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WSI News - News Watch

Encouraging results for Sox in Milwaukee

March 30th, from the Daily Herald; Scot Gregor

If there is such a thing as an encouraging loss, the White Sox experienced it Friday night.

After giving up an average of 9 runs in 30 Cactus League games, the Sox broke camp Thursday and headed for a more pitcher-friendly atmosphere at Miller Park.

Yes, they fell to the Brewers by a score of 4-3. But at least the end result and pace of play resembled a real major-league baseball game.

"It was a good game,'' said Sox manager Jerry Manuel. "We played well defensively and turned a few double plays. As long as we play that type of game, we're going to win our share because our offense is an explosive one. It just didn't explode tonight.''

More important, the pitching didn't fall apart.

After taking his lumps (0-4, 9.28 ERA) in Arizona, No. 3 starter Dan Wright took the mound against Milwaukee and pitched 4 solid innings. The right-hander gave up 1 run on 5 hits. Wright also had 4 strikeouts.

"I've said it before, you still have to pitch in Arizona,'' Wright said. "But you can tell the difference. It's nice to get out of there (Tucson) and get closer to the season.''

The biggest difference in Wright was his curveball. It didn't bite in the light air of Tucson but was sharp under the dome in Wisconsin.

"It's a little bit closer to where I want it to be,'' Wright said.

If Wright and the rest of the shell-shocked pitching staff can simply match the effort against the Brewers, this could be a special year for the Sox.

"This offense has to speak for itself early and take the pressure off the pitching staff,'' said Frank Thomas, who started at first base and went 0-for-2 Friday. "We're pretty stacked. We have good power hitters and guys that get on base a lot. I'm looking forward to the season.''

The White Sox' attack didn't fire against Milwaukee - Carlos Lee's 2-run single in the sixth inning was the only big blow - but the unit batted a major-league best .349 during the regular portion of spring training.

"A lot of the damage that was done to us in Arizona, you have to look at the damage we were doing against good pitching - (Curt) Schilling, (Mike) Hampton, (Denny) Neagle,'' Manuel said. "I think we really have to be optimistic going into the season. Offense is the thing. If you have a good offense, you have a chance to get to the postseason. Of course, you have to pitch and play good defense when you get there.''

October is a long way off, but the Sox are confident in their ability to score runs. They are also hoping that the defense plays like it did against the Brewers.

The White Sox turned 3 double plays behind Wright, taking an incredible amount of pressure off the 24-year-old starter.

In the Cactus League, the Sox' defense committed an AL-worst 43 errors. But mainstays like shortstop Royce Clayton, second baseman Ray Durham and third baseman Jose Valentin played well.

"I like to emphasize defense heading into the season,'' Manuel said. "If we can emphasize defense, I really think it'll take the pressure off the pitching. It's important, when you have a young pitching staff, that you don't give away any outs.''


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