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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Who's the Sox 2?

Most of the people following the moves, or lack of them, by the Sox this off season, have been puzzled by the inaction by Professor Chaos in trying to pick up a number-two starter to fit into the rotation between Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland.† As we pointed out last week, the professor did telegraph this in a radio interview before baseballís winter meetings.†

In this interview he noted the continued improvement of Jon Garland and Danny Wright as an indication that the need for a number-two man in the rotation wasnít as pressing as it was a year ago.† †

He may have cause for that optimism.† Garland was only 12-12 in 2002, but his ERA of 4.58 is not overly high for an American League pitcher.† Wright had a better record at 14-12, but his ERA of 5.18 was unacceptably high.† However, both started over thirty games last year, and both pitched just under 200 innings.†

Garland was still annoyingly inconsistent last year, too often following a brilliant outing with a poor performance.† During the first half of the year he seemed to avoid challenging hitters.† Meanwhile, Wright all too frequently gave up the big inning in his starts, especially during the first half of the season.†

However, during the second half Garland seemed much more consistent and Wright seemed to avoid the regular shellackings he received in the first half.† And therein lies the cause for optimism about these two.†

The reason is that their second half improvement seemed to coincide with the arrival of Don Cooper as pitching coach.† Cooperís pitching philosophy seems to be diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor, Nardi Contreras.†

Where pitchers seemed to pitch not to lose under Contreras by nibbling at the corners, Cooperís philosophy seems to be to attack.† Most good pitchers will tell you that their philosophy is to make the batters hit your best stuff.† This is what Cooper seems to be telling Sox pitchers.† If Contreras was telling them the same thing, they didnít seem to be listening.† Under Cooper, theyíve been doing it.†

So maybe the professor is right.† Perhaps Garland and Wright have turned the corner under Cooper and will evolve from near-.500 pitchers to consistent winners.†

Much will also depend on what pitchers end up becoming the fourth and fifth starters in the rotation.† It is likely that Jon Rauch, another year removed from arm surgery, will get a shot at one of those spots.† †

What happens with Rauch and any other contenders for the last two spots in the rotation depends a lot on what happens with Todd Ritchie.† Although the Sox did not tender him a contract offer, this does not mean weíve seen the last of him.† The Sox could still offer him a contract, and Ritchie, depending on what other offers he receives, could sign.†

It might be tempting for Professor Chaos to do just that.† After all, he has his pride riding on the line with Ritchie, and past history of Sox management has shown that they have a strong tendency to stick far too long with players who havenít panned out in a stubborn attempt to prove their misguided moves were right.†

Itís a strong temptation to do just that, one that Kenny Williams might be able to resist, but one that Professor Chaos might not.†


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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