White Sox scenarios: Conor Gillaspie at 3rd; Nate Jones closing
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN March 21, 2014 9:52PM
Jeff Keppinger is injured and Matt Davidson is too young, so Conor Gillaspie (12) is the Sox’ likely starter at third to begin the season. | AP
Updated: April 23, 2014 6:16AM
GLENDALE, Ariz. — With six Cactus League games to play, the White Sox’ Opening Day lineup and roster are coming into clearer focus.
Oblique injuries to second baseman Gordon Beckham and right-hander Matt Lindstrom, who successfully tested his for the first time Friday against the Cubs, will factor into who’s on the plane for Chicago, but here’s how things are shaping up:
Starting rotation: Left-handers Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks and right-handers Felipe Paulino and Erik Johnson. It’s those five, with the order to be determined in a way that breaks up the lefties. Paulino could go second or third.
Outfield: Barring a trade of an outfielder, Jordan Danks — who has a Cactus League-high five home runs — probably will have to start the season at Class AAA Charlotte. The Sox appear to be willing to trade Alejandro De Aza for a solid Class AA-level catching or pitching prospect, which would open a spot for Danks as a fourth outfielder. General manager Rick Hahn is in no rush, however, and has the time and patience to make a suitable deal.
Third base: Jeff Keppinger’s sore shoulder is not healing, and he will start the season on the disabled list, making left-handed-hitting Conor Gillaspie the likely starter at third. Matt Davidson, the 22-year-old prospect acquired for closer Addison Reed, is having a solid spring and has looked increasingly comfortable at the plate and in the field, but the Sox are in no rush to put him in the every-day starting lineup. With Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko platooning at designated hitter, they need someone on the roster who can play more positions. Davidson is a third baseman only, whereas Marcus Semien and Leury Garcia can play third base, shortstop and second base.
Bullpen: If Lindstrom is healthy, these seven are a good bet: Nate Jones, Mitchell Boggs, Ronald Belisario, Donnie Veal, Scott Downs, Maikel Cleto and Lindstrom. Barring a surprise, Jones is the likely closer.
Bench: If Beckham heals up quickly enough, Semien, the extra DH, the backup catcher and the fourth outfielder should make up the four extra men. Garcia’s chances improve if Beckham isn’t ready.
Backup catcher: Barring an 11th-hour trade, it’s between Rule 5 pick Adrian Nieto and Hector Gimenez, who was the No. 2 out of camp last year. Both are switch hitters.
Hahn probably was hoping Keppinger would be healthy enough to play his way into being a tradable piece, but that isn’t happening. Entering the second year of a three-year, $12 million contract, Keppinger had surgery in September to fix his shoulder but is still having issues throwing. He feels sharp pain when he takes his arm back and raises the ball into the throwing position.
“I can’t come forward because it hurts so bad,’’ Keppinger said Friday. “If I try to put more on it, it bites sharp like a snapping pain.’’
Keppinger said the disabled list “seems like a no-brainer to me.’’
Beckham finished his seventh day of prescribed rest Friday and is confident he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but he won’t have a realistic handle on that till he resumes baseball activity.
“I don’t think that’s in question,’’ Beckham said. “I think I’ll be fine. I know I haven’t swung yet, but I can tell my body feels a lot better.’’