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Garland may be best of Chicago's young guns
Posted: Tuesday March 06, 2001 5:29 PM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches
from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and
By Mark Bechtel, Sports Illustrated
TEAM: Chicago White
WEATHER: Perfect: 78 and
PLAYER I SAW WHOM I REALLY LIKED: Jon Garland. The Sox have a ton of
young, talented arms, and Garland might be the best. His major league numbers
were bad last year (he went 4-8 with a 6.46 ERA in 15 games), but the then
20-year-old had no problem shutting down Class AAA hitters. And Garland looked
good on the hill against the Angels Monday. He threw three scoreless innings,
got the ball over the plate, changed speeds well and did a nice job fielding his
position. He registered the first two outs of the game by snagging a comebacker
off his shoetops, then fielding a bunt and throwing out the speedy Wilmy
With the news out of Baltimore that the ailing Albert Belle's career
could be in jeopardy, discussion in Tucson turned to whether or not the former
White Sox player would make the Hall of Fame if he didn't play another game, and
if the media members who vote would hold his surliness against him.
"Despite what people think of him, I had a tremendous relationship with
Albert," says White Sox manager Jerry Manuel, who talked to Belle
several times over the winter. "All I know is that he played hard for me
and he played every day. Everybody in the Hall of Fame is not a
One nice thing about small crowds (and Monday's crowd at Tucson
Electric Park was way small): You can hear every word said in the park. When
Frank Thomas was announced for his first at-bat, he was greeted with a
mixture of applause and boos. I wasn't sure how to characterize the general feel
of the crowd until some guy broke the church-like silence with his declaration,
"You suck, Frank." We'll call him the swing vote and say the crowd's
reaction was negative. Frank, by the way, fanned
Speaking of the Big Hurt, his pseudo-holdout brought a lot of
attention to the Sox, just like this whole David Wells-Mike Sirotka
business. A couple players I spoke to said that the potential for distraction
was tempered by the efforts of Manuel and Chicago general manager Kenny
Williams to be upfront and open with their squad about what has been going
on. "It's been handled well by the team," says new shortstop Royce
Clayton. "As a player, that's all you can ask
First base coach Gary Pettis has a special assignment
this spring. He is helping Jose Valentin make the move from shortstop to
center field. When Texas signed A-Rod, it made Clayton expendable. The
Sox picked him up dirt cheap, and Valentin, who made 36 errors at short last
year, gamely volunteered to give up his position for the good of the team.
Pettis, who won five Gold Gloves as a center fielder during his 11-year major
league career, says that Valentin has done well so far. The main things he needs
to work on are lengthening his throwing motion and the mental aspects of the
position -- knowing, for example, when it's important to go for the routine
double play as opposed to trying to gun down the lead runner. Valentin says he
doesn't necessarily want to climb the outfield walls like Ken Griffey Jr.
He just wants to be solid enough to keep himself in the lineup every
Sports Illustrated staff writer Mark Bechtel will check in periodically with
reports from his tour of spring camps.
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