Sox to stress the basics

Before the White Sox fell back into last place in the American League Central, manager Ozzie Guillen was looking for ways to improve in 2008.

And he didn't mention the acquisition of marquee free agents.

"We have people [in the clubhouse who] have to step it up a notch," Guillen said Thursday before the Sox got just two hits in eight innings off Zack Greinke in a 3-0 loss at Kansas City. "That's why we're going to have a little meeting [with the players] after the season. Spring training we'll have another one, and then things are going to be different."

Guillen said spring training wouldn't be run like a boot camp, but that players will be expected to produce in exhibition games. They can't just be content with fulfilling their work to prepare for the regular season.

"They have to be ready," declared Guillen, who seemed tired of the Arizona sand that has been kicked in the Sox's face the past three springs.

Unlike the previous two springs, the Sox never rebounded from a 10-22 exhibition record in which several players got the bulk of their work in B games. Subsequently, they lacked the polish in executing the fundamentals Guillen stresses, such as bunting and hit-and-run plays.

"We're going to start that from the beginning," Guillen said. "We're going to be going first to third, and I don't care if you're out. In the meanwhile, you have to have the right players to do that. I'm not going to have [Jim] Thome, [Paul] Konerko and [Jermaine] Dye out there doing that. It's a waste of my time."

Guillen targeted the top and bottom guys in the order, such as Jerry Owens and Danny Richar.

"Get them together, read the scoreboard, how we want them to do things in certain situations, get them better right away," Guillen said. "All through spring training it's going to be about winning games. The starters are going to start, the relievers are going to relieve, the closer is going to close.

"If Bobby [Jenks] is going to pitch, he's going to pitch in the A game, no matter if he's the second pitcher to go. If they have to make a trip, if you have to play in Peoria, you're on the bus for one inning."

The Sox haven't had a winning spring training record since 2004 and are 34-59-3 since 2005.

Adopting a win-now mentally in spring training isn't foreign. Former Cubs manager Jim Riggleman employed the same strategy after the Cubs lost their first 14 regular-season games en route to a 68-94 record in 1997.

The Cubs were only 14-16 in the spring of 1998 but managed to win the National League wild-card playoff berth.

In 2000, some Oakland players quipped they should be fitted with Cactus League rings after posting a 20-11 record, but the Athletics went on to win the AL West.

And the Sox got a close-up of that intense style last spring when Tucson spring training neighbor Arizona posted a 20-12 record while possessing an all-out style behind the likes of Eric Byrnes, Stephen Drew and Justin Upton, with superfan Susan Price cheering each strikeout and hit from her front-row seat behind the Diamondbacks' dugout.

"I want them to start feeling the real thing," Guillen said. "If you're in there and you pitch one inning, fine, back to Tucson. But like I said I'm not for hiding guys in B games. I've never been for that. Go out there and perform. I don't have any kids here to hide. The rest of the league knows what these guys are going to do."