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February 18, 2008

Team Health Reports

Chicago White Sox

by Will Carroll

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The Facts

Head Trainer: Herm Schneider
Player Days Lost: 536
Dollars Lost, 2007: $8.29 million
Three-Year Rank: 2

Think of the White Sox, and you'll likely think of first is manager Ozzie Guillen. Or maybe you'll think of Jim Thome or Mark Buehrle. Few would immediately name Herm Schneider, let alone recognize him, but he's been around longer than anyone else in the franchise. Truly an old-school trainer, Schneider came to the Sox in 1979 after serving time in the Bronx Zoo, Schneider's reputation was made by helping get Bo Jackson back onto a baseball field when no one else thought it was possible. Schneider's innovative rehab techniques and hands-on style might not be as cutting edge as those of the staffs with teams like Boston or Arizona, but it's hard to argue with the results.

Schneider won the 2006 Dick Martin Award, and his consistency from year to year is very solid despite turnover and some players that present quite the challenge. Thome and Paul Konerko have both dealt with some chronic problems over the past couple of seasons, something that Schneider has paid special attention to, minimizing the time the two sluggers have lost. He got Jermaine Dye back from an injury that nearly ended the right fielder's career, and has kept Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras healthy despite heavy workloads. As the team transitions from the more established players to younger ones, Schneider's task will once again be to stay ahead of the injuries and to continue giving the Sox a rehab advantage that allows Kenny Williams to bring in some players that scare off other teams.

The Big Question
The bloggers from South Side Sox ask: "What is Octavio Dotel's prognosis after an injury-plagued last three seasons?"

Kenny Williams once famously held to the idea that he would never sign a pitcher for more than three years. He then went over that to keep Mark Buehrle, but maybe he should revisit the concept for relievers. The Sox have talked about locking up Bobby Jenks and brought in Dotel on an expensive two-year deal. Dotel had a series of problems (oblique, shoulder) while coming back from Tommy John surgery, and the shoulder is worrisome. As with many TJ survivors, the mechanical changes can lead to a cascade injury. Dotel is in the right situation to succeed, but expecting him to do it without some challenges along the way is simply expecting too much, even from the Sox's outstanding medical staff.

Schneider's crew finished down in the overall rankings last year, but much of the value and time lost rests solely on the back of Joe Crede (literally). Although he missed significant time in 2007, Crede had been kept healthy and productive in past seasons, and one of Schneider's big tasks this spring will be to get Crede back to a level of production where he becomes a trade chip, if not once again a key offensive cog.

C A.J. Pierzynski Yellow light: He's caught a lot of games, but he also seems to have the type of body and temperament to take it. There are not many ways that Pierzynski and Jason Varitek are comparable, but this is one.

1B Paul Konerko Yellow light: It makes me feel really old to think of Konerko as being on the down slope of a nice career. He came through Indianapolis many years ago, with Sean Casey, and Roberto Petagine, and I liked Konerko the least; I am not a scout. At 33, he's going to deal with more minor injuries, like the minor hamstring strain and "tight back" that held his numbers down in 2007. In what you'll note as a theme here, he's a very low yellow.

2B Danny Richar Yellow light: Word from the minors is that Richar fancies himself to be a sprinter, to point of sporting the tight body of one. I think he'll benefit from having Herm Schneider to guide him and Ozzie Guillen to yell when he gets thrown out at second. Consider him a very low yellow.

SS Orlando Cabrera Green light

3B Josh Fields Yellow light/Joe Crede Red light: Fields is a very low yellow based on a positional change that's not really happening, and also some quirky playing time numbers, whereas Crede is an obvious red given his history of back problems. Crede's likely to be dealt, which puts more pressure on Fields, leading to a bit more risk.

LF Carlos Quentin Red light: Quentin is the type of player Schneider excels with. Coming back from shoulder surgery that tends not to have much effect on a hitter's stroke, Quentin is someone that, while a bit risky (especially at the start of the season), could well be worth that risk, and quite capable of some surprising production.

CF Nick Swisher Yellow light: Playing center regularly isn't going to get Swisher past the nagging injuries he tends to suffer during a full season. Whether Guillen and Schneider rest him more often-and Swisher fought any time off in Oakland-will be a key to keeping him productive.

RF Jermaine Dye Yellow light: He's always going to feel that broken leg, but he's also done more after that injury than anyone ever expected. He's on bonus time.

DH Jim Thome Red light: His back is always going to be a source of concern, but once again, Schneider has minimized the impact of that perpetual problem. Thome's likely to need some time off here and there, maybe even a couple of weeks' worth of DL time to make sure the back doesn't become too problematic.

SP Mark Buehrle Yellow light: Just barely yellow, Buehrle showed some signs of fatigue at the end of last season. He's consistently been a 200-inning guy, but he still seems to be on the down slope from the heavy workload of the Sox's championship season. It wouldn't surprise me to see him miss time and dip below 200 this year.

SP Javier Vazquez Yellow light: Another very close yellow, Vazquez appears to be taking to pitching coach Don Cooper's instruction especially well. He could take another step forward this season by reducing his walks and increasing his pitch efficiency.

SP Jose Contreras Yellow light: Maybe he doesn't have quite as many age questions as his buddy Orlando Hernandez, but we have to at least note them. His inconsistent delivery, loss of velocity, and occasional shoulder soreness are the bigger concerns for me.

SP Gavin Floyd Yellow light: He's being here is more a matter of his being out of options than his being the best option, but that situation makes it difficult to push him aside, at least at the start of the season. He's a very low yellow, mostly based on PECOTA's expectation that he won't last as a starter.

SP John Danks Yellow light: Danks looked really good... for the first two weeks of the season. Then he seemed to run out of stuff, and then out of gas, before being shut down. He'll have to pitch better to test his innings limits.

CL Bobby Jenks Yellow light: He's rather violent, you know. The delivery, I mean.

RL Octavio Dotel Red light: See today's Big Question.

Lineups courtesy of SportsBlogs Nation.

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