White Sox Settle Center Field, Leadoff Mess... for now

The unceremonious dismal of Jerry Owens (along with a few others) has made the White Sox opening day roster all-but-official. But the Owens news is the longest-running, most headline-grabbing battle of futility, so we'll start there first.

"I was disappointed," Guillen said of Owens, who batted .230 and lost the job to Dewayne Wise, who batted .316 and played with a sense of urgency. "We have been waiting for him for three years and we gave him the job for three years. Last year he got hurt. It's unfortunate and a shame this kid didn't get it done. He has all the tools in the world."

Fire and attitude seem to be the themes behind the decision, as Kenny Williams echoes some of Ozzie's sentiment.

"For a few years, we told Jerry what we expected in terms of the energy level and the attitude for the leadoff position," Williams said. "When you’re at the top of the lineup in the order, you got to have some fight. I’m not saying Jerry doesn’t have it, but it’s not up to where we want it to be, obviously.

"Maybe it’s a byproduct of what [Wise] has had to go through his career, but he just comes up and fights you every day. You don’t have to question whether he’s going to show up on a given day."

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While Guillen has named Wise his starting center fielder, that's not to say that Wise won't be platooned with Brian Anderson. It seems obvious that he will, eventually. But for right now, until Chris Getz proves to be a capable top-of-the-order major league hitter, Dewayne Wise appears to have gotten the nod over Anderson based on his perceived ability to fill the "leadoff position."

Wise is, of course, a poor candidate for a spot in a major league lineup and a terrible option to get the most at-bats in that lineup. He owns a .254 OBP in the major leagues and just a .310 OBP over 12 years in the minors. At 31 years old, this will be the third time Wise has made an opening day roster of a major league club, but the first where he has been anything more than the 25th man, 4th or 5th outfielder type.

I don't have a strong opinion on Wise being named the starter over Anderson, even though I feel that Anderson is the better player, despite his obvious flaws. But it's very easy to argue that the Sox would be a better team with Anderson as the starting center fielder, if only for the simple fact that Anderson would be likely to bat 9th, whereas Wise, who has never been caught stealing in a White Sox uniform, is seen as a leadoff man, presumably because of his plus-baserunning capabilities.

For his part, Wise already appears to be looking over his shoulder.

"I'm pretty sure if I swing the bat well and do the little things, I'll probably stay there. If not, he might go with (Chris Getz) or somebody like that."

And that's why I'm not going to pound on my internet podium in protest of this move. Wise is unlikely to post a .300 OBP, and there's little chance of Ozzie Guillen sticking by a woefully unproductive leadoff man. The Sox will soon realize the error of their ways, likely after Getz establishes himself, and stumble their way to a more optimal lineup with Anderson/Wise safely tucked away at the bottom of the lineup. For all their talk of energy and attitude, as soon as the Sox see that .275 OBP in action at the top of the lineup, they'll rethink their position.

White Sox Roster Set

With the pre-game roster moves, the Sox have effectively set their roster.

Starting Pitching: Buehrle, Floyd, Danks, Contreras, Colon
Bullpen: Jenks, Linebrink, Dotel, Thornton, Richard, Carrasco, MacDougal

Lineup: Wise, Getz, Quentin, Thome, Dye, Konerko, Ramirez, Pierzynski, Fields
Bench: Anderson, Betemit, Miller, Lillibridge

I don't have to go over why Lillibridge is ill-suited to be on a major league roster, but with Jayson Nix going down with hamstring issues the Sox had no alternative. Hopefully Nix recovers soon enough to limit the damage of a Lillibridge at leadoff or a Betemit backing up SS experiment.

Colon, Contreras Shelled

Monday was supposed to be the day of reckoning for Bartolo Colon and to a lesser extent Jose Contreras. And if their pitching lines are to be believed, they didn't fare too well in their latest test. Colon gave up 7 runs on 11 hit in 4 innings, including two homers in his 4th inning of work, while Contreras gave up 6 and 8, respectively, in his 4 innings.

Colon was reported to have thrown in the 90's, topping out at 93, so his velocity continues to trend in the right direction. And while I didn't get to see any of the game, it appears like he had a good sinker working (in the first 3 innings), turning two double plays and getting a number of groundball outs.

The Sox aren't worried. "Results aren't important down here," Cooper says. Health and velocity seemed to be the biggest tests. And it's not like Clayton Richard has forced the Sox hand with his last two outings. For better or worse, the Sox will open the season with Contreras and Colon as their number 4 and 5 starters.

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