Liam Hendrix knows not to get too bogged down in preseason estimates, whether your team is selected to finish first or in the bottom of the division standings.
The Chicago White Sox told the Tribune this week in Glendale, Ariz., “Estimates, they’re just guesses.” This can go many ways.
“Last year, look at the projections, we were in a dog fight with Minnesota, and that didn’t happen. In Oakland (where Hendrix pitched from 2016-20), we were always picked for third or fourth place in the division It didn’t happen.”
The Sox lived up to last season’s predictions, winning the American League Central. But the twins started out slowly and never recovered, finishing last. And the Athletics made it to the playoffs in each of Hendrix’s last three years with the team.
“You can overplay the estimates, you can underestimate them,” Hendrix said. “Our goal at the start of this year is to go out there and play our game. Who gives the fuck what the guesses say? We’re going to define our future, not just someone who’s sitting behind a computer.”
Forget the prophets. The Sox have high hopes of their own after a playoff appearance in 2020 and 2021. The season begins on Friday against the Tigers at Comerica Park (12:10 p.m. NBCSCH).
“We have a goal in mind,” starter Lucas Giolito said on Thursday. “Obviously we came in very little last year, learned a lot from that experience of being out in the first round in the playoffs. But we know how good we are. We know, learning from last year throughout the year, some things that need to be improved to take that next step and that is the goal. ,
The Sox suffered a number of injuries in 2021, including playing parts of the season without outfielders Luis Robert and Aloy Jiménez and catcher Yasmani Grandal. Injuries became an issue during spring training over the past few weeks, as with starter Lance Lynn probably eight weeks out (surgery of the right knee to repair a torn tendon) and Garrett Crockett lost to the weather (Tommy John Surgery).
Third baseman Yoann Moncada moved into the injured list with a Grade 1 right oblique strain on Thursday.
“I started feeling it two, three days ago,” said Moncada through an interpreter. “I think it was (Tuesday) before the last (Cactus League) game. I was in the cage and I felt something in the last two swings. That’s when it started.
“I told him that if I was feeling better by (Friday) I would be able to play. But then he said that there is no need to rush it, it is better to prevent something bad from happening. I think it’s a smart thing to do as well.”
The Sox recalled infielder Jake Berger from Triple-A Charlotte, and he will likely start the opening day on Day 3. He also recalled reliever Matt Foster from Charlotte and placed Ryan Burr on the injured list with a right shoulder strain.
“Last year we took some big hits and we were able to pull them off,” Giolito said. “This year, same thing, next man up. We have depth.”
General Manager Rick Hahn knows the Sox will not be the only team facing these issues.
“Given the unique offseason and short spring, the first six to eight weeks are going to be challenging throughout baseball as teams get their sea legs beneath them, getting used to being there regularly,” Hahn said. “That’s why (Major League Baseball) allowed expanded rosters and it’s the reason we’re carrying additional weapons at the start of the season.
“But none of that should take away from the optimism we all have about this team.”
The Sox have returned almost all of their starting lineup and are hoping to get a full season from Jiménez (who played 55 games last season), Robert (68) and Grendel (93). Robert American League MVP could be in the news, an award first baseman Jose Abreu won in 2020, Abreu led the team in homers and RBIs last season.
Shortstop Tim Anderson, who said he had to sit the first two games Following the suspension appeal in late 2021, Grendel is one of the game’s top hitters and one of the most productive hitting catchers. Andrew Vaughan and Gavin Sheets contributed as rookies last season.
Giolito is at the top of the rotation. Dylan Siege made great strides and Michael Kopech went back into the rotation after spending most of last season in the bullpen. Dallas Keuchel is the veteran of the group, while Vince Velasquez and Reynaldo López may be called in while Lynn is injured.
Hendrix and Aaron Bummer are among the returning members of the bullpen.
New faces include relievers Kendall Graveman and second baseman Josh Harrison Through free agency and outfielders AJ Pollock from a business, Veteran infielder/outfielder Larry Garcia also returned on a three-year deal. Reliever Joe Kelly, another free-agent signing, is on the injured list as he recovers from a right biceps nerve injury.
“No one is talking about last year,” said Sox manager Tony La Russa. “Everyone is talking about a tough divide, a tough challenge, but we want to be a part of it.
“I think the people we’ve paired with can’t give our front office enough credit. Kendall and Josh are really good additions. (Reliever Bennett) Sosa looked good at spring training. … ( (Reliever Kyle) Crick is on our pitching staff now. There is a lot that was here (last season) that is hungry, and there are some good people who have joined us.”
The Sox lost their opening round series over the past two years (a wild-card series to the A’s in 2020 and the ALDS to the Houston Astros last season). The goal is to take that next step.
“Our first goal is to win the AL Central,” Hahn said. “Then after that we have higher aspirations that have to be achieved. Right now our main focus is on that first goal, but we will be tested. Maybe because we are victims because we are the incumbent. We are the ones who won last year.
“Definitely the respect and expectations of this team are high throughout the game. But we will be challenged. All the other four teams are strong, especially whether it is because of extras or just being healthier than a year ago. We’re going to test. We’re up for it, but it’s going to be a fun summer.”
Finalize Sox Roster
Among Friday’s moves, the Sox selected the contracts of pitchers Tanner Banks and Kyle Crick. He named outfielder Mikar Adolfo for the assignment and outright catcher Sebi Zavala to Charlotte.
Here are the details of the season’s opening roster and the injured list:
- RHP(10): Dylan Siege, Kyle Crick, Matt Foster, Lucas Giolito, Kendall Graveman, Liam Hendrix, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Jose Ruiz and Vince Velasquez.
- LHP (4): Tanner Banks, Aaron Boomer, Dallas Ketchell and Bennett Sousa.
- C(2): Yasmani Grandal and Reese McGuire.
- INF(7): Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Jake Berger, Josh Harrison, Leuri Garcia, Danny Mendick and Gavin Sheets.
- of (5): Adam Engel, Eloy Jimenez, AJ Pollock, Louis Robert and Andrew Vaughan.
- IL(7): Ryan Burr, Garrett Crockett, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Yermin Mercedes, Yoann Moncada and Jonathan Stever (60-Day).