(MCT) — GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Keppinger’s sore right shoulder means extra playing time at third base for Brent Morel and Conor Gillaspie to win what could be the final spot on the White Sox’s opening-day roster.
And the departures of Alex Rios and Alejandro De Aza to the World Baseball Classic will provide extra time for Jordan Danks, Jared Mitchell and Blake Tekotte in case the Sox opt for an extra outfielder besides Dewayne Wise.
But the Sox’s biggest investment in depth lies in pitching, especially after last season, when injuries, ineffectiveness and trades resulted in using 25 pitchers — one shy of the franchise record set in 1932 and matched in 1995.
“We’re not naive enough to think we’re going to be able to get through this thing for the next eight months with 1 through 12 that we break camp with, so it is important to have realistically 17 to 18 (pitchers) that we feel good about,” general manager Rick Hahn said.
Catching depth, however, doesn’t concern Hahn as much as it does Sox fans. With the departure of eight-year starter A.J. Pierzynski to Texas, Tyler Flowers takes over as a full-time starter for the first time since the first half of the 2011 season at Triple-A Charlotte.
If Flowers is sidelined for an extended period, Hector Gimenez, who has played in only 11 major league games, would take over. The Sox also brought in left-handed-hitting catcher Bryan Anderson, who played in 25 games with the Cardinals in 2010 and 2012.
Hahn values Gimenez as more than just a switch hitter.
“He can play some first and I know we stood him out in the outfield, so you never know in case of an emergency,” Hahn said. “He does protect us a bit. We love that versatility.”
The Sox lack a bench player who can play the outfield and infield as adequately as Brent Lillibridge did for 31/2 seasons before he was traded in July.
The lack of that trait, however, is offset by the fact that Flowers is the only player likely to be lifted for a pinch hitter in a late-inning situation.
Sox pinch hitters batted .193 (11-for-57) in 2012, with Kosuke Fukudome leading the team with two pinch hits despite being released midway through the season.
“Guys who can play four positions, infield and outfield, do have a fair amount of value,” Hahn said. “There aren’t too many of them running around who can do it on a credible basis at all spots. Keppinger may be one of those guys, depending on how Robin (Ventura) elects to use him. But that insulation or depth is probably going to come from some other players in Charlotte if the need arises.”