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The 25th man can only do so much

A lot of ink -- electronic and otherwise -- was spent on the battle between Brent Lillibridge and Lastings Milledge for the last roster spot. The non-roster invitee Milledge forced his way into the picture by hitting .305/.425/.525, and eventually forced his way onto the roster as Kenny Williams made the unusual decision to go with a six-man bullpen.

Ozzie Guillen couldn't figure out how to use Milledge, but he actually used him enough to figure out he was a defensive liability. It took 11 whole innings. Given Milledge's limited utility and a number of unimpressive starts from the rotation, Guillen thought he'd get more use out of a seventh reliever.

Up came Jeff Gray, who was mostly off the radar during the competition for the last spot on the pitching staff. In the shadows of the spirited competition between Philip Humber and Jeff Marquez, Gray posted an unremarkable stat line (9 1/3 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 4 BB, 4 K).

Yet he must have done enough to impress Don Cooper and the gang, because when the Sox reverted to their seven-man bullpen, Gray received the surprising promotion. He contributed two more innings than Milledge, and he provided far more value, but he met the same fate. His time with the White Sox was cut short, as, oh, I'm terribly sorry, but that's Jake Peavy's seat you're sitting in. Your seat is way ... back ... there. How embarrassing this must be for you, I'm sure...

Anywhoozle, the Sox needed to designate Milledge for free agency, which seemed like a risk for the depth-starved Sox. Other teams chose to buy into the poor defensive reputation rather than the gaudy spring training numbers.

Were they right? Well, Milledge is hitting ..204/.276/.258 with the Knights, so ... probably.

I figured this was a story worth reviewing as we wait to see what happens with Gray. But also, it's a friendly reminder that spring training numbers and the battle for the 25th roster spot really don't matter all that much. It's all up to the regular position players to carry the weight, which is why the Sox have backed themselves into a corner. Or painted themselves up against a wall.

And that's a lesson I'll happily neglect when spring training rolls around next year, because without those trivial head-to-head battles, there would be next to nothing to write about.

Christian Marrero Reading Room

*Along the same lines, James looks at the dead/comatose weight in the starting nine and looks for solutions.

*Hawk Harrelson and Tom Paciorek will be reunited in the broadcast booth for the Oakland series, and Chuck Garfien has an interview with both.

*Jake Peavy credits a massage therapist in helping him get through scar tissue issues.

*Juan Pierre is trying to put all his struggles in the rear-view mirror.

*Adam Dunn is feeling good and covering the whole plate.

*Mark Buehrle is aging gracefully.