Cactus League play continues on Thursday with the Brewers' first of four meetings with he White Sox, including two in Milwaukee. Thanks to Jim Margalus of South Side Sox for stopping by to answer our questions about the White Sox's winter and spring.
BCB: The White Sox were in first place following 104 of their 162 games last season, but still finished three games back of the Tigers and out of the playoffs. Are they poised to do better in 2013?
SSS: Maybe, which is always a fun answer. They'll pretty much break camp with the same team as last year, with the hope that any loss at catcher will be offset by an upgrade at third base. A healthy John Danks will give them a pretty stout group of 12 pitchers, and that can take a team a long way.
BCB: The White Sox have an interesting hole to fill at catcher this spring with 2012 Silver Slugger Award winner A.J. Pierzynski having moved on to Texas. Is Tyler Flowers the heir apparent, and is it fair to expect him to fill those shoes?
SSS: Flowers could hear boos if he gets off to a slow start. Not only is he taking over for Pierzynski, whom Sox fans loved, but he couldn't be more different. He's a righty who hits titanic homers and strikes out a ton. He's also superior defensively and calls a good game. Add up his attributes, and he should provide close to equal value (if not better) overall. But it might be harder to recognize, especially if he strikes out in bunches over the first couple of weeks.
BCB; Looking at the team's current payroll situation, I see Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton all could be free agents after the season and Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Alex Rios all likely to be free agents in two years. Together those groups represent seven of the nine highest paid White Sox at this point. Is a massive roster overhaul looming down the road?
SSS: Yup. The Sox have increased their spending on the draft and international talent over the last year and a half, and the moves Rick Hahn made this offseason were meant to allow the closest wave of talent to finish developing at Triple-A, rather than rushing them to the big leagues before they've done all they can in the minors. They're going to try to pull it off without a step back, and that'll be difficult, since they don't have the high-end prospects yet to project into those holes.
BCB: Meanwhile, the highest-paid member of the White Sox is John Danks, who appeared in just nine games last season before undergoing shoulder surgery and hasn't pitched a full season since 2010. What's the early word on his situation?
SSS: He's vowed to be ready for Opening Day. He's still rebuilding arm strength, but he's hitting all his milestones. I doubt that he'll resemble his old form early on, but there are reasons to be encouraged. If he can be a good fourth starter and work his way up, the Sox could use that.
BCB: Starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Chris Sale, closer Addison Reed and outfielder Dayan Viciedo were all key contributors to this team a year ago in their age 23 seasons. Are they the future of this team?
SSS: I'd say everybody but Quintana was expected to hold down a position for years to come. Quintana was a major surprise last year, and his numbers suggest he's in for a setback in 2013, but if he can use the outside corner of the plate better against righties (he's great at coming inside), he might be able to ward off regression better than people think.
Thanks again to Jim for taking the time, and check out South Side Sox for more on the White Sox!