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WSI News - News Watch

Bauman: ChiSox banking on young guns

Mike Bauman,

PHOENIX -- On the topic of the Chicago White Sox pitching, you can very easily find yourself with an internal disagreement.

Two of your primary senses are not in total accord on this one. You hear only confidence expressed by members of Sox organization regarding this issue. The talent, not the youth, is the question, they say. We will contend.

These are obviously sound baseball people, not given to exaggerations, or untruths, for that matter. You cannot easily dismiss their views, nor should you.

But what you see is not particularly encouraging: the Sox entered Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers with an earned run average of 8.17 and did nothing to improve it in a 9-5 loss at Maryvale Baseball Park. True, this ERA has undoubtedly been inflated by the conditions. The ball travels farther in Arizona's dry air and the Sox' home facility, Tucson Electric Park, is especially hitter-friendly. Manager Jerry Manuel speaks of "inflated pitching numbers" and the fact that Spring Training statistics "can be deceiving," especially in this environment. So maybe that 8.17 is an aberration?

"Whatever the hell it is, it's got to be put to the side right now, because we've got to go to battle April 1," said Ken Williams, White Sox general manager.

The White Sox paid particular attention Wednesday to the work of starter Jim Parque, who is coming back from shoulder surgery. The Sox plan to have Parque start the season on a minor league rehab assignment. He was hoping to pitch his way onto the Opening Day roster. His performance didn't change the club's plans. He allowed four runs in five innings, giving up home runs to Geoff Jenkins and pitcher Nick Neugebauer. He would have given up five runs, but a Milwaukee run was wiped out, after Ron Belliard failed to touch third base. You don't often see that sort of thing this side of Little League, but there it was.

Manuel was encouraged that Parque threw all his pitches, moved the ball around, "throttled back and forth. It was good to see."

Parque is just 26, but he has 88 Major League starts, which on this staff makes him a grizzled veteran. His performance Wednesday at least gave the Sox hope that he wasn't too far away from pitching for them in the regular season.

And the Sox Wednesday picked up Damaso Marte, a hard-throwing left-handed reliever, from the Pittsburgh Pirates. They had to give up Matt Guerrier, who went 18-4 between AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte last year, but the Sox saw Marte, as Williams put it, as "a rare commodity."

When Williams was asked if it would be fair to say that he was pursuing more pitching, he responded: "It would be fair to say that I feel very confident with where we are right now.

"We want to win. We expect to win. Our fans expect us to win right now. We are not 'Prospects Are Us.' "

This was Williams' way of underscoring the notion that the White Sox fully expect to win with a rotation that includes Jon Garland, 22, Jon Rauch, 23, and Dan Wright, 24. "This is part of our plan," Williams says in reference to the presence of the young fellows in the Major League rotation.

On the other side of this issue, a Major League scout was asked if the White Sox had enough pitchers.

"Well, they'll have 11," the scout said. "Maybe 12." This was not a yes.

And the eyes again, could not fail to see reliever Gary Glover giving up three straight home runs to Jenkins, Richie Sexson and Alex Ochoa. Jenkins' blast went over the center field wall, over the center field batter's eye, and was generally headed toward New Mexico at last sighting.

You can predict with some assurance that once the season starts, the members of the White Sox bullpen will pitch better because they have track records that indicate they will. You do not know this for sure about the young starters, each of whom carries a spring ERA even higher than the team ERA.

Spring Training resolves some issues and just leaves you wondering about others. The role of the young pitchers on the Chicago White Sox is solidly in the "you can't tell until you see what they do in the regular season" category.

In that way, it is probably a good thing that Spring Training is coming to an end. After one more discussion of this topic, Manuel found another way.

"I'm tired of counting cactuses between Maryvale and Tucson," Manuel said. "I've seen enough."

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