GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The dominant question for the White Sox during the last couple of months of the 2013 season seemed to be: How bad can it get?
The answer, hard to forget, was 99 losses.
The questions as Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training Saturday at Camelback Ranch can take on a more positive spin thanks to offseason moves that, at the very least, created intrigue.
Here's a look at some of the most important matters the Sox need to address as they kick off what they hope is a better 2014.
Who will be the starting catcher?
General manager Rick Hahn said last month the Sox hadn't found the right fit for a long-term solution at catcher outside of the organization. Unless they do, Tyler Flowers, Josh Phegley and Adrian Nieto will have their chances to seize the job. Flowers is returning from minor shoulder surgery, and he and Phegley will try to put disappointing seasons behind them. Nieto, selected from the Nationals in the Rule 5 draft in December, seems like a longer shot because he never has played above high Class A. He has to stay on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Nationals.
Who will be the new closer?
The Sox traded closer Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks for third-base prospect Matt Davidson but have stated their confidence in developing a closer from their internal crop. Nate Jones, who was 4-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 70 relief appearances in 2013, appears to be an obvious candidate, but the Sox have said their options also include Matt Lindstrom, Ronald Belisario and prospect Daniel Webb.
Who will open the season at third base?
Davidson, who played 31 games in his major league debut season with the Diamondbacks, joins a crowd at third base that includes Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie, who shared time there in 2013. Davidson is expected to be the Sox long-term solution, but he could start in the minor leagues as he tries to shore up his defense and cut down on strikeout binges.
How will the bottom of the rotation shape up?
The Sox have two spots to fill -- one traded left-hander Hector Santiago had and one right-hander Andre Rienzo filled late in 2013. Right-handers Felipe Paulino and Erik Johnson appear to be penciled in to fill the holes, but Paulino will have to show he is fully recovered from the elbow and shoulder injuries that kept him out of the majors in 2013. Rienzo, Charlie Leesman and Eric Surkamp also could compete. The Sox also will watch how John Danks continues his recovery from shoulder surgery to fill the No. 3 spot behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.
How will manager Robin Ventura work with a potentially awkward lineup?
With the addition of Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and the return of Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, the Sox have three first basemen/designated hitter types on the roster. With the addition of center fielder Adam Eaton, they have two left fielders as Alejandro De Aza could move over from center to split duties with Dayan Viciedo. Ventura will have some playing time juggling to do, and maybe managing egos as well. The development of Abreu as he adjusts to major league play provides an interesting wrinkle to watch early.
(c)2014 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services