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updated: 3/18/2014 8:22 PM

White Sox GM Hahn optimistically realistic about club

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  • White Sox general manager Rick Hahn likes the direction his team is going as it gets ready to open the 2014 season.

      White Sox general manager Rick Hahn likes the direction his team is going as it gets ready to open the 2014 season.
    Associated Press


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In less than two weeks, the White Sox open the regular season with a game against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

Prediction 1: The Sox are not going to lose 99 games like they did last year.

Prediction 2: They are extremely likely to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

At best, the White Sox might be a .500 team capable of finishing ahead of the Twins and the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central standings.

But baseball being baseball, you're never quite sure what's going to happen.

We sat down with Rick Hahn before Tuesday's Cactus League game against the Oakland Athletics at Camelback Ranch, and the Sox' general manager was … let's call it optimistically realistic.

"It's totally expected," Hahn said of the low expectations hovering around the White Sox. "You lose 99 games, you're not going to get the benefit of the doubt in projections the next year.

"That's fine. We are taking a long-term view of getting us to the place where we have the ability to contend for multiple championships. That's not going to happen overnight, and we get that.

"That said, we certainly feel given the pitching we have as well as the upside of some of the offensive talent we've added to this mix, we certainly can contend if things go right for us in 2014. So that's our goal. Our goal is to win in 2014.

"At the same time, we're realistic about what's going on here. This is part of the process towards getting us back to an elite level of performance. As much as we all want that to happen in a matter of months, it usually takes a little bit longer that."

All in all, Hahn likes what he has been seeing this spring and thinks the Sox are heading in the right direction.

"There are a lot of things we're very pleased about," he said. "Obviously, we still have a little ways to go. But the energy we've seen from some of the young guys -- (Adam) Eaton has been an element we've lacked in the past -- and even having some more of the younger guys get more regular playing time, like (Marcus) Semien and (Matt) Davidson, it's been a bright spot for this camp.

"Micah Johnson, too. He's a guy that very likely is not making the club, but he shows you a little glimpse of where things are headed for the future. I certainly feel good about what we've seen from the new guys as well as some of the young guys in our organization who are getting an opportunity to play this spring."

On the flip side, reliever Matt Lindstrom has yet to pitch in an exhibition game because of a left-oblique strain and second baseman Gordon Beckham went down with the same injury Friday.

"The No. 1 thing that you can't control, which therefore is probably futile to worry about but still weighs heavily, is health," Hahn said. "We're optimistic we'll get Lindstrom back in the next few days, which will help solidify the back end of the bullpen. I think Gordon probably isn't too far behind in terms of being prepared. He may well not be ready by Opening Day, but we'll see.

"The one nice thing is we're in a position now where we have some depth and some options both in the bullpen and in the middle infield, and those are the two spots where we've been hit by the injury bug so far. Hopefully it stays limited to those areas and some of these young guys are able to make the most of their opportunities."

At 27, first baseman Jose Abreu is the White Sox' key "young guy."

Signed to a six-year, $68 million contract Oct. 29 after starring for Cienfuegos in his native Cuba the past 10 seasons, Abreu is being counted on to add some big pop in the middle of the lineup.

"We've always known this is going to be a process for him in terms of getting acclimated to a new club, a new league, a new country," Hahn said. "So far I think it's gone fairly smoothly; certainly in terms of his performance on the field, we've been real pleased.

"But the behind-the-scenes stuff, in terms of getting him comfortable in a new environment, it seems to be going fairly smoothly as well. There will be fits and starts, but this is a long-term opportunity for us to get better. It's not going to be judged on where he sits four or six or eight weeks into the whole thing."

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