While the beat writers start to ring the alarm bell on the health of Mark Buehrle, Ozzie Guillen seems concerned (with good reason) about the backend of his rotation. The Sox will send Bartolo Colon to the mound in a Cactus League game Wednesday, and the Sox will be closely monitoring his velocity.
Colon was reported to have thrown 89 MPH -- though I guessed it at more like 86-87 -- in his first outing 9 days ago, but only hit 87 on the gun in his second, sharper outing last week. Guillen has issued a clear challenge to Colon; show us what you got if you want a roster spot. But Colon is well known for a slow crescendo in velocity as opening day nears.
"I want to see a little bit better stuff," Guillen said Tuesday. "Other people know Colon better than I do. Colon has pitched that way all his life—easy, easy and all of a sudden, the last two outings, he starts to put something on the ball. I want that to happen.
"I want him to crank it up a little bit to see exactly where we are with the starting rotation. Hey, if Colon is not ready for Opening Day, we got Plan B already."
Plan B is obviously Clayton Richard, whose role has yet to be decided. If either Colon or Jose Contreras is unable to go on April 11th, Richard will get the call and send a set of dominoes in motion that could see Randy Williams or Mike MacDougal making the opening day roster.
Death is not an option
The Sox center field competition continues to be uglier than RuPaul's Drag Race. All three options took the field on Tuesday, with all three looking ugly at the plate and/or in the field. Dewayne Wise was the only one to get the ball out of the infield against Fausto Carmona, while Jerry Owens dropped his spring average to .192 and Brian Anderson made a poor play in the outfield in addition to looking overmatched against a real major league pitcher.
Center field is obviously the Sox Achilles heel right now, which is why you'll continue to see speculation that the Sox are exploring the trade market. But don't expect the Sox to pick up one of the overpriced options from the two LA ball clubs (Gary Matthews Jr and Juan Pierre). Both carry prohibitively large salaries, and neither represents a sizable enough upgrade over Anderson to rationalize the salary and talent cost of a trade.
I'm not a big fan of Anderson, but the other options have me hoping Ozzie views him as his almost-everyday center fielder. Anderson is probably the best defensive option -- his 5 outfield assists this spring might represent some improved throwing accuracy or mechanics -- and we know he's capable of replacement-level production at the plate. Toss the Wise/Owens tallest midget in there a day or two a week against tough righties, preferably at the bottom of the lineup, and forget about them.
Getz is the Key
Before spring training got into full swing, I openly wondered if Chris Getz could rid us of Jerry Owens. Back then I couldn't have imagined the center field candidates all having such feeble springs -- Anderson used to be good for a teasingly torrid spring -- but now that they're all proving to be feeble options, it's time to upgrade that question to Can Chris Getz Help Rid Us of Our Leadoff Problem?
In truth, this has been the best possible scenario for the Sox; from Jayson Nix' hamstring injury to Getz meeting the challenge of Gordon Beckham to the three predictably poor center field options playing poorer than predicted. Chris Getz was the Sox best second base and leadoff option when camp opened, but the Sox seemed determined to make their ultimate decision based on 70 spring at-bats. Thankfully, Getz has proven to be the most capable player of the group, and I suspect he'll be the Sox everyday leadoff hitter in short order.
It occurs to me that other than a few words written about his K/BB ratio and his comps, I haven't really explained specifically why the minor league record of Getz should have been enough to hand him the opening day 2B job in February. I'll put together a piece on what to look for in minor league stats before the longest spring training in history comes to a close. Promise.
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Also, I'll be closing the Carlos Quentin Community Projection sometime in the afternoon. So get your entries in if you haven't already.