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updated: 5/30/2012 8:05 PM

Empty seats force White Sox GM Kenny Williams to economize on talent

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  • The White Sox are averaging 20,662 fans per game so far this season. That ranks 27th out of 30 teams.

      The White Sox are averaging 20,662 fans per game so far this season. That ranks 27th out of 30 teams.
    associated press

 
 

Years ago, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said he was finished talking about the dreaded "A" word.

Attendance.

Whenever Williams was asked about the touchy subject, splashy headlines seemed to follow and loyal Sox season-ticket holders erupted.

"It is what it is" has been a predictable response from Williams in recent lean seasons, but the subject came up again Monday before the White Sox opened a three-game series at Tampa Bay.

Williams was on the trip, and he was asked about the Sox averaging only 20,662 through the first two months of the season. That ranks 27th out of 30 major-league teams -- ahead of only Oakland, Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

The way the first-place White Sox have been playing, more fans figure to flock to U.S. Cellular Field as school lets out and summer sets in.

Then again, maybe not.

"Every day that you don't fill the seats, at least to a greater degree than we are, is a day it hurts," Williams told reporters at Tropicana Field.

If the White Sox continue playing in front of sparse crowds, you'll continue seeing Williams add cheap players like Orlando Hudson when holes need to be filled.

You will also see the Sox rely more and more on minor-league talent, which is why Monday's amateur draft takes on added importance.

The White Sox have the 13th overall pick in the draft, and Baseball America projects they will select outfielder/pitcher Courtney Hawkins from Carroll High School in Corpus Christi, Texas.

If the Sox opt to take a more polished collegiate player, they could target one of three pitchers -- Oklahoma State's Andrew Heaney, Texas A&M's Michael Wacha and Mississippi State's Chris Stratton.

The White Sox have already dipped into the minor leagues for pitcher Jose Quintana, who has made 2 starts in place of the injured John Danks, and pitchers Dylan Axelrod and Eric Stults, who was later claimed off waivers by the Padres.

Here's a look at some future possibilities on the farm:

At Class AAA Charlotte, left-handed pitcher Charlie Leesman is finally making his move.

Leesman, a poor man's Mark Buehrle, is 4-4 in 10 starts, but his 2.36 ERA ranks fourth in the International League.

Dan Johnson continues to produce with the bat, and his defensive versatility is also attractive to the Sox.

Johnson ranks among IL leaders in walks (46), on-base percentage (.445) and RBI (38) while batting .286 and leading Charlotte with 10 home runs.

At AA Birmingham, center fielder Jared Mitchell got off to a fast start in April and cooled off in early May.

Mitchell is hot again, and he has been showing some needed patience at the plate.

The White Sox' 2009 first-round draft pick drew a career-high 4 walks for the Barons on Monday night, and he leads the Southern League in on-base percentage (.420) and triples (7) and ranks fourth with 31 RBI.

Keep an eye on right-handed starter Pedro Hernandez, who is 6-1 with a 2.81 ERA.

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