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Article posted: 3/18/2013 9:35 PM

Final 2 weeks critical for some Sox players

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 2013 baseball season, finally, is coming into view.

Thanks to another edition of the World Baseball Classic, spring training is a lengthy seven weeks this year. That's what you call an extended stay, but Opening Day is less than two weeks away and 25-man rosters are taking shape.

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The White Sox are in pretty good shape as they creep closer to their April 1 season opener against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.

But as the Sox enjoyed their last day off in Arizona on Monday, several regulars need the rest of March to get 100 percent healthy and back in the groove:

Jeff Keppinger

He's still positioned to be the White Sox' starting third baseman and No. 2 hitter this season, but it's been a tough camp for Keppinger.

After fracturing his ankle shortly after the 2012 season, Keppinger wasn't able to do his regular throwing program over the winter.

He's had some shoulder discomfort this spring, and Keppinger also was excused for three days late last week due to a personal matter.

Keppinger was the Sox' designated hitter on Sunday, his first exhibition appearance since March 9.

"I don't have an issue with my shoulder where it's going to be a problem all season long," he told reporters. "I'm pretty sure it's taken care of and we'll move forward from here. We still have another two weeks, there is plenty of time."

Keppinger is batting .417 (10-for-24) in nine Cactus League games.

John Danks

Health is the most important thing for Danks this spring, not results.

So let's not put too much emphasis on the 11.47 ERA in three Cactus League games.

After missing most of last season with a shoulder problem that required surgery on Aug. 6, Danks just wants to feel 100 percent before he worries about numbers.

His fastball has yet to return to the regular 91-92 mph, and Danks has been expectedly wild.

Fortunately for the White Sox, they have better starting depth than most major-league teams. If Danks is not ready to break camp late next week and open the season on the active roster, Hector Santiago -- another lefty -- is the likely replacement.

If the Sox wanted to keep Santiago in the bullpen, right-hander Dylan Axelrod could fill in until Danks is ready.

Jesse Crain

He battled injuries last spring and throughout the regular season, so the veteran reliever was looking forward to staying healthy this year.

In the White Sox' third exhibition game, Crain suffered a strained right adductor and subsequently withdrew his invite to pitch for Team Canada in the WBC.

The Toronto native was able to pitch in a "B" game Sunday and said he felt "about 90 percent" healthy.

Tyler Flowers

The Sox' old starting catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, rarely missed any games due to injury, be it in the Cactus League or regular season.

Flowers has replaced Pierzynski, and he has a promising track record when it comes to injuries.

The 27-year-old catcher was scratched from Sunday's exhibition game with a stiff lower back. It doesn't sound like anything serious, and Flowers should return Tuesday or Wednesday.

Matt Thornton

He gave the White Sox a bit of a scare early in training camp when he complained of soreness in his throwing (left) elbow, and the veteran reliever has pitched just 2 innings in the Cactus League, yielding 6 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks.

Thornton did land on the disabled list in 2010 with elbow inflammation, he's 36 years old and he's thrown more innings (435) than any other American League reliever since 2006.

Add it up and it's easy to understand why Thornton is going to be monitored closely this season.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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