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2 Chicago White Sox A proven postseason pitcher joins a powerful lineup for a playoff push

March 26, 2001
March 26, 2001

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March 26, 2001

Baseball 2001 Preview

2 Chicago White Sox A proven postseason pitcher joins a powerful lineup for a playoff push

If he's going to be a bona fide major league big shot, Jose
Valentin has a lot to learn. Nobody has to show him how to
hit--his .273 average, 25 homers and 92 RBIs last season attest
to that--but he needs to learn how to conduct himself off the
field. For example, after you have the best offensive season of
your career just in time for free agency, you've got to milk it
for all it's worth; you don't re-sign for $15 million over three
years, less than market value, as Valentin did. Then, when your
team trades for another guy who's an every-day player at your
position, you pitch a fit, or at least have your agent pitch one
on your behalf; you don't clear out for the new guy, as Valentin
did.

This is an article from the March 26, 2001 issue Original Layout

As a result, the 31-year-old Valentin has one more thing to
learn: how to play centerfield.

In December, Valentin got a call from new White Sox general
manager Kenny Williams, who told him that Chicago had a chance to
get Royce Clayton from the Rangers for the bargain-basement price
of two marginal pitching prospects. Clayton has been one of
baseball's best defensive shortstops for nearly a decade, but he
became expendable after Texas invested a quarter of a billion
dollars in Alex Rodriguez. Valentin, who had signed his new
contract only three weeks earlier, told Williams to pull the
trigger.

Keeping Valentin's bat in the lineup was as important as adding
Clayton's glove to the White Sox' infield. After coming to
Chicago in a trade with the Brewers last spring, Valentin went 2
for 4 on Opening Day and never let up. "I was happy here," says
Valentin, who, according to manager Jerry Manuel, will also see
some innings at second, third and short. "The manager told me I
was going to play every day no matter what, and that was
something I was missing in Milwaukee." That satisfaction, plus
the prospect of continuing to hit in front of Frank Thomas, led
Valentin to re-sign.

The 5'10" Valentin doesn't have the typical rangy centerfielder's
build that enables the best ones to cover a lot of ground. But he
has a couple of things working in his favor, too. First, he has
actually played some centerfield for his hometown team, Mayaguez,
in Puerto Rico's winter league over the past few years. Then
there's his tutor, White Sox first base coach Gary Pettis, who
won five Gold Gloves between 1985 and '90 playing center. This
spring Pettis worked with Valentin on the mechanics of playing
the position, such as lengthening his throwing motion, as well as
the mental aspects, such as knowing when to hold a runner at
first to keep a double play possibility alive rather than try to
gun down another runner at the plate. "I've never worked so hard
in spring training," says Valentin.

There's added incentive for all the White Sox to turn it up a
notch. Despite having the best record in the league last year,
Chicago slumped in the postseason, scoring just seven runs and
getting swept by the Mariners in the Division Series. Alarmed
that none of their pitchers could outduel the Mariners', the
White Sox in January exchanged lefthanders with the Blue Jays,
giving up 29-year-old Mike Sirotka to get 37-year-old David
Wells. The reason Chicago sacrificed one of baseball's rarest
commodities--a young, talented lefty--for a 15-year veteran is
simple: Wells's eight postseason wins are eight more than the
rest of the staff has combined. "We've put together a good
foundation, and we have to build on that," says Manuel. "A lot of
times that means going out and acquiring a veteran pitcher."

Getting off to a good start will also be important: Chicago plays
five games against Cleveland in the first 10 days of the season,
and the Indians will be looking to take command of the AL Central
race, which they won for five straight years before the White Sox
ended the run in 2000. Being the hunted instead of the hunter
will be a new sensation, but, says Manuel, "we're still hunting.
We're hunting a championship." --M.B.

COLOR PHOTO: RON VESELY A 20-game winner last season, Wells has eight career playoff victories, or eight more than the rest of the White Sox' staff combined.COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER THOMAS

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the White Sox

"Some teams don't like David Wells because he's out of shape,
but he's very strong and gives you a lot of innings. He's lost
velocity, but he makes up for it with savvy....Cal Eldred is the
key to this staff: He has a plus fastball and a hard power
curve. Eldred and James Baldwin have to stay healthy or the
White Sox are finished. Jim Parque has a decent arm, but he gets
in trouble when he tries to overthrow. Jon Garland has a plus
fastball and a nice feel for his changeup. He has a chance to be
a top-of-the-rotation guy....The bullpen is solid. Keith Foulke
has a great changeup. Kelly Wunsch came on last year when the
White Sox changed his arm angle....Magglio Ordonez is a
superstar. He has very good knowledge of the strike zone, a
quick bat and can drive the ball to all fields. He's also a
surprisingly good outfielder. If Jose Valentin can adjust from
short, it'll be huge for the White Sox to have a centerfielder
with 25-home-run power. Carlos Lee is a bad defensive player,
but he's a very good power hitter. He's always on the ball, and
even though he's a free swinger, he's a very good breaking ball
hitter. He just needs to be more selective....Royce Clayton is a
defensive improvement over Valentin at short but strikes out a
lot and can drive only certain pitches....Frank Thomas figured
it all out last year: He got his body in better shape and was
pulling the ball better. Pitchers could no longer jam him. The
White Sox are better with Thomas at DH and Paul Konerko at
first....If Sandy Alomar plays 100 games, he's a bonus. Pitchers
love throwing to a catcher like Alomar, who knows the game."

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 95-67 (first in AL Central)
Manager: Jerry Manuel (fourth season with Chicago)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

2B Ray Durham S-R 68 .280 17 75 25
CF Jose Valentin S-R 119 .273 25 92 19
DH Frank Thomas R 34 .328 43 143 1
RF Magglio Ordonez R 43 .315 32 126 18
LF Carlos Lee R 79 .301 24 92 13
1B Paul Konerko R 88 .298 21 97 1
3B Herbert Perry R 235 .302 12 62 4
C Sandy Alomar Jr.[1] R 215 .289 7 42 2
SS Royce Clayton[1] R 207 .242 14 54 11

BENCH

DH Harold Baines L 297 .254 11 39 0
OF Chris Singleton L 303 .254 11 62 22
C Josh Paul R 323 .282 1 8 1
IF Tony Graffanino R 353 .274 2 17 7

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH David Wells[1] 18 20 8 6.6 1.29 4.11
RH Cal Eldred 146 10 2 5.6 1.45 4.58
LH Jim Parque 65 13 6 5.8 1.49 4.28
RH James Baldwin 79 14 7 6.2 1.37 4.65
RH Jon Garland 225 4 8 5.1 1.75 6.46

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Keith Foulke 26 3 1 34 1.00 2.97
RH Bob Howry 97 2 4 7 1.17 3.17
LH Kelly Wunsch 228 6 3 1 1.29 2.93
RH Sean Lowe 333 4 1 0 1.66 5.48
RH Lorenzo Barcelo 261 4 2 0 1.10 3.69
LH Mark Buehrle 286 4 1 0 1.44 4.21
RH Rocky Biddle (R) 363 1 2 0 1.72 8.34

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)

"The White Sox are better with Thomas at DH and Konerko at first
base."