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WSI News - News Watch

Lost opportunity for Sox' Rauch

March 20, 2002

By Doug Padilla, Chicago-Sun Times

TUCSON, Ariz.--White Sox general manager Ken Williams was trying to fend off a negative vibe Tuesday. Then the day's Cactus League game started.

Williams, sensing the view on his team was less than positive, tried to spin a conversation with reporters away from recent bad news. Seemingly annoyed by coverage of Jim Parque's slow rehabilitation and Bob Howry's demotion from his setup-man role, Williams tried to direct things elsewhere.

"We're kind of neglecting a fact that Jon Rauch, who I anticipated not to be a part of the equation at all, has stepped up to the forefront, and the ball is coming out of his hand in an even better fashion than it did before it got hurt,'' said Williams, who also cited the spring performances of Lorenzo Barcelo and Antonio Osuna as positives.

Less than an hour later, Rauch made his first Cactus League start and gave up seven runs and eight hits--including three home runs--in 3-2/3 innings as the Sox lost to the Giants 11-6.

Rauch entered the game an apparent lock for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

"It was a horse[bleep] outing, plain and simple, end of story,'' Rauch said. "I know what I need to work on, and we'll go from there. That's all I've got to say. I'm not trying to be a [jerk], I just don't really want to talk about it. No elaboration, it was just a bad day overall.''

Enter Frank Thomas to play big brother with a downtrodden pitching staff.

"I just tell them to get their work in, stay positive and stay focused,'' Thomas said. "We're going to need them. I don't want to alienate anyone. We can't do that. We have to stick together. We've got a great offense. If we get adequate pitching, we should win a lot of ballgames.''

The route manager Jerry Manuel takes with his pitching staff remains to be seen. On Saturday, he said he had a pretty good idea what his staff would look like. Then, in successive days, came a mediocre minor-league outing by Parque, Howry's demotion and Rauch's struggle.

"Once we get out of this environment, our pitching will be what it always is, and that's consistent,'' Manuel said. "Will we have these types of scores? Sure, some games will get out of hand. You'll see some Tucson-type scores. But I don't think, for the most part, that you'll have those types of games.''

Rauch seemed to be Manuel's best bet as a fifth starter. He came into his start Tuesday with a 6.14 ERA in three relief outings. In 71/3 innings, he had given up just one home run. Now he has a 9.82 ERA.

Manuel even moved Jon Garland to a Bgame Tuesday to get Rauch experience against a major-league lineup.

"It was a bad day to have a bad day,'' Rauch said. "We'll see what happens and go from there.''

Whether he liked to or not, Williams did admit not everything is going smoothly in camp. The Sox might lead the American League in batting this spring, but they are last in pitching.

"Listen, I'm concerned about pitching, just as everyone else is,'' Williams said. "But there are certain variables here in Arizona that you have to factor in. All things considered, we have not pitched as well as we would have liked to down here.

"To this point, is it a concern? Yes. Is there anything that is imminent as far as a trade? I'm going to have to defer to what I always have to defer to in this kind of situation, and that's I'm not going to comment on it.''

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