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Terrerobytes: White Sox pitchers and catchers edition

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Mat Latos has a friend in Dioner Navarro, Chris Sale is tired of not pitching in October, and Tony Phillips is remembered fondly, uniquely

Robin Ventura restrains Tony Phillips in 1996.
Robin Ventura restrains Tony Phillips in 1996.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Even with Mat Latos' turbulent track record, we could understand why the White Sox found him well worth a $3 million fling. But when a player receives far less money than anticipated, it's a little harder to figure out what it was like on their side.

Meeting the White Sox media for the first time, Latos did reveal a little about an offseason that hasn't been the friendliest to veterans:

"I sat down and had a discussion with my agent about what made the most sense," Latos said. "We talked a couple of days, kind of figured everything out and decided it was a good fit with [manager Robin] Ventura and [pitching coach] Don Cooper. I’m familiar with Dioner Navarro, so him being here as  a catcher I’m familiar with is something I definitely look forward to."

Indeed, Navarro is proof that Latos can make friends in the business.

"Me and him are good buddies and we've kept in contact and everything," said Latos of Dioner Navarro, prior to Latos throwing his first bullpen session with the White Sox on Friday at Camelback Ranch. "That's one of the better relationships you can have is pitcher-catcher because I have to throw to him and he has to know what I want to throw and so on."

Latos and Navarro overlapped in 2012, and while it's a small sample size, Latos made the most of their time together.

With G IP H HR BB K ERA BA/OBP/SLG
Starting C 23 146.1 125 20 43 132 3.38 .229/.290/.400
Navarro 7 47.2 33 3 13 42 2.27 .196/.251/.298

Cincinnati's starting catcher was Ryan Hanigan, who was one of the best pitch-framers in the league at the time, while Navarro could be generously described as average. Baseball Prospectus shows quite a difference in framing runs:

  • Hanigan: 20.7
  • Navarro: 1.9 (and -9.6 in Triple-A)

This isn't to say that White Sox pitchers won't miss throwing to Tyler Flowers -- Carlos Rodon is worth monitoring especially -- but I'm keeping an open mind about Navarro's potential for hidden value. He might not be a great framer, but he's nevertheless turned a few pitchers into fans as a coworker, and he should hit well enough to give the bottom of the order a pulse.

Terrerobytes

Chris Sale came out firing some truth bombs on the first day of spring training, saying "I’ve never pitched in a meaningful game in my career," which has a bit more punch than my complaint of blogging only four postseason games in 10 years. He also welcomes the infusion of Latos and Brett Lawrie, even though their personalities have been considered abrasive in the past:

"You win ballgames, and a lot of good things happen," Sale said. "People start showing up in terms of the fans. Nobody is ever in a bad mood when you are winning. You come up and slap me in the face when we win 10 in a row and I’m going to laugh at it.

"Winning does a lot of things for teams in terms of camaraderie and just for energy and feeling."

David Robertson had a great year in terms of peripherals, but a less impressive one when leaning on save percentage. His assessment of his season -- "I felt like I pitched terrible" -- sums up the pass/fail nature of the job.

I smirked at the headline, because earlier in the day I smirked at this.

'Twas ever thus.

Word spread on Friday that Tony Phillips died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 56, catching players and media by total surprise. Granted, Phillips lived harder than others -- he had a cocaine problem at one point -- but he also kept himself in playing shape into his 50's and showed no signs of giving in mentally, either.

Phillips only played 1½ seasons with the Sox -- posting a .410 OBP over 1996 and 1997 -- but he made an indelible impression. He's most remembered for punching out a Brewers fan at Milwaukee County Stadium, but he also helped knock jerks out of the clubhouse:

The following year, Phillips got into a heated exchange in the Sox clubhouse with former Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti, which prompted Mariotti to stop going to the clubhouse. Phillips' teammates called him "MVP" for ridding them of the divisive columnist. [...]

He was a true, old-school ballplayer who did whatever was necessary to win, and never had any regrets. During that spring of '96, he called me a "long-haired, redneck hippie (expletive)," which began a long, beautiful relationship. During interviews, he would just take the tape recorder into his own hand and start ripping Sox manager Terry Bevington.

I also recommend reading the stories told by T.J. Quinn and Jeff Passan.