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WSI News - News Watch

Bad-start string ends with Ritchie

March 24, 2002

By Doug Padilla, Chicago Sun-Times

TUCSON, Ariz.--Right-hander Todd Ritchie kept it simple Saturday against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, giving the White Sox their first successful start in nearly a week.

Ritchie went 61/3 innings, allowing five runs, 11 hits and no walks. He walked four in his previous start.

"I was very pleased, especially with no walks,'' Ritchie said. "One of my goals was to go in there and throw the ball over the plate and get back to where I've been successful, not giving up free passes.''

Ritchie has had an inconsistent spring, starting with two mediocre outings. He has performed well, though, in two of his last three starts.

His ERA dropped slightly to 8.25, and with the Giants scoring only six runs in a 10-6 Sox victory, the team ERA dropped for the first time since a 3-0 loss last Sunday to the Cubs.

ON HOLD: With the pitching staff essentially decided and manager Jerry Manuel set to go with Mark Johnson over Josh Paul as backup catcher to Sandy Alomar Jr., only one final roster question remains.

Brian Simmons or Willie Harris?

Simmons, who is batting only .188 without an extra-base hit, doesn't appear to compare to Harris, who has shown speed, can play both infield and outfield and has batted .292.

Simmons, though, is out of options, meaning the outfielder must clear waivers if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster. Manuel likes Simmons because he has the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Harris, meanwhile, has only nine games of major-league experience. He essentially has split time between center field and second base this spring.

"We'll go right up to that 12th hour,'' Manuel said. "We'll toss around different thoughts and ideas. Those are tough calls.''

HIT PARADE: Watching veterans Curt Schilling and Mike Hampton struggle at Tucson Electric Park seems to support the theory that it is a hitter-friendly place. The Sox have pounded Schilling for 10 hits twice this spring and got seven runs and 11 hits, including three home runs, Friday against Hampton.

So while Sox pitchers still might struggle this season, it probably won't be to the tune of eight runs per game.

"We as a staff have to convince our young pitchers that we have confidence in them,'' Manuel said. "If they continue to throw strikes, they should be able to survive in the major leagues.''

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