Cleveland Indians (1-2) fans should be veritable experts on the Chicago White Sox (1-2) by the end of the season. The Indians will play 18 games against the Pale Hose this season, including 12 matchups before the end of May, so we’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted with our division rivals from the Windy City.
But for now, we wanted to get an expert’s perspective on Chicago before the Tribe’s three-game set with the White Sox kicks off at Progressive Field tonight. CSN Chicago‘s JJ Stankevitz agreed to do a Q&A swap to preview the series. He took the time offer his thoughts on the White Sox’ confusing offseason, new manager Robin Ventura, and why he expects a big season from Adam Dunn.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Opinion seems to be pretty well split over how the White Sox will do in 2012—I’ve seen them predicted to win the AL Central and I’ve also seen them ranked as the worst team in the league. What’s your prediction for the Sox this year?
JJ STANKEVITZ: I think 77 wins is the general baseline. But if a few things go right — namely, if Adam Dunn rebounds and Jake Peavy stays healthy — I don’t think an upper-80s win total and a shot at the playoffs is out of the question.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: General consensus this winter seemed to be that the White Sox were in rebuilding mode, but the team didn’t seem to be fully committed to punting the present to build for the future. What did you think of the Sox’ main offseason moves, and what’s your take on where the team is headed?
JJ STANKEVITZ: That was an unfortunate misconception. While, yeah, Kenny Williams said the Sox were doing some rebuilding, the moves he made weren’t those of a rebuilding team. Williams only dealt players with viable replacements — Sergio Santos/Addison Reed, Carlos Quentin/Dayan Viciedo, Jason Frasor/an able body. Had they traded a starter, it would’ve signaled rebuilding, since they didn’t have a viable replacement in the system. I’m not sure where this team is headed, although another mediocre year could finally force a true rebuilding process.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: One of the biggest stories out of Chicago this offseason was the surprise hiring of Robin Ventura as the White Sox’ new manager. What do you think of him so far? Have you noticed a major difference between him and Ozzie Guillen?
JJ STANKEVITZ: I’m a big fan of the way he’s handled the closer situation so far. He hasn’t named anyone, be it Reed, Thornton, Jesse Crain or Hector Santiago, as the guy, which allows him to pick and choose how to use those guys based on matchups and situations. Other than that, he’s actually much funnier than people give him credit for — the guy is great at deadpanning.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: You’ve mentioned that you expect big things from Adam Dunn this year. What’s your thinking behind that?
JJ STANKEVITZ: His spring training was too good to overlook. He hit as many home runs off lefties as he got hits off southpaws all of last year, and had you erased 2011 from my mind, I wouldn’t have thought anything was amiss. It looks like the cause of Dunn’s struggles last year came from rushing back from having his appendix out, which messed up his swing to the point where it couldn’t be corrected during the season. I’m hopeful the long offseason has cleared Dunn’s mind and got him back to where he was two years ago, and his spring training only helped strengthen that belief for me.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Who’s pitching for the White Sox this week, and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
JJ STANKEVITZ: You’ll get to see Chris Sale‘s first major-league start, which should result in quite a few strikeouts. Sale may not go deep into the game, but expect him to be effective while he’s on the mound. Philip Humber‘s an interesting wild card, as a repeat of his 2011 season would be huge for the rickety playoff hopes of the Sox — but a regression would leave the Sox seriously short-handed in the starting pitching department. And then John Danks will grab the last start, and I’m sure you guys are nice and familiar with him.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: What’s your prediction for the series?
JJ STANKEVITZ: Well, I’d hope the Sox can swing two out of three, but I’m more concerned with the individual performances of Sale and Humber. Oh, and enjoy seeing the only remaining screwballer in baseball when Hector Santiago comes into a game.