Positive Sign No. 1: Jeff Keppinger played third base against the Reds on Tuesday afternoon.
Positive Sign No. 2: Jeff Keppinger started a pair of 5-4-3 double plays.
Keppinger also had a perfect day at the plate, smacking two singles and drawing two walks. But the first two notes are more important, because he hasn't been able to play his designated position for big chunks of the spring.
It looks like we can upgrade his status, though, because he finally offered a definitive statement about his sore shoulder:
"Yeah, it feels good to be out there," Keppinger said. "My shoulder is feeling good, so it is time to get after it."
The White Sox are running with that report, because prior to Tuesday's game, they relocated five more players from major-league camp, including Keppinger insurance policy Brent Morel, who was optioned to Charlotte. That's not to say Morel can be called back if one of Keppinger's classic odd injuries knocks him out of the lineup, but you'd think they wouldn't proceed with the paperwork if they had a legitimate reason to wait.
Deunte Heath will join Morel on the way back to Charlotte, while Carlos Sanchez, Zach Stewart and Daniel Moskos were reassigned to minor-league camp. So let's update the Remainders Worth Watching List:
Position players: Blake Tekotte, Bryan Anderson, Jordan Danks
Starters: Dylan Axelrod
Relievers: Brian Omogrosso, Leyson Septimo, Ramon Troncoso
The removal of Morel and Sanchez basically resolves the infield situation barring injury, with Conor Gillaspie and Angel Sanchez sitting pretty for the backup jobs. Axelrod still has a shot at a rotation or long-relief spot depending on what happens with John Danks and Hector Santiago.
Troncoso jumps onto the list, because Jesse Crain still hasn't made a second spring appearance, and if he's not 100 percent by Opening Day, two bullpen spots could be open. Omogrosso has the advantage since the 40-man roster is full and Troncoso is on the outside looking in, but Troncoso leads the Sox in relief appearances (10) and relief innings (10⅔), and he hasn't walked anybody.
The remaining outfielders, Tekotte and Jordan Danks, will be on the outside looking in once Alejandro De Aza and Alex Rios get into the swing of White Sox camp after returning from the World Baseball Classic.
(Here's your White Sox action from the WBC championship game condensed into a single clip -- De Aza running down an Andy Gonzalez drive to keep Rios at second.)
And we can probably start to phase the third catcher out of the picture with Tyler Flowers offering a positive report about his back after Tuesday's game. From Bruce Levine:
"I felt really good out there," Flowers said. "I really didn’t feel (pain) the whole time I was out there."
And from Dan Hayes:
"It has progressed nicely," Flowers said. "It feels pretty good. I’ve got a new routine to make sure it doesn’t come up again that’s helped me get to this point and I plan on doing it for the whole year because I don’t want something like this to ruin this opportunity."
Flowers went 1-for-4 with a double and caught the first six innings.
Regarding Morel and Carlos Sanchez, neither player forced the issue. Morel moved better and showed a little pop, but his line (.216/.256/.378, one walk over 40 PA) didn't make anybody reconsider the Keppinger signing.
Sanchez drew twice as many walks as Morel, but that's all you can really say. He went 3-for-25 with no extra-base hits, resulting in a .305 OPS. That really doesn't mean anything in the long run, and for the near future, it only suppresses some of the irrational exuberance that had some floating him as a possibility to break camp with the club. It turns out he isn't Eduardo Escobar, but that's probably for the better.