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WSI News - News Watch

Manuel: Sox have survival kit

March 30, 2002

By Joe Goddard, Chicago Sun-Times

MILWAUKEE--Manager Jerry Manuel doesn't worry about the apparent loss of clubhouse leadership after departures in his four seasons of third baseman Robin Ventura and pitchers Cal Eldred, James Baldwin, Bill Simas and Sean Lowe.

''Some people felt last year that we didn't have team chemistry from the slow start and so many injuries, that it wasn't like the year before when we won the division,'' Manuel said. ''But I don't know if the 2000 team could have gone through what last year's team went through. The true test of a team is how it survives the tough times, and that team did. They came together for a good finish [83-79].''

A true test this season might come right away, with nine road games in a row to start the season.

''Maybe, but I'm thinking deeper into the season when we have the kind of down stretch that all teams have,'' Manuel said. ''Can we survive? I think so.''

FINAL CUTS: The Sox made their 25-man roster official by assigning catcher Josh Paul and utilityman Willie Harris to Class AAA Charlotte. Paul, who won the backup catcher battle last spring, lost out this spring to Mark Johnson, who hit .361 in exhibitions.

''Mark deserved to make it off the spring he had,'' said Paul, who might be the first one back if starter Sandy Alomar Jr.'s knees don't hold up.

Paul improved his throwing under coach Art Kusnyer.

''Mostly the footwork,'' Paul said.

Harris, 23, projected as a second baseman of the future, was sent to play every day in the minors.

MARTE IMPRESSIVE: Manuel was pleased enough with newcomer Damaso Marte's two scoreless innings Friday and Saturday to consider the former Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander for setup work.

''You'd like to have your setup men in order, but for now it's a committee, and he looks like he could handle it,'' Manuel said.

The Marte trade cost the Sox right-hander Matt Guerrier, who had an intriguing 2001 season of 18 victories with two farm teams, the most by anyone in the minor leagues since 1999.

''He's got great stuff,'' Paul said.

FIGHTING WORDS: Two days before the season opens, players and front-office personnel were answering critics who say the Sox will struggle in a watered-down American League Central.

''Our fans want us to win right now,'' general manager Ken Williams said "We are not 'Prospects Are Us.'''

Said first baseman Paul Konerko: ''Whoever jumps out and gets it will win. It's that kind of a division.''

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