One of the most convenient stops on the spring training tour is the Tucson Electric Park complex. On one side operate the Arizona Diamondbacks, and on the other the Chicago White Sox. So after checking out what was shaking with the snakes, I wandered on over and got down to business with the White Sox.
Two individual subjects pop to mind, and no, I’m not referring to Nick Swisher.
Start with Joe Crede, the third baseman who many would like to see be a Giant. Crede is in an interesting situation, because it’s pretty much an open secret that the Giants are eying him like a lion does prey, but yet he has to prepare as if he’s going to break camp with Chicago.
“This isn’t the first year it’s happened,” he told me. “It seems like every year there’s something that comes up. That stuff is out of your control. I try not to pay attention. This game is tough enough as it is.”
Crede had back surgery in June to repair two herniated disks in his back, and said he’s now able to “lead a normal life.” How much the aftermath has affected his baseball-playing ability is yet to be seen, and that’s probably what Giants general manager Brian Sabean is waiting for, too. But if healthy, Crede is a tremendous clutch hitter (check out his RISP numbers from 2006, his last healthy year) who could do quite a bit to repair the Giants’ offensive woes. Defensively, he ran neck-and-neck with the A’s Eric Chavez for Gold Glove consideration every season, so you’d think he’d be at least as good with the glove as Pedro Feliz. If, that is, he can bend over.
Another guy I ran into in the ChiSox clubhouse was reliever Octavio Dotel, the former A’s closer. Simply put, this is one of most personable guys in the game. He actually made it a point to ask how I was doing, which is something you almost never hear from players. When Santiago Casilla (then Jairo Garcia) debuted for the A’s in 2004, I sat down for a 30-minute interview with him, and Dotel served as the translator. Again, that’s something you rarely, rarely see.
I’m happy for Dotel, because after years of elbow trouble, he seems finally to be healthy. He’ll set up White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, and if he’s right, that would give Chicago a devastating end-of-the-game combination. Dotel also signed a two-year contract with the White Sox, and he said it’s the first time he’s ever had a multi-year deal. So good for him.
Overall, there’s a fairly good vibe in this clubhouse. It’s tough to tell if it will stay that way, because all teams are optimistic in spring training, and the clubhouses are so small. But keep an eye on these guys. After a brutal 2007, they may be ready to ascend again in 2008.