No ordinary Joe
Ex-Stanford quarterback shows off hardball skillsPosted: Friday March 08, 2002 9:28 PM
Updated: Friday March 08, 2002 11:30 PM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
Team: Chicago White Sox
Site: Tempe, Ariz.
Weather: 72 degrees, cloudy
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked: Outfielder Joe Borchard. He’s still probably a year away, but the 6-foot-5, switch-hitting former Stanford quarterback has been showing why the Sox signed him to a record $5.3 million signing bonus in 2000. Unlike last spring when he was overmatched, Borchard has been displaying much more confidence at the plate. In a recent game against the Angels, he hit the ball sharply in three of five plate appearances, including an opposite-field single after falling behind 0-2 in the count. After spending all last season at Class AA Birmingham, where he hit .295 with 27 homers and 98 RBI, Borchard is expected to begin this year at Class AAA Charlotte. He’s still a project in the field, but the Sox believe he might be ready to replace Kenny Lofton as their starting center fielder by 2003.
Sight only seen at spring training: Sox slugger Carlos Lee, dressed in a T-shirt, sweats and sunglasses, strolling alone around the concourse at Tempe Diablo Stadium during the eighth inning. Lee, who had come out the game just an inning before, made it all the way around the complex without anybody stopping him for an autograph.
Around the Horn: After the first seven games, the Sox led the Cactus League in virtually every offensive category, including average (.364), runs scored (8.4 per game), stolen bases (13) and slugging percentage (.533). With Frank Thomas healthy again, and the 34-year-old Lofton looking spry in center field, the only serious concern is the slow progress of rehabbing pitchers Jim Parque, Antonio Osuna, Lorenzo Barcelo, Rocky Biddle, Bob Howry and Kelly Wunsch. “If those guys can bounce back and fully recover, we’ll be OK,” manager Jerry Manuel says. “But we’re still waiting for that to happen.” … First baseman Paul Konerko continues to swing a hot bat. He lashed a two-run double into the left-field gap against the Angels, pushing his average over .500 through five games. Konerko, by the way, says the team’s chemistry should be better this season since there are few newcomers in pivotal roles. “Last year we had some new guys,” he said. “Now we know Royce [Clayton] and we know Sandy [Alomar]. We don’t have to wait and see how they’re going to react.” … Lee, the team’s left fielder, has been working with assistant coach Gary Pettis to improve his defense. Lee, who played mostly third base coming up the system, is working especially on learning how to get a better jump on the ball. … Third baseman Jose Valentin has to be one of the most underrated players in the game. Not only does he hit, run, and play multiple positions, but he brings an intensity the club desperately needs. He was about the last guy off the practice field before the Angels game, taking grounders with a bunch of guys with high numbers on the backs of their jerseys … . Manuel recently missed a day with the flu, but he kept his sense of humor. Noting that Sox pitchers had yielded double-digit runs in four of seven games prior, he joked: “That might have been what gave it to me. I saw a lot of 'runs.' ”
Sports Illustrated's Marty Burns will check in periodically with reports from his tour of spring camps.