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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 30, 2003
Home: New Comisky Park
The White Sox didn’t have a bad season last year. In fact, they were offensive dynamos, finishing third in the AL in offense. What they didn’t have was pitching. Initially, the team appeared to have little interest in making major changes in the overall product. Then GM Ken Williams somehow managed to finagle the deal which all of baseball wanted to make. He landed star pitcher Bartolo Colon. Now 2003 should be interesting.
While 20 game winner Bartolo Colon is the main change to the staff, White Sox fans have other reasons to get excited. One of them will be the return of prospect Jon Rauch to the Majors. Rauch has the potential to be an ace pitcher and has dominated at the AAA level. This sets up a rotation which features Buhrle, Colon, Jon Garland, Jon Rauch, and Danny Wright.
In addition, the Sox have a decent number of pitching prospects including lefty Josh Stewart and hot shot Arnaldo Munoz. Munoz tore up the Dominican league and won both the Pitcher Of The Year and Rookie Of The Year honors there. Most scouts think he isn’t quite ready for the majors, but he is a dark horse to make the team in spring training. More likely, he’ll head to AAA and get a chance to play in the bigs later in the season.
Aside from the starters, the bullpen has changed as well. Gone is closer Keith Foulke, and replacing him is Billy Koch and former closer Tom “Flash” Gordon. Last year’s solid set-up man and closer, Antonio Osuna, got shipped to the Yankees in the Colon deal, so Gordon likely inherits that role. However, I would not be shocked to see that role swapping back and forth between Gordon and Koch as the season progresses.
Last year’s team is pretty much intact, but several key additions are going to be coming up from the Chisox farm system. The big two are outfielder Joe Borchard, who could provide another big bat in an already powerful lineup, and catcher Miguel Olivo, who walks into the job pretty much by default in light of the failure of Mark Johnson and Josh Paul. Olivo has only caught 6 games in the majors, and it’s a big jump up from AA.
Barring a disappointing season from one of their stars, it seems likely that the offense will be just as potent as last year, if not more as Borchard and Olivo develop. One longshot worth some preseason notice is Triple A infielder Tim Hummell. Hummell is not a power hitter but appears to be good spray hitter who could turn out to be a decent table setter.
J. Valentin (SS)
C. Lee (LF)
With their revamped pitching staff, the White Sox are poised to make a run for the AL Central title; whether they can win it is the question. The facts indicate that the answer is “yes.” A key factor will be the performance of all of the rookies this team will be fielding. If the young pitchers do well, or Crede, Borchard and Oliva hit, the ChiSox should have a secondary edge which will make Minnesota sweat all season.