The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, what is up with the bullpen stinking, when will the Sox abandon hope for 2007 and sending Ozzie to anger enhancement?
Mark, is it safe to say that Javy Vazquez will never be a second or even third starter for this team? He is over 30 years old and everybody acts like he just needs to "figure it out." I only see him getting worse, and that contract will prevent the Sox from being able to demote him or risk all of his "value." And will the Sox continue with Vazquez instead of trying a younger, possibly better option? --Brendan McCaffrey, Elmhurst
With the obvious need for a true leadoff hitter with speed (especially with the recent injury of Ozuna), what are the chances that Kenny Williams tries to acquire a young talent like Tony Gwynn Jr. who can't seem to find enough playing time in Milwaukee but certainly has a knack for getting on base and can play all outfield positions? --Steve von Horn, Madison, Wis.
Mark, we have got to get some team speed and manufacture runs to take some pressure off of the bullpen late in games. We cannot win when we need three hits to score a run. Jerry Owens should get a look until Pods is ready to return. At that point a decision can be made. --Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.
Mark, I wrote a while back asking if the Sox would consider disarming to add a legit leadoff hitter like Rocco Baldelli. Your response was to point to the job Erstad was doing. Despite the obvious injury-prone nature, Erstad is great, but if we're relying on Owens to set the table now that he and Pods are down, we're asking a lot. Would the Sox consider Baldelli as an alternative or do they have others in their sights? --Al, Montgomery, Ala.
As for Gwynn, I'd ask my part-time neighbor Doug Melvin, but he's currently trying to keep the Brewers in first place in the NL Central. Maybe I'll ask in the off-season.
The jury is split on Jerry Owens, but it's good that he's getting a look until Podsednik and Erstad return. He almost beat out a bad bunt for a single and can run. But I want to see him perform this way over an extended period.
I was told at the end of the winter meetings that several Sox officials liked Baldelli except one prominent decision-making official. At some point, Tampa Bay will have to move one of its outfielders. I like Baldelli but you have to wonder about his health. His contract isn't an issue.
I have a question. I've been to Birmingham and Fort Mill (where Triple-A Charlotte plays). Why isn't double-A in Fort Mill and Triple-A in Birmingham? Especially if it's hard to evaluate pitchers at a Triple-A field. Getting to Triple-A is suppose to be rewarding! --Francine Bukvich, Brandon, Miss.
Francine, several fringe prospects or "Four-A" players fill Triple-A rosters while the bulk of Double-A rosters are filled with players still considered prospects or suspects. Some of these Triple-A players are paid well but usually are told they have little or no chance of making the big league roster.
That doesn't mean these players can't make the major league roster. But in most cases, they must excel much more than the organization's prospects to earn consideration for a major league promotion.
There's usually a progression a player has to make from Double to Triple-A, but it's not uncommon for pitchers (rather than position players) to make the jump from Double-A to the majors because of the belief that pitching talent can make the jump easier than a position player who hasn't faced or solved Triple-A pitching yet.
I don't understand why people (including, it seems, Kenny Williams) are looking for us to trade for an outfielder, a right-handed bat, a new Ozunasomething. Let's get real. We need to start looking at trades for prospects and then setting our sights on some free agents in the off-season. This team is going nowhere fast. Do you think the Royals will give us Tyler Lumsden and Daniel Cortes back for Mike McWALKal? --Andrew, St. Louis
It appears that the advance scouting has already caught up to the new Sox pitchers that Williams traded for this past winter. Because of that and not being able to beat teams in their own division I don't have much hope for the 2007 Sox. If I'm correct when do you believe they will start a fire sale. Who, in your opinion, will stay and who will go? --Bob Tietz, Tempe, Ariz.
Sisco and MacDougal are so bad that I have to wonder, did Ken Williams actually think that the lowly Royals would actually give up 2 pitchers that were any good? --Paul Zimmerman, Walnut Creek, Calif.
So when the Sox trade Iguchi, Dye, Crede and Buehrle next month, are they going to load up on "can't miss" prospects and then use 2008-2011 as "rebuilding" yearsor will they try to sign free agents this next off-season and try to field a winning club before the next decade is upon us? --John Fitch, Cary
Hello Mark. The Twins have a lot of young up-and-coming talent, Do you think losing Torii Hunter to free agency will be that big a blow to them? I don't mean to discount his talent, but Terry Ryan and his development staff always seem to do a great job of having a constant flow of young talent in their organization. There is one guy this year playing for a contract that no one has mentioned yetEric Byrnes. --Tyson Shroyer, Peoria
The Sox have the look of a team that couldn't get it together if they wanted to. That being said, when does Ken Williams decide to make sweeping changes in hopes that the new troops can mesh and make a run yet this year? I'm afraid if it doesn't come soon, the fans are going to turn on them. --Irv Kaage, Park Ridge