innings and getting him out of there. Buehrle's velocity has been down, but a bigger factor is how much slower his curve and change-up are from his fastball. If he can vary the speeds, he's OK. There's been a sameness to all his pitches in past starts, and he paid the price.
Hey mark, we realize that the only questions that you'll answer are the easy ones from individuals who like your shirt so here goes: Red is really your color, Mark, but we don't understand why you would think that Kenny Williams would bring up players from AAA Charlotte in September. Charlotte is probably going to be in the playoffs, and we would guess, those players would dream of having a cup of coffee with Oz, if they're out of contention, but Kenny Williams, Ozzie, Thome, Konerko, and Dye said that they didn't need major league help for the last two months, and if the White Sox are going for a wild card spot wouldn't you think a better choice of call up come in the form of a catcher from Birmingham. --Frank Bartos, West Dundee, Ill.
Sorry, Frank, but I try to answer as many questions as possible, regardless of any additional comments. Why in the heck would a major league team keep prospects at Triple-A when they have a chance to promote them and give them a chance to win a game in September with a playoff berth at stake? There's always the chance Ozzie could use a third catcher and not stay away from lifting Pierzynski for a pinch-hitter, as he didn't do last Wednesday vs. Ron Villone. Or using Jerry Owens as a pinch-runner after using Pablo Ozuna in the early innings?
The perceived strength of the White Sox at the beginning of the 2006 season was the starting pitching. Now after 100 games it is safe to say that the weakness of this team is the starting pitching. What do you think Kenny Williams will do for the 2007 season? Try again with the same starting staff? Or, replace the underachievers like Garcia, Buehrle and Vazquez? --Don, Killdeer, N.D.
It's apparent that one of the starting pitchers will be dealt. That will free up at least $10 million. But some of that will go toward raises to other players next year. That's why Dye's $6 million option for 2007 is very reasonable.
It's clear the AL is quite a bit better than the NL, whether you look at interleague results, All-Star games, etc. When an AL team trades for a NL player, do they factor in lower expectations? For example, you'd predict Javier Vazquez would not do as well in the AL as he did in the NL. --Dan Edelstein, Vancouver, Wash.
Yes, you're right. It's one reason why the Sox were too shy to pursue San Francisco's Jason Schmidt last year. As for Vazquez, he had the luxury of being a No. 5 starter and not an ace as he was with Montreal and Arizona.
Have read a rumor that the Sox are scouting Cuban ball players who have defected? Who are they and how fast can they help? --Dave Carroll, Round Lake Beach, Ill.
That's not a rumor. It was first reported in Baseball America and later the Tribune. The Sox will monitor that situation but are unlikely to immediately pursue those players.
No matter what the Sox do this year, chances are very good that they will trim payroll next year, starting with one or two starting pitchers. I'd speculate that the next 6-7 weeks will offer up proof of who needs to hit the road. With that in mind, I believe that the Sox seriously have to consider Charlie Haeger for next year's staff. As a knuckleballer, he'd probably be able to go 6-7 innings per start as he is doing in Charlotte, and do no worse than Garcia and Vasquez are doing currently. Also, Podsednik looks like he is a shadow of last year's player and needs to go too. What say you? --Jim Kessler, Tampa, Fla.
A: Jim, I'd say that's a pretty accurate observation of the rotation. Haeger has tailed off somewhat but will get a look next spring.
I see that Jim Thome has been inconsistent at the plate. What are your feelings if the Sox have Konerko or Dye batting at the third spot of the line up and place Thome fourth? --Perry, Chicago
Perry, I think Thome is doing fine in the third spot. He's had his share of rough spots but finds a way to get on base when he's not hitting and set the table for Konerko (who's comfortable in the fourth spot) and Dye (who's thrived hitting in the fifth spot).
Hi, Mark. It seems like Sox is coming out of the slump after All-Star break. Sox fans are happy again. One simple question: Is there a salary cap in MLB as in NBA? Yankees bought some good pieces right before the trade deadline. They have money, so they can buy good players. We are not a large club. Why not initiate some salary cap to make MLB more competitive? Yankees would not win that many titles if their payrolls were not that large. --Jian Zhou, Chicago
The Major League Baseball Players Association has been against a salary cap. As long as there are high-revenue teams like the Yankees who can afford to pay large salaries, there's no reason for the MLBPA to push for a cap. The Yankees, however, do pay millions as part of a luxury tax for going over thresholds.
