Mark Gonzales, the Tribune's White Sox beat writer, answers reader questions periodically throughout the season. Today, he addresses Javier Vazquez, Matt Thornton, his preseason picks and charging the mound.

Javier Vazquez stinks and is the worst pitcher in baseball. I am not sure how many games I watch him blow. Why wouldn't the Sox send him packing? Overpaid bum blows games time after time. They sent Garcia packing and got rid of the wrong guy. Unless maybe no one else in the major wants this bum? -- Rodger Harris, Waconia, Minn.

Ouch. This isn't how I envisioned the first question of this season's Q and A. Simply, the Sox value Javier's durability and see his upside, the fact he can accumulate double-digit strikeout games. Fixed costs are a big part of baseball, and the Sox gained financial certainty with Javier. But as you know, it's a game of results and we'll see if they get their money's worth with him.

Hey Mark, Could you please explain your picks in the Monday, April 2nd, pull out in the Chicago Tribune? The real question is that you pick the World Series. Would you care to elaborate to all of your faithful readers? Thank you very much and continued success during the season. -- Frank Bartos, West Dundee

Thanks, Frank. I nearly fell out of bed when I saw Atlanta listed as my World Series champion. I picked the New York Yankees to win the Series. Don't ask me how Atlanta was listed. I on the strength of their lineup, a retooled pitching staff that could see the mid-season acquisition of Roger Clemens should he elect to return, and a team-wide hunger after being embarrassed in the post-season.

I didn't care that the Yankees fired advance scouts Chuck Cottier and Wade Taylor and international scout John Cox after last season. A tip of the cap to Dodgers GM and Franklin Park native Ned Colletti for hiring Cottier and the San Francisco Giants for hiring Cox, a valued member of Dallas Green's cabinet with the Cubs in the mid-1980s.

But the Yankees have fortified their farm system under Damon Oppenheimer, and I anticipate some of those prospects will help the Yankees down the stretch in 2007 and future years.

Which Sox position player would an opposing pitcher least like to see charging the mound? --Ned Ryerson, Punxsutawney, Pa.

Sorry, "Ned," but I'm not going to promote the thought of violence here. But after watching some teammates tease Juan Uribe, I'd think twice before intentionally throwing at him.

Why is it that Guillen has three left-handed batters at the top of the lineup? Wouldn't it make more sense to bat Pods, Erstad, then Dye, Thome and Konerko? It seems like it would both break up all the lefties batting together, and also put the faster Dye on the basepaths ahead of basepath clogging Thome and Konerko. What do you think? --Drew, Chicago

Drew, I agree with your assessment, but the move worked Wednesday against Cleveland. Most of Ozzie's thinking was that Cleveland had only one left-hander in the bullpen—Aaron Fultz. There's always an inning of decision that awaits a manager, and those left-handed batters still had a shot in the eighth and ninth against right-handed relievers because Fultz was out of the game. I expect the same lineup against Tampa Bay, which currently has no left-handed relievers.

Is Podsednik really healthy? He seems a lot slower than he was in '05. He's been caught stealing by Victor Martinez., the worst defensive catcher in baseball, twice now. Your thoughts on Podsednik's baserunning? Also, why is Matt Thornton pitching so poorly now that the regular season started? He was lights out during spring training. What happened? -- Jacob Peklo, Elmhurst

I think Scott is healthy. It's a matter of Scott getting a quicker burst and reading pitchers' moves. I think he'll get better with more practice on the base paths. Thornton's early problems are baffling. I know Grady Sizemore is a tremendous hitter, but I expected better results. Sizemore's homer was off a fat fastball. Matt looked so good in the final exhibition series against Atlanta that you could make a case that he could step in if Jenks failed or was tired. Matt will rebound, just as the starting rotation should.

You would think that with Ozzie Guillen as the manager, we would attract more free agents from Venezuela. Even the Sox minor league teams seem to have a void when it comes to Hispanic players from Venezuela and the other major baseball player producing countries. Why is this? Lack of money being spent there? I believe that we are really missing out on an opportunity here. Your thoughts? --Jim Kessler, Tampa, Fla.

The Sox tried hard to get free agent Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel before the 2005 season, but San Francisco swayed Vizquel with a three-year deal. The Sox also had interest in backup catcher Henry Blanco, but the Cubs gave him an extra year at $2.8 million for 2008.

As for the Venezuelan void in the minors, I saw a few Venezuelan kids in camp. But in an interview with Ozzie last July in Baltimore, it was his belief that the organization would be better served investing in several prospects instead of investing largely on one prospect. The New York Yankees signed 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero to a $2.1 million bonus last summer.

I'm also curious to see what the ramifications of last October's fallout with LaGuiara, in which the locals elected to fire Razor Shines as manager and several young Sox players left because of an emphasis on winning rather than developing players.