Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Thanks to visa issues, the favorite to back up Tyler Flowers allowed his competition to get a head start
Hector Gimenez finally arrived at Camelback Ranch on Friday. He missed the first four days of camp due to visa issues, which isn't the best move for a journeyman competing for his first solid MLB job.
He might have picked the right year for a delay, though, because Robin Ventura didn't seem outwardly concerned by the missed time:
"It's a long spring training, and he was playing winter ball," Ventura said. "It's not like he wasn't in shape or not doing anything or didn't want to be here. You get him in here, get him in the fold and he looks like he's been here the whole time." [...]
"Last year, him coming up at the end of the year, you get a good view of what he can do," Ventura said. "He has quality at-bats, he knows how to play, he's a good receiver behind the plate. That's something that's really showed last year."
I qualify it with "outwardly," because it's not a given that Ventura would express any disappointment. That said, Gimenez appears to be in better shape than the last White Sox player who experienced a visa delay the year he was supposed to battle for spot on the 25-man roster.
If Danny Richar didn't have the inside track on second base entering the 2008 season, he had as good a shot as anybody. He was one of the few young players on the 2007 team to actually show signs of getting it, hitting .260/.294/.458 in September after struggling terribly in August.
Still, he faced a decent field. He had to ward off Juan Uribe, who was possibly on the outs, and Alexei Ramirez, an unknown entity at the time. Pablo Ozuna likely had a bench spot wrapped up, but he was in the picture, too. So Richard could have used a respectable first impression, but instead he started the season in Ozzie Guillen's doghouse:
"I have second basemen," said Guillen, referring to Pablo Ozuna, Juan Uribe and Alexei Ramirez.
According to Guillen, Richar was tardy in getting his visa from his native Dominican Republic.
"Every year we have the same situation with Latin players," Guillen said. "I don't know the reason we -- I say we because I was part of that in my career -- have to wait until the last minute for the visa knowing it's a problem for everyone to get it."
Guillen softened his stance a little because Richar had played winter ball during the offseason, which theoretically would allow him to get up to speed in minimal time. He was forced to test that idea, though, because he didn't show up until the first game of the season (a week late).
He was never quite able to rush into action. He hurt his back a couple games in, which turned out to be a stress fracture of the left rib. That knocked him out of the competition, and he never returned. The Sox traded him to Cincinnati in the Ken Griffey Jr. deal, and he only made a couple brief appearances for the Reds over the next two seasons. He appears to be out of baseball.
Gimenez still has a couple days to get settled before the entire roster reports for the first full workout on Monday. The delayed start did allow Bryan Anderson's name to surface with greater frequency. The battle has begun.