2 Chicago White Sox Two huge holes to plug: the top of the order and the top of the rotation

April 04, 2004

A manager often dreams of fielding a lineup of players in his
image, but there are no Ozzie Guillen clones in Chicago. A slap
hitter with no home run power who bunted, stole the occasional
base and used his quickness to alchemize singles into doubles,
Guillen does see flashes of himself, however, in second baseman
and leadoff hitter Willie Harris, a 25-year-old with wheels but,
thus far, no stick. "It is important to me to have some speed in
the leadoff spot," says Guillen, 40, bubbly and gregarious during
his first camp as White Sox skipper. "I'm not worried about
Magglio Ordonez or Frank Thomas or Carlos Lee. Helping Willie is
my biggest goal."

Chicago's order is loaded with power--its anticipated two through
seven batters averaged 28 home runs, 61 extra-base hits and a
.488 slugging percentage last season--but relatively lacking in
speed, which makes the development of Harris a priority. (All of
last season's one-hole hitters, Roberto Alomar, D'Angelo Jimenez
and Tony Graffanino, have departed.) From the start of camp,
Guillen had Harris reporting for work daily at 8 a.m. on a back
diamond at Tucson Electric Park, where he worked on sharpening
the little-baller's tools: sacrifice bunts, bunts for base hits,
and taking a lead and getting a jump on the pitcher. Though his
considerable skills have not yet yielded big league
production--he batted .213 in 137 games over the last three
seasons--the 5'9" Harris finds himself in the most encouraging
environment of his career. "In previous years I didn't have a
chance in camp," he says. "I've learned a lot, and I feel like I
belong here. Triple A has nothing for me."

Harris will have every opportunity to prove that he belongs--that
the 54 bags he swiped while batting .305 at Double A in '01, as
well as his .380 average and nine steals in 100 Triple A at bats
last season, were a sample of big things to come. "You have to
get 300 at bats, consecutive at bats, before anybody can
determine whether you can produce or not," says general manager
Ken Williams. As Guillen's catalyst at the top of the order,
Harris will get the at bats, and he'll have the green light to
steal at will. "He told me to run, run, run," Harris says. "He's
not going to shut me down. We're playing a small man's game."

In one of his few off-season moves, Williams added another
middle-infield piece, obtaining Juan Uribe from the Rockies;
Uribe will spell Harris at second against lefthanders and back up
Jose Valentin at short, batting leadoff or second. Like Harris,
Uribe, a 24-year-old Dominican, has evident talent that has
failed to translate. He has power but is grossly undisciplined (a
career .298 on-base percentage); he has speed but not the
tactical ability to steal bases; he has dazzling defensive skills
but often makes miscues on unnecessarily stylish attempts.

Chicago believes it can tap Uribe's potential, largely because of
the Latin American support system in its clubhouse. "Uribe's
ceiling is as high as any young shortstop's in the league,"
Williams says. "The reason we targeted him is because we thought,
in this environment--not just with Ozzie and some of the coaches
being of Latin descent but with Lee, Ordonez, Valentin, Sandy
Alomar--we have guys with a history of being able to bring out
the best in a player such as this." Uribe was placed in Ordonez's
and Lee's hitting group in batting practice; when he lapsed into
his bad habit of pulling pitches, they, and not the coaches,
corrected him.

Chicago's staff took a colossal hit when free-agent, 15-game
winner Bartolo Colon, who was offered a three-year, $36 million
deal by the White Sox, walked to the Angels for an extra year and
an extra $15 million. Colon's departure dumps 242 high-quality
innings on questionable back-of-the-rotation types like Jon
Garland (career 4.60 ERA), converted reliever Scott Schoeneweis
(5.08) and Dan Wright (5.52).

Guillen sees himself as a communicator and an ally of his
players; he is a full pendulum swing away from his predecessor,
Jerry Manuel, who was reserved and sometimes distant. "In my
first meeting I told them it was a shame Jerry got fired because
they didn't play up to their talent," Guillen says. "I want them
to stick together, stick up for each other, and I'll be the best
friend they have."

Let's see how long the lovefest lasts. --D.G.H.

COLOR PHOTO: RON VESELY WILLIE OR WON'T HE? Harris has shown he has the speed to excel as a leadoff man, but his bat remains a question mark.
COLOR PHOTO: JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES CREDE

IN FACT

In 230 innings last year runners attempted only five steals
against Mark Buehrle and succeeded once.

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

"There's a positive attitude to the clubhouse, thanks to Ozzie
Guillen. Even Frank Thomas is playing with a lot of energy and
appears to have bought into Ozzie's ideas.... The pitching staff
isn't sexy, but it's pretty good. Mark Buehrle looks strong, and
Jon Garland has made great strides. The big question will be
Esteban Loaiza, whose cutter is nowhere near what it was last
season. That's his out pitch, and he knows it.... Keep an eye on
Joe Crede. He was solid last season and looks like he could have
a coming-out year like the Rangers' Hank Blalock had in 2003....
Billy Koch is never going to have the same velocity on his
fastball as he did in Oakland, but he's throwing harder and has
better command.... They lost some key personnel over the winter,
but in this division they can contend. Thomas, Magglio Ordonez
and Paul Konerko are all swinging the bat like they have
something to prove. If Guillen can pull a Tony Pena and get this
team to play together like the Royals did a year ago, Chicago
will be right in the thick of it come September."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2003 statistics

BATTING ORDER

2B Harris
SS Valentin
RF Ordonez
DH Thomas
LF Lee
1B Konerko
3B Crede
CF Rowand
C Olivo

WILLIE HARRIS
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 193 .204 0 5 12

JOSE VALENTIN
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 174 .237 28 74 8

MAGGLIO ORDONEZ
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 28 .317 29 99 9

CARLOS LEE
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 17 .291 31 113 18

PAUL KONERKO
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 107 .234 18 65 0

JOE CREDE
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 100 .261 19 75 1

AARON ROWAND
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 199 .287 6 24 0

MIGUEL OLIVIO
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 249 .237 6 27 6

BENCH

JUAN URIBE [New acquisition]
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 318 .253 10 33 7

TIMO PEREZ
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 282 .269 4 42 5

DESIGNATED HITTER

FRANK THOMAS
B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 46 .267 42 105 0

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH Mark Buehrle 38 14 14 6.6 1.35 4.14
RH Esteban Loaiza 14 21 9 6.7 1.11 2.90
RH Jon Garland 130 12 13 6.0 1.37 4.51
LH Scott Schoeneweis 179 3 2 -- 1.27 4.18
RH Dan Wright 161 1 7 4.6 1.59 6.15

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Billy Koch 97 5 5 11 1.64 5.77
LH Damaso Marte 132 4 2 11 1.05 1.58
[New acquisition]
RH Cliff Politte 248 1 5 12 1.40 5.66
[New acquisition]

2003 RECORD
86-76
second in AL Central

MANAGER
Ozzie Guillen
first season with Chicago

New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 142)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)