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WSI News - News Watch

Valentin Diary: Potent lineup

By Jose Valentin, Special to MLB.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Everybody thinks that we're the favorites to win the American League Central. We are the team that pretty much has everything.

We've got speed, we've got some guys who can handle the bat, we've got some good hitters. Now we've got Kenny Lofton in the lineup and we have Frank (Thomas) back. It's going to be fun to see how much damage we can do and how many runs we can score.

We've got a great lineup but we also have to go up there and show it, and prove that we are good enough.

I think we can be okay if the pitching holds up. The skipper announced who's going to be the five starting pitchers. I think it's going to be Mark Buehrle, Todd Ritchie, Jon Garland, Danny Wright and Jon Rauch.

Garland has the most experience of those last three guys, and he's been kind of struggling, up and down, the last couple years. Danny did a pretty good job last year at the end. We've got a rookie in Rauch who we probably won't see 20 wins out of, but he can keep us in games and give us a good chance to win.

Hopefully, those guys can keep it close. If they can give us six innings and keep the score close, we've got a chance to win a lot of games because we're going to score some runs. We've got the offense to do it. It's all about putting everything together.

It's something that we have to see how we play the first month and see if those guys can hold up. We'll see how Jim Parque is coming along. Hopefully, he gets well and then gets strong so we can see him back.

If the pitching staff holds up, especially the starters, then I think we're going to be okay. We scored a lot last year without Frank and we made a push, but we were too far away from Minnesota and Cleveland and it was hard to catch up.

Hopefully, we won't feel pressure to have a good first month, but we know that we have to do it in the first half of the season. We can't afford to get too far back from those clubs and then try to play catch up baseball and come from behind again.

Everybody gets tired at the end of the year. Guys get tired, injuries start showing up and it gets hard to play catch up. If we're going to do something we've got to do it right from the get go. In the first half of the season, we need to make that lead pretty comfortable and the second half we can just play .500.

We've got the team. Hopefully, we just can avoid injuries to key players. We can't afford to lose any more players. There are 162 games and anything can happen. But hopefully, everybody is in shape and we just stay together and not put pressure on ourselves. Just go out and play the game hard and try to beat everybody, the same way we did in 2000.

There weren't many people who thought we were going to be good that year, but we went out and played hard and tried to beat everybody, no matter who we played. And we did it. So now that we have enough good players on this team, we can't think about who we're playing.

We just have to go up there and play hard and beat everybody. In 2000, we had nothing to lose and went out to see how many games we could win, and at the end of the year we won the division. That's the same thing we have to do. Forget how many All-Star players we have -- Frank or Magglio or whatever -- just see how many games we can win and see in the end what happens.

Jose Valentin's diary appears as told to Jimmy Greenfield, who covers the White Sox for MLB.com.



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