Apparently, the White Sox and Brewers weren't clear on the whole concept of getaway day. The final game of the Cactus League season for both teams took more than three hours to complete, with Milwaukee on the winning end of a windswept 13-7 slugfest.
Though the White Sox lost the game, they were leading when important players had a hand in the proceedings. The Sox starters roughed up Zack Greinke for six runs (five earned) over three innings before their regulars departed the game and the Kussmauls and Septimos and Gimenezes took over.
Likewise, though the Sox finished the spring 13-18, they performed well when their organizational depth wasn't called into question. After a rocky start, they finished the season 10-8 -- two of the losses were split-squad games, and another was Monday's half-assed affair. When the Sox had their real team on the field (or close to it, anyway), they looked enough like a real team.
The Sox's 13 wins are the most they've had in a non-WBC spring since 2005, when they went 14-18. The negative-33 run differential is a different matter, but even then, the Sox were minus-48 in that column in 2008, which was also the last year they made the playoffs.
And if anybody is still worked up about the third-worst record in the Cactus League, then you (and the Sox) are in luck. The two teams that finished worse than the Sox happen to be their first two opponents. The Texas Rangers went 12-17, and the Indians finished 7-22.
More importantly, Robin Ventura's first spring camp met two important objectives:
No. 1: Everybody is in or close to full working order.
Jesse Crain's oblique injury was the biggest scare of the Cactus League season, and he took his time getting back to game action, missing a little more than two weeks. He doesn't seem any worse for the wear -- he threw two perfect one-inning stints over a three-game stretch, and said the time off early in the season might end up helping him later in the year.
Otherwise, Adam Dunn said he had his mobility and mechanics back, and his spring stats looked quite reasonable. Jake Peavy is rip-roarin' to go, and so is the rest of the pitching staff. The biggest on-field question is Dayan Viciedo's defense in left, but at least his bat came around over the last few days.
The only guy I'm worried about is Alejandro De Aza, only because of his rich history of terribly timed misfortune. The last time he was set to emerge from spring training with dibs on a starting center field job, a teammate slid into his leg while pursuing a gapper during the second and final exhibition game at Dolphins Stadium. It resulted in a season-ending ankle injury, and he's since spent his career trying to get back to this stage. Here's hoping everybody treads carefully in Houston.
No. 2: No dumb squabbles.
Ventura's first spring training was just as quiet and professional as expected, with no crossfire from Florida. And let me know if you got a different impression, but I'm pleasantly surprised by the lack of Ozzie Guillen news overall. I thought we were in for a lot of "I-wonder-what-he's-up-to-is-he-thinking-about-me" stories given the way the Chicago media breathlessly reported his every thought at the Winter Meetings, but by and large, the coverage remained relevant. Two thumbs up.
The coverage might be too focused, because holy crap do people want to know who Ventura is going to use as the closer. Look at the transcript Scott Reifert posted from Ventura's last media scrum at Camelback Ranch, and see if you can tell where the real questions and answers end and my fake ones begin:
When will you make the decision on the closer?
Hopefully when we’re winning in the ninth [inning] in the first game. I hope to do that.
Does it matter to you whether he’s left handed or right handed?
No. I will know, and they will know. I just don’t feel the need to tell everybody and make a statement about it.
Even in Houston?
No. I just don’t see a need to do it.
Is there something to be gained by holding that announcement back?
Maybe. Maybe not. When we go into the game they’ll at least know who’s going, the guys will.
Do you know now who that is?
Is that because you have several choices?
I have choices. I think we have an idea, it’s just I don’t want to say it right now.
Are you afraid to go with a young guy?
No. I mean he’s definitely a possibility. So are Addison and Matt and Jesse.
Is it nice to have so many choices?
Yeah, I feel good with the way our back-end of the bullpen is.
Do you think it would be easier with fewer choices?
No. I like all our choices, so we'll be in good shape no matter what.
But it's kind of intimidating, all these choices.
I don't see why.
Well that's awfully arrogant.
Maybe. I can't stop you from thinking that.
How come you don't fear the unknown?
Because I am noble and mighty! Like a redwood, crossed with The Incredible Hulk!
Getting back to your idea of the closer -- does his first name happen to rhyme with "Vector?"
It could, if you're willing to be generous for completely unreasonable mispronunciations.
Is he bigger than a breadbox?
I think all our players are bigger than a breadbox.
Um ... well, he isn't ... not that he ... I haven't actually put him side by side with a loaf of--
He's the closer, isn't he?
Er, well, he could -- OH MY GOD, LOOK BEHIND YOU!
*spikes smoke canister, runs*