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WSI News - News Watch

Rauch gets his shot

March 24th, from the Associated Press; Nancy Armour

Jon Rauch has been a busy guy the past two years.

He tore through Class A and Double-A ball in the summer of 2000, earning minor league player of the year honors, and then helped the United States win a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. He spent last summer rehabbing after season-ending shoulder surgery.

``Yeah, I've been through a lot,'' the Chicago White right-hander said. ``But there's been a lot of things I haven't been through, like big league time. I've had zero whatsoever.''

That's about to change. When White Sox manager Jerry Manuel announced his starting rotation Friday, Rauch got the fifth spot. He'll make his first start April 9 in Detroit.

At 6-foot-11, he'll also become the tallest pitcher in major league history. That honor currently belongs to 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson.

``I'm just still glad I'm here,'' Rauch said. ``I'm still trying to learn a lot of stuff, and we'll see what happens.''

Despite Rauch's success in the minors, his name wasn't mentioned as a starter when spring training began. His season ended on May 24 last year, and he was 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte before getting hurt.

Though he'd been rehabbing, no one expected him to be healthy enough to be a factor.

``I really didn't have him in the picture,'' Manuel said. ``Last spring he was OK. Now you figure he has surgery, so you don't expect more than what you saw (last season).

``But I saw a much better pitcher.''

And when Jim Parque didn't have the velocity the White Sox hoped after his shoulder surgery last year, Rauch started looking even better.

He's 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA this spring, but that includes an outing against San Francisco last Tuesday where he gave up seven runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings. Two of those runs were homers to J.T. Snow.

In 11 innings, he's allowed five walks and struck out 10.

``The most difficult thing was when Jim Parque didn't quite respond. But on the other end, Jon Rauch really did,'' Manuel said. ``Whatever his ERA is, he competed for me. I was really impressed with the way he stepped up.''

In spite of Manuel's praise, Rauch isn't satisfied with his performance this spring. He was clearly disgusted with himself after the Giants game, saying very little to reporters before he left the clubhouse.

The outing was still bugging him three days later.

``I put a lot more pressure on myself than anybody else does,'' he said. ``For me, that was a terrible outing according to my own personal standards. How somebody else viewed it might be a little different, but I didn't go out and accomplish the things I wanted.

``There's still a lot of things I think I need to work on,'' he added. ``I'm just taking it one day at a time, and hopefully I'll get everything straightened out.''

Rauch's past success doesn't mean a whole lot, either. In Sydney, he struck out 21 in 11 innings, one shy of the Olympic record. He pitched a complete game, and had an 0.82 ERA.

Before leaving for the Olympics, he went 16-4 with a 2.66 ERA and 187 strikeouts at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Charlotte. That earned him minor league player of the year honors from Baseball America and The Sporting News.

``The media and press paid more attention to it than I did,'' Rauch said of the awards. ``It was an accolade I got, but at the same time, the day after I get it, it's pointless. It's not going to help me further my career any more than going out and doing the best I can will.''

And that's what Rauch intends to do, beginning April 9.

``Every day after the surgery, I'm glad I'm healthy,'' he said. ``I'm glad I'm able to go out and play every day without pain, without any problems.

``I'm still playing. That's what my goal is. I'm glad I'm still involved in the game.''


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