Super-sub Lillibridge won't get much rest with Sox
Calling Brent Lillibridge a one-man bench is not quite accurate. But it's pretty close to the truth.
Last season, the White Sox' super-sub played second base. He played first base. He played right field. Left field. Center field.
This spring, Lillibridge has been playing shortstop, his natural position, and third base.
No wonder he reported to training camp with a bag full of different gloves.
"I'm here to get ready for the season and make it hard for Robin (Ventura) and the coaching staff to not put me in every day," Lillibridge said. "I'm hoping I can put the first baseman's glove down. I hope that Adam (Dunn) and Paul (Konerko) can hold down first base for the whole year. Just talking to the coaches, I'm going to do more work on the infield, a lot more shortstop work, just to get comfortable again. But if it's the middle infield and outfield, I'll be ready for both."
Lillibridge is the Sox' best player off the bench, but he will be getting some help. Let's take a look:
Omar Vizquel was an effective utility infielder for the White Sox the past two seasons, but the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer is now trying to squeeze out one more season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Vizquel split his time between third base, shortstop and second base with the Sox, so there is a void.
Lillibridge is the obvious replacement, but the White Sox are likely to break camp with another backup infielder.
They've added Tyler Saladino to major-league camp this spring, but the promising shortstop has not played above high A (Winston-Salem) in the minor leagues.
Eduardo Escobar, who played second base and shortstop while getting a brief look from the Sox last September, is having a good spring.
Infielder Ozzie Martinez, who came over from the Marlins as part of the compensation package for manager Ozzie Guillen, is not having a good spring. In his first 7 Cactus League games, Martinez was 0-for-10.
Dan Johnson is another infield option. The left-handed clutch hitter can play first and third base, in addition to right and left field.
In a word, Lillibridge was spectacular in the outfield last season.
In the ninth inning of an April 26 game at Yankee Stadium, Lillibridge made two highlight catches in right field to lift the White Sox to a 3-2 win.
In a June 11 game against the A's at U.S. Cellular Field, Lillibridge was playing left field when he robbed Coco Crisp of a go-ahead home run.
While Lillibridge has the speed and skill to play all three outfield spots, he's expected to spend more time in the infield this season.
Kosuke Fukudome, the Sox' lone free-agent acquisition during the winter, is the primary backup in right and center field.
Look for Fukudome's name in the lineup against tough right-handed starting pitchers. He'll also be used as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Tyler Flowers figures to catch at least 60 games in place of 35-year-old A.J. Pierzynski.
When he's not in the lineup, Flowers gives Ventura a power bat off the bench. While he is still prone to striking out, Flowers hit 5 home runs in 110 at-bats last season.