PHOENIX, Ariz. -- What I like, and don't like, about the White Sox:
What I like:
• Much better balance in the lineup this year than last with Adam Dunn's big lefty bat. Too susceptible to right-handed pitching at times in 2010, Dunn blends with right-handers Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin, and lefty A.J. Pierzynski to create a fearsome middle-of-the-order. And while everybody talks about Dunn, Konerko and Rios, don't underestimate Quentin: This guy was in the AL MVP conversation two summers ago and remains dangerous. He's an exceptionally hard worker. Big things could happen again for him in 2011.
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• The middle infield combo of second baseman Gordon Beckham and shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Hitting coach Greg Walker says Ramirez this spring has looked like he's ready to take his game up to another level. "They grow up very well as a middle infield," manager Ozzie Guillen says. "They're pretty good, they're going to get better and I think the White Sox are going to have a middle infield for a long time."
• Chicago's pitching. The bullpen is loaded with great young arms from both the right and left sides. Lefties Matt Thornton, Chris Sale and Will Ohman, and righties Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain make for a deep and lethal pen. Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper will have lots of choices. As Pierzynski says, it will be interesting to see in particular how they maneuver the lefties in the late innings. The Sox rotation is very good too, even if they have to push the pause button on Jake Peavy's comeback. In lefties Mark Buehrle and Jon Danks, and righties Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson, they have the stuff to give the Twins and Tigers large headaches in AL Central.
• Smart move by Guillen and Walker to get the regulars some extra spring at-bats with lots of tough opponent pitching on their early schedule. No way this guarantees a hot start. But facing the staffs from Tampa Bay, Oakland, the Angels and Minnesota over the season's first six weeks, Konerko, Dunn, Quentin and the rest have to be sharp early.
What I dislike:
• Jake Peavy's shoulder. He's looked absolutely great this spring, but you knew that his comeback from shoulder surgery last July was too good to be true. There had to be a setback somewhere, because not one thing had gone wrong. The late March tendinitis in his rotator cuff hopefully is just a small bump in the road and it will be onward and upward for Peavy. Regardless, the Sox are going to have to carefully monitor him all summer. Because Peavy is so competitive, he'll push for too much too soon. Without Peavy early, Phil Humber or Jeff Marquez will be the fifth starter.
• The tension between Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams. There's always some level of tension between every manager and GM. It's natural. But when it reaches the level it did last year and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has to referee, it's gone way too far. Things appear good so far this year, so we'll see. But watch, the first sign of Edwin Rodriguez on the hotseat in Florida with the Marlins, Guillen's name will be floated. Both men are very good at what they do, and both have healthy egos. You know what solves things like this? Winning.
• Despite a projected club record $125 million payroll, Reinsdorf says ticket sales haven't caught momentum yet. This isn't a knock on White Sox fans, who are blue collar and smart enough to not buy every single thing the club is selling. The Sox win, they'll be there this summer. But what the sluggish ticket sales does is emphasize the importance of a good start. Disappointing play early could mean moving salary in July if the Sox aren't in contention. This shouldn't be a worry, because it's hard to see this team not contending. But a slow start could make things uncomfortable.