Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Moments before the opening ceremony at SoxFest, Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams sat alone in the corner of a noisy Palmer House meeting room full of players and media.
Williams, the general manager, and Guillen, the manager, shared smiles and laughter, and why not? It was there Friday that Williams told Guillen the option on his contract for 2012 would be picked up, another harmonious step in the name of keeping drama and distractions at a minimum for a team that appears well-equipped to win the American League Central.
Despite tensions between them, Williams knows the 47-year-old Guillen, who will earn a reported $1.8 million per season, is the best man for the job.
“I wouldn’t have picked up the option if I didn’t feel that way,” Williams said. “I’ve never doubted the man’s managerial ability and his ability to pull people together. Listen, we can all get off track a little bit, and we got off track a little bit last year. All I want us to do is to get back on track and focus on the baseball team and the fans. They’re hand in hand. Everything else, I want out of the equation.”
It was an emotional day for Guillen and his family. He appeared to choke up during the Williams-Guillen question-and-answer session with fans. Right before taking the stage, he called his wife, Ibis, who cried happy tears on the phone.
“I’m a new man because I went through hell all summer long,” Guillen said of a 2010 season marked not only by a hot stretch that put the club in contention after a slow start but well-chronicled social-network comments about the organization by his son Oney. There were other rifts as well, but it became clear Friday that the front office is intent on turning the page and getting the 2011 season off to a smooth start.
“I’m very excited about it,” Guillen said. “This is the thing we had in our mind. We know what we want. We know how much we love this city. The only thing they did was give me another opportunity and show how much confidence they have in me and my coaching staff to be a face, be the guy on the ballclub. It made it easier for everyone. It makes it easier for our players. That’s important to our fans to show how long I’m going to be here. And hopefully, that’s the beginning.”
Guillen was relieved that the added year under contract leaves one less non-baseball issue to be discussed. It puts the focus on baseball, which was an overriding theme heard from players and manager alike at Day 1 of the fan convention.
“I’m very happy to manage this club without asking another question about it,” Guillen said. “Just answering my players’ questions. I’m very excited to have another year.”
“I love this city and these fans,” said Guillen, who has managed the Sox to five winning seasons — including a World Series title in 2005 — in his seven in the town in which he spent most of his playing career. “I want to be in Chicago.”
NOTES: Williams said former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy could pitch as soon as late April. Peavy underwent surgery to reattach a muscle under his throwing shoulder last summer.
“He’s going to absolutely have to prove he’s healthy and ready to go out,” Williams said. “We want a full season and healthy season . . . and for next year’s White Sox team.”
◆ First-round draft pick Chris Sale, who pitched in relief last season, including in the closer’s role, was told to prepare to start but might end up closing.
“My feeling is he will ultimately be in the bullpen because we won’t have that need [to start] for no longer than 30 days if we have it at all,” Williams said. “To have him prepare as a reliever and possibly take away one or two of his pitches, I don’t think is wise.”
◆ Dayan Viciedo has been working out in the outfield and will be tried there during spring training. With Brent Morel and Mark Teahen at third base, the position is crowded and better manned defensively by those two. Viciedo’s power is said to be special, and the Sox want to find a place for him.
“I understand he has done well,” Williams said.
◆ Adam Dunn was announced as the Sox’ designated hitter at SoxFest, but he will spell Paul Konerko at first base more than some might expect. Guillen said Konerko was tired in September and will need the break, meaning more designated-hitter duty for the Sox captain.
◆ Guillen mentioned Tony Pena as a possible fifth starter, but Williams doesn’t consider him a candidate. “I would prefer to leave Pena in the bullpen,” Williams said.