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Reading Room: White Sox give former college QB a shot

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Since the White Sox sent Sergio Santos to Toronto, they didn't just lose a closer -- they also lost an unlikely, made-for-TV salvation story.

Enter Mitch Mustain, who told a Northwest Arkansas TV station that he signed a minor-league contract with the Sox.

Who is Mitch Mustain? A former five-star quarterback from Arkansas who was supposed to be the next great Razorback quarterback. This story from sums it up: He went 8-0 at Arkansas before getting benched after a bad throw. He clashed with coaches, transferred to USC, where he backed up Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley and only started one game. In February of 2011, he was arrested and accused of selling a prescription ADHD drug, although felony charges were dropped because it wasn't actually a controlled substance (it was originally thought to be Adderall, which would have been trouble).

He was going to try his luck in the Arena Football League, but now he's apparently going to try a baseball career. The 23-year-old hasn't pitched since high school, but he says he threw 90 mph for a White Sox scout.

It's an unorthodox way to make the minors more interesting, but given the White Sox's occupation of the cellar in all major farm system rankings, we'll have the resources to keep track of him. The Sox signing a former college quarterback automatically brings to mind Joe Borchard and Josh Fields, but hey, Clayton Richard turned out OK.

Christian Marrero Reading Room

Speaking of the farm system, Jonathan Mayo published his list of the Top 20 prospects, and now we have somebody who definitely likes Erik Johnson more than I do. He occupies the sixth slot, ahead of Simon Castro, Tyler Saladino and Hector Santiago.

Looks like we're going to get three different broadcast experiences over the first three games -- CSN, WGN and ESPN.

Jonah Keri wonders what happened to the spitball, and he discovers a variety of reasons why it disappeared. New-ish pitches like the splitter and cutter emulate the movement of doctored baseballs, and, plus, it was extremely unsanitary. Of special interest to us, he describes the shineball thrown by Eddie Cicotte, whom you may remember from a Hall of Fame Library player file piece here.

There was so much more. Pitchers slathered mud on balls. They rubbed wax, soap, or grease on them. You could scuff or cut up a ball using sandpaper, or a tack, or anything else you could find. Eddie Cicotte, a little right-hander who also got pinched in the Black Sox scandal of 1919, became famous for his shineball, a move that required scooping a special oil used to treat infields onto the ball, creating a shine on one side and making the ball move in ways that confounded even the best hitters. Depending on what they smeared on the ball and how good they got at manipulating oozy substances, pitchers could make pitches drop, fade away, or ride in on hitters, all while using their same old throwing motions.

I'm a fan of this series, which basically looks for odd events in 19th-century baseball captured by news clippings. A good sample:

"John Pickett wins $1,285.72 in a lawsuit against Baltimore, his most recent team. Baltimore had claimed that they did not owe him this sum—Pickett’s entire 1892 salary — because he "was slow in his movement, and had a sore arm which incapacitated him from being of service to the club."

Had this kind of action been allowed, David Wells would have been in for quite a few salary-less years.

I'm also a fan of this series, in which James gets in spring training spirit by re-living games that made Sox fans feel good. This one features Gordon Beckham's first major-league statement during the Civil Rights Game in 2009.

J.J. looks at what differences might have played a part in John Danks' terrible start and his eventual rebound. He went to his cutter more, and better changeup location also helped.

Ozzie Guillen was in town. The only news story it generated wasn't a story. Progress!