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WSI News - News Watch

Valentin Diary: First half is key

By Jose Valentin / Special to MLB.com

Chicago White Sox third baseman Jose Valentin files an exclusive Spring Training diary each week until the end of camp. This is the fourth and final installment.

The end of Spring Training is exciting but it can also be kind of stressful because you have to worry about packing.

I have to pack one bag for the road trip and one to send back to Chicago. For example, right now we open on a road trip. I probably won't need to pack too much for that trip so I have to pack two different pieces of luggage.

If you have family, you have to help them out and start cleaning the apartment, stuff like that. It's stressful but at the same time it's time to open a new season where everything's going to count now and you have to put your mind straight and prepare yourself for something that is real now. It's not Spring Training.

I know when I'm ready for the season to start because I'm not getting tired as much. I feel like my body is ready to play nine innings and I'm always getting in good at-bats. Even if I don't get a hit but I'm comfortable at home plate and get a good swing on the ball.

I know what I need to do. I'm 32 years old. If I don't know right now if I'm ready or not then it's time to quit. I know I was pretty much ready before I came here because I was playing winter ball back home in Puerto Rico. When I came here I was pretty much ready to go.

If I keep myself in shape and play winter ball, it should only take me two weeks to get ready in Spring Training. You need some time watching the pitchers arm. It's not the same thing when you face coaches throwing batting practice.

You need to face pitchers throwing breaking balls, fastballs, change-ups, different arm angles. That's what you need. I was taking ground balls at home and I was hitting but it's not the same thing as facing pitchers.

When we got here the pitchers were already here a week. Some guys need more time because they didn't play winter ball like I do back home.

I was able to pass pretty much everybody here because at home it's always hot and in the States pretty much in the winter time it's freezing.

Not too many guys who play in the big leagues go to the Dominican or Puerto Rico and play winter ball, but I'm from there. I don't have to play, but I do it pretty much to stay in shape.

As a team, we know that this season we have a good chance to win the division. I wouldn't speak about one side or the other, I'm not going to say that pitchers didn't do their job in Spring Training and the offense was doing their job.

Hopefully, all the bad things that we do in Spring Training we can just leave here and take the good things into the season, and we hope that's going to happen.

But there was a point when it was frustrating around the clubhouse late in Spring Training, not only because guys were sent down. The pitchers were giving up too many runs and weren't pitching good. They weren't making pitches.

It's only Spring Training but when it's this close for the season to start it's time to put everything together.

You cannot take the same approach that you do in here and take it into the season because it's not going to make it any good for you. That was the problem. Players and coaches were getting frustrated and I don't blame them.

I was playing third base and I was getting tired of seeing guys go around third base and score so many runs against us. But now that is over and, who knows, in other parks it could be a lot different.

The ball carries a lot here and you see some cheap home runs. It's going to be a lot different in big league stadiums, especially in Seattle. You won't see too many cheap home runs in there. Especially in the early days with the cold weather, players won't feel that comfortable.

What we went through last year we have to think about in the beginning of the year. We can't afford to do that again. We have to go and do in the first half this year what we did in the second half last year.

Play strong and hard, try to make our season in the first half so in the second half all you have to do is play .500 and make the other teams chase us.

That's the way we did it in 2000 and Seattle did it last year. They pretty much won the season in the first half. That's one thing we need to keep on our mind, try to make our season in the first half. That's what we have to do.

Jose Valentin's diary appears as told to Jimmy Greenfield, who covers the White Sox for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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