View Full Version : Sox players getting a head start (Tribune, AP)

01-29-2002, 11:19 PM
Sox players getting a head start

By Nancy Armour
Associated Press

No one burned incense as Jim Parque fielded grounders, and horseshoes weren't hanging on the wall behind Kelly Wunsch and Jon Rauch.

After the Chicago White Sox's series of season-ending injuries last season, no one could blame them if they got a little superstitious at their rehab workouts. But there they were Tuesday, about a dozen players playing toss and doing some strength and conditioning exercises.

And all without a four-leaf clover in sight.

"It's one of those cyclical things," said Wunsch, a left-handed reliever who missed most of last season with a torn rotator cuff. "It just happened last year that we had a big lump of it. Usually when you've gotten that stuff out of the way, it doesn't bother you for a while."

The White Sox can only hope. Expected to battle the Cleveland Indians for the AL Central title last season, the White Sox instead found themselves fighting injuries.

Frank Thomas tore a triceps muscle and was gone by mid-May, leaving Chicago without its most potent offensive weapon. Parque and Cal Eldred were done within the first month of the season, and Chicago eventually lost three-fifths of its starting rotation. Sandy Alomar Jr.'s knees got so bad he couldn't finish the season.

By the time the year was done, the White Sox had used the disabled list a whopping 14 times. Even their minor leaguers got the injury bug, as Rauch needed shoulder surgery.

"I've never seen anything quite like that," Alomar said. "It felt like we were in a war, guys were dropping like flies. It was kind of ugly."

Yet somehow, the White Sox managed to win 83 games and finish third in the AL Central. And youngsters like left-hander Mark Buehrle, pushed into bigger roles because of the injuries, emerged as good, solid players Chicago could build around.

Now, with the injured veterans healthy again, the White Sox are eager to reclaim the division title they won in 2000.

"Every guy in here is real anxious and working their tail off," Parque said. "I honestly feel the title is for us to lose. As long as everyone is healthy."

All the players who were injured last year should be ready for spring training, trainer Herm Schneider said. Most players have been coming to Chicago once a month for rehab workouts, and Schneider is pleased with their progress.

Parque, who had rotator cuff surgery last May, has thrown off the mound nine times already and just needs to get his velocity back up. Wunsch, a spot reliever, said he feels better than he has in the last few years. He's playing catch from 120 feet without any problems, where last season 60 feet was an effort. Alomar has been catching without any problems.

While Thomas wasn't at Tuesday's workout, Schneider said he doesn't expect any problems. He had the slugger on a physical therapy program, but he was released from that and is working out on his own.

"I talked to him a while ago and he assured me that he's fine," Schneider said.

With their aches and pains finally gone, spring training can't come fast enough for the rehabbing White Sox. For most of them, last year was the first time they'd ever missed a season.

It's not an experience any of them wants to repeat.

"As a player I had gone through that as well, being gone the bulk of a season," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. "When you step back into the game you've played since you were a little boy, you begin to see the game in a different light. You begin to appreciate what the game has to offer a little more.

"It's a greater motivating force and our guys are using it as such."

It's clear at the rehab workouts, Wunsch said. Just that few hours of working together every few weeks was enough to get guys excited for the season. Everyone wants to get going, the sooner the better.

The rest of the team is feeling that enthusiasm, too. Buehrle, who was expected in Chicago this weekend for the White Sox fan convention, came a few days early so he could get in on Tuesday's workout. Jose Valentin plans to stop by Wednesday, and Magglio Ordonez came by last month just to say hello.

"This team, I'm really liking the way they're starting to come together," Williams said. "It's nice to be a part of it, and I think it's going to be a special season for us."

2002, The Associated Press