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WSI News - News Watch

SportsTicker Preview of the 2002 Sox

March 29th, from SportsTicker

Manager: Jerry Manuel Last year's record: 83-79, third in the AL Central

Say hello To: Todd Ritchie and Kenny Lofton Say goodbye To: David Wells, Harold Baines, Jose Canseco, Kip Wells and Herbert Perry.

Likely starters: C - Mark Johnson (.249, 5, 18) 1B - Paul Konerko (.282, 32, 99) 2B - Ray Durham (.267, 20, 65) SS - Royce Clayton (.263, 9, 60) 3B - Jose Valentin (.258, 28, 68) LF - Carlos Lee (.269, 24, 84) CF - Kenny Lofton (.261, 14, 66) RF - Magglio Ordonez (.305, 31, 113) DH - Frank Thomas (.221, 4, 10)

Rotation: Mark Buehrle (16-8, 3.29) Todd Ritchie (11-15, 4.47) Jon Garland (6-7, 3.69) Jon Rauch (1-3, 5.79 at AAA) Danny Wright (5-3, 5.70)

Closer: Keith Foulke (4-9, 2.33 42 saves)

Helped themselves this spring: Kenny Lofton, Joe Crede and Joe Borchard. Hurt themselves this spring: Nearly every pitcher.

Spring Notes: The White Sox crushed the ball in the rare Arizona air this spring so it was very hard to judge their offense, which should be good. Conversely, their pitchers were hit hard and there's no telling how the starting staff will perform out of the gate.

Can expect to play better in 2002: Clayton should improve on his numbers and Lofton has a lot to prove. Garland, Glover and Wright all need to show they belong.

Can expect to play worse in 2002: Mark Buehrle must prove he can do it two seasons in a row while Foulke would be hard pressed to duplicate his 2001 numbers.

1) How much will having Frank Thomas back help?

Don't underestimate how much the offense-only Thomas contributes to this club. The active leader in on base-plus-slugging, Thomas takes pressure off the other guys in the lineup. He always is on base, which puts added pressure on the defense and his bat improves an already strong lineup.

In a perfect world, Thomas would just accept being a designated hitter and spell Konerko at first base. If he insists on playing the field, he always runs the risk of injury and he will be 34 in May. Maybe a year away from the game will make him realize that he needs to be in the boxscore to assure his spot in Cooperstown.

2) Does Kenny Lofton have anything left?

Kenny Lofton is a proud man. He also is extremely competitive and he would like nothing more than to stick it to Cleveland by leading the White Sox to the division title. He may say the politically correct things but he's just the type of leader to make a difference in a tight pennant race.

3) Is there enough starting pitching to challenge for the pennant?

Chicago's staff is led by a 23-year-old lefthander that does not throw hard. Following Buehrle is Ritchie -- who won't intimidate anyone -- and a serious of questions marks. Even if Jim Parque makes it back, Chicago is a team that is better built for the regular season than a short series.

That is unless Buehrle takes another step forward and Jon Garland or Jon Rauch delivers on their immense potential. But asking these inexperienced righthanders to make that jump probably is unfair.


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