We're less than a fortnight away from SoxFest, but it might not be the SoxFest we know and love -- at least if you loved the awkward, contentious questions during the Friday and Saturday sessions.
Rick Hahn brought order to the bullpen, added a big name to the rotation and a couple more to the lineup. Maybe fans will still say Robin Ventura doesn't have a pulse, and maybe somebody will still want A.J. Pierzynski to replace Tyler Flowers, but smiles should replace many of the sneers.
A number of those new faces will be in attendance, but when looking at the list of uniformed personnel who are officially scheduled to attend...
Current White Sox players and coaches: Jose Abreu, John Danks, Zach Duke, Adam Eaton, Tyler Flowers, Avisail Garcia, Conor Gillaspie, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka, Jose Quintana, Alexei Ramirez, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija, pitching coach Don Cooper, hitting coach Todd Steverson, assistant hitting coach Harold Baines and manager Robin Ventura.
... there's one name that sticks out as particularly meaningful, and that's Jennings.
Maybe it isn't surprising that he's on the SoxFest lineup. I just hadn't been regarding him as a lead-pipe lock for the bullpen. He certainly had/has the inside track, as he has 116 MLB appearances to his credit over three seasons, and he's out of options. However, Eric Surkamp is also out of options, and when you consider the typical second lefty role, Surkamp is a more typical candidate, while Jennings has reverse splits for his career:
- vs. RHB: .238/.322/.389
- vs. LHB: .289/.354/.403
Then again, the Sox might have one or two bullpen spots up for grabs during spring training even with Jennings in the fold. If Don Cooper doesn't have tweaks in mind for Jennings to improve his numbers against lefties, maybe the Sox will carry a third southpaw who is more in the LOOGY mold.
Then you have the prospects. Part of the White Sox's commitment to a rebuilding effort was letting some of the farmhands in on the fun, but hopefully fans didn't get too attached to last year's crop of SoxFest attendees:
- Marcus Semien: Traded
- Josh Phegley: Traded*
- Erik Johnson: Disastrous year
- Micah Johnson: Hanging in there!
(*You know, the biggest casualty of Samardzija trade might be SSE's Fours with Phegley GIF.)
Micah Johnson is the only one to survive the gap from one SoxFest to the next, and he'll be joined by Carlos Rodon, Tim Anderson and Courtney Hawkins this time around. Rodon and Anderson are easy calls, but it's funny to see Hawkins involved in a SoxFest after last year, when Nick Capra and Buddy Bell didn't paint the most flattering portrait of their first-round pick.