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WSI News - News Watch

Notebook: Rauch down but not out

By Jimmy Greenfield,

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The stakes appeared to be high when Jon Rauch took the mound at Tucson Electric Park Tuesday, which may be why he was feeling pretty low afterwards.

The 6-foot-11-inch right-hander was under the impression he had hurt his chances of making the Sox starting rotation after he gave up eight hits, including three homers, and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings against San Francisco, which had left Barry Bonds back in Scottsdale.

"No elaborations, just a bad day overall," Rauch said. "I picked a bad day to have a bad day."

Or so it would seem. White Sox manager Jerry Manuel had nothing but praise for Rauch afterwards, calling his outing "positive" and all but saying he would be heading to Seattle for the season-opening series.

A J.T. Snow homer in the first inning off Rauch would barely have made it out of the infield at Comiskey Park and he didn't walk any batters. He even struck out the side in the first inning when he also gave up a leadoff homer to Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

"If Rauch were to make the team he would possibly start somewhere in the bullpen to get acclimated to the big leagues for a while," Manuel said. "We'll try to do what we did with the other young pitchers is bring him along at least one time out of the pen to at least get his feet wet."

The date Manuel has marked for Rauch's first start is April 9, the first game the Sox would need a fifth starter. That means Dan Wright and Jon Garland are locked in as the third and fourth starters, with Wright likely to start April 3 against Seattle, which he held to a run in his only start against them last season.

Garland threw in a "B" game on Tuesday, allowing eight hits and four runs, including three homers, in six innings. He didn't walk anybody, reversing a trend that saw him walk nine batters in his last two starts.

Of course, the rotation is set only if Sox General Manager Ken Williams doesn't pull off any deals in the next week. He'd be hard pressed to find a quality starter this late in Spring Training and wouldn't elaborate on any trade talks.

However, when asked, he did agree that there are many teams out there trying to acquire bullpen help from the scant pickings available.

"That would be an accurate assessment," he said. "Particularly on the left side."

Williams talked prior to Rauch's outing about how he's been one of the surprises in camp and continued to counter what he perceives as "negative" media reports about the Sox pitching staff.

"The tendency is to look at the negatives," Williams said. "But I look at Lorenzo Barcelo and the way the ball is coming out of his hand now. I feel good about where he is. Antonio Osuna's velocity is back up to 93-94 and he's thrown an excellent change-up. He's going to have the ability to get left-handers with the change-up and with the velocity. So those are two positives. Kelly Wunsch again threw on the side this morning, there's a positive as well.

"I think we're focusing on a Jimmy Parque and Bobby Howry to be honest with you right now, but we're kind of neglecting a Jon Rauch, who I anticipated not to be part of the equation at all.(He) has stepped up to the forefront and the ball is actually coming out of his hand in a better fashion than it did before he got hurt.

"So we've lost something on the Parque end, you gain on the Jon Rauch end."

READY...OR NOT? The frustrations Jim Parque has felt throughout camp as he has tried to regain his velocity have long been documented, which doesn't mean they have become any easier for him to deal with.

Parque vented again Wednesday, saying he's ready to face big league hitters even though his fastball is still coming in at 84 mph, well short of where the Sox want it to be.

"This game has nothing to do with throwing hard," Parque said. "They know it, I know it and everybody in baseball who's been around knows that this game is not about throwing hard. It's about getting hitters out. And I can get hitters out. I've shown it this spring."

Manuel didn't hold much stock in Parque's 3.60 ERA this spring.

"There are times you can go into a Cactus League game and get people out. That doesn't necessarily mean you are ready to pitch in Seattle or Kansas City or Detroit. We as a staff, it's one of those things where we'll have to do what's best not only for him but what's best for the team."

UH OH, MAGGLIO: There was little evidence Magglio Ordonez was feeling pain in his left wrist Monday, especially when he launched a three-run homer against Arizona.

The All-Star right-fielder, however, has been suffering from a sore wrist since hurting it on a check swing last week in a game against Seattle.

"Every swing that I make hurts," said Ordonez, who only hit .250 last April while he dealt with a sore right wrist.

Ordonez had a bone scan in the afternoon and the results came back negative.

ROCKY START: All of the Sox pitchers who underwent surgery last year have appeared in a Cactus League game except for Rocky Biddle, who didn't go under the knife for shoulder surgery until late September.

Biddle has been a little behind the others but he may be ready to make his move. He's scheduled to pitch on a mound Wednesday for the first time this spring. He'll throw 25 fastballs, take a day off, then do the same thing on Friday.

"(I have) no pain, no soreness, nothing," Biddle said. "Hopefully I can help in some way when it all starts up again.

It's a small step, though it's one that can't come soon enough for the Sox, which now has healthy arms but few that can get guys out. Biddle is likely destined for extended Spring Training and then a minor league rehab but a Cactus League appearance isn't entirely out of the question.

"I'm hoping," he said. "That's what I want to do. I'm not sure if time will allow that or not."

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