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WSI News - News Watch

Mr. Versalility II?

March 27, By Paul Sullivan; Chicago Tribune

TUCSON, Ariz. - It wasn't a mirage. That was White Sox utility infielder Tony Graffanino playing left field Tuesday at Hi Corbett Field, the fifth position Graffanino has played this spring.

As Graffanino's defensive value increases, so does the likelihood that the Sox will start the season with a seven-man bullpen. After going 2-for-5 against Colorado to improve to .391 this spring, Graffanino may be forcing manager Jerry Manuel to consider him as more than a 150 at-bat per year reserve.

"I like Tony on the field someplace," Manuel said. "I like him a little bit at first base, too, maybe late in the game. I just like the intensity he brings every at-bat. For the last couple of years, he has been a good guy off the bench for us. He has been a professional hitter. Sometimes you have to make a way to get that guy on the field. If he's halfway adequate [in left], we'll give him a few at-bats out there."

Graffanino hit .303 in 145 at-bats last year, receiving only 26 starts. His Catch-22 is that he's also the Sox's best pinch-hitter.

Inside Out - Jon Garland was ordered to throw fastballs inside against the Rockies in Tuesday's 10-9 loss, and for the most part he did. But in his 42/3 innings of work, Garland allowed 10 runs on 12 hits, eight of which were earned. Garland's earned-run average rose to 11.15 and he now has given up 26 hits in 151/3 innings.

"I got it handed to me today," he said. "My breaking ball wasn't working well, my slider was cutting off. I had to use my fastball and they started sitting on it."

The Sox still are trying to coax their young pitchers to throw inside more often, showing hitters they aren't afraid.

What we want is the young pitchers to show aggression," Manuel said. "Showing aggression is trying to establish a third part of the plate. Trying to say 'That's my part of the plate.' We were just trying to send a message to [Garland] to get the ball inside. He kept a lot of balls down and in, but he has to do better than that."

Garland has one more exhibition start, throwing Sunday in San Francisco, before starting the fourth game of the regular season in Kansas City. Despite the relative inexperience of the Sox's rotation, Garland, 22, says they can't use their age as an excuse.

"It's a game, and you have to go out and get outs," he said. "Sometimes people look at [our] age, but I will not do it. If people are going to say stuff about our ages, they're going to do it. I still have to go get guys out or I'm going to lose my job."

Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. believes the young pitchers should have an easier time once they leave Arizona, and there's no reason to panic.

"Where we going to look [for help]?" he said with a laugh. "We have nobody else."

Trying to keep the young pitchers upbeat hasn't been a problem yet. Todd Ritchie, like Alomar, has told the young guns to ignore their stats in Arizona.

"If you let it bother you, you're going to miss a lot of sleep," Ritchie said. "If [a shelling] happens, you have to forget about it. Everyone has to pitch in these conditions, not just our pitchers. You have to keep a good mind-set and just get yourself ready for the season."

Garland and Dan Wright both say they're ready.

"I'm excited about the season," Wright said. "I think we have a chance to do something special. I get a sense that it's a close clubhouse. We have some offensive firepower and we have some young arms. I think it's all going to come together for us. It helps me having some other guys around your age [in the rotation]. Ritchie has been great for us."

Sox files - Former Sox pitcher Joel Horlen and former catcher J.C. Martin will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Sox home opener on April 12. Martin caught Horlen's no-hitter on Sept. 10, 1967, during the heat of a four-way pennant race with Boston, Minnesota and Detroit. Phyllis Arnold will sing the national anthem.

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