Guillen eager to see youth on the field
White Sox manager hopes new talent produces results
LAS VEGAS -- Using Ozzie Guillen's presence at the Winter Meetings as a barometer of White Sox activity, then Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon should be a time filled with moves for the team at the Bellagio.
"Nothing is going on right now with the White Sox," said Guillen, before pausing to smile and then finish his thought. "In the past, as soon as I leave town and I land in Miami, they call me and say they made this deal."
Guillen shared this concept of bad timing with the media during his 25-minute managerial interview on Tuesday evening. As only Guillen can do, he mixed a unique blend of humor, baseball acumen and pull-no-punches candor as part of this informative and entertaining session.
One point made clear by Guillen was his excitement to manage a team put together by general manager Ken Williams featuring this new youthful infusion. It's the same sort of sentiment expressed by Guillen prior to the Easter Seals Gala in Chicago on Nov. 22, when the White Sox manager accepted a corporate honoree award for the team.
"I talked to Kenny," Guillen said. "We went through the team, and I still think that we have a pretty good team to compete.
"Obviously having kids play, they have to show me they can do things, a lot of little things, to help the big boys around. I think it will be more fun.
"You have to be a better baseball team," Guillen said. "I'm not talking about baseball players. I'm talking about a baseball team, the way they play and the way they should be playing and the way they should do stuff."
In breaking down his roster, Guillen gave a slight edge to Chris Getz as his 2009 starting second baseman. Guillen also wouldn't discount Jayson Nix or Brent Lillibridge, acquired from Atlanta in the Javier Vazquez deal. Guillen asked one of the Atlanta executives to name Lillibridge's best position during a chat at these Winter Meetings, and without hesitation, he said shortstop.
Lillibridge won't knock Alexei Ramirez from the lineup. But he will get a look at second, in center and primarily as the White Sox utility infielder, a role Guillen believes must have a player who can handle the shortstop position.
"We have a lot of kids we have got to look at, and I think it will be fun Spring Training for them," Guillen said. "I love when kids are fighting for a job and an opportunity to show people that they can play in the big leagues."
Left-handed hurler Clayton Richard showed his big league pedigree during solid relief performances against the Rays in the 2008 American League Division Series. Those appearances were impressive enough to earn Richard a shot at cracking the 2009 starting rotation, but at the least, they locked down a bullpen slot. In fact, Guillen believes that Boone Logan was traded to Atlanta, in part, because of the team's confidence in Richard.
Josh Fields soon will begin work in Florida with Guillen and bench coach Joey Cora to improve his defense at third base. A healthy Fields has Guillen's confidence, although no positions are guaranteed.
Tuesday's interview briefly switched to a few questions being asked in Spanish by an ESPN Deportes reporter. But Guillen showed his bilingual ability when a topic arose concerning Dayan Viciedo, the 19-year-old Cuban defector, whose signing soon will be announced by the White Sox.
"Viciedo has got to lose some weight," said Guillen, who expressed these sentiments to Jaime Torres, Viciedo's agent, along with the team's excitement to have Viciedo aboard during a talk at the Bellagio on Monday. "He's got to come in shape.
"Spring Training is not for getting yourself in shape. Spring Training is to prepare yourself for the season and I want all my players, I don't care who it is, they make sure they show up in shape."
Jerry Owens got the nod as Guillen's leadoff man. But it sounded as if center field could be a platoon situation, as Guillen talked about a number of righties being thrown by Kansas City in the first series as one reason for his Owens' selection.
This session with Guillen started a bit late, as it seemingly takes Guillen in the neighborhood of 20 minutes to go even short distances at these Meetings. He's stopped by everyone from the famous to the fans to his friends to chat or take pictures.
It was a session that followed a White Sox staff meeting, where Guillen said nothing really seemed imminent in regard to moves. Of course, Guillen still is in town, so if past history repeats itself, the White Sox might be ready to strike on Wednesday after he leaves.
"Those guys are going to give me the opportunity to see how good of a manager I am," said Guillen, with one final comment on his team's youth movement. "I mean, I like to compete. I like to be involved with the game.
"We've been teaching those guys for a little while. I don't think I see any problem why they cannot go out and perform the way they should or at least help those big boys every day to get better."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.