The White Sox’s strategy to contend in the American League Central is to field a deep pitching staff and hope three or four lineup regulars improve through experience.
Nothing will move toward October, however, until the Sox can finally beat the team to beat: the AL champion Detroit Tigers.
Since Aug. 14, 2010, the Sox are 12-33 against the Tigers. Throw in a 2011-12 two-year mark of 13-23 against the Kansas City Royals. The Sox have a lot of make-goods due in the AL Central.
The Tigers, whose only disadvantage compared to the Sox is in the bullpen, have replaced two really good Sox killers with a pair of great ones. Out went Delmon Young and Ryan Raburn; incoming are free agent Torii Hunter and injury-rehabbed Victor Martinez.
“The biggest thing is I can’t buy ‘Sox killers’ in those words,” said right-hander Jake Peavy. “It’s such a negative connotation. I certainly understand the thought process of what those guys have done in their careers.
“But we can’t say those things around Addison Reed and Nate Jones because they don’t know any difference. They don’t have any history against those guys. You don’t want it to become a thought process.”
Peavy himself can help change the fortunes. He leads the make-goods crowd, having lost six games in the second half of 2012 against the Tigers and Royals. Hard-throwers Reed and Jones can do their part, too. The locker mates head up a very good seven-man relief corps to stop a Detroit club that has no set closer after cutting loose Jose Valverde.
The Sox hope lefty John Danks is back by the first game against Detroit on July 9. Until then, the rotation will be competitive with Peavy, 17-game-winner Chris Sale, Gavin Floyd and lefty Jose Quintana.
Meanwhile, catcher Tyler Flowers, replacing A.J. Pierzynski, is under the microscope to help a lineup still centered around Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. Flyers has Dunn-like power, but hit just .213 as a backup in 2012.
“My goal each time is to have a quality, competitive at-bat. You can’t really control getting hits or things like that. I can control my focus and my approach that at-bat."
One distraction by midseason could be Konerko’s status. After 15 years as the Sox’s second-best career offensive producer, Konerko’s contract concludes this season. At 37, it isn’t known whether the Sox want him back, or even if Konerko wants to continue beyond 2013.
“I’m aware,” he said. “It’s not that much different than it was a couple of years ago (when he was a free agent). There are so many moving parts to it all that you just handicap or gauge how it’s going to go. I don’t know how I’m going to feel (five) months from now, what I’m going to be thinking, what other people are going to be thinking.”