Hahn likes what he sees, wants to boost White Sox’ catching corps
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter February 26, 2014 10:22PM
Updated: February 26, 2014 10:58PM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — In spring training, everyone looks good — from the retiring star first baseman to the Class AA pitching prospect. Last season is history, the future looks bright and hope springs eternal.
Bad vibes are few and far between and reserved for only the jaded, crusty pessimists.
Twelve days into camp at Camelback Ranch, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn stopped to chat with reporters to spread the good vibe that he is more than pleased with the camp being run by manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff.
“I’ve been thrilled with how camp has gone,’’ Hahn said. “There is a heightened level of energy. I think there is good competition going on. Robin and his staff have been great, and the players have been very receptive about what we’re trying to do on the hitting side. We’ve seen some progress.’’
First-year hitting coach Todd “Trick” Steverson, snagged from an Oakland Athletics organization high on on-base percentage, is talking less about mechanics than approach, preaching discipline within the strike zone and sending that message throughout the organization. Ventura is stressing that players come to the back fields for infield, outfield and baserunning drills focused on getting it right.
After losing 99 games, the intent is to avoid the mental mistakes that played a large role in that, in workouts and when Cactus League play begins Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Like everyone else in that [clubhouse], I’m eager to see some games, and then a week from then, I will be eager to play some games that count,’’ Hahn said, “but thus far, things have gone real well.’’
For what it’s worth, one Las Vegas oddsmaker put the over-under for Sox victories at 75.5 on Wednesday.
“I’m not too concerned with Vegas odds on that or where I would lay the action,’’ Hahn said tongue-in-cheek. “Seventy-five wins would be a 12-win improvement, which would be a nice amount, but it’s certainly not what we’re shooting for as we sit here right now. Obviously, we’re going to have to have health and guys reaching their potential break our way to get more than that, but that’s what we’re shooting for.’’
Without conceding the season, the Sox are clearly gearing toward 2015 and beyond. Even after adding young pieces such as Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson, Hahn has more work to do. He would like to upgrade at catcher, but he downplayed a rumor that had the Sox scouting the New York Yankees’ camp in Florida, presumably with an eye on catchers Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez.
“We have a number of scouts out right now, not only at the amateur level, and that was an amateur game, but also throughout the Cactus League and Grapefruit League,’’ he said. “You won’t be able to throw a stick at some of these games without hitting a White Sox scout. That doesn’t mean there’s anything imminent; it just means we’re doing our due diligence.’’
The Yankees could use help at second base and third base, and Gordon Beckham would have value as a trade chip should Hahn explore that route.
Last spring, Hahn traded for Conor Gillaspie, proof that a trade — albeit no blockbuster — is possible in February or March.
“It’s more the exception than the rule that you see significant player movement during spring training,’’ Hahn said.
“But the free-agent market at least hasn’t totally resolved itself, it seems, so perhaps some clubs are waiting on that before making a substantive trade. It’s not something we’re counting on, but it’s certainly something we’re prepared to do if the right situation arises.”