Back in 1995, when the White Sox still held spring training in Sarasota, Fla., it was the first day of full-squad workouts.
After getting stretched out, the Sox’ position players broke into two groups for some long toss. It’s an annual rite of easing into camp.
Following his first throw, White Sox outfielder Tim Raines announced: “I’m ready.”
He was kidding, of course, and Raines liked to joke around about as much as he liked stealing bases.
Moving to the present, these are more serious times for the Sox.
When they’ve pitched, the White Sox haven’t hit. When they’ve pitched, they haven’t fielded. When they’ve hit, they haven’t pitched or fielded.
Pick a bad combination, any bad combination, and it’s easier to see why the Sox (31-42) are last in the AL Central and 10½ games behind the Detroit Tigers heading into Tuesday night’s interleague game against the New York Mets at U.S. Cellular Field.
There are big holes throughout the roster, particularly at shortstop.
From 2008-12, Alexei Ramirez was solid — if not spectacular — for the White Sox.
This year Ramirez has a respectable .277 batting average, but the 31-year-old infielder has hit just 1 home run, and that came in the second game of the season.
His defense is a much bigger concern.
On Sunday, the White Sox were clinging to a 6-5 lead over the Royals in the eighth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ramirez botched an Alcides Escobar grounder that allowed 2 runs to score and cost the Sox a win.
At Houston on June 14, starter Chris Sale struck out 14 over 8 innings but lost 2-1 thanks to 2 more Ramirez errors. One was later overturned.
Last year Ramirez committed 12 errors in 158 games. This year he has made 12 in 73.
There clearly has been an all-around decline in Ramirez’s game, and that leads us back to Raines.
Specifically, how fast can Tim Anderson get up to major-league speed?
Anderson was the White Sox’ first-round draft pick this year, and the 20-year-old shortstop has played a grand total of four professional baseball games.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is batting .294 with 3 RBI, which is promising. Anderson also has 3 errors, which is not.
Realistically, the raw prospect probably is 2-3 years away from becoming a viable option for the Sox.
When he was at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Anderson received two scholarship offers, both from junior colleges. One was for baseball and one was for basketball.
He chose baseball and spent the past two seasons at East Central (Miss.) Community College.
Not playing at a higher level and speculation that he will wind up playing center field are two knocks against Anderson, but the White Sox are high on his physical tools, and they intend to let the prospect develop into a shortstop.
“I see myself as a shortstop,” he said on draft day. “A lot of people doubt me, but I want to prove them wrong and stay at shortstop. I’m not a complete player yet, but one day I will be in the White Sox organization.”
Given Ramirez’s rough season and a lack of can’t-miss shortstop prospects in the minor leagues, you can say Anderson already is on a fast track by default.
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