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White Sox spring battles uncertain to the end

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Matt Davidson and Carlos Sanchez keep hitting homers, and some White Sox pitchers are absorbing that kind of damage themselves

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After another spring training slugfest against the Rockies on Monday, the White Sox' magic number is down to 1 for their first winning record in Cactus League play since 2004.

On the surface, that's not particularly magical. Judging it on a scale from "I removed my thumb" to "I made the Statue of Liberty disappear," it ranks a solid "I pulled a quarter from your ear." Yet as I've said before, it does fit the preseason theme of "let's try something different."

The White Sox continue to hit home runs at an amazing rate, while getting them from players who kinda expose the whole thing as a ruse. It's not just Jimmy Rollins scraping fences on both sides. Now Carlos Sanchez is going deep, and twice in a game, too.

I mean, Carlos Gonzalez's route on Matt Davidson's homer was basically a middle finger courtesy of the run-prevention folks:

The Sox lead all of baseball in spring-training homers with 46, five more than the next-closest team. The bomb-repeat-bomb assault has allowed us to hear variations of Jason Benetti's home run call, and this one was fun.

But yes, we're getting some clarity on just how absurd the environment is for hitters. As for other aspects of the spring, they're a little slower come into focus, even as the Cactus League slate draws to a close.

The last man

If the White Sox know who's going to be the 25th man on the roster, the brain trust isn't dropping any hints, and the candidates refuse to drop out of the running. Early Monday, whitesox.com posted this:

Ishikawa headline

And late Monday, CSNChicago.com had this:

Davidson headline

Sanchez's pair of dingers was relegated to a headline on a roto site, which goes to show how hard it is for these guys to separate themselves, unless you're Jerry Sands:

  • Davidson: .413/.438/.783
  • Sanchez: .333/.368/.593
  • Ishikawa: .289/.347/.556
  • Sands: .200/.260/.422

The individual cases remain murky, too, as all of them are of equal utility, for better or for worse. Davidson's not a great bet for off-the-bench production. Sanchez might be the third choice for pinch hitting, pinch running, or even playing second base. Ishikawa is a lefty and a first baseman, but if the Sox don't see him getting regular work, they might not want to add him to the roster until those skills are absolutely necessary, since he couldn't be sent to Charlotte without going through waivers.

And if you needed any indication of the mental scars the last two seasons have left on Davidson:

What would it mean to him to make the club after all he’s been through?

"I’ll probably break down and cry to be honest," Davidson said. "I’ve been through the ringer for two years. Just to see the results and then to even be in the conversation for that is awesome."

The back of the rotation

It's going to be Mat Latos and John Danks, but Robin Ventura doesn't want to see the former coast to Opening Day:

"He just needs to improve. There’s a lot to move forward with. He needs to locate and he hasn’t got through it that easy so far. It’s getting close to the end, we have to pick it up.’’

If you're looking at results, there's no gray area, because Latos has allowed a .429/.469/.643 line this spring.

But there's also a lot of noise contributing to those numbers. Baseball being a zero-sum game, there's a group of pitchers who are going to be on the wrong end of the environment we see in effect above. More particular to Latos, he's a veteran who's coming off a couple injuries, and Jake Peavy also complained about the quality of the mound on Sunday.

I don't have a strong feeling about his future one way or another. I can see a post here in May smirking at the hand-wringing during spring training. I can also see us likening him to Felipe Paulino around that time. Either way, it's better him than Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner right now.

Turner might have the most uncertainty surrounding him right now since 1) he's out of options, and 2) he's been worse than Latos as of late. After a strong first outing, he's allowed 14 runs and 26 baserunners over his last 10 innings. Oddly enough, that performance is somewhat comforting. It might be to the White Sox' benefit that he's struggled so much, as it increases the likelihood that he gets through waivers to Charlotte.

Other notes

*Alex Avila attributed his back soreness to offseason rust, and will be back on the field today catching Chris Sale.

*Tyler Kolek had his elbow examined by doctors on Monday after injuring it on Friday. He was the pitcher selected by Miami with the second pick in 2014, leaving Carlos Rodon for the White Sox.

*Nick Swisher was released by the Braves, even though he's still owed $15 million this season.

*Carlos Quentin is free from his personal hell.