With all due respect to Sandy Alomar, he really is not much of a hitting threat any more and everyone is running on him. Any chance the Sox might try to bring back Miguel Olivo? He seems to be doing pretty well in Florida and I always liked his arm. --Jim, Washington, D.C.
If Miguel Olivo returns, it will be in an Old Timers Game. The Sox didn't care for the way he called a game, and several pitchers insisted on throwing to Sandy. It made it difficult for Ozzie to fill out the lineup card.
Mark, you recently wrote, "Guillen explained that most shortstops give the third baseman a signal on each pitch as to whether it will be a fastball or curveball." It again raises the question of whether a fielder could be tipping Buehrle's, and other's, pitches. Just trying to find the reason why our pitchers aren't doing so well this year! --Ron Reichman, Los Angeles
Ron, sometimes an infielder will move at the last moment in anticipation of a certain pitch. In the case of Buehrle, I think his velocity is down 2-3 mph and his location was shoddy until his last start. I liked the fact he was varying the speed on his curve and expect him to get better.
Have you noticed any difference in Brian Anderson lately? He has come through big in some key spots lately--two-out double then scoring the winning run Thursday against the Yankees, two-out single that should have scored Cintron in Friday's win, and, of course, the two-out, two-run single Saturday. Plus, his defense looks smoother than ever when compared to the outfield adventures of Scotty Pods and Mackowiak. Is there reason to believe that Anderson could continue to build on this mini-run of success? --Paul, Wicker Park
Paul, Brian plays very fearlessly, and it's time for him to continue that run of improvement with a lot at stake.
In watching all of Craig Monroe's games I think he is one of the most overrated players on the Tigers. It seems like he is a DEAD pull hitter, so why do the Sox keep pitching him inside? I don't recall him hitting ANY opposite field hits against us and all his hits have been on hanging breaking balls inside which anyone can hit. --John, Chicago
John, great observation. I think more disturbing is how comfortable Monroe looks at the plate against the Sox. Getting him to move his feet around (pitching low and inside) might be a start to solving him. But I give Monroe credit for feasting off some mistakes, such as the grand slam off Vazquez.
Can you please update us on the status of Dustin Hermanson and Jeff Nelson? Are either going to be able to contribute this year? And with the Sept. 1 roster expansion date, who do you see being called up to help out (and is there any possibility that players like Ryan Sweeney and Josh Fields would remain at Charlotte for their AAA playoff push rather than come up?) --Jon, San Francisco
I look forward to the Sox's trip to California next month and wish it would have arrived sooner. Hermanson probably will be activated on Sept. 1 when rosters can be expanded, but any contribution from him will be a bonus. Nelson is out for the year with nerve surgery around his right pitching elbow. With a major league playoff berth at stake, it will be tough for Triple-A Charlotte to remain intact for the playoffs. I'd expect a few players to be promoted to the majors.
Would the White Sox ever consider moving Joe Crede to the outfield? Third base is a tough position to play with a bad back. Do you think the outfield move might help to lengthen Joe's baseball career? --Gary B., Eagle River, Wis.
Gary, I think it's doubtful that moving Joe to the outfield would be considered soon. Joe, despite his lower back issues, is one of the best third basemen right now. Playing first base or designated hitter might help Joe's longevity, but the Sox are well-stocked there with Paul Konerko and Jim Thome.
Mark, who's job is it to call pitch outs and intentional walks. Is it the manager? I think the Sox do a great job with it and just want to know whom to thank. --John, Urbana, Ill.
John, the signal usually comes from Ozzie Guillen. But it appears Detroit picked up the Sox's suicide squeeze sign in Saturday's game.
I can't help but notice that Mariano Rivera wears a number that no other big leaguer has. The number 42 that was supposed to be retired throughout the league in honor of Jackie Robinson. Is it that the Yankees have so many retired numbers that they have to dip into this one? I think this is a great injustice to an even greater man. Why is he allowed to wear it? Or maybe worse yet, how come no one talks about it? --Pat Woyna, Oak Forest, Ill.
Pat, the jersey number 42 was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997. All active players who wore this number before MLB retired the number had the option of keeping the number if they wished.
What will the Sox do next year about the crowded outfield? Ryan Sweeney looks like he'll be ready and Josh Fields seems destined for the outfield. Will they trade Scotty, and if so who will leadoff? I see Sweeney has been leading off lately for Charlotte. --Kurt Livingston, Marion, Iowa This will be a tough question for the Sox, who want to gradually break in their young outfielders. Left field will be under plenty of scrutiny in the off-season, but the Sox need a capable leadoff batter before they decide to replace Podsednik.